“Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. And they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things. “Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies; they turn their backs before their enemies, for they have become accursed. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst… So Joshua arose early in the morning and brought Israel near by tribes, and the tribe of Judah was taken. He brought the family of Judah near, and he took the family of the Zerahites; and he brought the family of the Zerahites near man by man, and Zabdi was taken. He brought his household near man by man; and Achan, son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, was taken. Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I implore you, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him; and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me.” So Achan answered Joshua and said, “Truly, I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel, and this is what I did: 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.”…Then Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the mantle, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him; and they brought them up to the valley of Achor. Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day.” And all Israel stoned them with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. They raised over him a great heap of stones that stands to this day, and the LORD turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the valley of Achor to this day. Joshua 7:11-12, 16-21, 24-26
As we covered last week, Israel had just lost a battle at Ai. Ai was the place were Israel was defeated and soldiers died. What went wrong? Where was God in the battle? Joshua asked that same question as he lamented the defeat and mourned the loss.
The issue was that Israel had sinned, and there were still remnants of sin in the camp. One man’s secret sin cost Israel the battle and the lives of 36 men. Achan’s sin limited God’s work on behalf of Israel, just as our sin limits God’s ability to work in our lives.
In verse 11, God communicated His outrage over sin by the slow climatic build up using different terms for sin. He started with a general term: Israel has sinned. Next He used the term transgressed, meaning to violate or cross a line. Next God specifically named the sin and expanded on the sin: Israel had taken and stolen, and they had lied.
Not only had Israel transgressed, stolen, and lied, they also brought the banned items into the camp in a complete act of betrayal and idolatry. Through their actions, Israel communicated that the banned property was more important and more satisfying than God Himself. So God withdrew His presence in battle because He does not tolerate sin.
If you are feeling out of sync with Jesus, or it’s hard to pray, or you have no desire to be with other believers, or you feel depressed or just generally angry, there may be some sin in your life that you have been avoiding. In Psalm 32, David wasted away physically because of his unrepentant sin. Sin leads to death, and repentance leads to life.
God’s Response to Sin
1. God Hates Sin
Holiness – God’s holiness means that He is separated from sin and devoted to seeking His own honor and glory. Sin robs God of His glory. In the Old Testament, we see this separation in the tabernacle. Within the tabernacle was the holy place where priests served God and sacrifices were made. A heavy veil separated the holy place from the most holy place, the holy of holies. Only the high priest, after offering sacrifices for cleansing, could enter the holy of holies. God is holy and He cannot coexist with sin. We also see the idea of God being holy and separate from sin:
Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? And who may stand in His holy place? Psalm 24:3
God is the Holy One of Israel (Psalm 71:22; 78:41; 89:18). Throughout the Old Testament, we read descriptions of heaven where all the seraphim cry out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty” (Isaiah 6:3). In the New Testament, we see that new covenant believers are to strive for holiness, and we are disciplined to share His holiness (Hebrews 12:14, Hebrews 12:10). In the new covenant, we are made holy positionally by Jesus. God looks at us and sees Jesus’ holiness in us as we are hidden in Christ, but we are still to strive for sanctification.
Just as God separates Himself from sin, we are to separate ourselves from sin. Just as God hates sin, we are to hate sin. Most of us are complacent about sin – this comes from a lack of understanding about God’s holiness. We don’t grasp the seriousness and the nature of God when it comes to His holiness.
Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God; 2 Corinthians 7:1
and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth; Ephesians 4:24
For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. Hebrews 12:10
Destructive nature of sin to His creation – Romans 8 tells us that all of creation groans, like childbirth, while waiting for redemption. Sin has brought pain into this world. Sin causes sickness and death, division, and selfishness to breed (1 Corinthians 11:29-30, 1 Corinthians 5:6).
God clearly tells us that the wages or results of sin is death. Our sin also places us in a position of discipline – God is in the process of making us more holy by disciplining us (Hebrews 12:11-13). God hates sin, and so should we. When He addressed the church at Ephesus, He commended them for hating sin: ‘Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate (Revelation 2:6).
2. God deals radically with sin
As we talked about last week, Ananias and Sapphira lied in church, and they were put to death. The early church was young and vulnerable, and God protected the church from sin.
In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul speaks against immorality in the church and says to remove the believer who was living in sin. He reminds the Corinthians that a little bit of leaven can infect the whole loaf. In Numbers 16, we read about Korah’s rebellion. Korah questioned God’s commandments through Moses and raised up a rebellion. God responded by taking him out, along with all the others involved in the rebellion. The next day, the people rose up against Moses and blamed him for Korah’s death. Once again, God acted on their sin and sent a plague which killed more than 14,000.
Jesus said that if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off:
“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. “If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell. Matthew 18:8-9
Does Jesus really expect us to cut off our hands and feet, or to pluck out our eyes? What He means is that we should do whatever it takes to stay away from sin. Our offense to God is far greater than our indulgence to sin. That is why Paul told Timothy:
Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:22
3. God gives us power over sin in Jesus
We are no longer slaves to sin, but to righteousness:
knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;…Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. Romans 6:6, 16-18
We are more than conquerors in Christ – We can defeat sin when we stop fighting the sin. To stop sinning, we don’t face our sin and say we won’t do it again; we turn around and face Jesus and pursue righteousness! If you want to pursue righteousness, pursue Jesus.
4. God calls us to repentance
God calls us to physically cut the sin out of our lives. Israel physically gathered around the sin in the camp and put it to death as they stoned Achan, his family, and all that he owned.
The stones in memorial were a monument to God’s holiness and a reminder of the destructive nature of sin. What is our monument? We have the cross, where the perfect lamb of God sacrificed for our sins. The cross is a reminder that God demonstrated His love for us:
He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. That is why we take communion It is a reminder, a proclamation. 2 Corinthians 5:21
Our Response to Sin
Is there an area of your life where God is convicting you? It is time to put away the sinful things of the flesh: anger, jealousy, evil intent, lust, drunkenness, porn, stealing, lying, the disbelief of the past. Whatever it is, God is calling us to repentance, to put it away and cut it out. We can’t experience the fullness of God when we are in sin.
“So circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer. Deuteronomy 10:16
“Moreover the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live. Deuteronomy 30:6
“Circumcise yourselves to the LORD And remove the foreskins of your heart, Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Or else My wrath will go forth like fire And burn with none to quench it, Because of the evil of your deeds.” Jeremiah 4:4
Circumcision was a physical symbol of God’s people, and the act of circumcision represents being holy and set apart. Christ died on the cross so that righteousness would abound in our lives, and so that we can know that we’re fully known and fully loved. In our sin, there is a beauty that is found in God’s grace. He stands ready to forgive and restore, not because of who you are but because of who He is. This morning God is calling us to cut out our sins.