The children of Israel, under Joshua’s leadership, finally began to march into the land of promise. They were given a strict set of guidelines to follow.
God said in Joshua 6:18-19:
And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.
The message was clear:
- The gold, silver, bronze, and iron belonged to God. These items were set apart for use in their Tabernacle (& future Temple).
- Everything else was to be destroyed.
But Achan was disobedient to this clear warning from God. Achan’s plight can be summed up in verse 21 when he stated: “…I saw…I coveted…[I] took…” Isn’t that exactly what James warned us about when he wrote in James 1:14-15:
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
That is what I mean by “an Achan heart.” Let me further define that condition by pointing out its characteristics.
- It is a Secular heart. – Achan was proud & rebellious & not thinking of the Lord’s purpose and plan. He was doing God’s work (i.e. battling the enemies), while he was out of God’s will. Pride & rebellion are the hidden sins of the church.
- It is a Secretive heart – David held a secret heart for a time and was also discovered and punished. So too, was Achan’s secret revealed. In v.23b they “laid it out before the Lord.”
- It is a Selfish heart – Achan is only thinking of himself. He does not consider the implications that his sin could bring upon his own family and friends – he only thinks of himself.
First of all, it is abundantly clear that:
I. We Must Not Rationalize Sin – Joshua 7:1-5
When Achan picked up the gold, the silver, and the fine garment, he must have thought to himself; “It won’t hurt a thing if I keep this stuff for myself. No one will ever know.”
We all have been guilty of rationalizing and excusing sin. However, God’s Word warns that sin is a deadly poison and we should never rationalize its presence in our lives.
By rationalizing his sin, he was:
A. Disregarding God’s Message – Joshua 6:18-19; 7:1
Isn’t it just like us to rationalize away God’s clear-cut message. In my twenty years in the ministry, I have seen people rationalize their sin. If you try hard enough, you can ignore God’s clear commands and come up with a Jim Dandy excuse for why it’s ok for you to do what you are doing. There are people who rationalize the sin of:
- Not Tithing – I don’t like the preacher.
- Pornography – I am not hurting anyone.
“51% of pastors say that internet pornography is a possible temptation for them; 37% admit that it is a current struggle.”
- Adultery – My spouse ignores me.
- Unfaithfulness to Church – I can worship God anywhere.
Further, by rationalizing his sin, he was:
B. Disrespecting God’s Man – Joshua 6:27
While Joshua was being recognized for the man of God that he was, Achan was not, at all, thankful for having a spiritual leader. He ignored his spiritual leader. How frustrating it is for the man of God to have a message from God and either nobody shows up to hear it, or they attend the service but ignore the clear-cut message from God. I don’t ever want to be so disrespectful to God’s man.
God sent you a pastor to watch over you, to guide you, and to grow you. You have a man who is called, commissioned, and equipped to deliver the Word. Don’t be an Achan and ignore or avoid the message of God’s anointed servant.
But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy. – 2 Chronicles 36:16
Finally, by rationalizing his sin, he was:
C. Disrupting God’s Program – Joshua 7:4-5
God’s people had marched over Jericho in one of the greatest battles in history. That imposing pagan citadel fell to the obedient army of the Israelites. It seemed as though nothing could stop the forward progress of the people of God. Their momentum, alone, seemed to be enough to get them over the next small hurdle called Ai.
But in Ai, the Children of Israel got a wake up call. As He often does, God allowed a set back to re-focus His beloved children. God’s people had been fruitful, but they were about to undergo a painful pruning in order to bring about more fruit. Such is the way with God.
The pruning would be necessary because of the sin of just one man. Achan single handedly halted the march in Canaan-land. One man’s sin stopped the forward movement of God’s people and temporarily disrupted God’s program of installing the Israelites into the land of Canaan. Do you think that still happens?
Because of Achan’s sin:
- Israel suffered her first defeat – 4b
- 36 innocent men died – 5a
- The people were de-moralized – 5b.
Next, I want us to understand that:
II. We Cannot Hide Sin– Joshua 14-19
God used a dramatic unveiling to identify the guilty party. The 12 tribes would be brought forth and the guilty tribe would be identified. Then, the different clans would be brought out of that tribe until the guilty clan was identified. Next, the different families within the tribe would be paraded in front of the man of God until the guilty family was identified. Finally, it came down to the guilty individual within the family. It was Achan. He was identified as the man with the sinful heart.
We should learn to recognize the Achan heart syndrome, lest it become present in our own heart. We should learn from this episode that God’s children cannot get away with an Achan heart. Our sins will find us out and we will be exposed.
- God knows about our sin – v.11 (Prov. 15:3)
- The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.
- God hates our sin – v.11 (Prov. 6:16-19)
- God does not overlook sin – vs. 14-15
- God punishes our sin – v.15 (Gal. 6:7-8)
Be not deceived; God is not mocked for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
If you live only to please the flesh – you will reap death and destruction. But, if you live for the Holy Spirit, He will give you eternal life.
- Our Sin affects those around us – vs.11-12
- Our spouse & children – kids tend to duplicate the sin they have been subjected to
- Our Sin hinders God’s work – v.12 (Mt. 13:58)
And He did not many mighty works there (In Nazareth) because of their unbelief.
- We must deal with our sin – v.13 (I Cor. 11:31)
For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.
- God can forgive our sins! – 1 Jn. 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
What would have been the outcome if instead of burying the treasure; Achan had run to Joshua and cried out for forgiveness? He might have received mercy. God wants you to confess you sin – not bury it! Don’t wait for God to expose you, run to Him in repentance. After all, He would much rather forgive you, than punish you.
In fact, that’s why Jesus died upon the cross. Jesus paid the debt that our sin had racked up. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is Eternal life!
The lesson is clear. Do not let your heart become an Achan heart. Confess and turn from the sin in your heart. Will you confess your sin to Christ so that He can cleanse you? (1 Jn. 1:9).
Finally, we learn that:
III. A Sinful Heart Must be Mortified – vs. Joshua 7:24-25
I realize that the punishment seems a bit harsh, but remember that 36 innocent people died on account of one man with an Achan heart! Therefore, an Achan heart must be mortified!
Paul would agree,
- Ro 8:13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.
- Col 3:5 paraphrased: Mortify the members of your earthly body to sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry.
We are not told to learn how to live with our faults and failures – we are told to kill them! The Spirit said to mortify that Achan heart; put it to death!
Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before ï»¿a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the ï»¿spoil with the proud. – Prov.16:18-19
One day Achan was celebrating the victory of Israel over Jericho, and few days later he was executed, along with his entire family. What a turn of events!
Achan saw, coveted, and took. At the moment the sin took root in his heart, he was on a slippery slope downward. He did not realize the effects of his sin until it was too late.
Achan first rationalized his sin, possibly thinking that it really wasn’t that big of a deal to take a few items. No one would miss a few things and after all, the clothing would just be destroyed if he didn’t take it. But the truth is that sin will destroy you! Do not think that somehow you are immune from its deadly poison.
Achan tried to hide his sin. It is important that we identify the presence of sin in our life and not attempt to cover it up. Perhaps he would have found grace and mercy had he ran penitently to Joshua as soon as he got back to camp with his ill-gotten booty. God’s Word teaches us, He that covers his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesses and forsakes them shall have mercy. – Prov. 28:13.
In the end, Achan had to be mortified. It would have been so much better for all parties involved had he simply mortified the lust when it first settled into his heart. If we will only resist the Devil, he will flee from us. Will you come and mortify the sinful longings that are right now living within your heart and accept Christ’s forgiveness made possible through
 H. B. London and Neil B. Wiseman, Pastors At Greater Risk (Ventura: Regal Books, 2003), 238.