Today’s Reading: Joshua 7-8
Today’s Reflection: Joshua 7:13
Get up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted things in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.”
In all of the tragic stories in the history of ancient Israel there are few more tragic than the story of the sin of Achan. The children of Israel had been instructed not to take any spoil from the defeated peoples of Canaan, lest they bring destruction upon themselves. All material wealth was either to be destroyed or given to the Lord’s treasury (Joshua 6:18-19). But Achan coveted some of the items devoted to destruction and he hid them in his tent, in direct violation of God’s covenant.
When Israel’s fighting forces were easily overcome by the relatively weak army of Ai, all the people mourned, fearing God had forsaken them. News was sure to spread through Canaan about Israel’s defeat possibly leading their enemies to strike while they appeared weak. As Joshua fell before the Ark of the Covenant in prayer, God revealed that Israel’s defeat had been caused by someone among the people taking items devoted to destruction, and that this sin had to be removed from the people before they could move forward.
There are several important lessons from this story that are very applicable to us today:
Sin has consequences, even if you’re not the one who sinned: God’s power withdrew from Israel as though the whole nation sinned, even though only Achan took the forbidden items. Their initial confusion was understandable, but the covenant Israel had made with God was not personal, but with the entire body of the children of Israel, so the sin of one man became like the sin of all. In our families, churches and communities we may struggle and suffer at times for reasons we don’t understand, and at times the cause may be the hidden sin of one among us. It may even be something we don’t recognize as sin but have committed as Christians to stay away from (pagan and idolatrous practices that have found their way into Christian holidays and observances come to mind).
Your sin doesn’t just affect you: Not only did Israel lose the battle with Ai because of Achan’s sin. When his sin was discovered Achan didn’t suffer the penalty alone. His entire family was punished in order to remove the sin from Israel. The root of all sin is selfishness—placing ones own desires above the well-being of others. Whatever the degree of the consequences, when we choose to sin others–often others who are innocent–will get hurt.
God cannot work where sin hides: God told Joshua Israel wouldn’t be able to stand before their enemies until the sin was removed from among them. Choosing sin always means choosing against God and his leading. No man can serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). But in this example one person’s choice of sin prevented God from leading an entire nation. Sometimes we think we can compartmentalize sin and limit its impact to one area of our lives, like if I cheat on my taxes perhaps I won’t be blessed in my finances. But what if cheating on my taxes also leads to problems in my marriage? Or in my relationship with my children? Just as in the case of Achan and Israel, a choice against God anywhere in your life limits God’s ability to lead everywhere in your life.