But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the LORD burned against the sons of Israel. Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth- aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” So the men went up and spied out Ai. They returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up; only about two or three thousand men need go up to Ai; do not make all the people toil up there, for they are few.” So about three thousand men from the people went up there, but they fled from the men of Ai. The men of Ai struck down about thirty-six of their men, and pursued them from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them down on the descent, so the hearts of the people melted and became as water. Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord GOD, why did You ever bring this people over the Jordan, only to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? If only we had been willing to dwell beyond the Jordan! “O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies? “For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and they will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will You do for Your great name?” So the LORD said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? “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. “Rise up! Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow, for thus the LORD, the God of Israel, has said, “There are things under the ban in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you have removed the things under the ban from your midst.” Joshua 7:1-13
Chapter 7 of Joshua is an in-your-face chapter that addresses the destructive and pervasive nature of sin. We will spend two weeks on this subject. Today we’ll look at the destructive nature of sin, and next week we’ll look at the extreme measures God takes to remove sin. We will focus on the sin of Achan, but there is also a sense that Joshua sinned by not doing something (a sin of omission). Joshua failed to seek the Lord for direction and advice. Joshua and his men presumed on God, which is a sin we all fall into. Before we look at Achan’s sin, we’ll look at the original sin of man.
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” Genesis 3:6-10
In Genesis 3:6, we see three things: The woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise. We fall into those same three temptations today:
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 1 John 2:16
Sin is selfish. Sin is selfishness, and when we’re not selfish, it’s the power of God working in us and through us. Given to our own nature, we are selfish – it is about us and what we want. One illustration is when we go over the speed limit. You’re late, and so you speed, but you’re late for a good reason, and so you justify it. You think your situation is important, or you look around and see that other people are speeding too, or you just don’t care about what the law says.
Sometimes we think our sin doesn’t hurt anyone else, but what we do affects other people. Why do people steal? Because they want something they can’t pay for, for the thrill, to hurt someone. Even Robin Hood, who stole from the rich to give to the poor, had selfish motives – his actions made him look good, and earned him a certain reputation.
Sin is selfishness born out of pride, when we think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. We believe we deserve something, and that’s pride. We think we know more than everyone else, and we may not say it, but sometimes we think we know more than God. “I know He said that, but this is different, and I really think He’d make an exception in this case. In the scope of things, this isn’t that bad.” Sin is selfishness because it’s putting all the attention and focus back on ourselves.
When pride comes, then comes dishonor, But with the humble is wisdom. Proverbs 11:2
Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling. Proverbs 16:18
There’s a price to pay for pride, there’s a price to pay for selfishness, and there’s a price to pay for sin. The wages of sin is death, and every sin has a price to be paid (Romans 6:23).
Adam and Eve disobeyed God because of pride – they wanted to be like God. By eating the fruit, they placed their trust in themselves and in their own knowledge rather than in God. What was the result? Shame (they had to cover themselves with fig leaves), guilt (they hid from God in the garden), and fear (now they had a broken relationship with God). Shame, guilt, and fear did not exist in the garden before sin. Can you imagine living a life with no fear, guilt, or shame? Those things didn’t exist, and neither did disease or death before sin. Sin is destructive and it hurts and it kills. Sin destroys people, governments, churches, and families. Sometimes the destructive nature of sin is subtle, and other times it’s dramatic.
Fear, guilt, and shame become the arsenal the enemy uses as he fires his nasty darts of doubt: “You should be ashamed. You are unworthy. God doesn’t want you. Hide from Him. Hide from other people.” The enemy works to isolate us and fill our mind with fear, guilt, and shame.
John 10 tells us that the father of lies, the enemy of your soul, comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He’s the one that tempts us to sin and the one that wants us to sin. The enemy wants us to sin because it brings death and destruction, and robs God of His glory.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. James 1:13-15
We can see the destructive nature of sin in the scriptures, but particularly in Joshua 7. Because of Achan’s sin, we see that 36 men died. As we’ll read next week, everyone and everything in his family was destroyed because his sin. That’s a harsh reality, and it’s a physical destruction that took place. But when we sin, there is destruction in our lives to our families, our kids, our spouses, our relatives, our coworkers, our church body. Destruction takes place, and though we may not see it, we feel it and we notice it.
1. Sin and Suffering
Achan stole articles that were under the ban. All of the items were to be destroyed, but precious metals were to be taken for the temple. No one saw what Achan did, so did it really matter? We read later on that his sin cost the lives of 36 men. Sin always costs – sometimes sin causes us to lose an opportunity, or we miss out on something God had for us because we decided to do it our own way. Sin puts us in a place of discipline before God. Paul writes about this in 1 Corinthians:
For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep. 1 Corinthians 11:30
The Corinthians were abusing communion for their own fleshly desire. The result of their sin was that many were sick, and some had even died. In the first chapter of Corinthians, there was rivalry and unhealthy competition over who baptized whom. This was sin that caused division in the Corinthian church. The church is the bride of Christ, and when the world looks at the church, they should see Jesus. When the world looks at a church filled with division, they see a church that does not reflect the Gospel. As the bride of Christ, we represent Him individually and corporately. When we sin, it breaks down the Body and it no longer functions correctly. Sin causes suffering:
Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. James 5:14-16
Clearly there were some who were sick because of sin. Some sin has a natural consequence, and other times God disciplines through supernatural means. After his sin with Bathsheba, David said that he wasted away (Psalm 32:3).
2. Falsehood of Secret Sin
Many believe that when a sin does not involve anyone else, it is somehow acceptable or less serious. If a sin only involves us, we try to justify it: “This only hurts me, so it’s ok.”
Sins of the mind such as thoughts of greed, envy, jealousy, hate, unforgiveness, lust, selfishness, and fear of man are still sins. Sins of omission, the things God calls us to do that we do not do, are sins. When we ignore God’s prompting to call or text someone, or to pray for someone, we sin.
Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:17
Our sins affect others – we do not sin in a vacuum. Achan’s sin cost the lives of many others, plus his entire family. There are no sins that will not be uncovered:
The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. 1 Timothy 5:24
Some sins are quite obvious. Others may appear hidden, but our sins follow after us. When you’re out sinning or ignoring the church or the principles God gives, we all suffer. You don’t know what hasn’t taken place because you haven’t been here. God wants a relationship with you, and sin hinders that relationship. God shows us His love and demonstrates His goodness through the body of Christ.
Sin damages not only our relationship with God but with one another. Adam and Eve had a perfect relationship with God and a perfect relationship with one another. When they sinned, their attention and focus shifted from God to themselves.
3. Sin is Serious
When Achan sinned, no on else knew about it. God withdrew His power and presence in battle because of sin. Sin limits the work of God in and through our lives. Just like faith initiates the work of God in us and through us, sin limits it. We read in Galatians 5 that the Spirit and the flesh are opposed to each other. If we serve the flesh we cannot serve the Spirit but if we serve the Spirit we do not serve the flesh. This is a great picture of the struggle that goes on between the Spirit and the flesh.
In Acts, we read of the early church coming together and sharing all that they had in common. People with plenty sold their property and gave the money to the church to help those in need. Ananias and Sapphira wanted to get in on the action, so they sold a piece of their property, but kept back some of it:
But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” And as he heard these words, Ananias fell down and breathed his last; and great fear came over all who heard of it. Acts 5:1-5
Ananias lied and his sin lead to his death; the same thing happened to his wife. The point of this story is the seriousness of sin. Jesus said that if your right hand causes you to sin, to cut if off. When we sin, we deny who we are in Jesus and identify with our old nature. When we sin, we deny the true character and nature of God image bearers and we deny His rule and reign in our lives.
Jesus took sin so seriously that God sent His one and only son to die for our sin. Jesus took sin so seriously that He left glory to become a man, obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. He walked the earth for 33 years and hung on a cross to bear the wrath of God for me and for you. The wages of sin is death and someone had to die for you to have life. Through Adam, sin came into this world, and to every man through Adam, sin destroyed. But through the second Adam, through Jesus, we have life because God did take sin seriously and He placed it upon Jesus, who willingly sacrificed, the perfect lamb of God. Jesus takes sin seriously.
But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. James 4:6-10
This is a picture of confession and repentance. God is holy and righteous, perfect in all ways. He is bound by His character to deal with sin. Compelled by His own glory and love for us, He sent His son. Jesus bore the penalty for all our sin on the cross. All those who trust in that gift of grace are forgiven. In Christ there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1).
The point of this morning is to realize that sin is serious. Sometimes we just go through the day, and we don’t take sin seriously. Sin causes death at every level. It’s such a serious thing that God sent His son because He wants to be in relationship with you. Forgiveness is not about getting out of hell, but about a relationship with God our Father through the person and work of Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. God wants a relationship, and sin hurts that relationship with Him and with each other.
This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:5-10
Confession is when we agree with God that we’ve sinned, and repentance is when we change our direction. Sin seriously hinders the work of God in our lives, but with confession and repentance comes restored relationship and renewal.