Jump Start # 2549
Joshua 7:21 “When I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.”
Last Sunday I preached from this section of Joshua. It was a lesson not about Achan, the man who our verse tells us stole items from Jericho, but rather about the leadership of Joshua. How does one lead in the midst of a crisis, a storm or disasters? Many panic. Many lose focus. Many forget Jesus. A clear voice. An example pointing to God. An absolute plan must be enacted. Joshua did those things. The outcome was bad for Achan. He, all the stuff he stole, his livestock, and even his children were all executed by Israel. His bloodline was cut off. God was sending a serious statement. He means what He says.
Our verse today is the confession that Achan made to Joshua. He confessed because he got caught. Had he never been caught, he likely would have never fessed up to what he did. I marvel at what all he took. How could a soldier carry all those items? How could he carry that stuff and not be noticed? A gold bar weighing fifty shekels is heavy, around thirty pounds. Then he also had 200 silver coins. Did he stick all of this in his pockets?
Achan reveals the three active ingredients in sin. I saw. I coveted. I took. This is what Eve did with the forbidden fruit. This is what David did with the forbidden woman. And, what is amazing is that Achan didn’t act in ignorance. He knew it was wrong. Two things show that. First, he admitted that he coveted. That’s the last of the Ten Commandments. His very words prove he is guilty. Then he took the stolen items and buried them in the earth inside his tent. Why hide them? Why not brag about it? Why not tell others? Because he knew it was wrong. He didn’t want others to do what he did, to see, to covet and then to take. His get rich quick scheme failed. Sin was in the camp and God was having nothing to do with Israel until this problem was dealt with.
Now, some lessons:
First, our lust for wrong can be greater than our knowledge of what is right. Too often we assume a person does wrong because they simply do not know. More teaching is thought to be the solution. Achan knew. Most times, we know. We shouldn’t pick up that bottle. We shouldn’t say those words. We shouldn’t look at that website. We shouldn’t date that person. We shouldn’t hang out with those friends. We know. We’ve heard it from the pulpit. We’ve heard it from parents. We’ve read it in Scriptures. We know, yet we still pick that forbidden fruit. We know we shouldn’t. But, this one time, just one time. It looks so good, so forgetting consequences, warnings and everything that we know, we reach out and pick that forbidden fruit.
Years ago I was walking into a funeral home to preach someone’s funeral. Most of the family was out on the front porch smoking. The man who had died, smoked himself to death. And, here’s the family smoking right before the funeral. Don’t they get it? Do they think they are different? Do they believe that they are special? People know and yet they still make the wrong choices.
Second, hiding sin affects us. It changes us. It drives the guilt within us very high. We must always be wondering if others know. We are always suspicious of others. A guilty person is not sure who to trust. And, while sitting in a church building we feel like a hypocrite, because he is. He is pretending to be righteous when he is not. Every sermon you feel is pointed at you. You wonder, does the preacher know. The thoughts from the sermons make you feel even more guilty. Now, an internal war begins. You ought to do what is right, but your thirst for what is wrong keeps you from confessing. Like Achan, you bury your wrong inside your tent. Little do you realize that this guilt has changed you. You are not yourself any more. You try to cover up the guilty feelings and be yourself, but you can’t. Sin has changed you. It will darken your mood and your outlook. Guilt changes you. Shame changes you. That’s the nature of wrong.
Third, sooner or later, the sin surfaces and one is caught. It happened to Achan. A slip of the tongue, a discovered email or text, an expense on the credit card bill, sooner or later, it surfaces. And, when it does, trouble really begins. The marriage unravels because an affair was discovered. A job is lost because embezzling was caught. The hopes of a college degree are gone because one is discovered to have plagiarized. Your sin will get the best of you. Sin discovered is always worse than sin confessed. Finding out that one has been hiding wrong from the people who love them the most is a painful truth that some can’t move past. The idea of someone being weak and overcome doesn’t match the person who has been hiding things for a long time. There doesn’t seem to be any remorse. There doesn’t seem to be any tears. Had the sin not been discovered, it would likely have continued on.
Fourth, our sins, as private as we believe they may be, hurt others. For Achan, Israel lost the battle at Ai. At Jericho, the wall fell down. At Ai, Israel fell down and Israel ran. All of this was directly connected to Achan’s sin. Then in punishment, his children were also killed. Did they know about their dad’s sin? Had he shown them the stuff? Or, could it be that they never knew? Many innocent people get hurt by our sin. Our families. The congregation. The reputation. Sin kills momentum. People will always remember the sin. It’s a stain that just doesn’t seem to go away. Even forgiven, the impact can last a long, long time. There are certain preachers from long ago, that when their names are mentioned, immediately someone will say, he’s the one who had an affair, or, he’s the one that split the church. When Achan took those things from Jericho, all he was thinking about was himself. He didn’t think about honoring God. He didn’t think about what was best for the nation. Sin has a way of doing that to us. It clouds our judgment and blinds us to those around us.
Finally, as we have been hinting at throughout, sin has consequences. A divorce. Fired. License taken away. Jail time. Huge court costs and fines that must be repaid. A broken family. No longer qualified to shepherd the people of God. No one wanting you to teach Bible classes again. Trust shattered. Your word no longer worth anything. The loss of friends. And, with Achan, even the loss of life and the loss of your soul. Sin is like sticking your hand in a bucket of paint. It’s not coming out clean. And, if you flick your hand, it splatters on all kinds of things and the mess gets worse.
Most times we do not think about the consequences. Achan didn’t. Was it worth having his children killed for a bar of gold? Was that a good exchange? We don’t see the red and blue lights that will be pulling us over for driving too fast. We don’t see our spouse point to the door and demanding that we get out. We don’t see the elders showing up at our house and telling us that unless we change the church will withdraw from us. Eve didn’t see an angel standing at the entrance of Eden with a flaming arrow keeping her out.
Sin always comes with a cost. Long time ago preachers used to say: Sin will cost you more than you want to pay, it will keep you longer than you want to stay, and it will take you farther than you wanted to go. Sin adds to your troubles, subtracts from your peace of mind, multiplies your difficulties, divides your affections and totals a life of damnation. There is nothing good that comes from sin.
I saw. I coveted. I took. Those were Achan’s words. How much better, I saw. I looked away. I prayed.
Lord, help us to do what is right!