Sunday, June 12, 2016

Joshua 7 - Our Choices and their results

Joshua 7 – “Our choices and their results”
Verse 1 is something of an explanation of
WHY Israel  is about to suffer defeat against the small village of Ai
But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan … of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.
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.” And the men went up and spied out Ai.
And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.”
So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent.
And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.

Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads.

And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan!
O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”

The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned…

Life is – in many ways – a series of choices.
SOME of our decisions are fairly innocuous, like, “What will I eat for lunch?” or “What color shirt should I wear to church?”  Though we face decisions like these a hundred times a day… these are relatively harmless. (Unless, of course, we decide NOT TO wear a shirt to church. .. in that case we have widespread PANIC!)
OTHER decisions, however, are much more significant, like,

  • “How will I live my life?”  

  • “Will I obey the Lord or live for myself?”  

THOSE choices have major consequences… as we see in our text.

The children of Israel had just accomplished something once thought IMPOSSIBLE.  After the death of Moses, Joshua led them to their FIRST victory in battle as they attempted to claim the Promised Land as their own.  The walled city of Jericho was their FIRST obstacle, the FIRST test of their faith after crossing Jordan.
In unorthodox fashion, God told Joshua to march around the city each day without making a sound, and on the seventh day they were to march around the wall 7 times – and when they finished, the priests were to blow their horns.  

That’s it… They obeyed this “crazy” battle strategy, trusting the Lord – and God toppled that wall and the city was utterly destroyed.
That’s what happens when you obey the Lord, folks.  When you do what God says, you have His blessing and power to do things once thought IMPOSSIBLE!  

2 Chronicles 16:9 says, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless (or – completely devoted) toward him.”  God empowered Israel to defeat the formidable foe of Jericho, because Israel obeyed the Lord.
Next up was the small village of Ai.  After sending spies on reconnaissance to spy out the land, the report came to Joshua that the village was so small they would only need a portion of their military force.  3,000 troops would be MORE than sufficient to defeat the village of Ai.  

But those 3,000 troops didn’t know who they would be fighting against that day!  Filled with unusual power, the men of Ai struck down Israel, and those who weren’t killed, ran away in defeat.

As if losing wasn’t bad enough – Israel ran.

Keep in mind, prior to this moment the Canaanites were deathly afraid of Israel.  They had HEARD the stories of God’s great power and provision.  And the Bible says that as the people of Israel marched toward Jericho, their hearts melted in fear.

BUT NOW???  After seeing how the little village of Ai humiliated Israel, the people of Canaan would be emboldened to join forces with their neighbors and run Israel out of town.  

But beyond that - those pagans would associate this loss with Israel’s God - they would see Israel’s God as INFERIOR to the pagan gods of the land.

Which is something we often miss:

Our actions, whether good or bad, reflect on our God.

Joshua was devastated.  As the new leader of Israel, he felt that God had abandoned him in his hour of need.  He fell on his face before the Lord – weeping – asking WHY God had ever led them across the river Jordan only to deliver them over to their enemies.
God’s answer??  The Lord didn’t console him.  In fact, the Lord said, “GET UP!” and added, “The reason you lost the battle is because there is sin in the camp!

Rewind the clock…  

God had specifically commanded Israel to destroy everything in the walled-city of Jericho.  Take no prisoners, animals, or material goods out of the city.  Save nothing.  The people of Jericho had so offended the Lord that everything they owned was tainted by their sin.
While the battle of Jericho was a huge win for the people of God, one person ignored the specific instructions of God and took something from the ruins, some gold and fabric, and hid the stolen items in his tent.
Because of one man’s act of disobedience, Israel suffered a terrible defeat in their next battle.  

The little village of Ai wasn’t even a ‘blip on the radar’ for Israel… they should have been able to make quick work of this insignificant enemy.  But because of Achan’s disobedience, Israel found themselves fighting against GOD.
God told Joshua to stop making a fool of himself crying.  Lamenting his losses wouldn’t fix a thing… worrying about his reputation as a leader kept him from facing the sin that had been committed.  He told him that before he took one step further, he must DEAL WITH the offender.  
The next day, God helped Joshua find the guilty party – Achan

whose name, ironically, means “Trouble.

This man had single-handedly thwarted Israel’s campaign against the enemy, because he had stolen a few meaningless items from Jericho and had hidden them in his tent.  

That seemingly “innocent” exception to the clear commands of God cost Israel the loss of 36 innocent lives and made their mission taking the Promised Land MUCH MORE difficult.

With his sin discovered, Joshua commanded that he, his family, his animals, and all that he owned, be stoned and their bodies burned outside the camp.

What was God teaching His people by allowing them to suffer defeat?  Why would God set Himself in opposition to those He loves?  

This incredible story offers great insight into the nature of sin and the holiness of God.  There are four very valuable lessons to be learned here:
1.  First - God - demands - obedience. Not partial obedience.  Complete obedience.  In this age of compromise, we must understand that God refuses to negotiate with us.  When He tells us to DO a thing or NOT to do a thing – it is HIS PREROGATIVE to do so… He IS God!  It is ours to obey Him.
We’ve all engaged in spiritual gymnastics at one time or another
trying to justify a sinful choice.  

Think back over YOUR life.  Remember all those times you entertained sinful thoughts, and how you tried putting your sin in a better light.
  • “Yeah, I know it’s wrong…but if I can keep it hidden, what could it hurt?” Or. ..

  • “I know this is wrong, but maybe I can minimize the damage…

  • “my sin only affects ME”
  • “If others would do right by me, I wouldn’t have to do this wrong.”
Spiritual gymnastics is what that is – trying to put my disobedience against God in the best possible light.  Acting as if our past obedience should make up for our current disobedience.

This story reminds us that the Lord hates sin no matter WHOSE sin it is.  And while we might think “how UNFAIR of the Lord to judge an entire nation on account of one man’s sin,” you need to understand that sin is offensive to God!  God’s Word clearly states,

Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.”  

God is holy – He will not tolerate sin. No, not even mine.
But not only does this story remind us that God demands obedience…
2.  it also teaches us that Sin always has consequences.  Because of Achan’s sin, 36 innocent people lost their lives.  Because of his decision to grab something outside the defined limits of God, his family and all he owned were destroyed.  

Sin is deceptive – it promises so much in the beginning – but in the end, delivers only judgment.  It promises happiness and fulfillment… but only makes those things IMPOSSIBLE to attain.  

  • I’m sure that Achan thought those few items he had embezzled were so small and insignificant

  • maybe he even rationalized that those items would make life a little easier for his family once they settled in the Promised Land.  

But in the end, what Achan thought would be a blessing to his family...

I wonder how many parents today are doing the same thing: trying to justify their unfaithfulness to the Lord, thinking it will bless their families?
How often have we told ourselves that it is ok to compromise the teachings of the Lord SINCE we have good intentions?
Your intentions don't matter, friend.  Whenever you are deceived by sin,

  • thinking you can control it
  • or keep it hidden
  • or that God will somehow make an exception for you

you are inviting destruction (not blessing) upon yourself AND those you love.

How many times have we heard people say, “my sin only affects me?”  

Well, this story PROVES that sin is never committed in a vacuum – it ALWAYS impacts others – it cannot be contained, and the consequences cannot be controlled or limited by the one who is disobeying God!
3.  Third, this passage shows us that Sin MUST BE dealt with.  God told Joshua that He would continue to fight against them until the sin was dealt with.  

When Joshua discovered it was Achan, you will notice tears couldn’t make it right.  Achan admitting his transgression before the congregation did not appease God’s judgment.  For the holy wrath of God to be satisfied, Achan’s Sin had to be dealt with.  Notice verse 26,
And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day.
THEN the Lord turned from his burning anger.

Though a tragic OT story, it provides a beautiful illustration of the grace and mercy of God found in Jesus Christ.  

  • He too was carried outside the camp
  • He bore our sins in His own body on the cross
  • and through Him, the wrath of God towards us is now satisfied.  

Because of what Jesus did, Romans chapter 8 says, “there is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to them which are in Christ Jesus.”  

Here’s the point:

Sin must be adequately dealt with

and Christ is the only adequate answer:

He was made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the  righteousness of God in Him.
If it had been ME standing before that assembly that day – I would have been just as guilty as Achan.  I have transgressed the Law of God – I have been found guilty of sin and the sentence of death is upon me.  But the difference between me and Achan is, I have a Savior who took the wrath of God in my place!
Do YOU???
4.  But there is one more principle in this story that should be noted.  Any discussion of this text would be incomplete, if we did not see how
God’s people are to be reminded of the source of their trouble.  

Notice the last sentence of the chapter… “Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor” or, the valley of trouble.  In the decades to come, children would ask WHY that valley is called “trouble” … and their parents would answer - “Because of sin.”

Did the people learn a very valuable lesson that day?  You better believe they did.

  • They learned that sinALL sin, whether big, little, hidden, or known, is offensive to God.

  • They learned that sin was the source of all trouble.  That, whenever they stepped outside of God’s will for their lives, they suffered the consequences.   AND...

  • They learned that sin must be dealt with before it can be forgiven.
And to this day, thousands of years later, the Jews STILL call that place “the Valley of trouble,” remembering how their army was defeated - how a man and his family were destroyed – all for a few material possessions Achan had convinced himself he ‘needed.’
Sin is the cause of all our troubles!  Whether ours or someone else's.

Though we have forgiveness through Christ, there are still consequences to our sin that we cannot control.  We need to remember that we can lose everything important to us over a desire for things outside God’s will for us.

That family died because they were led by a man who thought that stuff was more important than obedience.  His wife and children were judged by God because they were following the leadership of a man who thought more of money than honoring God.

And I fear that the calamity Achan brought upon HIS family is being repeated everyday – because people put a higher premium on stuff than obedience.
Sadly, many are unwilling to see the calamity they are inviting on their families because they are ignoring the commands of God.
Oh friends, listen to me now – there is a terrible cost to disobedience.  
  • Achan died
  • his family died
  • 36 soldiers died
  • all those families were impacted
  • the name of God was blasphemed by the lost
all because one man thought he could disobey the Lord and get away with it.
I wonder, friend, are your priorities what they ought to be this morning? Are you concerned that your family might suffer because you haven’t been obedient to the Lord? Our choices really do have consequences.

Maybe God is speaking to YOUR heart about putting the Lord first?  Will you make that commitment this morning?

You have that opportunity right now…