Calvary Road Baptist Church

“ACHAN: HOW ONE MAN’S SIN AFFECTED SO MANY OTHERS”

Joshua 7.1 & 22.20

 

This morning we journey back in time to the end of Israel’s forty years of wilderness wanderings and the death of God’s servant Moses. Joshua has been chosen by God to succeed Moses as the leader of His people in their quest to cross the Jordan River and occupy the land promised to them by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This is recorded in Joshua chapter one. In Joshua chapter two Israel’s new leader dispatches two spies to reconnoiter the land, especially the fortress city of Jericho situated near the West bank of the Jordan River. While in the city of Jericho the spies encountered the woman named Rahab who hid them and helped them to escape the city unharmed in return for the safety of her and her family when the city was attacked. In Joshua 3.7 we are informed that “the LORD said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.” We also learn that when the Ark of the Covenant born by the priests came to the overflowing banks of the river the water was miraculously stopped so the children of Israel could pass over the Jordan River without getting their feet wet. In Joshua chapter four we are told that a monument of twelve stones taken from the river bed was erected by the Israelites to memorialize to their children that God dried up the waters of the Jordan River as He had done with the waters of the Red Sea until the people passed over,

 

“That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever.”[1]

 

Now encamped nearby the fortress city of Jericho on the West bank of the Jordan River, the Israelite men were next commanded to observe the long neglected rite of circumcision now that the generation that had rebelled against God forty years earlier had all died off. Additionally, it was on this same day that the manna the Israelites gathered and ate for forty years was provided by God for the last time.[2] They would from then on eat what they gathered and captured in the Promised Land. This is found in Joshua chapter five. Joshua chapter six records the Israelites surrounding the fortress city of Jericho, the miraculous destruction of the city’s walls, and the destruction of the city and its people while Rahab and her family were delivered without harm as promised. It is important to bear in mind that the children of Israel were clearly warned to take nothing from Jericho, and that “all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD,” Joshua 6.19. But for those treasures the entire city was burned, “And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had.”[3] The chapter ends,

 

26    And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.

27    So the LORD was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country.

 

After so great a victory, imagine their shock and dismay when the Israelites, fresh from the victory God had given them over the fortress city of Jericho, next attacked the small and poorly defended city of Ai and suffered a humiliating defeat and the loss of thirty-six young Jewish soldiers. What happened to cause such a catastrophe? Joshua 7.1 and Joshua 22.20:

 

7.1       But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.

 

22.20   Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity.

 

The full details of the tragedy are found in Joshua chapter seven, but the press of time requires that I summarize those details and present the pertinent observations and principles in chronological sequence:

 

First, THE LOVE OF ACHAN

 

The facts that are provided in Joshua 7.19-21 serve as the starting point in our quest to understand Achan’s behavior and its consequences:

 

19    And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.

20    And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done:

21    When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.

 

Having admitted his sin, our task is now to understand what led to his sin. To understand Achan’s sin we must first understand Achan’s love, a love that would place at risk those he claimed to love, his own children. Such understanding is provided for us in the New Testament.

We first look to First Timothy 6.6-11, where the Apostle Paul warns Timothy about illicit love:

 

6      But godliness with contentment is great gain.

7      For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

8      And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

9      But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

10    For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

11    But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

 

Oh, that Achan had been content with what he had. Oh, that his love of money had not lured him from the faith and pierced him and his loved ones through with many sorrows.

Another warning about illicit love is found in First John 2.15-17:

 

15    Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

16    For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.

17    And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.

 

The fact of the matter is, you can’t have it all. Choices have to be made. If you love the world and the things that are in the world you cannot love God and you will not have God’s love abiding in you. What the world offers is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, and nothing else besides death.

Before Achan ever crossed the Jordan River, before he was circumcised, before the walls of Jericho were knocked down and he saw in the ruins anything of value, he already had illicit love in his heart. He may have thought he loved his children, but what he really loved was the world and what was in the world. He loved money and what it promised to buy.

 

Next, THE LUST OF ACHAN

 

You will remember from First John 2.15-16 that we are warned against loving the world and things that are in it, because such worldly love fosters the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. Lust, of course, refers to appetites, and has to do with cravings or desires for that which is forbidden.[4] Pride in this verse translates a Greek word that refers to arrogance, and is related to you thinking you have the right to have what you want.[5] These days it might be called a sense of entitlement.

Turn now to James 1.13-16, where we see blame properly affixed:

 

13    Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

14    But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.

15    Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

16    Do not err, my beloved brethren.

 

The blame for every person’s sin is not God, and is not any other person or predicament, but himself. Do not be mistaken in this matter. Do not attempt to shift blame for wrongdoing as Adam attempted to blame Eve and as Eve attempted to shift blame for her sin to the serpent. Each one of us is drawn away of our own lust and enticed. Then, when lust has conceived it brings forth sin. And when sin is finished it results in death. The love of Achan resulted in the lust of Achan.

 

Third, THE LOOK OF ACHAN

 

Think about Achan’s lust for the gold, for the silver, and for the Babylonish garment that he then saw and took, expressed in Joshua 7.21 by Achan’s own statement:

 

“When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them.”

 

You see, his illicit love gave rise to his lust, his improper and sinful appetite for what God had clearly forbidden. He was not content with his lot in life, or with his children, or with his home, or with his life in general, or with anything else. He wanted what he could not have, what God had denied not only to him but to all Israelites.

So, what is entailed in Achan’s look? Imagine him; with shield and sword, fighting from house to house, he suddenly lays eyes on a Jericho man cringing in the corner of a room, his arms weighed down by the riches he had hoped to trade for his life. However, no one in that city save Rahab and her family would come out alive, so the man was slain and his treasures (which were useless to save his life) were taken by Achan and somehow smuggled into his family tent.

What was the look? It was merely opportunity presenting itself. His love was already illicit. His lust had already conceived. All that was needed now was opportunity to spring into action, occasion triggered by his looking upon that which lust had conceived to actually bring forth sin.

 

Fourth, THE LECHERY OF ACHAN

 

Achan’s lechery was the deed of taking the forbidden thing, lechery referring to actually indulging in lust.[6] It is one thing to look, but another thing to then do. How clever he must have been to conceal the bulky items from the view of others who were still fighting. How his heart must have raced with thrill and excitement as he made his way in the confusion of victory back to his family tent to safely conceal the contraband.

However, one must ask a few questions amidst Achan’s audacious and risky conduct: What could he do with the Babylonish garment? He could never wear it. No member of his family could ever wear it. He and everyone he knew wore only woolen garments made from the wool of their own flocks. If he produced such a garment others would wonder where he obtained it. And in short order they would know. As well, what about the silver and the gold? Theirs was not a mercantile society in which money or precious metals were of any use, but a society built on barter and shepherding. Again, what could he do with the silver and the gold? He could not spend it, and if he showed it to anyone they would immediately question where and how he obtained it. However, the biggest question that ought to have been on Achan’s mind had he not been blinded by lust was what about God? Where is God in all his thoughts? Had not God delivered them all through the parted waters of the Red Sea when he was a little boy? Had not God fed them with manna for forty years? Had he not seen the Shekinah glory of God, the pillar of smoke by day and the pillar of fire by night, every day of his life for forty years? Did he not only days ago walk across the dry river bed of the Jordan River even though its banks had been flooding? And had not God miraculously toppled the walls of Jericho only minutes before? How blinded Achan was to reality by his lust for gold and silver and expensive clothing, by his love for the world. He lived his life as if God had not existed even though God was working mightily in his midst.

I suppose you could say, as is the case with just about all lechery and lust-induced spiritual blindness, what Achan took were really things he had no practical use for. Is that not the case with most sins? You commit a sin against God for what reason? What is the benefit? Where is the supposed upside that necessarily accompanies the very real downside of God’s wrath?

 

Finally, THE LIABILITY OF ACHAN

 

Achan is an example for us all to learn from, since his sin is not in any way a real departure from every other person’s sin. Therefore, in learning about Achan we learn about ourselves. Consider his liabilities:

First, there was his liability for his entire nation. Remember how Joshua 7.1 begins?

 

“But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing.”

 

Do you also remember how Joshua 20.22 begins?

 

“Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel?”

 

It is very clear in God’s Word that when one of the nation sinned all of the nation sinned. God holds the body responsible for the conduct of the individual. So it is with nations. So it is with families. So it is with congregations. Notice in Joshua 7.10-12 how the LORD reacts when Joshua falls on his face to plead with God for an answer about why they were defeated by the small city of Ai:

 

10    And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?

11    Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff.

12    Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.

 

God is telling Joshua that unless Israel moves to judge the sin in their midst He will not bless their efforts. That same principle applies to families and churches. How can a family expect God to bless them while they tolerate sin and rebellion against Him in their midst?

More specifically, there was Achan’s liability for the thirty-six slain soldiers. Though the entire nation grieved over their loss to Ai, Joshua 7.5 informs us of the thirty-six men who died at the hands of those who fought for Ai, with the hearts of the people melting and becoming as water during the course of the fight. Who is that on? The loss of their lives is on Achan. Thirty-six men slain in battle for his selfishness. How many women were widowed because of him? How many children were orphaned to a life without their fathers because of his selfish greed for what God did not want him to have and what he could not have used in any case?

Third, who would argue against Achan’s liability for himself? After all, he was the one who actually took the accursed things. He was the one who actually defied the God of Israel’s right to the first fruits, to the first of what was taken from His enemies. No one forced him to do what he did. No one egged Achan on or goaded him. No one coerced him. Therefore, for his clear violation against the will of God he certainly deserved to die.

However, finally, and surprisingly to some, there was his liability for his children. No mention is made that I can find of Achan’s wife, so presumably he is a widower with sons and daughters. That said, it is very clear from Joshua 7.20-25 that when he had been pointed out by God as the one who had committed the egregious sin both his sons and his daughters died along with him. Why so, since the Law of Moses specifically indicates that children are not responsible for the sins of their father? Here is the answer. It is found in human nature and a child’s tendency to go along with the actions and attitudes of his father. Because there is no way Achan could have hidden the forbidden treasures in his tent without his children knowing about it, thereby making them complicit in his crime as accessories in the cover-up. How often have I observed in my years of gospel ministry to my own heartbreak that when a mother or a father sins against God they thereby tempt their own children to side with them against God in the rebellion. If their children side with their parents, which they most frequently tend to do, their children then become partakers in their parent’s guilt. And so it was with Achan’s sons and daughters. Oh, how I wish moms and dads would consider the impact on their children of their stubborn refusal to yield to the gospel. Oh, how I pray the supposed reasons they may have whereby they justify their actions will be seen to be of no consequence in comparison to God’s offer of His son Jesus Christ.

 

What are your liabilities, my friend? Are not your liabilities for your spouse and children as well as yourself, and also for your extended family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers? And also, if you are a Christian, for your fellow church members? We are born into this world with responsibilities that are for the most part not spoken of and not recognized. However, though no one has ever told you, since just shy of the beginning of the human family the question asked by Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” has been an ever and always Yes!

What should Achan have done? There was nothing Achan could have done, though there is something you can do. You can flee to the safe haven and refuge from God’s wrath of His Son, Jesus Christ. In Christ you can find forgiveness. In Christ you can find godly sorrow for deeds that have been done which should never have been done. In Christ you can find cleansing from all your sins. In Christ you can be made a new creature. In Christ you can begin to remedy the hurts, the damage, and the wreckage you have brought into the lives of others.

Achan, sinful Achan, failure of a father Achan, disloyal soldier Achan, betrayer of his comrades Achan, could do nothing to undo what he had done. However, you can flee to Jesus Christ, Who makes all things new.

__________

[1] Joshua 4.24

[2] Joshua 5.11-12

[3] Joshua 6.25

[4] Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 372.

[5] Ibid., page 40.

[6] Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1033.

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org