The greeting of God.
Greetings in the name of Christ. He is our Shepherd. We are His Lambs. (Jn.10:1-16, Ezek.34:8-14, Rev.7:17) It is well with our souls. We are to follow in the footsteps of our Lord. (I Pt.2:21) This fallen world opposed Him at every turn even as He came to seek and to save the lost. Beloved, we are called to imitate our Christ. (Jn.15:12-27) Do not grow weary doing good to those that do evil to you in return. (Gal.6:9) Perhaps God will save some in Christ. But most certainly He will conform us into Christ’s image and bring us to Christ’s side. What the world means for evil, God means for our good. (Gen.50:20, Jas.1:12)
The word of God.
Now tonight, much like last week in the previous chapter, God has some needful lessons for us. But I warn you they are hard lessons because they are on the subject of sin. A subject that the fallen flesh of even the best of Believers is averse to hearing. But may God open our hearts and our ears to hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev.2:29, 3:22, Mt.11:15, Rev.2:7) Joshua chapter seven, I will begin to read from verse one, hear the holy word of God, read.
Joshua 7: 1. 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. 2 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. 3 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.” 4 So about three thousand men from the people went up there, but they fled from the men of Ai. 5 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. 6 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. 7 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! 8 “O Lord, what can I say since Israel has turned their back before their enemies? 9 “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?” 10 So the LORD said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? 11 “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. 12 “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. 13 “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.” 14 ‘In the morning then you shall come near by your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the LORD takes by lot shall come near by families, and the family which the LORD takes shall come near by households, and the household which the LORD takes shall come near man by man. 15 ‘It shall be that the one who is taken with the things under the ban shall be burned with fire, he and all that belongs to him, because he has transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he has committed a disgraceful thing in Israel.'”
Joshua 7:16. So Joshua arose early in the morning and brought Israel near by tribes, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17 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. 18 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. 19 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.” 20 So Achan answered Joshua and said, “Truly, I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 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.” 22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was concealed in his tent with the silver underneath it. 23 They took them from inside the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the sons of Israel, and they poured them out before the LORD. 24 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. 25 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. 26 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.
The help of God.
Let’s pray to God and ask Him to give us special help with this difficult passage, pray.
The judgment of God against sinners.
Last time together we looked at Joshua chapter six. In that chapter we saw the defeat of Jericho. We said that this represents a foretaste of Judgment Day when Judge Christ will execute divine justice on all sinners found apart from Himself, which is to say those people found in their sins. (2 Thess.1:8, Dt.32:41-43, Nah.1:2) Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. Without the blood of the Lamb of God sinners are in the world without hope.
The wages of sin upon the unbelieving Gentile (those out of the church).
Here are some of the particulars we considered. God miraculously knocked their defensive walls down. There are no defenses when God rises up in justice. Beloved, no matter what the unbelieving man may think, man is no match for God. All of the evil scoffing at God will soon turn to weeping and wailing before God. Every knee will bow.
And then the armed Israelites rushed into the city and put all of the people to death by the sword. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Rom.3:9-18)
God also required His earthly army to put all the animals to death. In addition, God put everything that belonged to these sinners under the ban, that is to say, He forbade His people to enrich themselves by anything belonging to the Canaanites. God wants His separated people to separate ourselves from even what the unbeliever has touched; hating even the garment polluted by the flesh as God says in Jude (Jude 1:23) God is holy. And we are to be holy.
However, God told His people that all of the gold, silver, bronze and iron, (all metals) were to be put into the treasury for use in the Lord’s house, God said that they were “holy to the Lord”. Even judgment on the sinner will redound to the worship of God, to the worship of God’s justice. (Rom.9:11-29)
God taught the Canaanites by terrible example that the wages of sin is death. God also taught the Israelites the very same truth, even as they were the human instruments that God chose to use to execute His divine penalty. You remember we walked through various spiritual lessons that this typological Judgment Day taught.
There is a Judgment Day. God will show who His approved people are. It will be based on strict justice and truth without any mercy. We also said God teaches by the blowing of the horns and so on that He is announcing that His judgment will come for sinners before He sends His judgment. No one will be without excuse. God gives time to repent, believe, and reform. And the better part of mankind squander the time God has given to them. They die unprepared to meet God. They die apart from Christ. (Lk.17:26-30, Lk.18:7-8, Lk.14:15-27) They die in their sins.
The wages of sin upon the unbelieving Jew (those in the church).
In some ways Joshua chapter seven might be even sadder for us. You might say, what could possibly be sadder than an entire city of sinners receiving the death penalty? (Gen.2:7)
Well, what we are looking at is unbelief among the professing people of God. We are looking at the very people that God called to teach the lessons of judgment day themselves not heeding their own instruction. (Jer.23:10, 27:6, 43:10, Isa.44:28, 45:1, Ezek.21:1-32) The sins of those inside of the church are worse than those outside the Christian church. (WLC 151)
This is the judgment of God upon the household of God. (I Pt.4:12-19, Hab.3:1-2, Heb.12:7-10, Rev.2:10-11) Oh what lessons are here for us Beloved.
Last week we saw the execution of justice on Gentiles for their sin. Today we are looking at the execution of justice on Jews for their sin. And we see that the divine wage for Jew and Gentile alike is the same – death. (Rom.2:9-12)
The subject of sin.
Today from this passage I want to look at sin. And of course, you cannot have sin without the moral agent that commits the sin. So, I want to look at various sinners. Then, we will look at the discovery of sin and then the penalty upon it.
The definition of sin.
The biblical definition of sin is lawlessness.
I John 3:4. Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.
Romans 3:19. Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; 20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.
The standard for sin.
The standard for sin is the breach of the standard for righteousness.
The law in view is the moral law of God. God created man with the moral law upon his conscience. Even fallen man still has a conscience, a fallen conscience, but still an inward moral judge informed by the moral law of God. (Rom.2:11-15, Hos.6:7, Rom.1:18-32, WCF 6.1-2)
After the inward moral law God is pleased to announce His law in precept. At creation, God gave man a moral precept, a command, a moral law. God said to Adam, actually the Bible says He “commanded” Adam (the moral law is a divine command to a moral creature)…
Genesis 2:16. From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
The wages of every sin has always been death. (Rom.6:23, Rom.3:23) The soul that sins must die. And the soul that sins must die because the holy justice of God requires it. There can be no relaxing of the divine penalty. The penalty must be satisfied – sooner or later, by us or by Another. (Ezek.18:19-30)
The moral law is summarized in the Ten Commandments. (Exod.20:1-17) And Christ further summarizes the moral law under two heads, love God perfectly and love man perfectly. (Mt.22:35-40)
And there are two ways to consider a breach of the moral law. The sins of commission are doing what God forbids. The sins of omission are doing what God requires. Remember this as we consider the sins in the chapter before us tonight.
Also let me read one more time from First John to see why sin is so evil.
I John 3:8. the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
Sin is obeying the devil’s word over God’s word! (Gen.3:1-8)
Remember who gives the moral law, God of course. But want us to think about the nature of God. (WCF 2.1-2) The Law Giver is all holy and all good and we owe Him all adoration and all obedience. Sinning against an awful master would still be sin. But sinning against an infinitely loving and good master would be infinitely worse. How great is sin to sin against an infinitely good God?
The sin of Achan.
Now we come to the sin of one man, or at least his sin is the major focus of this chapter. Chapter seven deals with the sin of Achan.
His original sin.
We have a short genealogy of this fellow given to us. Let’s look at the kind of people this sinner Achan comes from.
Father Carmi. Grandfather Zabdi. Great Grandfather Zerah. Now there are a few Zerah’s in the Bible. This particular fellow was a son of Judah.
Genesis 46:12. The sons of Judah: Er and Onan and Shelah and Perez and Zerah (but Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan). And the sons of Perez were Hezron and Hamul.
Genesis 38:27. It came about at the time she was giving birth, that behold, there were twins in her womb. 28 Moreover, it took place while she was giving birth, one put out a hand, and the midwife took and tied a scarlet thread on his hand, saying, “This one came out first.” 29 But it came about as he drew back his hand, that behold, his brother came out. Then she said, “What a breach you have made for yourself!” So he was named Perez. 30 Afterward his brother came out who had the scarlet thread on his hand; and he was named Zerah.
Great great grandfather Judah an Israelite married a Gentile Canaanitess Shua. This was a sin against God. God forbade this.
Deuteronomy 7:1. When the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites and the Girgashites and the Amorites and the Canaanites and the Perizzites and the Hivites and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and stronger than you, 2 and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. 3 “Furthermore, you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. 4 “For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you and He will quickly destroy you. 5 “But thus you shall do to them: you shall tear down their altars, and smash their sacred pillars, and hew down their Asherim, and burn their graven images with fire. 6 “For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for His own possession out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. (I Cor.6:14-18, I Cor.7: Joshua 23:12, I Kg.11:2, Ezek.34:16, Ezra 9:12-14, Gen.24:37, Gen.28:6-9, Jg.14:3, Neh.10:30)
God commands that His people only marry from those that are His people. Believers are required by God to marry “in the Lord”. (I Cor.7:39) Remember what people just received divine justice in Jericho? Canaanites. People that worshiped false gods and hated the true God and hated His people. Judah married such a person!
Remember what the penalty is for sin. (Gen.38:2-7) He had three sons with this woman, Er and Onan and Shelah. Er and Onan were wicked. They were unrepentant sinners and God exacted divine justice on them for their sin. Judah did not want to give his third son Shelah to Er’s widow Tamar. Tamar herself was likely a Canaanitess. (Gen.38:6-30, Ruth 4:12, I Chron.2:4, Mt.1:3) Well fast forward. Judah’s wife dies. Tamar disguises herself as a prostitute. Judah falls. He conceives Perez and Zerah with her. He commits incest. The penalty? Death. (Lev.18:15, 29)
That is great great grandfather Judah; in the visible household of faith.
It seems as if this Achan comes from a long line of sinners, people that heard God’s command and disregarded it in favor of their own selfish lusts. In fact, each one of these people was conceived in sin and came forth in sin, sinners from birth. We are all in this fallen line of sinners. All are under the threat of God’s impending justice for our sin. The guilty sentence for Adam’s sin has been imputed to all people and his corrupt nature has been conveyed to all people by ordinary generation. (WCF 6.3)
His actual sin.
Now let’s consider Achan’s actual sin in view. (WCF 6.4)
Joshua 7:1. 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.
Joshua 7:20. So Achan answered Joshua and said, “Truly, I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 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.”
Some may be tempted to think, what is the big deal? A suit of clothes that was going to be burned anyways and a little bit of silver and gold. I will remind you beloved that the world has been groaning and weeping under the curse of almighty God because of taking a few bites of a piece of fruit forbidden by God. God wants us to have His view of sin. God wants us to live on His word.
Let’s consider Achan’s sin. Achan took something that God forbade him to have, the clothes of the Canaanites. Achan did not give to God what God required him to give, the silver and the gold into God’s house. We are looking at the sin of commission and omission. Achan is a thief. Achan is an idolater. He values these things more than he does the honor of the God he says he professes.
This is what God tells us in the fullness of time in the NT epoch.
Ephesians 5:5. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8 for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light
I am going to argue that Achan has committed another atrocious sin. Achan has committed murder or at least he is an accessory to murder. When he took these things in his covetous greed he signed the death warrants of untold numbers of his fellow Israelites. And he knew. And he did not care enough about their lives. His selfish greed was his god. Remember he does not “confess” until he is caught. Extorted confession is not gracious confession.
Previously God has told all of Israel this…
Joshua 6:18. But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet them and take some of the things under the ban, and make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it.
The punishment of the household of faith for the sin of a member.
V.1-9. What we are looking at is how the sin of one member can affect the whole community. You see each individual member of the household of faith is vitally connected with the other members of the same body.
We do not live in isolation from others. We are our brother’s keeper. Our sins are never private sins. And this is because God has created us to live in communion or society with other people. Our sins always affect those people that we are in communion with.
Joshua 22:20. Did not Achan the son of Zerah act unfaithfully in the things under the ban, and wrath fall on all the congregation of Israel? And that man did not perish alone in his iniquity.'”
Now some may object and say, how just is it of God to impute the sin of this one man to the entire congregation? Be careful Beloved, about accusing God of wrongdoing. It is always a bad idea. It is always sin. God is God. He has complete rights over all things including all people. (Dan.4:9-37)
In addition, God had forewarned them. He told them in advance.
You see Beloved this is one of the Biblical reasons for church disciple. When we do not correct unrepentant known-to-be sinning professing Believers in our churches we provoke God to chastise the entire congregation.
You see sin is like a contagious cancer, it infects, it corrupts, it spreads, and it leads to death.
Now Calvin speculates that Achan’s sin may not have been unknown to others within Israel. He points out that it is common for sinners to connive (secretly allow something sinful, to conspire to do sin) with other sinners, even by looking the other way.
He uses as a NT example the sinning man in First Corinthians chapter five. He was committing gross uncleanness and the church knew about it and they did nothing about it until the apostle Paul told them to excommunicate the man, remove the wicked man from among yourselves. (I Cor.5:1-13)
The church conspired that is to say “helped” that man commit gross sin by not confronting him. They are implicit conspirators or partners in crime as it were.
Calvin, I think, has rightly explained why the whole congregation is said to be committing the offense that Achan himself did privately. When this sin becomes known that the wage for this sin is death – then every member will be justly condemned in their own hearts of doing the same and more countless times.
Let’s use the example of the unclean First Corinthians five man. When his sin is brought into the open and he is cast out, a figure of being cast away from God, of having no right to come near God or His people – well everyone in the church should conclude, I deserve the same sentence. I am guilty, perhaps even more guilty. The only difference is that my sin has not been heretofore brought into the open and called into an account. (I Cor.6:9-11)
The sin of pride.
V.2-5. I want to point out something in passing. Joshua and his army did not seek the Lord in their battle against Ai. They now were a bit overly confident after their defeat of Jericho. Or, else they presumed upon God’s favor without first seeking it.
The word for overly confident is “proud”. They trusted in their arm of flesh. And God had their enemies defeat them. But even in their loss, He was merciful to them.
The sin of discontent.
Also, see that Joshua complains to God that they should have stayed across the wilderness, they should have never come into the Promised Land. This great saint is stumbling in sin. He has faith. But he is still a sinner. A saved sinner.
Joshua 7:7. 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!
Oh beloved, if God should publish our sins to our face and to the world, we deserve exactly what Achan received. (Ps.130:3-4)
You remember when Jesus said at the last Passover Supper the night before He went to the cross that one of His disciples eating with Him would betray Him to death. And what did every disciple say? Lord is it I? Oh beloved, that is exactly right. Everyone of us has the seed of every sin inside of us. (Mt.26:22, I Cor.10:1-14)
And so did the 36 men that died in battle. (Josh.7:5) God used the punishment of one sinner to punish other sinners, giving them what their sins deserved.
We see this in other portions of Scripture. Because of ten faithless spies God had over a million of His people march in the wilderness for forty years. For the sins of some in Judah God had Nebuchadnezzar take everyone in Judah away into captivity except the poorest of the poor. This was judgment upon the unbelieving Jews. And correction on the Believing. But all suffered. (Jer.20-22, 24-29, 34-35, Ezra 2:1, Ezra 5:12, 2 Chron.36:21, Ezra 1:1, Lev.25:1-7, 26:35)
This is here to make all of us tremble at sin, at our sin, at the sins of others. Oh God is holy. And God has a burning intense hatred of all sin. His eyes are too pure to look with approval on any that sin. (Hab.1:13)
The punishment of the sinner.
In V.10-26 we have the discovery of Achan by this unusual method, which is obviously being governed by God. Joshua requires Achan to tell the truth and he does.
Let’s just conclude with some final lessons from this section.
The people of God had a great victory over their enemies in Jericho. But they did not stay at the heights of this victory very long. In the blink of an eye their worst enemy knocked them down. It was their indwelling sin that caused their downfall.
I do wonder as we look around in America and as Believers we ask the Lord why our country is in such a wretched mess, I wonder if any of us as professing Christians has thought perhaps it is because of “our” unrepentant sin. Often times the real reason for our distress is not even considered. But we should.
We are also taught that by faith great enemies fall before us. But when we walk by sight and not by faith small enemies defeat us.
God is teaching His professing people that He knows our sins and that if we do not bring them to Christ then He will bring them into the open. Be sure that your sins will find you out.
I take Achan to be an unbeliever in Israel. I do not take him as sinning Believer. The reason being is that He receives the curse and the wrath of God, which only unbelievers receive.
So, we are taught that there are unbelievers who profess to believe but they do not. And God knows who they are. And someday God will separate them from His believing people.
God wants His people to see that our sin will often times adversely affect our immediate family.
Achan was a covetous greedy man. He did not steal to eat. He stole because wealth was his god. And his whole family suffered along with him.
I will say this, I cannot be dogmatic, whereas I believe Achan to be an unbeliever, I cannot say this about his family. The believers in his family would have gone to Christ after their death. But the penalty is meant to persuade the sinner against sin lest evil befall his family. Achan stole a few things, but he lost everything. Judas sold Christ for 30 pieces of silver, but he lost everything.
Finally, the great lesson taught over and over is the wages of sin is death. God is holy. All those that draw near to Him must treat Him as holy – He is a consuming fire. This is here to make all of us tremble at sin, at our sin, at the sins of others. Oh God is holy. And God has a burning intense hatred of all sin. His eyes are too pure to look with approval on any that sin. (Hab.1:13) God desires that we live holy. (Heb.12:14, I Pt.1:14-16)
You see this is sinners in the hands of an angry God. But all day long God holds out His hand of mercy to assuage His own anger. His justice must be satisfied. His mercy has made a way.
Only in Christ are we cleansed from our sin and made safe before such a holy God.
Oh, how we need Christ. Oh, how thankful we our for Christ. Our forgiveness. Our holiness.