Fudged Numbers

Joshua 7:1 “But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things; Achan . . . took some of them. So the LORD’s anger burned against Israel” (NIV).

Observation: The tragic story of Achan’s sin was set in the context of enormous victory. As Israel prepared to overrun Jericho, Moses cautioned the soldiers that they would bring about their own destruction if they kept spoils for themselves, adding this ominous warning, “Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it” (Josh. 6:18). Despite the warning, Achan stole booty for himself. Ultimately, God exposed Achan and he, along with his children and all they possessed, were stoned and burned.

Application: Individual sin usually has broad consequences. The stiff-necked man raises children who are rebellious, and within a few generations there exist multiplied hundreds of offspring who live according to their own precepts. The senior executive with greed in his heart creates a corporate culture of duplicity that can sunder the mightiest enterprise. The pastor who fears teaching the clear precepts of Scripture produces a body inattentive to growing sin in its midst.

Disobedience and sin are never isolated in their impact. In the story of Achan we see this reality manifest in the fulness of tragedy. Is it likely that other soldiers failed to notice Achan carrying off his load of booty? Is it likely that his own family didn’t notice the fresh excavations required for Achan to have buried his booty under ground inside their tent? Imagine the spectacle and the labor involved for Achan to carry and then bury a beautiful Babylonian robe, two hundred shekels of silver and fifty shekels of gold. Surely others knew. By simply winking at his sin, were they not complicit?

I too often forget the “Achan principle,” that individual sin has corporate consequences. God calls me to purity, to righteousness, and in these things He is utterly uncompromising. I think, “Just a little pornography seen privately—what can that hurt?” Or, “The IRS will never discover these slightly-fudged numbers; besides, I pay plenty of taxes.” In failing to heed His calls for righteousness in all my dealings, I prefer not to think of myself as disobedient and rebellious. Rather, I convince myself that there will be time enough tomorrow to obey. But tomorrows become like an endless string of yesterdays—half-hearted, watered-down commitments by a heart never quite ignited by the fiery passion of God’s love for me. If I would but pursue Him, then my need for someone else’s beautiful robe and shekels of precious metals would fade into distant memory. The unsurpassed joy of intimacy with Him far exceeds the passing pleasures of sin. Why continue to give myself to anything less?

Prayer: Father, open my eyes to the joys of loving You with all my mind, will and emotions, that I might lay aside all those other encumbrances.

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