Would you open your Bibles tonight to the Old Testament, the book of Joshua, chapter 7?
The book of Joshua is comparable to the New Testament book of Ephesians in that both books have to do with our inheritance in the Lord. Ephesians has to do with describing the inheritance that is ours through the Lord Jesus Christ; Joshua has to do with the people coming into their inheritance.
You remember that they have wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. I heard someone say the other day that they were just a step away from victory. Well, the Israelites were just a step away from victory, but they wandered for 40 years. You can be just a step away for 40 years. They wandered for 40 years in the wilderness in defeat, dismay and despair when just about a day’s journey away was all God had promised them. They could not enter in because of their unbelief.
Finally, they learned their lesson as sometimes we do! God began to lead them into the promised land, and they met one victory after another. Of course, the most notable victory was the victory at Jericho. I think it would be good for us to read in verses 17, 18, and 19 of Joshua, chapter 6, because it is very important to understand this in order to understand Joshua, chapter 7. They are getting ready to go into Jericho; the Lord is going to be their defender; he is going to bring about the victory. But God has a few things he wants to say to them.
Verses 17 and 18 say:
And the city shall be accursed, (That word accursed in the Hebrew means dedicated or devoted. Any thing that is devoted to the Lord is accursed to man if he touches it. Isn’t it funny how we translate this word accursed? It is a curse. The ark of the covenant was where the glory of the Lord dwelt, but if you touched it, you would be cursed. You would die.) under the ban, 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 (dedicated) thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it.
The Lord was very redundant there. He kept repeating. He wanted the folks to understand exactly what he was saying.
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.
You know the rest of the story, how they marched around the city of Jericho once a day for seven days. And on the seventh day they marched around seven times. At the end of the seven times, they blew their trumpets, and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. Victory! Magnificent, unbelievable victory! All they did was to obey the Lord and make a little noise. They didn’t lift a sword. They didn’t fire a shot. God did it. God was fulfilling everything that he had promised to do.
They are in the land of Canaan. That represents all the fullness of salvation. Canaan, my friends, does not represent heaven. You get that from the hymns, not from the Bible. Jordan does not represent dying; it represents dying to self. We are supposed to be in Canaan tonight, and in Canaan there is victory. But there can also be defeat.
Now let’s begin reading Joshua 7, verse 1: But, and immediately there is a contrast. Up to this point, every enemy had fallen before them. Like a floodtide they had swept everything before them—victory after victory after victory. But the first word of chapter 7 tells us there is going to be a difference.
1But 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.
I want you to notice. God says the children of Israel committed a trespass against the Lord, but only one man sinned. Achan took of the accursed thing. He committed a breach of promise, a breach of trust. That is what the Hebrew committed a trespass means; it means he broke a promise. There was a breach of trust. Only one man sinned, and yet the whole nation paid for that sin.
This is a tremendous spiritual truth that you and I need to nail down in our lives. The Bible says that the church of Christ, of God, is a body. All of us are members of the same body. I don’t know about you, but when one part of my body is ill and diseased and in pain, I feel it all over. When I was a young boy in Oklahoma going barefooted if I would step on a nail, as I inevitably did during the summer, my whole body felt it. The Bible says we are members of one body. All of us are members of one body. The Bible teaches over and over again that when one member of that body sins, the whole body pays for it, feels it. Over and over in Chapter 7 you are going to see that even though it was just one man who sinned against the Lord, yet God charged the whole nation for it. Israel had committed a trespass.
Sometimes people wonder why we are so particular that every person, every member of the church be what they ought to be in the sight of God. I want you to know that one member of this church, one Sunday school teacher, can destroy the whole Sunday School in the sight of God. One deacon who is wrong with God can grieve the Spirit of God so that he cannot bless our church. One member in this place tonight can quench the power of God. We need to understand this. God does not look at us so much as isolated units, but as a whole, as a body. The weakest link in the body of Christ is that Christian like Achan who had sinned against God. You need to know that your sin, your indifference, your backslidden state affects this whole church and the blessings of God upon it. The people of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing, for Achan took of the accursed thing.
Now, I want us to stop for just a moment. You’ve heard sermons all of your life about Achan taking of the accursed thing—the sin of Achan. We are going to see later on how the sin of Achan, the sin of one man, brought absolute, total defeat to the nation of Israel. What was the sin of Achan? What trespass did Israel commit in the person of Achan? God had said when they went into the city of Jericho everything was accursed. That means it was devoted to him. You don’t touch any of it. You don’t use it for yourself. Every bit of it belongs to me. We’ll see that when Achan went in, he saw this Babylonian garment, a wedge of gold, the spoils of Jericho. He said he saw it, coveted it, took it and hid it. He committed the trespass in the sight of the Lord. If you don’t get anything else from what I say tonight, I want you to understand what the sin of Achan was.
It is the same sin that you and I commit so often—sometimes unconsciously, sometimes without conviction. But I want you to understand that the sin of Achan will bring defeat to any Christian’s life, and it will bring defeat to any church. Do you know what the sin of Achan was? The sin of Achan is taking that which belongs to God, which has been dedicated to God, and using it for ourselves. The sin of Achan is taking that which has been consecrated to God and using it for ourselves. In verse 11, God said they hid it among their own stuff. What a commentary that is in the lives of a great many Christians. They have taken what belongs to God, and they have put it among their own stuff—as though it was theirs, as though they could do with it as they please. Achan took that which belonged, which had been consecrated and dedicated to God and used it for himself.
You say you don’t see what that has to do with us. You listen to what God has to say in 1 Corinthians 3: whoever defiles the temple of God, him will God destroy because God’s temple is holy (that word holy means consecrated, devoted, dedicated) and you are that temple. You are that temple. The sin of Achan is my taking this body which belongs to God, which has been dedicated to God, and using it for myself, as I see fit, as pleases me. That is a breach of trust.
In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 that we quote so often says, you are not your own. You are bought with a price; therefore, use your body to glorify God. You have no right to use that body of yours for any other reason except to glorify God. The sin of Achan which is still with us is my taking this body, or anything else that belongs to God, that has been dedicated and consecrated to God, and using it for myself in a way that will not bring glory to him. You have no right to take that which has been consecrated and dedicated to God by the blood of Jesus and use it for yourselves, storing it among your own stuff just like it is your own property.
Probably one of the greatest things the Lord has ever taught me is that my body is not my property. I have no right, no business, no say-so in what God does with my body. A lot of us don’t realize this, but if you are saved, friend, that is the predicament you are in. I am sorry someone didn’t explain that to you when you got saved, but I am explaining to you now. It’s too bad you are already in this fix. I want you to know that if God has saved you, that body is his.
I will never forget when I read the testimony of Dr. Walter Wilson. I recommend everybody read it. He said he gave his body to the Holy Spirit. I presented my body. Romans says to yield your bodies unto God, and I did that. That body became the body of the Lord. I said, Lord this is your body; do with it as you please. If you want to send it to Africa as a missionary, you can do it. If you want to lay it on a bed with cancer, you can do it. If you want to send this body to Tibet with the message of Christ, you can do it. If you want to blind the eyes in this body, you can do it. I have no say-so. This is your body; take it and do with it as you please.
Friends, that’s what it means to be saved. This body is his; it’s not mine. I have no right to complain about what the Lord does with this body. It’s not my body. It is his; he bought it with his blood. I have been dedicated to him. The Bible says I am God’s holy temple and him will God destroy who defiles this body. When you defile the body that Christ bought with his blood by the way that you live, God is going to judge you—just like he judged Israel, just like he judged Achan. The sin of Achan is taking that which belongs to God, which has been consecrated to him by the blood of Jesus, and using it anyway you see fit.
Let’s read on:
And the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel, and Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai.
Here’s where they made the mistake. They should have turned around and viewed Israel, and looked in Israel’s tent to find sin there. If they had looked in their own country, instead of Ai, they would have gotten the thing settled before they ever went out to defeat.
Boy, the Lord taught me this. I used to worry more about my sermons and the service than anything else. One day God said, you don’t worry about the sermon. I’ll take care of that. You don’t worry about the service. I’ll take care of that. You don’t fret about this. I’ll take care of it. You just look in your own tent. They went out to view Ai. What they should have done was stick around and view their lives. They should have searched every tent, and they would have found out the accursed thing.
3And 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.
You always get a little self confident when you stop examining your own life.
4So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: (Notice the next expression.) and they fled before the men of Ai. 5And 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.
The first time I read that, I made a little notation in my Bible: “When the power of God is removed, you even fail in the smallest and easiest of tasks.” They had conquered Jericho; they had not lost a single man in conquering Jericho. A magnificent defeat! And here is a little one-horse town by the name of Ai that probably didn’t even have a post office it was so small. They said no use sending everybody up. Let’s just send two or three thousand men. That will be sufficient, no use making everybody work. So they went up. Before they even got to the city, when they got to the gate before they even went in, they fled before the people of Ai. Their hearts melted and became as water.
When there is unconfessed sin in your life, when you have taken that which belongs to God and you have desecrated it by the way you live, you will fail in the smallest of tasks. Have you ever found that to be true? Some of you for the life of you can’t teach a Sunday School class. You used to have no trouble teaching that class. It used to be the easiest thing for you to teach that Sunday School class. You have gotten so self confident now that you hardly even prepare because it is a whiz. You are a Bible scholar and teacher. You find that you are even failing in that smallest of tasks.
And Joshua rent his clothes. Let’s give credit to Joshua. Joshua had enough sense that when he was facing defeat, it meant there was something wrong. And, Christian, when you are facing defeat in your daily Christian life, there is something wrong. God never intended for you to be defeated. If you are not victorious in your daily Christian life, there is something wrong. Joshua recognized this.
6And 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. 7And 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?
Now, notice verse 10:
10And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? 11Israel hath sinned.
That was one prayer meeting that was a waste of time. Joshua said we have suffered defeat and the thing to do is have an all-night prayer meeting. He prayed all day, even until dark. He said I’ll just pray the power down. We have suffered defeat. I’ll just pray and pray and pray until God gives the blessing. God says, what in the world are you doing, Joshua. Israel has sinned.
I know some Christians are all the time praying about something, but God is not going to give them victory until they get rid of the sin that is in their lives. Some prayer meetings are a waste of time. I remember one Saturday afternoon in my office. I took the afternoon to pray. I was determined to prevail in prayer. I wanted to make certain that God’s power was upon us in that Sunday morning service. The minute I got on my knees and started praying, God brought something up to my remembrance that needed to be taken care of. I just brushed it aside and began to pray the harder. Everything I would pray, God would pass that thing in front of me—something that needed to be taken care of. I would ignore it and push it aside and pray even harder that God would send his power upon our service, praying that God would give me the right kind of message, praying all sorts of things—that God would bless us, that he would be glorified, the whole bit. All the time I was praying God kept passing that thing in front of my eyes. Do you know what God was saying? He was saying to me what he said to Joshua: Ron, what are you doing praying on your face. Get up. There’s sin in your life. You have to get it taken care of. There’s no use to pray. Finally, after awhile I realized I wasn’t going to be able to bargain God out of this. I got up off my knees, took care of that thing and got it settled. Then I was able to come back and pray.
If there is sin in your life, if there is known, unconfessed sin in your life, there is no use in the world in your spending time praying about the blessings of God on your life. The first thing God wants you to do is to confess sin and bring it to judgment. Notice that God knows right where the sin is. In verse 11 he says:
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.
God knows right where it is.
I’ve tried again and again to envision Achan stealing these things. You know he must have had a guilty conscience because the Lord had made it clear and plain that nobody was to touch anything that belonged to the Lord. I can see Achan as he sneaked into that tent while nobody is looking, and he takes that Babylonian garment and wedge of gold, that thing dedicated to the Lord, and he sneaks it back to his own tent. Even his wife and children don’t know about it. Nobody sees him. He goes in and digs a hole in the ground and buries it. Nobody sees him—except God. God comes to Joshua and says Israel has sinned. They have taken of something that belongs to me and they have hidden it among their own stuff. That’s where you will find it. God knew right where it was. You will see later on that he singles Achan out right on the dot. God knows all about us. He knows right where that sin is in your heart.
In verse 12:
12Therefore 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.
There is God’s ultimatum to every Christian. What is the accursed thing? The accursed thing is that thing which belongs to God which you are using for yourself. That accursed thing in your life is that which belongs to God, and you are using it for yourself. God is never going to bless you, and God is never going to give you victory and the joy of full salvation until you destroy that accursed thing from among you. He will never do it.
13Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow: 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, (Here it is again, the ultimatum.) until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.
I wonder what Joshua is going to say to this? I wonder what you are going to say to it. Let’s just suppose tonight that God were to come to you. You have been wondering why there is defeat in your life, why everything is going wrong. If you are a Christian, and you are not right with God, nothing is going right. If you are a lost man, you don’t have to be right with God. You can make a lot of money, and everything can go just great—everything just rosy, terrific. But I want you to know tonight that if you are a child of God, you belong to him. He has bought you with his blood. Yet you are wrongly related to him and that is going to throw the kink into everything you do. You are like a wheel that is off-center. It never will run smoothly. What if God were to come to you tonight and say: I know your life is a mess, and I know you have a lot of defeat, a lot of problems. I’ll tell you what I’ll do. You see, your problem is you’ve been taking that which belongs to me, and you have been using it for yourself. If you will repent of that, if you will confess that, if you will let the things that belong to me alone, if you’ll use your body, time, and money to glorify me, if you’ll repent of this sin, I’ll be with you. I’ll give you victory. What would say to him? The truth of the matter is that is exactly the proposition God is making to you. What are you going to say to him?
There’s one more thing. I rarely ever preach like this, taking a passage of Scripture and making comments about it. This is unusual to me. But as I read it, the Lord just began to speak to me and show me that’s it, that’s the problem right there. The sin of Achan is taking that which belongs to God, our bodies, and using it for ourselves.
Then I came to the last and saw something I had never seen before. I’ve heard this story, read it, preached on it. God said I want you to take the guilty offender, and they found him. They brought all the tribes out, and God singled him out. Joshua guessed, and he guessed right the first time. It was Achan. God put a spotlight on Achan. He will do that if you will let him. They took Achan out into the valley. They took the sin, the accursed thing, and laid it out before the Lord. They made open confession of that sin. They laid it out before the Lord, and said here it is. Here is our sin. They took Achan and all the people of Israel stoned him. And they buried him.
God has only one way of dealing with sin. That is by death. God’s only method of dealing with sin in the life of his people is by death—not reformation, not doing better, but by death. When I read that, I turned over in my Bible to Colossians 3 where it says: Put to death, therefore, everything in your life that is earthly; whether it be fornication, lasciviousness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence and covetousness, which is idolatry: and stop lying one to another. Let no filthy communication proceed out of your mouth. Put away all anger and wrath and malice and evil speaking. Put to death everything in your life that is earthly, carnal.
God has one method of dealing with sin, and that is the death method, to put it to death. Let that thing die. If Joshua had not been willing to take that member of the body of God which was carnal, earthy and sinful, and put it to death, they would have suffered defeat after defeat after defeat in the land of Canaan. If you are not willing to take that part of your life, that life which belongs to God, and put it to death, die to that thing, give it up, let it go, you’ll never know victory in your Christian life.
Are you willing to meet God’s ultimatum? He never changes. God never lowers his standard. His method of dealing with the sin in your life is by death.
Chapter 8 opens up with God leading them back to Ai in victory. There is victory at the scene of your former defeat. I want you to know tonight that if you will come and do business with God, and if you are willing to deal the death blow to those things in your life that are carnal and earthly and worldly, God will send you back to those same areas where you were defeated, and you’ll know victory. How sweet it is to come back to the scene of your former defeat and be victorious! God has only one way of dealing with sin. You’ve got to die to it. You’ve got to let the Lord take it away from you, absolutely and completely. Let’s bow together.
© Ron Dunn, LifeStyle Ministries, 2009