Joshua 7 – 1 Nov 2009
So far, what we have only seen was success upon success in the life of Joshua leading Israel.
But here in Joshua 7, we see a dramatic turn of events.
To maintain their attacking momentum, Israel charged on to attack the city of Ai.
Joshua sent men to spy out the city.
This is similar to what he did in Joshua 2.
He sent men to spy out Jericho before executing the attack.
Hence, it appears that he adopted the same battle procedure.
This time, the spies returned and suggested that a small force was all it takes to conquer Ai.
It ought to have been an easy victory from a human stand-point.
There were very few people in the city of Ai.
Their morale was already affected by the news of how Jericho was defeated.
So, all the odds were against the city of Ai.
Hence, Joshua sent a force of about 3,000 men to attack Ai.
But instead of an easy victory, they lost 36 men.
The Israelites had to retreat and they were even pursued.
So, what happened?
Were they too hasty to have proceeded with the attack?
Was it a lack of prayer?
Was it complacency?
Were they too presumptuous that they would certainly win?
Was it because they failed to depend on God?
No, it is none of the above.
I am convinced that Joshua was not complacent.
There is every reason for him to maintain the momentum in the attack.
There is nothing wrong in being confident in battle, as long as his confidence is in the LORD.
Don’t ever think that a Christian has to behave like a weakling….
..where in everything, he has to say “I’m not sure”, “let’s see how it goes” or act very worried so that he appears humble.
The Bible is against self-pride, presumptuousness and complacency.
But there is every reason for Christians to be confident in the LORD.
Some people call this holy confidence.
So what is the reason for Israel’s defeat here in Joshua 7?
The crux of the issue (as you would have guessed) is the transgression of a SECRET SIN.
I want to use the rest of our time to look at this matter by asking the following 3 questions:
1. How did this secret sin creep into Israel?
2. What did this secret sin cost Israel?
3. What was/had to be done to remove this secret sin from Israel?
1) How did this secret sin creep into Israel?
In Joshua 6:18, a clear instruction was issued to all the men attacking Jericho:
“…abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it.”
In Joshua 7:1, we are told the following:
“….Achan the son of Cami,…took of the accursed things; so the anger of the LORD burned against the children of Israel.”
Was it clear to all the men attacking Jericho that they were not to take these accursed things?
Yes it was.
Why then did Achan do it?
Joshua 7:21 tells us this:
“When I SAW among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, 200 shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing 50 shekels, I COVETED them and took them….”
There are 2 key words that I want you to note here:
The first is the word “SAW”.
The second is the word “COVETED”.
How did this secret sin creep into Israel?
It was through the eye of covetousness.
What Achan SAW with his eyes, he COVETED in his heart.
And it led him to secretly commit a dreadful sin that was clearly against the revealed will of God.
There are many examples in the bible that remind us of how sin creeps into us in the same manner.
How did Eve sin against God in the Garden of Eden?
Genesis 3:6 tells us that she SAW that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes…
In Daniel 4, there was a King by the name of Nebuchadnezzar.
He was walking about his royal palace and admiring this great Babylon before his eyes.
And pride came upon him through the admiration of his eyes of this achievement he had made.
How did King David, the man after God’s own heart, sin against his God?
2 Samuel 11:2 tells us that he was walking on the roof of his house and he SAW a woman bathing.
It is clear that we have to guard our eyes so that it does not lead us into sin.
Children and young people in our midst, listen to me carefully now.
As you mature, you will SEE many things in this world that are very attractive to your eyes.
If you do not let the word of God govern you, what you see with your eyes will result in your heart coveting for them.
You will see your friends dress in a certain manner and your heart will desire to dress like them regardless of whether it is appropriate dressing.
You will see a certain lifestyle or behaviour which your friends consider as being “cool” and you will want this lifestyle or behave in that manner so as to be accepted by them.
You see certain TV programs or movies and you will be attracted to some actors or actresses.
How they look and how they behave will appeal to your eyes.
Some of you will even behave or talk like them without even realizing it.
You will see your friends dining in expensive restaurants, having fanciful gadgets and your heart will covet them.
And to possess these things, you will be spending your life working just to get these things as your main priority.
Sometimes, you may be so obsessed wanting these, that you end up stealing and doing illegal things just to get them.
The Apostle John tells us in 1 John 2:16
“For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of they eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.”
All these things that come before your eyes are very attractive.
There is no doubt about that.
But they will not bring you to heaven.
That is why the Apostle Peter has this to say to you in 1 Pet 5:8
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
And his best weapon is to appeal to your eye because that is the point of entry into your heart.
Let me tell you that the adults are also not spared!
A famous preacher (whose name I cannot remember), but whose words I can because it struck me hard, had this to say:
“The sins that I struggle with in these later years of my life are the very sins of my youth”.
The writer of Ecclesiates is right; “there is nothing new under the sun.”
That is why we have to respond like Job who said in Job 31:1 “I have made a covenant with my eyes; Why then should I look upon a young woman?”
Job may be talking about how he guards himself against sexual sins, but the principle is applicable for all other sins involving covetousness.
Because the seed of covetousness in your heart comes by entry through your eyes.
All it takes is a secret sin to creep into your life and it can engineer your disaster.
My friends, beware of secret sins.
The Bible reminds us that God knows even your secret sins (Psalm 90:18)
If there is some secret sin that is plaguing you today, take them to the throne of grace.
Forsake it immediately, repent and seek the forgiveness of the Lord.
If it is something you are struggling with, talk to someone who can help you before it is too late.
Because Num 32:23 tells us that “…your sin will find you out.” and it may be too late then.
2) Question 2: What did this secret sin cost Israel?
Joshua 6:5 tells us that the men of Ai struck down 36 men from Israel.
36 men died because of a secret sin committed against God.
You may say “It doesn’t sound too bad; it’s only 1% of the 3,000 men sent to fight the city of Ai”.
You probably won’t think that way if one of these men is your brother, husband, father or son.
The point here is this: if you are harbouring a secret sin today, you may be the cause of the suffering of others.
But it’s not just the lost of life that is the issue here.
It is the lost of the special presence of God.
God says in Joshua 7:13 “…There is an accursed thing in your midst…”
“…you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you..”
Verse 11 “…they have transgressed My covenant which I commanded them.”
What did this secret sin cost Israel?
It cost Israel the special presence of God.
Friends, this is the worst thing that can happen to a man or a Church.
I am sure you will remember Samson – the strongest man who has ever lived.
You can read about him from Judges 13-16.
Samson thought that God would be with him all the time, regardless of what he did.
So he led a promiscuous life and he continued indulging in sin.
In Judges 16:20, in the most dangerous moment of his life, we are told that “…he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.”
Yes, God is omnipresent; He is everywhere.
He sees what is happening to Samson; He is even present where it is happening in the sense that He is omnipresent.
But Samson lost His special presence because God cannot tolerate sin.
Samson was bound by his enemies and he thought he could overcome them the way he had done so before.
But he was wrong; God was not with him in a special way anymore and he lost all his special strength.
His enemies captured him and guess what they did?
They took out his pair of eyes.
Perhaps Samson’s eyes were his problem.
Because it was only then that Samson came to his senses and pleaded for God’s mercy.
And thank God, there was time for repentance and restoration for Samson.
Friends, whether it is in your own life, family or Church life.
If there is a secret sin being harboured somewhere, we cannot expect the full blessing of God.
Do not misunderstand, I am not saying that every trial or tribulation is because of sin.
There are times where God uses trials and tribulations to mold us.
This is clear in the life of Job.
But we must never think that secret sins and a life of blessing can co-exist side by side.
What did this secret sin cost Israel?
It cost them the special presence of God.
No wonder our Lord Jesus tells us in Matt 5:30, “…if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is better that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”
Friends, the point that our Lord Jesus is making here is the seriousness of sin.
He is calling us to repentance.
He is calling us to put an end to that sin before that sin puts an end to you.
3) Question 3: What was/had to done to remove this secret sin from Israel?
Joshua 7:24-25 “Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the valley of Achor.”
“And Joshua said, ‘Why have you troubled us? The LORD will trouble you this day.’ So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones.”
So Achan and everything which was associated with him (whether it is a possession or relative) had to be destroyed.
Now, when non-believers read this, they will certainly say “this is very cruel”.
Achan had already confessed, why are you killing him?
Why are you destroying his family and possessions as well?
What a waste! You could have used his oxen, donkeys, sheep and tent.
His children could have grown up to be useful people.
Perhaps they can be teaching others not to commit their father’s secret sin.
I don’t deny that these argument seem very logical and rational.
You put 2 lawyers together; they will probably argue a very sensational court case.
You can argue this case for years and both sides will seem to have very strong reasons.
But the most important point we need to note is in verse 26.
“…..So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger…”
Friends, you have to realize that we are puny and sinful men living in the presence of a Holy God.
You have to realize the sinfulness of sin and the indescribable holiness of God.
When you have come to that realization, you will do whatever you need to get back the smile of God upon you.
And the point here is that Achan, his family and all possessions had to be destroyed before God was with Israel again.
Let me also tell you that the sin of every Christian was laid upon our Lord Jesus Christ when He died on the Cross before God could turn away His fierce anger from us.
Is it fair? Is right?
That is not the point.
The point is that this was the only way the fierce holy anger of the LORD against sin could be appeased.
We can only be thankful that God is merciful and that there is salvation for those who turn to Him in repentance.
Now, we are told in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
So, if there is any secret sin in our midst, we need to repent and we need to repent right now!
We need to confess and we need to find the peace of God again through the washing of sins by the blood shed on the Cross by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Remember Achan and don’t make the same mistake he did.
Let us quickly recap our main headings for today:
1) How did this secret sin creep into Israel?
It crept in through the eye of covetousness.
We need to guard our eyes because they are the point of entry to our hearts.
2) What did this secret sin cost Israel?
It cost Israel the lost of the special presence of God.
This is the saddest thing that can happen to any man or Church.
3) What was done to remove this secret sin from Israel?
Achan and all that was related to him (his possessions and his relatives) had to be destroyed.
Only then was the fierce holy anger of the LORD appeased.
For us today, Jesus Christ has appeased the holy anger of the LORD against sin.
So turn to him in repentance and for salvation today.