Sometimes we come across something in the Bible that just stuns us, like the story of Achan in Joshua 6-7. This guy was an Israelite’s Israelite; from the tribe of Judah, plenty of livestock and a family. The way the Bible describes him is basically saying that he had it all. However, that didn’t really stop him from making a fatal error. You see, the Israelites were told to keep nothing from the city of Jericho…But Achan disobeyed the orders. Chapter 7 starts off by reporting:
1 But Israel violated the instructions about the things set apart for the Lord. A man named Achan had stolen some of these dedicated things, so the Lord was very angry with the Israelites. Achan was the son of Carmi, a descendant of Zimri son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah.
Israel goes to battle against another city, Ai, and they lose; in fact, they are slaughtered by this smaller and less intimidating city. The problem? Achan is the problem. So, Joshua finds out about it and calls Achan out, asking him to tell the truth:
20 Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. 21 Among the plunder I saw a beautiful robe from Babylon, 200 silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound. I wanted them so much that I took them. They are hidden in the ground beneath my tent, with the silver buried deeper than the rest.”
Achan had buried them…and in a fitting but weird response, Israel is now going to bury Achan and his family to respond to the Lord’s anger…
24 Then Joshua and all the Israelites took Achan, the silver, the robe, the bar of gold, his sons, daughters, cattle, donkeys, sheep, goats, tent, and everything he had, and they brought them to the valley of Achor. 25 Then Joshua said to Achan, “Why have you brought trouble on us? The Lord will now bring trouble on you.” And all the Israelites stoned Achan and his family and burned their bodies. 26 They piled a great heap of stones over Achan, which remains to this day. That is why the place has been called the Valley of Trouble ever since. So the Lord was no longer angry.
It was simple really, don’t bring anything back from a city that was known for its corruption and injustice. God wanted nothing to do with it and God wanted his people to have nothing to do with it. The one person rescued from the fall of Jericho was Rahab, a prostitute of the city who had faith in God and hid the spies. She risked her life to be saved, but what life did she really have in Jericho anyway? She (and her family with her) was the only person or thing worth saving from that city, God had made that clear.
So often we ask why God would do such horrific things. I mean, to destroy a family like this. Why does God react harshly? Is this fair? The questions can be asked and should be asked, but what about trusting God? What about obedience, contentment, and community? Achan’s issue wasn’t a robe, some silver, and a gold bar. Achan forgot the giver of everything he had; Achan was from the tribe of Judah, a rich man, a family man, and he “wanted them so much that he took them.” WHY? What good did he think they would do buried in the ground?
Here’s the problem, I see myself in Achan. What’s the back-up plan if this all fails? Can I really trust God? I lose sight of all God has given me because my focus is on more stuff. And the truth is, if I’m honest, that in the midst of my rebellion and sin, my family, community, and friends are in one way or another “destroyed.” Maybe not by stoning like in this story, but those I love are destroyed because my discontentment breaks relationships, hinders faith development, and kills authentic community. To end in a somewhat meaningful pun: when I find that I am Achan, may the pain of my sin trigger my repentance and return to trusting God.
I want to share thoughts, insights, and scriptures that lead us in the direction of Christ.