Open Your Bible
Joshua 7:1-26, Deuteronomy 9:26-29, Hosea 2:15, James 1:19-25
My sisters and I dreaded certain family meetings when we were teenagers. For these talks, Dad would call us into the living room because one of us had broken a major rule, though my parents couldn’t clearly identify the culprit. Our comfy, blue couch became a witness stand with throw pillows, with Dad and Mom acting as both judge and prosecutor. “How did that dent get there on the side of your mother’s car?” “To whom do these cigarettes belong?” No matter who the offender was, none of us looked forward to our parents’ disappointment—or their punishment.
The children of Israel found themselves in a similar, yet far more serious situation. Achan’s greed led to his disobedience, and his disobedience brought tragedy to Israel, starting with their defeat in the battle at Ai (Joshua 7:5). Joshua was sorrowful, and the Lord was displeased, requiring the people to present themselves before Him: “Go and consecrate the people,” the Lord told Joshua (v.13). Israel was to prepare for God’s presence, and then He would address the offense and the offending party. Achan’s desire for things God had forbidden caused him to hide stolen items. The irony is that Achan had stolen in a land already promised to him and his fellow citizens. God had a great inheritance in store for them that included cattle and other riches. But Achan wanted things his way and in his time: “I coveted them and took them” (v.21).
How often have we been like Achan? Sometimes, we desire things so badly that we resort to getting them by any means necessary, cutting corners or engaging in activities that teeter on the ethical borderline. We reason that if it’s just for me, no one has to know.
But God sees all and knows all. He didn’t bring the children of Israel before Him so that He could discover who had sinned. Achan’s rebellion had affected the entire community, and God refused to move forward until it had been acknowledged publicly. We hardly ever realize the far-reaching consequences that come about because of our disobedience. The consequences of Achan’s sin were a message to Israel, reminding them of the graveness of disobeying God’s instruction. Achan was buried in the Valley of Achor, which means “valley of trouble.” From then on, that place has been permanently linked to his tragic story.
The story of Achan’s disobedience remains a sobering narrative, but it’s more than a cautionary tale of the tragedy that can occur when the Lord’s commands are disobeyed. It’s an opportunity to confess our sins to the Lord and lament over the ways we still aren’t trusting Him. But we aren’t meant to wallow in guilt. The beauty of His grace is that we can admit our brokenness and shortcomings, and He refuses to turn away from us. Instead, He invites us to lean in closer, trusting Him to make us whole.