Jericho was the first city taken by Israel after entering into the promise land. Specific instructions were given by God to Joshua who now led in the place of Moses. Included in those instructions was that the city of Jericho was to be considered accursed, they were not to take any spoil from the city (Josh. 6:17-18). The city of Jericho did fall to Israel when they obeyed the commands of God concerning making the walls fall (Josh. 6:20-21). However, when Israel went next to take a much smaller city, they failed and were advised that there was sin among them, for someone had taken of the accursed things (Josh. 7:11). It was determined that a man named Achan was he who had disobeyed God in this matter (Josh. 7:18). When asked about what he had done, Achan said, “When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, 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” (Josh. 7:21). There are three lessons that we wish to emphasize from this account.
First, we need to understand that one cannot hide their disobedience from God. Achan hid his treasures, buried in the ground in his tent. It is true that no one else in the camp, other than possibly those of his family, knew that Achan had taken any of the accursed from the city. But, God knew every detail of Achan’s sin. When Jonah fled from God, not wanting to prophesy to the city of Nineveh, he fled in a ship going to Tarshish and went down into the inside of the ship (Jonah 1:3, 5). Those on the ship with Jonah did not know until later when he told them that he was running from God, But God knew where Jonah was and what he was doing. A couple by the name of Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold property and then presented a portion of the sale price to the apostles for the work of the church. No problem there, but they lied about the amount, keeping some for themselves but telling the apostles that they were contributing it all (Acts 5). Peter, being full of the Holy Spirit, knew their sin. There is simply no sin man can commit that God will not know of. The Hebrew writer stated, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13). As Moses told two and a half of the tribes of Israel, “…be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23).
A second lesson that we need to understand and is seen in the account of the sin of Achan is that often our sins have far reaching consequences. Often these consequences affect many others and often those close to us. Achan paid the price of his life for his disobedience to God (Josh. 7:25). However, Achan was not the only one to suffer for his sin. Notice that not only did Achan die, but also his whole family. In addition to the death of he and his family, about thirty six men died when Israel went out to take the little town of Ai because God was not with them due to the sin of Achan. Often families suffer because of the sinful life of one member of the family. One member being an alcoholic can result in financial difficulties and relationship problems for the whole family. One disobedient member in a congregation can spoil the reputation of an entire congregation of the church. It would do us all well to keep in mind that ours sins may well cause suffering for many others beside our own self.
A third great lesson for us to learn from Achan is the danger of covetousness. Achan said that when he saw that goodly Babylonish garment, the two hundred shekels of silver and the wedge of gold, he coveted them and took them (Josh. 7:21). Time nor space would not allow us to present a list of all the examples of things that one could covet that might lead to the same kind of end as Achan experienced, but note briefly just a few general areas of covetousness that we should flee from. Let us not covet the authority that belongs to God. Far, far too many have set themselves up to be the authority in matters dealing with the soul. We shall not be judged in the last day by what mere man has said, but by what the word of God has said. Jesus said that we have one that will judge us in the last day, “the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48). Let us not fall prey to coveting great riches as did Achan. Paul said that “they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition” (I Tim. 6:9). He also said, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (I Tim. 6:7). And, certainly don’t covet the lustful pleasures of this world. Keep in mind that as Moses mentioned, the pleasures of sin are for a season (Heb. 11:25).
Let us learn from the mistake that Achan made lest we fall into the same trap and end in the same way.