Staff & Sling

Joseph E. Hébert, Ph.D.

98119 N 3745 Rd
Okemah, OK  74859
918 623 3078

Secret Sins

In Joshua chapter 6 we read of the conquest of Jericho. Everyone knows the story. Joshua and the Israelites marched around the city for seven days, and on the seventh day they marched seven times. Then when the priests blew the rams' horns, and all the people shouted, the city walls came crumbling down.

But when Joshua told the Israelites to shout, he told them more.

And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city. And the city shall be accursed, [even] it, and all that [are] therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that [are] with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. 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 (Joshua 6: 16 - 19).

So God said that all the silver, gold, vessels of brass and iron were His, and everything else was accursed to be destroyed. But one man defied God's decree. In chapter 7 we read that Achan took something from the spoils of Jericho.

But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel (Joshua 7: 1).

Note that God says that the children of Israel, not just Achan, had sinned. And as a result, when they went to take the tiny little city of Ai they were soundly defeated. God held them all accountable, though only one among them had sinned. Read what Joshua asked God after their defeat at the hands of Ai.

And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear [of it], and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name, (Joshua 7: 6 - 9)?

Note that Joshua and the elders of Israel were clueless. They were frightened. They didn't understand what was happening or why, only that God had allowed them to be defeated. Not knowing why they feared that God was now going to let them be wiped out. They feared the worst. But read God's response.

And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put [it] even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, [but] turned [their] backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you. Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, [There is] an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you. In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, [that] the tribe which the LORD taketh shall come according to the families [thereof]; and the family which the LORD shall take shall come by households; and the household which the LORD shall take shall come man by man. And it shall be, [that] he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel (Joshua 7: 10 - 15).

God told Joshua that someone had taken something that had been accursed from the spoils of Jericho, and that he'd also stolen from God and kept for himself. God explained that this was why God was not with them and why they couldn't stand victorious before their enemies. God went on to tell Joshua that he needed to make things right before fellowship could be restored.

And so we read how the Lord exposed Achan, and beginning in verse 20 we read Achan's confession.

And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: 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 (Joshua 7: 20, 21).

How often do we too try to hide our sins, thinking that if no one else knows about them then all is well enough. But your secret sins can have consequences well beyond your own life. Your secret sins can be the source of heartache and trouble for your family, your friends, your loved ones, even your neighbors.

Right now, we at Calvary Baptist Church are preparing for a revival, an outreach to the lost in our community. And make no mistake, we face a powerful enemy.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: (I Peter 5: 8).

I would hate to think that our efforts might be futile because one of our members was harboring a secret sin. But the lesson of Achan is just that, that the sins of a single member can keep the Lord's support from the corporate whole.

Now before I close, there are two more points I want to make. However, as I do I want to be careful to point out that these are observations only, and that scripture doesn't say that this had anything to do with Israel's defeat at the hands of little Ai.

First, it occurs to me that the Israelites didn't send their whole army to defeat Ai.

And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which [is] beside Bethaven, on the east side of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai. And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; [and] make not all the people to labour thither; for they [are but] few. So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them [from] before the gate [even] unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water (Joshua 7: 2 - 5).

God never says that this had anything to do with it, but it occurs to me that they seemed to be trusting more in their own strength than if God's. Now perhaps this had nothing to do with their defeat in this case, but I think it's a bad attitude to have nonetheless.

And finally, I can't help notice that at no time did Joshua or the Israelites seek God's counsel on how to take Ai. Again, God doesn't explicitely say that this was the problem, but clearly if they had God would have told them what to do to avoid the defeat. This is evidenced by the fact that as soon as they did ask, He told them exactly what to do.

So the final two points I would make can both be summarized by saying that at no time, not in the big things or in the little, should we rely on our own abilities or understanding. We should always seek God's counsel in everything, and trust in Him alone.