Lesson Five | Devotion #4: Achan
John Carter | Director of Finance & HR
Sin, it affects more than just you!
If you read the title, you might be prone to skip this read. Please do not, the story of Achan is one to hear and to heed because it is one that brings many warnings. It is a story of what not to do! The story of Achan is found in the book of Joshua chapter 7. To give the context, Joshua has to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land, and they face a mighty city, the city of Jericho. This is the first enemy they face in the land of Canaan. In Joshua 6:17-18, God gives a command that everything in Jericho is devoted to the Lord for destruction.
“And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction… 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.”
Achan heard these words; there is no doubt that the instructions given to the people would have been very clear. As the story unfolds, we see that Achan did not heed the instruction of God. He took a coat, some silver, and gold, and put it under his tent. The next battle the Israelites fight is a small city named Ai, but unfortunately, they were not victorious as this plays out in Joshua chapter 7.
“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… 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.”
The decision to take what belonged to God caused the death of 36 men, and it destroyed the morale of a nation that was moving forward to a long-awaited promise. Can you imagine being the guy that caused the death of 36 other men because you were covetous? As you read through the chapter, Achan is soon discovered, and his sin is made known to the nation. In verses 24-26, Achan receives the punishment for disobedience to God.
“And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. And Joshua said, ‘Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.’ And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.”
Wow, sin has a heavy consequence to bear. It hardly ever just affects one person. In this case, there were 36 innocent men who died because of the sin of Achan. Not only did Achan’s decision bring harm to the nation of Israel, but it also brought serious consequences to his family. They suffered greatly for his actions. Personally, I find it easy to deflect at this point. I might find myself thinking, “Well that stinks for his family,” or “I sure am glad I did not live in those times.” The cold hard truth is the application of this story holds true to me and our current era.
This is not a fun story to read, nor is it fun to apply to our own lives. I believe this story is recorded in the Bible so we can learn from one man’s mistakes, and hopefully, we will not repeat them. Sin has a wide reaching consequence, and it can destroy our family if we do not pay attention to the instruction of God.
“And if you too rebel against the LORD today then tomorrow he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel. But now, if the land of your possession is unclean, pass over into the LORD’s land where the LORD’s tabernacle stands, and take for yourselves a possession among us. Only do not rebel against the LORD or make us as rebels by building for yourselves an altar other than the altar of the LORD our God. Did not Achan the son of Zerah break faith in the matter of the devoted things, and wrath fell upon all the congregation of Israel? And he did not perish alone for his iniquity.”
The passage recorded in Joshua chapter 22 is a serious reminder that we need to check our heart for rebellion against God, we need to make sure we are not making other things in our life priority over God. Take some time today and examine your life and heart, humble yourself to an almighty God. Make it right by crying out to Jesus and recognize that it is His act on the cross that allows us to be cleansed of our sins. If you think it will only hurt you, let this story be a helpful reminder that sin hurts others, most of the time the people you care about the most. I am sure if Achan would have realized that his sin would cause the death of his whole family he would have thought twice about it.