Faithlife Sermons

Faithfulness and Unfaithfulness

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Intro

The passage from Joshua tonight is not an easy one to handle. It’s hard to read Achan’s account and close the Bible, have a nice cup of coffee and go on with your day. It’s a serious passage. The seriousness of the punishment isn’t there for seriousness’ sake. It should make you wonder about the seriousness of the crime. And if you can suspend being overwhelmed by the harshness to look at what’s really happening here, you might see something worth mulling over the rest of the evening and throughout your week. I will start by saying that whatever the situation is that makes Achan’s punishment just, right, and good, that situation has been changed by the Cross. That doesn’t mean we can check out and write it off, not if we care to know more about the Cross. We’ll see that the Cross is important in a way and to an extent that most people don’t get a chance to think about very often.
Achin

Unfaithfulness of Adultery

Our story starts with a crime against God. And what can we say about Achan’s crime? The author doesn’t file this crime under “stealing.” The whole story is framed from the beginning in terms of committing adultery, breaking faith, a relationship fracture. A relationship fracture with the one who not only holds your molecules together, but also helps win the battles he’s called you to wage. And when Achan fractured his relationship with God, he fractured his family’s relationship with God and his extended family’s relationship with God and his tribe’s relationship with God and his nation’s relationship with God. The covenant that was given to Israel through Moses on the other side of that river has been violated. Things that God wanted set aside for him as an offering were coveted and taken, and he had told Israel that that would make them into something to be set aside as an offering. You can see this a few verses earlier in
Joshua 6:18 ESV
But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it.
And that violation wasn’t only a moment in spiritual reality. That spiritual reality was present in objects, stolen items. Achan’s adultery had a location. It was like committing adultery and hiding the woman in your closet and sitting down to dinner with your family. This was not a thing of the past. It was a thing of the present. A continual sin that God told Israel he would hold them accountable for, to the point that they had become a thing just like the sinful things they were instructed to destroy. This sin made it so Israel, God’s chosen people was filed under “things to destroy in offering to God.”
And that violation wasn’t only a spiritual reality. That spiritual reality was present in objects, stolen items. adultery that had a location. Having committed adultery is a state that people get into. But that status, that violation was physically present in Israel.
The stolen items themselves were a sin, not just a reminder of sin. They were sin, physically present. And in attaching himself to them, by keeping them for himself.
Achin as adultery against God

Foray into Prayer Harder - Spiritual defeat

So, it’s not shocking that God’s favor wasn’t with Israel when they went into battle. Sin was tangibly and physically present with them in and under Achan’s tent. Israel herself was currently a sinful thing to be destroyed, but they didn’t know about it until they went into battle. They had just defeated a sizable city and were going up against a smaller force. They thought it would be no problem, but met a shameful defeat.
They thought it would be no problem, but met a shameful defeat. At this moment, I think it’s good to take a second and remember that jumping into spiritual battles is not easy. Maybe you’ve experienced this after neglecting personal prayer for a long period of time. The second you step into it, life goes crazy. Your car breaks down. Your kids freak out. “I thought entering into intentional prayer was supposed to make things better,” you might say to yourself. But a neglected prayer life draws a veil over our disobedience, our sin. Jesus pointed out that if you cleanse your house of a demon, and sweep your house clean, if you don’t fill it up with something, perhaps the Holy Spirit, 7 other demons will see your clean house and think, “Hey that looks like a nice place for a party,” and you’re worse off than before. So it may be easier to just be glad that nothing bad is happening, but if you’re not active in inviting the Holy Spirit into your life, your
At this moment, I think it’s good to take a second and remember that spiritual victories are not easily won. And they are virtually impossible to win when sin is coloring your whole spiritual life. It’s always important to deal with sin. But if you are facing a spiritual battle, or even a spiritual task, sin is going to need to be addressed and dealt with. If not, if you think you can let that sinful thing in your life just be, because you think you’ve figured out how to work around it, don’t expect a spiritual victory.
That was Israel’s problem. They had this sinful thing in their midst, this thing that had poisoned their relationship with God without them knowing it. And spiritual forces and Canaanite forces were ready and waiting to take Israel down. And without the Lord backing them up, they lost soundly.

God’s great name is at stake

A Retelling of the Fall

saw desired took
Israel’s task was to cleanse the land of mean, idolatrous sinful nations, nations that had been filling up wrath for themselves for hundreds of years or longer. How do we know this? In God’s promise to Abraham, God tells Abraham
Genesis 15:12–16 ESV
As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram. And behold, dreadful and great darkness fell upon him. Then the Lord said to Abram, “Know for certain that your offspring will be sojourners in a land that is not theirs and will be servants there, and they will be afflicted for four hundred years. But I will bring judgment on the nation that they serve, and afterward they shall come out with great possessions. As for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried in a good old age. And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
God holds back his wrath on the Amorites until the time of Joshua, perhaps 400 years. These nations would destroy God’s people and his name if they could and they did well against Israel in this passage. The land truly belonged to God and he was using his people to fight a military and spiritual battle to remove sin from off of God’s land. In the middle of this spiritual task of victory given to Israel, Achan is not participating. He’s not removing sin, but multiplying it. You could go so far as to say that he is reliving the fall in the Garden of Eden. He sees something, desires it, takes it for his own advantage and then tries to cover it up. He’s broken God’s covenant for all of Israel and has just caused 36 of his fellow Israelites to die in battle against the Amorites. And now Israel needed a sin bearer. Someone to own their sin. Someone needed to be the one to be filed under “sinful things to be destroyed” so that the rest of the nation could live on in relationship with God and carry out his mission in the world. That person was Achan. To bear the sin of Israel, to be cast out carried a heavy punishment. For Achan that meant he and his whole family and all he had was stoned and burned. If that hadn’t happened, Israel would have been the ones to own that sin. The consequences for sin are dire. They are justly harsh. They are alienating and deadly. They are the counterpart to the greatness of God’s holiness. And Achan experienced those consequences. Since Achan was the cause, it was far more just that he bore that sin than some sinless third party. That was as close to justice and mercy as the situation could get. And it’s not good enough. It leaves us in awe of the holiness of God, of the demands that holiness carries with it. But it leaves us thinking that a loving God must have another way. But here’s the thing, he did have another way. A costly one. A way that cost him the suffering and death of his own Son.
God holds back These nations would destroy God’s people and his name if they could. The land truly belonged to God and he was using his people to fight a military and spiritual battle to remove sin from off of God’s land. In the middle of this spiritual task of victory given to Israel, Achan is reliving the fall in the Garden of Eden. He sees something, desires it, takes it for his own advantage and then covers it up. He’s broken God’s covenant for all of Israel and has just caused 36 of his fellow Israelites to die in battle. Israel needed a sin bearer. Someone to own their sin. Someone needed to be the one to be filed under “sinful things to be destroyed” so that the rest of the nation could live on in relationship with God and carry out his mission in the world. That person was Achan. And it could have easily been you or me. To bear the sin of Israel, to be cast out carried a heavy punishment. For Achan that meant he and his whole family and all he had was stoned and burned. If that hadn’t happened, Israel would have been the ones to own that sin. The consequences for sin are dire. They are justly harsh. They are alienating and deadly. And Achan experienced that. Since Achan was the cause, it was far more just that he bore that sin than some sinless third party. That was as close to justice and mercy as the situation could get. And it’s not good enough. It leaves us in awe of the holiness of God, of the demands that holiness carries with it. But it leaves us thinking that a loving God must have another way. And he did. A costly one.
We don’t have to bear the consequences of our sin before that holy God. That holy God came and bore it for us. Jesus Christ took our sin and carried out our deadly punishment on himself on the Cross. We get the comfort that we wish Achan would have gotten, grave as his sin was. And just as Israel did, we get to continue on in God’s New mission, the mission of the church of bringing love and salvation to the world, in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is all possible because the fearful holiness of God looked approvingly on Jesus offering himself and accepted this sacrifice. We live on in the power of the resurrection because Jesus took our death from us. Thanks be to God.
Let us pray [ask God to go before us].
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