I grew up in a time when there were no full time sports channels on television. We discovered international sports, such as alpine skiing, figure skating, and gymnastics, by watching a Saturday afternoon program called ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.” Remember the introduction, “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat?” That’s what we have in the story of the Israelites and their victory at Jericho followed by their defeat at the Battle of Ai. In Joshua 6 and 7, we discover two contrasting characters for study, Rahab and Achan.
Let’s be honest. We have wanted to ask, “Why drive out and kill the Canaanites? Why destroy and kill the people of Jericho?” God’s Instructions were clear; the Israelites were to be instruments of God’s punishment. A holy nation could not live among evil people. His warnings were strong, “because they will turn your sons away from me to worship other gods.” (Deut. 7:4) As they were a “chosen” nation (Deut. 7:6) and the wicked would lead others astray, they were commanded to destroy the city completely.
In Joshua 6:15-25, we read the story of one who survives when everyone and everything in Jericho perishes. She should have perished. Instead, because she received the Israelite spies in her home, hid them from the king’s men, and did not betray them, she lived. Rahab believed and obeyed; she was delivered, rescued, saved because of her faith. Hebrews 11:31 “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.”
Joshua 7:11-15 “Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. 12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you. 13 Get up, sanctify the people, and say, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the Lord God of Israel: “There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you.” 14 In the morning therefore you shall be brought according to your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the Lord takes shall come according to families; and the family which the Lord takes shall come by households; and the household which the Lord takes shall come man by man. 15 Then it shall be that he who is taken with the accursed thing 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 a disgraceful thing in Israel.’”
We discover the sin of Achan and the wrath of God. As an Israelite, he should have lived; however, he, his family, and all that he owned were destroyed. He hid the loot from Joshua and the Lord. He knowingly stole, lied, and concealed the items in the ground in his tent. He let his greed outweigh his respect for the Lord. The unbelieving Israelite died with the Canaanites that day.
This we understand concerning our God: (1) Sin is serious; Sin offends God. An awareness of God makes us aware of His standards and His Holiness. (2) The Lord knows when we sin even if others don’t know of our sins. (3) Sin is Contagious. Our actions affect more people than just ourselves. As in Joshua 7, one man’s guilt paralyzes the entire community. Only when sin is identified and dealt with can we move beyond failure and claim victory.
Now I have a question for you: Why doesn’t God treat us like Achan? Why doesn’t his anger burn against us? That’s the good news! Jesus on the Cross made the difference! Jesus satisfied the wrath of God by dying on the cross. God extends to us His Grace – “Grace that is greater than all our sins.”
We deserve to be treated like Achan; instead, He treats us like Rahab – He includes us!
Romans 10:13 “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”