We left Joshua and the elders of Israel on their faces before God. Joshua was asking why God had deserted them. They were defeated at Ai and Joshua figured it was God’s fault.
Joshua didn’t have the information we had at the beginning of our previous reading; that someone had “broke faith in regard to the devoted things” (verse 1). We even got to know the identity of the perpetrator in the first verse of this chapter. Joshua will now be going on that journey.
♥ ♦ ♥
Joshua feels the earth shudder beneath him. Then his heart hears the Lord speak in a LOUD ANGRY voice. “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? ISRAEL has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them” (verse 10-11a, emphasis added by me).
Joshua is stunned into silence. He had just been calling out to the Lord because he believed the Lord had abandoned the people. He hadn’t even considered this possibility.
“They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings” (verse 11b).
Joshua’s face burns with shame. Shame for his reaction and shame for Israel’s behavior. Running through his mind is memories of Moses and his sin that kept him out of the Promised Land. He is praying that this will not be the end of him and Israel.
“The people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction” (verse 12a).
Joshua’s heart is breaking! “Our future is over before it even started. All because of our OWN sin!”
“I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you” (verse 12b).
“HOPE!” thinks Joshua. “There is still hope!”
“Get up!” (verse 13a).
Joshua jumps to his feet ready to do whatever the Lord says.
“Consecrate the people and say, ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted tings in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the Lord takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clans that the Lord takes shall come near by household. And the household that the Lord takes shall come near man by man. And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel’” (verses 13b-15).
Immediately Joshua called for the priest in charge of the trumpets. “Blow the trumpet to sound an assembly. ALL the people are to gather immediately!”
The two silver trumpets sounded indicating the whole assembly was supposed to meet in front of the Tabernacle. Joshua and the elders stood sentry as the people began to assemble. While they wait Joshua sends a runner to his tent to fetch his a clean robe and a basin with water.
Joshua, still with torn robes of grief and dust on his head addresses the crowd. “You all know of our defeat at Ai. You all know of the deaths of twenty six of our brothers. What you don’t know is that it is OUR fault! I have heard from the Lord. I sought Him in error, blaming Him for our defeat. He has shown me the truth and tomorrow He will show you EXACTLY where the sin lies that has brought this upon us. ‘Consecrate yourselves for tomorrow; for thus says the Lord, God of Israel, “There are devoted tings in your midst, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the devoted things from among you.” In the morning therefore you shall be brought near by your tribes. And the tribe that the Lord takes by lot shall come near by clans. And the clans that the Lord takes shall come near by household. And the household that the Lord takes shall come near man by man. And he who is taken with the devoted things shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done an outrageous thing in Israel’” (verses 13b-15).
After Joshua finishes sharing the words of the Lord he turns to the priest who is now holding his clean robe. He removes the torn robe and puts on his clean one. He then turns to the priest holding the basin with water. With his face lowered over the basin he dips his hands in it and brings the water to his face to clean it of the dirt of his grief. After his hands and face are cleaned he has the priest pour fresh water over his head. “The time for grieving is over! Judgement and justice is at hand. Go and consecrate yourselves.”
There was much activity in the camp as people washed their clothing and washed themselves for the morning. There was also a lot of speculation as to who the guilty party was. In one tent there was fear instead.
Achan’s wife knew of his sin. He had shown her the beautiful cloak. He had also shown her the gold and silver he had taken. His sons had seen these items too and together they had made plans as to how to use this newly acquired wealth.
“I don’t know what I should do” said Achan to his wife. “I’m afraid! If I tell what I have done I will be killed but if I don’t I run the risk of being found out.”
“What if you are not the only one who took something? These are such small trinkets. Surely the Lord is looking to someone who has done a GREAT sin! Let’s burry these under the rugs so no one can find them. You will be free to stand before the Lord then because you do not ‘have’ the items in your ‘possession’.”
“That is a good idea my wonderful wife! Surely the Lord will not see them as ours if we do not have them any longer. But we must also make sure to consecrate ourselves as commanded. That should wash away any sin that remains.”
Morning dawns and the silver trumpets sound for the assembly. The people are much quicker in assembling today than they were the previous evening because they knew to expect the summons.
All the people are assembled by tribe. The leader of each tribe stands in front as representative. Joshua calls for the priest to begin drawing the lot. Each leader had a marker for their tribe and it was put into a leather pouch that the priest holds. Joshua looks towards Heaven, then looks out at the people and finally puts his hand into the pouch. When his hand emerges from the pouch he is holding the marker for the tribe of Judah. “The Lord has chosen the tribe of Judah” Joshua announces.
An audible gasp moves through the crowd. Most feel relief but the tribe of Judah feels shame and fear step up a notch.
The crowd reshuffles to where the tribe of Judah now occupies place in front of Joshua. Each clan leader is now standing before Joshua holding onto their markers. The priest removes the markers from the bag and each clan leader places his marker into the prepared bag. Joshua again looks to Heaven and then to the men standing before him. He reaches in his hand and draws out the marker for the clan of Zerah. “The Lord has chosen the clan of the Zerahites” calls Joshua.
There is another reshuffling of the people as the leaders of the clan of Zerah stands before Joshua. Each man holds in his hand his marker. All eyes are on the men in this clan as they place their markers into the emptied pouch and await the Lord’s decision. Joshua looks to Heaven and then to the men standing before him. He reaches in and pulls the marker representing Zabdi from the bag. “Thei Lord has chosen the household of Zabdi” says Joshua.
This will be the last time the lots are pulled. Zabdi’s sons stand before Joshua, each holding in his hand his marker. Until this point Achan had hope. He was sure the Lord would be singling out someone with a greater sin. He can taste his own fear and is sure everyone else can smell it on him but he remains silent. “Maybe there is still a chance the Lord will identify someone else” he reasons with himself.
Each man places his marker into the empty bag being held by the priest. Silence dominates the crowd as Joshua, for the final time, looks towards Heaven then to the men. He puts his hand into the bag and pulls out the marker of Achan. Joshua moves to stand directly before Achan. All eyes turn to follow this confrontation.
Joshua speaks to Achan as a father would a son. His heart is filled with grief over the man’s fate but Achan is responsible for his own actions. Joshua HAS to follow the Lord’s commands; for his own sake and for Israel’s.
“My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to Him. And tell me now what you have done; do NOT hide it from me” (verse 19).
Achan is undone! He knows he is caught and rightly so. HE committed this sin. Now he and his whole family will pay for his actions. “Truly, I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did; when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath” (verses 20b-21).
Joshua called for his fastest runners. “Go to Achan’s tent and look under his rugs. Bring me back the things he took from Jericho. ALL of those things must be burned if Israel is to walk with the Lord again.”
Two runners depart immediately. The whole crowd has moved away from Achan as they wait the return of the runners. There is murmuring in the crowd about the selfishness of Achan and what his actions have cost in terms of lives lost in battle.
The runners return after a short time with the items described by Achan. “Put them on the ground here” Joshua commands. The runners place the items on the ground at the entrance of the Tabernacle.
Joshua steps over to the items and looks at them and shakes his head. He picks them up off the ground then says to the crowd, “Follow me.” They move to the tent of Achan. “Gather EVERYTHING that belongs to Achan. Don’t even leave a tent peg or a sandal thong.”
Achan’s wife begins to wail and cry out for mercy. “He has returned the items! Let him repent! Please have mercy!” Joshua turns his back to her. She tries again. “If you must, punish my husband but spare my family!”
Joshua looks at her. “You KNEW of his sin and did nothing! You are as guilty as he. We must cleanse all the sin from the camp or lose the Lord’s favor. I will hear NO more!”
People began to gather the belongings of Achan. They gathered his sons and his daughters and his oxen and his donkeys and his sheep and his tent and all that he had. Once everything was assembled Joshua called again for the people to follow him. He led them to the valley of Achor. “Bring all of Achan’s belonging and all his household to the middle of this valley.”
Those leading the animals brought them to the back of the valley where there was a cliff to prevent them from escaping. Achan’s belongings were placed before the animals to hold them in place. Achan and his family went and stood to one side of the makeshift barrier. The precious items that Achan took lay at his feet.
Achan’s head is bowed in shame. He has condemned his family to this fate. His name will end in Israel. His wife, his sons and his daughters will pay alongside him for his sin. Achan’s wife clings to her youngest child and glares at those gathered around. Her anger radiates off her like heat in the desert. “What would you have had me do?” she spits. “I must honor my husband.” Her words will not save her but they have become barbs in the hearts of many.
Joshua instructs the people to surround the family. He bends down and picks up a stone. The rest of the congregation follows suit. Stones begin to rain down on Achan and his family. Stones are thrown in anger; some in righteous anger and others in vengeful anger. Israel lost much because of the sin on one man. Cries of pain rise up from the family and cries of fear from the animals. Stones continue to fall until silence from both are all that remain along with the sounds of stones hitting on stones.
Joshua has tears streaming down his face when all is finished. “This could have been any one of us! You must be ever vigilant to guard your heart least you become like Achan and his family. Be CERTAIN! Your sin WILL find you out!”
Those in the crowd who were throwing their stones out of vengeance take to heart Joshua’s words. It could have been any one of them. They resolve to keep their hearts close to the Lord and to repent immediately of their sin. If Achan had come forward and confessed his sin SO many lives could have been spared.
“Let us burry our brother and make a memorial to this lesson” calls Joshua.
The people picked up larger stones and began piling them on top of the family and all its belongings. Nothing remained uncovered and nothing was recovered from Achan’s belongings to be brought back into the camp.
The sin had been thoroughly cleansed from the camp but the memory would remain. The Lord would once again be on the side of Israel.
♥ ♦ ♥
I wonder about the people as they threw the stones. Did their hearts break for Achan’s children? Did they envision that they could have been in his place? “There but for the grace of God go I.” Did they have hate in their hearts? Hate for Achan and the deaths his sin cost? Did they go away feeling sad, guilty or cleansed? Maybe all three.
God could have swallowed Achan and his family like He did with Kora after his rebellion. But He chose to make the people His hands of Judgement. Was that so it would be more personal to each of them? I would bet they each thought long and hard about this lesson whenever they were tempted to want what God said not to. “Thou shalt not covet.” This covers EVERYTHING that does not belong to you.
Father God, I have been guilty of this sin TOO many times in my life. I have only “acted” on it once. Not even out of a real desire for what wasn’t mine but to see what would happen. I took something that didn’t belong to me. I have repented and know that our relationship has been made right.
But I was just reminded of other experiences where I “acted” on this sin. Any time I ate something in secret because I wanted it for myself instead of sharing it. Any time I didn’t report the truth about my situation, including my income to the tax man. When I built myself up above others so I could get the ‘glory’ or position being offered. Even when I acted or dressed a certain way to get the recognition I wanted. Forgive me for each and every one of those times please Father.
I realize that the act of dressing nicely isn’t a sin, nor is the act of having a nice house or personal belongings. What is sin is putting those things before You or wanting them so others will notice me and want what I have. Help me keep the right attitude in my heart and my home! Thank You for the blessings You have given me. Help me to hold them lightly, so when You call me to release them to another I won’t hold them back. Watch my heart for any root of envy. Stamp it out or pull it up immediately! Thank You Holy Spirit for reminding me that there is more than one way to “covet.”