THEME: How Sin Progresses (continued)This week’s lessons show the consequences of Achan’s sin upon the nation of Israel, and how in the midst of God’s judgment, grace and blessing are offered.
SCRIPTURE: Joshua 7:1-8:29
Yesterday we looked at the first step in Achan’s sin, which was dissatisfaction with God. Today we look at the second and third steps. The second is that sin progressed to the point of covetousness; that is, Achan began to desire that which was not his. Now according to the laws of war, the possessions of the conquered become the possessions of the conqueror. Achan was probably thinking along these lines. He was on the Lord’s side fighting with the armies of the people of Israel. He took part in the conquest. He must have said to himself, “Well, now, I’ve taken this town, and if I’ve taken this town then I’m the conqueror, and I can take what I want. At least I can take my share of it. I can take all I can carry.” He made a great error at that point, you see. Neither Achan nor the armies of Israel were the real conquerors in this story. God was the conqueror. And God had said that the spoil of the battle belonged to Him. The precious metals—gold, silver, brass, and iron—were to be laid up in the treasury of the Lord. Everything else was to be destroyed, burnt, and utterly wiped out. When Achan saw the silver and the gold, as well as a Babylonian garment, he took them. What he was really doing, of course, was stealing from the Lord. This is why God describes the sin of Israel the way He does: “They have taken some of the devoted things. They have stolen. They have lied. And they have put them with their possessions.” But they were not their possessions. They were the things that belonged to God.
Francis Schaeffer has an interesting section in his commentary on Joshua in which he reflects on the nature of the things Achan took. He says there were two different kinds of things. One was the gold and silver. That was wealth; it represented materialism. And the other was this beautiful robe from Babylon, which represented success or sophistication. Babylon was a great city, even at this time. Later on, it became a great military power, too. And eventually, it was the city and the nation that grew up around it that overthrew the southern kingdom of Judah in 586 B.C. But even at this time it was a very impressive place. It represented the world and its fashions. And Achan, dissatisfied with what God was giving him, set his eye upon the gold which represented materialism and the garment which represented fashion, or success, or sophistication. He was coveting in a way that was destined to bring destruction to his own soul.
I don’t think we have to labor to apply those two temptations to our own day because materialism and success are also great sins of our time. They’re even the sins of Christians. We want to be like the world, and we want to have what the world has. But we need to remember that the words, “Thou shalt not covet,” are the tenth of the Ten Commandments. They come last because they’re a summation of everything that has gone before. Coveting lies at the root of all the other sins. If we don’t honor God and worship Him only, we’re coveting something else other than the true God. If we don’t give Him His day, we are coveting time for ourselves. If we steal, we are coveting what belongs to other people. So, we need to take that seriously. The Decalogue is given to warn us, so when it says, “Thou shalt not covet,” it’s warning us against one of the steps that led to Achan’s sin.
So the first step is dissatisfaction, and the second step is coveting. The third step is the action that flows from the dissatisfaction and coveting. That’s to say, Achan stole, he hid the items in his tent, and he lied about what he did. James has a section at the beginning of his letter that really applies here. He’s talking about temptation, and he says in verse 13, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil nor does He tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin. And sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” So it was in the case of Achan; and so it is in our lives if we allow sin to grow, and fester, and do not bring it to God for confession, forgiveness, and cleansing.
Now, that passage in James says that sin, when it is not confessed and forgiven, leads to death. And certainly that’s what happened with Achan. Israel was defeated at Ai. Joshua threw himself on his face before the Lord asking what had gone wrong. God said there sin in the camp. And then as God undoubtedly directed, they began to search out the source of that sin which had led to the defeat of the armies. They did so by casting lots. All of the tribes lined up, and I would presume there was a representative of each tribe. When the lots were drawn, the tribe of Judah was taken. Then they had all the clans of Judah come forward, and the clan of Zarah was chosen from the others. And then the families of Zarah came forward, and they drew lots among the families. From there, the lot fell on Zimri and his family. And they drew lots again, and the lot fell on Achan.
What were the other two steps in sin’s progression in Achan?
According to Francis Schaeffer, what did the items that Achan stole from God represent?
What things in our own culture represent what Achan sought to possess?
From the lesson, how does coveting lie at the root of all the other sins in the Ten Commandments?