Joshua chapter six provides the Biblical account of the fall of Jericho. Children know the story well, how God gave specific instructions of how the city was to be taken. God also warned them not to take anything from Jericho for themselves. Only the precious metals were to be taken and placed in the treasury house for the Lord.
How amazing that must have been to see the power of God over walls of stone, to be able to topple them without even touching them! Certainly, the Israelites went into battle against the next city, Ai, confident that God would be with them and would provide a swift victory for them.
What it was like for Joshua, when he heard the Israelites had been defeated at Ai? Disbelief? Bewilderment? The Israelites who died in the battle were not just his soldiers, they were his family. God had give them victory over Jericho, and He had promised time and time again to be with them. What happened?
From childhood we are taught that God is love, that God is all knowing, all seeing, all hearing, perfect, faultless, and He is our Creator. We are taught to trust Him implicitly. Joshua had done this when, as one of the twelve spies to first enter Canaan, he implored the Israelites to trust God in delivering victory to their hands against the inhabitants, despite their walled cities and giant size. And now, it seemed, God had broken His promise.
In Joshua 7:6, we read that “Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of Jehovah until the evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust upon their heads. And Joshua said, ‘Alas, O Lord Jehovah, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over the Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to cause us to perish? Would that we had been content and dwelt beyond the Jordan! Oh, Lord, what shall I say, after that Israel hath turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and will compass us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do for Thy great name?’ ”
Are there times in our lives when we feel as Joshua did, when we are striving our best to please God, and yet tragedy strikes? Certainly! Sometimes that is a result of our poor choices, the consequence of our own sin, or the sins of others. Joshua had followed God’s instructions to the letter, and he had told the Israelites exactly what to do, and yet they were defeated. Did Joshua give up? Did he turn away from God? No, he turned toward God. And God answered him.
When the Israelites had entered Jericho after the walls fell, they were to destroy every living thing, except for Rahab and those within her house. An Israelite named Achan found a beautiful coat, some silver, and a wedge of gold, and he wanted them, so he took them and buried them in his tent.
We do not know what Achan’s intentions were with regard to the stolen items. It was not like he could just suddenly appear wearing a new coat without someone noticing. And the silver and gold would certainly be of great value, but again, people were bound to notice. Perhaps that is one of the reasons that he buried them in his tent: to prevent any unwanted questions.
When God told Joshua that someone had sinned, Joshua was tasked with determining who that person was. The next morning Joshua called each of the tribes of Israel to pass before him, and slowly, tribe by tribe, family by family, person by person, Joshua worked his way to the guilty party. Joshua 7:19 reads, “And Joshua said unto Achan, ‘My son, give, I pray thee, glory to Jehovah, the God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.’ ”
Whatever Joshua was feeling at this time, he put aside his own feelings and looked upon Achan for what he was: a sinner, a soul in danger. Joshua spoke to Achan with love, imploring him to confess his sin. He asks Achan to “give glory to Jehovah”, and truly, when we confess our sins to God, we do give glory to Him. It is in our confession that we acknowledge God’s authority over us.
One wonders how Achan felt. Since the time Achan took the plunder from Jericho and hid it in his tent, he had one motive: to keep it a secret. Imagine him, in the tent, digging this hole. A voice outside the tent startles him, the wind blowing the tent door open sounds like someone coming and his heart pounds. From the time he took the items until he was caught, he was caught up in the deception himself.
As Joshua worked his way down through the tribes, the families, the individual households, Achan knew what was coming. Just as Satan fools us into thinking we can hide our sin, Achan was a fool to believe he could hide his sin from God. We have all had times in our lives when we have sinned, maybe the type of sin that no one else knows about, and we do our best to keep it secret.
When Joshua confronted Achan, he did so with love. He was begging Achan to confess, to tell the truth, to end the lie that had begun when Achan took the items from Jericho. And thankfully, Achan did confess. In Joshua 7: 20 we read that Achan said “Of a truth I have sinned against Jehovah, the God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: when I saw among the spoil a goodly Babylonish mantle, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.”
There. It was done. Achan confessed that he had coveted things, stolen them, and hidden them. Covetousness, theft and deception. Three simple words that go hand in hand, and are each in and of themselves, sin.
When Achan stole the coat, silver, and gold from Jericho, he may very well have been the only person there that knew he did it. And once he had the items safely buried in his tent, he probably felt some relief that he had not been “caught” by anyone. But despite the items being out of sight, and his sin secret from his fellow Israelites, none of this was unseen by God. And while Achan’s sin was his and his alone, his sin had ramifications that reached far beyond him.
In verses 24 - 26 of Joshua Chapter 7, we read that Achan, his sons, daughters, his tent, and all of his belongings, including the items he had stolen, were taken to a valley where they were stoned and then burned. So not only was Achan punished, but his family and all his belongings were destroyed as well.
When we sin privately, whether that be a private deed or thought, it is only private in that other people may not know of it. Our thoughts, our actions, and our intentions are never hidden from God. And while we may justify our actions to ourselves as not being harmful to others, we can see from the story of Achan that we do not control our sin. Our sin controls us, and can affect innocent people.
To those reading this article, let us strive to dig up our wrongdoings, confess them and in so doing give glory to Jehovah. When we stand before God in judgment, it will not matter how well we have hidden our sins from others.
If you are reading this article and are not one who has been immersed for the remission of your sins, why not do so today? Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Do you believe that He died and arose and sits at the Lord’s right hand? Do you want to please God and live a life that is pleasing to Him? We would love to make arrangements for you to make that confession, and be immersed in water for the remission of yours sins, and provide you with encouragement as you begin and live your new life.
If you have been immersed for the remission of your sins, and you have private sins separating you from God, confess them today. Maybe you need only to pray to God for forgiveness. Or perhaps it is a sin that you struggle with daily, and you would like the prayers of your fellow Christians to strengthen you. Whatever your need, wherever you are, God can see you, and He wants you to obey Him. I would love nothing more than to help you get to Heaven.