Wednesday, October 13, 2010

sin in the camp

But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.
Joshua 7:1

This entire chapter is a vivid lesson in the unforeseen consequences of sinful actions. During the defeat of Jericho, God had commanded that valuables from the city be brought solely to the tabernacle to be devoted to Him. All of Israel strictly obeyed this order except for one man. Achan grabbed a fine robe, some silver, and a bar of gold and smuggled them out of the fight and into hiding in his own tent.

When Israel went next into battle with the small city of Ai, they were fiercely driven back at loss. They were at a loss to explain this other than they knew it was evident that God was not fighting with them as before in Jericho. God reveals to Joshua that someone had stolen what was due to Him. The nation is assembled to deal with this sin.

Achan's covetousness and lying led to big collateral damage. Thirty six of Israel's fighting men were killed at Ai (Joshua 7:5). The morale of the people was low. And their anger that one man's sin had so hurt the nation was palpable. I am sure none of those consequences entered his mind as he buried his war trophies in the sand of his tent floor. Sinning is never done with that much thought of consequence.

Achan's end is horrible. He does confess once confronted (Joshua 7:19-21), but by then his punishment is assured. His entire household is stoned and burned, along with his stolen stuff, in the valley of Achor (Joshua 7:22-26). To this day his story serves as a vivid reminder of the destructive influence of direct disobedience to God.

And that is the part of this story worth considering. All I have to do is look at my own heart. I am capable of similar spiritual treachery. I am a sinner who can be consumed with my own selfish desires. I am a broken person who could blame my sinful choices on a host of outside forces. Instead, I must always own my sin and throw myself on God's mercy. When I bury the actions and consequence of sin, hoping God does not see it, I am just setting myself up for more consequences and pain down the road. Confession gets the truth out. And God's forgiving grace exists for me in Christ. I may have consequences for my sin, but I don't have to worry about Achan's end being mine because I am forgiven in Christ. He took the punishment and chastisement of my sin in His death on the cross. And He rose again to assure eternal life and abundant living for me right now.

Sin is never a thing to take lightly in my heart. That is a sin in and of itself. A life of confession is a better experience all the way around. It saves me from living a lie that will always unravel under God's careful and pure scrutiny. I suppose it boils down to the fact that I would rather be a sinner living in regular confession, repentance, and faith than a sinner who hides it from others only to have it revealed later in dramatic ways by God, when the pain and consequences are greater.

- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13

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