WORDS OF VICTORY
Achan's Expensive Purchase
April 7, 2016
The Pastor's Ponderings
Of all the stories in the Old Testament, the account of Achan is one of the saddest. Having been in the wilderness for 40 years and in the Promised Land only for a few short days, Achan and his entire family die, unable to inherit the land that God had intended for them. The cause? Disobedience. And it came at a pretty high price. Not only did Achan pay with his life, but others died as well. The account of Achan should serve as a powerful reminder that disobedience to God comes at a very high price.
To recount the story, God has commanded Joshua to take the city of Jericho and to totally destroy everything. No one is to be spared (except for Rahab the harlot, but that is another story), and the city is accursed: none of the goods from the city are to be taken as spoil. Only the gold, silver, and vessels of brass and iron are to be taken into the treasury of the LORD. Nothing else is to be claimed as personal property. The walls fall down flat (Joshua 6:20
), the city is taken, a victory is claimed, and God’s people move further into the Promised Land with Ai in their view. Upon the report of his scouts sent to view the town, Joshua only sends about 3000 men to attack Ai. Instead of the easy victory they expected, the Israelites are soundly defeated, and 36 men died in the process. When Joshua cries before God, He tells him that the defeat was the result of sin in the camp and that Israel will not be able to stand before their enemies until the sin is dealt with. The next day, Joshua gathers the people, and the LORD singles out Achan as the guilty party responsible for the devastating loss the day before. And that brings us to the final scene of Achan’s life.
Once God has identified Achan, Joshua commands him to confess before God what he had done. Achan responds:
20 … 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. Joshua 7:20-21
A careful look at Achan’s answer shows us not only his misunderstanding of the command of God, but it also gives us, if you will, the genealogy of his sin.
First, note his misunderstanding. He refers to the goods resulting from the conquer of Jericho as “spoils.” Because the city was accursed and the specifically mentioned precious metals were only to be collected for the LORD’s treasury, there were no spoils.
Second, note the genealogy of his sin in verse 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. Joshua 7:20-21.
Again, notice the progression: I saw, I coveted, I took, I hid. The sin that destroyed Achan’s family – the coveting, the stealing, the hiding – all began with a look. That should be a powerful reminder for us to guard what our eyes are allowed to see. Remember what Jesus said about lust in the heart: it is the same as adultery.
So, Achan looked, lusted, and then took what belonged to God. Doubtless he had plans for using the gold and silver. Perhaps he planned to use this to get his homestead started, buying livestock and better materials for a home. Or maybe he planned on doing little work and letting his wife and children live in luxury while the others around him work. Whatever his plans were, they did not come to pass. Achan did not get a chance to spend the money and enjoy the goods he desired to receive from that expenditure. However, he did purchase some things with that wedge of gold, the little bit of silver and the Babylonian garment:
- Achan Purchased Death to His Countrymen – there were 36 men who lost their lives at Ai. Had Achan left those accursed things where he found them, the blessing of God would not have been withdrawn, and these men would have celebrated a victory instead of their families a funeral.
- Achan Purchased Sorrow to 36 Families – the men who died were husbands, fathers, and sons. They were looking forward to establishing homes in Canaan. Yet they had no idea that they were bidding their families goodbye for the last time.
- Achan Purchased Discouragement to the People (Joshua 7:7-9) – one can almost hear the lamentation of Joshua as he grieves before God for their defeat. It appeared that God had let them down, that He had broken His promise. These moments of discouragement can either make or break a person. Thankfully, the discouragement was temporary, but it was very real before Israel addressed the cause of their defeat.
- Achan Purchased the Removal of the Blessing of God – God told Joshua that the reason for the defeat was because of the presence of sin, and they would not be able to stand before their enemies until this sin was dealt with (Joshua 7:12-13)
- Achan Purchased Lost Time – Israel’s progress was halted until the sin was dealt with (Joshua 7:13). This was time they could have gone forward. Instead, there were 36 funerals after the loss at Ai. Then Achan’s sin had to be exposed and punished. Who knows how far they could have gone during these few days?
- Achan Purchased Public Humiliation – Achan’s private sin became public. All eyes were on him as the cause of Israel’s defeat. When his name is mentioned today, we still associate him with his sin.
- Achan Purchased Death for Himself – The wages of sin is death. Achan sinned. He was punished accordingly. He had dared to disobey the command of Almighty God, and God saw to it that He died for his error.
- Achan Purchased Death for His Family – Here is where we see the far-reaching effects of sin. Achan’s trespass affected his entire family. What he had done privately his family paid for publicly. Dad, Mom, please take heed to this principle! The deeds we sow may very well find their bitter fruit in the lives of our children. Though each man is punished for his own sin (see Ezekiel 18), the choices, habits, and lifestyle of parents influence their children’s choices, habits, and lifestyles.
- Achan Purchased a Poor, Lasting Testimony – as was already mentioned, when we think of Achan, we think of the high price he paid for his sin. It serves as an example, everywhere, for fathers to avoid.
Each of these could be elaborated on greatly, and I am sure that more could be added. Yet, these were the very fruits of the far reaching effects of Achan’s sin. I wonder what he thought as he and his family faced the multitudes of their countrymen, stones in hand, preparing to follow through with God’s command to punish his sin. “Daddy,” says a little one, “Why are they going to stone us?” Doubtless his heart fainted at what was about to happen. What value did those trinkets offer to him now? Were they worth their high price? Most certainly not.
Our consideration of this account ought to bring about a sobering reality. The lesson for us is clear: let us live in obedience to our Lord and avoid the judgment of God upon ourselves and our families. Let me put it into the first person: When I read this account, I am gripped with the very real fear that, should I walk in disobedience to God, should I be so brazen as to sin and try to hide it, I do not do so alone. My choice affects others around me – my family, my church, the people of God who know me. Now, you do the same, putting it into the first person with your family and church in mind.
Now, I don’t want to leave us here. Let’s go a bit further, all the way to Calvary. Christ took our sins upon Himself and died under the same wrath you and I should have experienced. Now that His blood has been shed, we have the privilege of confessing our sins directly to Him and receiving forgiveness through His grace. We have His promise as recorded by the Apostle John:
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1_John 1:9
And Paul tells us that
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. 1_Corinthians 11:31-32
Instead of hiding our sin, like Achan, God desires us to confess our sins to him, instead of trying to hide them. John assures us that we are forgiven and cleansed when we come clean and confess our sin before God. Paul tells us that the reason God judges is because the Christian has refused to judge himself. Those who hide their sins will not prosper (see Proverbs 28:13). This can be seen in Achan’s death. Let us then by God’s grace, heed this warning, be honest with Him when we sin, and seek to walk humbly with our God.
By His Blood,
Pastor John Nichols