Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 2 2019 - Joshua 6:26-7:26 – The sin of Achan

How had the notable victory over Jericho been achieved? The walls had fallen not because of Israel's superior power but because they had obeyed the Lord, even when God's strategy for taking the city had seemed odd and unrealistic – who would have thought that marching round the city, blowing trumpets and yelling would have brought down its walls? God was teaching the Israelites that he would give the land into their hands if they fully trusted and obeyed him.

One of the commands God gave the people through Joshua was that they were not to enrich themselves by taking any of the plunder from the city. Articles of iron, bronze, silver and gold were to be put into the "treasury of the Lord's house" (6:24), the rest of the riches of the city were to be burned. The battle would be won by the Lord and the plunder was to be his.

But the temptation was too great for at least one of the Israelites. Achan, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, saw wonderful riches in the city and he wanted some of them for himself.

It seemed that no one outside of Achan's family knew what he had done. He appeared to have got away with it. But God not only saw his actions, he knew his heart and "his anger burned against Israel" because of that act of covetousness and disobedience.

The next city for capture on Joshua's agenda was Ai. It was much smaller than Jericho so only 3,000 Israelites were sent to capture it. But, instead of taking the city, the Israelite army were defeated and had to flee for their lives.

Joshua was perplexed and dismayed and turned to God with a complaint reminiscent of those continually made by the Israelites against Moses in the wilderness, "Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us?" (7:7). How easily we blame God for disasters we have brought upon ourselves!

God tells Joshua, in effect, to stop his snivelling. Israel has sinned and God has withdrawn his support for their armies. They have just discovered that they are powerless when God is not with them. It is a lesson they will have to learn time and time again throughout their history. Have we learned that this is true also for us?

Lots are cast and the culprit is identified. Achan does not hide what he has done but tells of the clothing, silver and gold he buried in the ground under his tent. Achan, and his family are put to death and all his possessions are destroyed in a valley that from then on will be known as the place of trouble – Achor. Only then, and when they are submissive to God's instruction, are the Israelites able to capture the city of Ai (Joshua 8:1-29).

The story of Achan is deeply troubling but is strikingly similar to the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts chapter 5. It teaches us that God looks for a people who will be wholly devoted to him.

God has not changed. If we are a people who want to know God's presence with us and his power at work though us for the extension of his kingdom and transformation of our world, devoted obedience to him must come before personal fulfilment and the pursuit of this world's glittering prizes. A divided heart will damage our testimony and rob the church of its power. God cannot be bargained with.

Father God, you did not spare your own Son but gave him up for us. Help us by your Spirit to give up the desire for all things except your presence and your glory that we might serve you with an undivided heart. We know that the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever. And gladly we add our "Amen".

Peter Misselbrook