But the LORD said to Joshua, “…Israel has sinned and broken my covenant! They have stolen some of the things that I commanded must be set apart for me. And they have not only stolen them but have lied about it and hidden the things among their own belongings. …So Joshua sent some men to make a search. They ran to the tent and found the stolen goods hidden there, just as Achan had said, with the silver buried beneath the rest. …Then they laid them on the ground in the presence of the LORD Joshua 7:10–23 NLT
O n the morning of the very day that the walls of Jericho collapsed, Joshua commanded the people,
Do not take any of the things set apart for destruction, or you yourselves will be completely destroyed, and you will bring trouble on the camp of Israel. Everything made from silver, gold, bronze, or iron is sacred to the LORD and must be brought into His treasury. Joshua 6:18–19
Joshua had repeated this instruction one last time so that every man would clearly know and remember what they were to do. And every one of the fighting men took that command to heart and obeyed… except one.
The treasures of Jericho laid bare that day. Their owners were either killed by the collapsing wall or the edge of an Israelite sword. God had commanded that all the inhabitants be destroyed. Their possessions were thus laid unattended. There was no one to lay claim to them. There was no one to object if a few pieces were quietly pocketed. All of the precious treasures were being gathered in a gigantic pile to be taken to the treasury of the Lord. Who would possibly miss a few coins, a bar of gold and a robe? We don’t know how old Achan was. He may have been old enough to be one of those who had been a young child when the Israelites left Egypt. He may have remembered seeing that finery in an Egyptian home when he was a boy and thinking that he could never possess anything of such great value. But wasn’t he entitled to have such things? And now was his chance. Or he may have longed for his wife or children to have these special things that he wasn’t able to give them. And now was his chance. Or the temptation of greed and avarice may have overcome him through that same voice from the garden in days past which said, “you will not surely die” (Gen 3:4 NKJ). He then may have rationalized that pillaging a little bit of wealth along the way wasn’t really going to hurt anyone. Whatever his thought process, Achan’s sin began with a rationalization — just like ours does.
The Israelite warriors were organized. They had to be, or there would have been mass chaos. They were organized into tribes, then within those tribes into clans, and within those clans into families. There would have been an established order in which commands were passed within the ranks. And that same order would have been used in reverse to report back from the ranks to the commander. It is reasonable that after all had been destroyed and collected that day in Jericho that there would have been a reporting back from the ranks to Joshua. Each warrior would have reported that all was destroyed and all of the precious metals had been collected for the LORD’s treasury. It is very reasonable to presume that Achan would have given just such a report that he had done all that he had been instructed to do. So he was now attempting to cover the rationalization that had resulted in his stealing with a lie. That’s the way sin is. As soon as we commit it, we want to cover it up — most often with a lie.
But Achan’s cover up couldn’t stop there. He needed to hide his stolen goods from view. So he attempted to hide his sin by burying it.
i just experienced a very real time example of this! As a matter of fact it is scary just how real — and real time — this is. i just “googled” a phrase i was going to use in this chapter to describe Achan’s sin. i wanted to make sure that the phrase would be an accurate description. But to my horror the listings that came up under the phrase i was using all pointed to pornographic sites. And i realized that with one click i would be at a place that i should never be at. And the real frightening thing is that “no one” would know. It would be hidden from view. And if i don’t say anything about it, “no one” would be the wiser. And i realized that at that very moment i had the exact same choice before me that Achan had. Do i obey the command of my Lord — in my case, to keep my heart guarded and my eyes sheltered from sexual temptation — or, do i “steal” a look and then attempt to hide it by covering it up.
And you and i both know that it is not accurate to say that “no one” would know because there is One that would know. No matter how much i try to lie about it or cover it up, He would know. And though my sin would be against others as well — most notably, my wife — it would most importantly be against Him. i may be able to hide it from my wife (though i doubt it!), but i would definitely not be able to hide it from my Lord!
And the reality that my sin doesn’t just affect me and my relationship with my Lord, it affects those i have sinned against, and it affects my entire family, my church, and potentially the entire body. Achan’s family was stoned and burned, and their bodies buried under a “great heap of stones” — all because of what Achan did! The Israelites were defeated and Israelite warriors were killed — all because of what Achan did! The name of the God of Israel was dishonored — all because of what Achan did!
When all of the tribes and then the clans of Judah began to pass before the LORD, do you not think that Achan knew where this was heading? i would imagine that his heart began to race and the guilt began to swell over every part of his body. But still, he remained silent! He didn’t step forward to confess his sin; he waited until he could no longer hide. Then instead of confessing his sin in repentance, he acknowledged his sin in remorse. Oh, he was sorry for his sin, but he was more sorry that he had been found out! That is when he realized that he could not bury his sin deep enough.
There is a part of Achan in all of us. Scripture tells us that “we all fall short of God’s glorious standard” (Rom 3:23). None of us are exempt. And “the wages” of that sin “is death” (Rom 6:23). But if we confess our sins (not just remorse over getting caught, but real repentance) He “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness” (1 Jn 1:9).
Are there a few coins, a bar of gold and a robe buried in your tent? Quit trying to bury it deeper. Don’t wait for someone else to discover it. Don’t live under that weight any longer. You can be freed and cleansed from it today. Don’t wait for another defeat at Ai.