Quite often in Scripture, the events that occurred in the Old Testament are a living example of what can take place in the church body, or even within our families. They show us human failure and the repercussions of that. God is holy – plus, He sees all! He will not allow sin to contaminate His house and His people.
When the Israelites overcame Jericho by the hand of the Lord, He commanded that everyone and everything in that city be devoted to destruction. This meant that all people and things were to be destroyed and dedicated to Him. He also said that the choice possessions made of precious metals were to be placed in the temple (tabernacle at the time) treasury (Joshua 6:18-19). Unfortunately, there was a man whose flesh got the best of him, and he paid the price.
The man, Achan, took some of the items from the victory over Jericho as his own in direct disobedience to God’s Word. That which belonged to God went into Achan’s own tent. When Israel subsequently went up against the Amorite city of Ai, God allowed them to be soundly defeated because of this.
It’s interesting how this plays outs. Joshua sends spies, and they report that because the enemy is so few, there’s no need to send many men against them. Their assessment is flawed, and Ai thoroughly whips them.
Because of Achan and his offense against the Word of Yahweh, that sin causes blindness. In this case, it’s the blindness of deception. The spies cannot see what is really there since sin has misled them into unwarranted arrogance. They think Israel cannot be defeated. Their pride in the taking of Jericho has completely blinded them.
In his distress, Joshua comes before the Lord, who instructs him what to do. Yahweh tells his servant they have a serious problem, as Joshua 7:11 outlines:
“Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings.”
Achan’s sin was committed in secret. Yet from God’s perspective with Israel, it was infectious. One man’s trespass affected the entire nation of Israel. This caused God’s people to literally become what they were supposed to eliminate. Consider how God puts this in Joshua 7:12:
“Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you.”
He says the Israelites themselves have become devoted to destruction as a result of their not completely devoting to destruction all those things that He has commanded. That single individual brought his sin upon the entire body; all Israelites suffered from his iniquity.
The only way to correct the problem was to completely eradicate all traces of this sin. In this case, God commanded that Achan, his entire family, and all his possessions must be removed; they all had to be burned by fire. I can’t even imagine the growing knot in Achan’s stomach as God narrowed down who had committed the sin: by tribe, by clan, by household, and finally by Achan. The approaching dread the man felt had to be awful.
Upon discovery, Achan confessed to those things he had stolen. His words in Joshua 7:21 are telling:
“Then I coveted them and took them.”
Achan coveted. He lusted after something that was not his to have. He had directly trespassed against the Tenth Commandment as well as the First. He had put these things into his heart place of Yahweh.
Before Israel could bring God’s punishment upon Achan, He directed His children to consecrate themselves (Joshua 7:13). To do His will, they needed to first be purified of sin themselves. God told Israel to stone Achan and everyone in his household. He required them to burn all that they owned. The infestation of sin had to be completely rooted out. Only then was Israel relieved of the burden of Achan’s iniquity.
This has direct application to the church today. Often, sin begins in secret with just one person. However, sin is not content to remain isolated. It has a voracious appetite. The sin of one easily spreads to another. The members of a person’s own house may look the other way when sin appears because of embarrassment, or any of a number of other reasons. Perhaps a friend in the church learns of the sin in this family. He keeps it confidential, but then someone else hears, perhaps because of gossip. The infestation spreads. Maybe another person becomes tempted upon hearing of the pleasures of the initial sin. Who knows? Eventually, if not appropriately dealt with, an entire church can be consumed. From there, it can be an entire denomination that falls.
Extreme, you say? How then have we ended up with homosexual pastors in the pulpits sanctioned by the governing authorities in various denominations? I doubt if I need to spell it out further for you. Sin is a plague that can ultimately impact everyone. Because these churches and denominations accepted the initial sin of an individual rather than appropriate God’s righteous wrath against that first person, whole bodies have fallen into apostasy. God gave instructions on how to approach someone who sins. When that procedure was ignored, the consequences were drastic.
For those who study Bible prophecy, all this is expected. We know that in these latter times, apostasy within the Body of Christ would cause many to fall away. They have, and more will follow. For those of us who remain faithful, our job is to continue that way, first and foremost. We are also to reach out as we can to rescue those in sin. Perhaps our meager effort will keep someone from the eternal flames.
God has shown us the true and righteous way to live. We’re to be obedient to that and not let sin creep in where it doesn’t belong.