9 Minute Read

TODAY’S BIBLE READING:

Joshua 5:1–7:15
Luke 15:1-32
Psalm 81:1-16
Proverbs 13:1

TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

Joshua 7:1 (CSB): “The Israelites, however, were unfaithful regarding the things set apart for destruction. Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of what was set apart, and the LORD’s anger burned against the Israelites.”

REFLECTIONS ON TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

Everything in us wants to believe that God is fair. That’s good … because everything in the Bible makes it clear that God IS fair.

In fact, I would argue that humanity’s desire for “fairness” (as movable as that ideal is within godless cultures) is rooted in the fact that we were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27).

But as we would expect in a godless culture, we define “fair” differently than God does. Let me explain.

When someone breaks the law and commits a crime, we believe it is completely unfair to let the consequences fall on someone else. We believe that fairness is demonstrated in the fact that the guilty one is the only one who experiences the punishment, for committing the offense.

Well, let’s look at our Verse for Today because it sure doesn’t seem fair … until we get a better understanding of it.

Joshua 7:1 (CSB): “The Israelites, however, were unfaithful regarding the things set apart for destruction. Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of what was set apart, and the LORD’s anger burned against the Israelites.”

We are told precisely who broke God’s law. “Achan … took some of what was set apart, and the LORD’s anger burned…”

Clearly, one man named Achan disobeyed Joshua’s orders. Joshua had made it clear before the Israelites took Jericho that the city was under “the ban.” Absolutely nothing was to be taken as spoils of war. Every single item was to perish with the city.

One man disobeyed. We are told that Achan took “a beautiful cloak from Babylon, five pounds of silver, and a bar of gold weighing a pound and a quarter” (Joshua 7:21).

God was going to bring justice upon Achan and Achan alone, right?

Wrong.

Read our Verse for Today again, paying careful attention to who God credits with guilt and who became the object of God’s anger.

Joshua 7:1 (CSB): “The Israelites, however, were unfaithful regarding the things set apart for destruction. Achan son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of what was set apart, and the LORD’s anger burned against the Israelites.

God didn’t view Achan as being the only guilty one and the sole object of His divine wrath. He held the whole nation of Israel to be guilty and deserving of His anger.

And as a direct result of Achan’s private sin, God allowed “about thirty-six” Israelites (Joshua 7:5) to be killed by the army of Ai.

This doesn’t seem fair, does it? Achan was the only one who sinned and God allowed Achan’s sin to be directly tied to the deaths of 36 unsuspecting soldiers.

Yet we know God to be completely holy and just and fair. So, how are we to understand this?

Why Does God Hurt Others When We Sin?

No One Is Innocent

First of all, those 36 Israelite warriors were not innocent. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). So, if for no other reason, God took their lives because they, too, were guilty of other sins.

The World Is Broken

Second, those 36 Israelite warriors lived in a broken world, as we all do. As a result of Adam’s sin (Genesis 3), God has placed a curse on His creation (Genesis 3:17-19). Bad things happen because we live in a broken world.

And since we believe that God is sovereign and reigns supremely over Creation, we have no choice but to say that He is involved when anyone experiences calamity and injustice. He either actively wills or passively allows those things to happen.

Others Feel the Natural Consequences of Our Sin

Third, imagine that you are on a bus that is making its way over a mountain. The valley is right outside your window, a thousand feet below. You then looked to the driver and noticed that he was breaking God’s command concerning drunkenness as he repeatedly put the can of beer to his lips … and then careened off the road to the valley floor below. Here’s the question: Would you be protected from the consequences of the bus driver’s sin? Of course not. Everyone on the bus would almost certainly die as a result of the bus driver’s sin.

God often reveals His wrath against sin and sinners (Romans 1:18) by removing His protective hand and allowing the natural consequences of those sins to occur (Romans 1:24,26,28). Sometimes, the consequences of our personal sin hurts many people around us who weren’t participating in the offense.

It is in this same way that the children of an abusive father may grow up and then abuse their own children. Because of a father’s sin, his children, grandchildren, and possibly even his great-grandchildren will feel the negative consequences (Deuteronomy 5:9).

Failure to Address Sin Makes Us Complicit

Finally, I believe that there is another factor at play when we look back at Joshua 7. It seems to me that God was holding the whole nation of Israel responsible for Achan’s sin because it had not been addressed.

If you listen to the Lord’s words in these next few verses, you will hear God say that His anger against Israel would remain until they dealt with the offense and made it right.

Joshua 7:10-12 (CSB): “The LORD then said to Joshua, ‘Stand up! Why have you fallen facedown? Israel has sinned. They have violated my covenant that I appointed for them. They have taken some of what was set apart. They have stolen, deceived, and put those things with their own belongings. This is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies. They will turn their backs and run from their enemies, because they have been set apart for destruction. I will no longer be with you unless you remove from among you what is set apart.”

God’s disfavor, according to that last sentence, would remain intact until the sin was dealt with.

If you continue reading Joshua 7, after these verses, you will hear God tell Joshua exactly how they were to go about dealing with the offense. There would be plenty of time for the offender to come forward and repent. I’m convinced that if Achan had repented before being caught, he may have received mercy. But, he didn’t. He must have been convinced that his seemingly small, very private sin was not the reason for God’s disfavor on the whole nation of Israel. But it was.

Friend, it is quite possible that you could sin and God would allow the consequences to fall on a family member, or on your church, or whatever groups you happen to be a part of. It could be that God’s hand of favor and blessing are being withheld from those around you because of your seemingly private sin. God isn’t punishing others for your sin. He is simply allowing bad things to happen to them because your sin has caused Him to remove His hand of blessing and protection.

Friend, no sin is private. So, pursue holiness!

  • Pursue holiness and abstain from sin (and repent quickly when you sin) because God demands it.
  • Pursue holiness and abstain from sin because it will be a source of blessing to you.
  • Pursue holiness and abstain from sin because others could be adversely affected if you don’t.

The Bible tells us how to live. Read it and do it and quickly repent when you falter. It’s that simple.