THEME: How Sin ProgressesThis 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.
Not only do we learn that sin cannot be tolerated, but I think we learn something else, too. We learn something about the birth and progress of sin. It’s very seldom when we study the Bible and come across a chapter like this that talks about some great spiritual failure, or some sin on the part of an individual or nation, that we don’t find at the same time suggestions as to how sin comes about. Sin very seldom just springs full-blown into our lives. Generally, there’s a process by which it first insinuates itself, and then is nurtured, grows, and eventually breaks forth in destruction. Certainly that is the case with this man, Achan.
Let me suggest these steps in the growth of Achan’s sin. The first is that Achan was dissatisfied with what God had been doing in his life. Now, we could guess as much even if he didn’t say anything along those lines or do anything that would seem to carry his reaction to thatdissatisfaction. We can imagine what Achan might have thought as he crossed the Jordan and entered the Promised Land along with the armies and people of the Lord. Achan knew that God had taken care of them throughout their wandering. He knew that God had provided water from the rock, manna from heaven, and had caused their clothes to not wear out during the long period of time. But he also might have been dissatisfied with how long it took to finally get to Canaan, or he might have grown tired of the manna day after day. As they were getting close to entering the Promised Land, Achan might have seen it as an opportunity to make up for all the hardship he experienced along the way.
May I suggest that sin always begins that way? Sin begins with dissatisfaction with what God is doing in our lives because, of course, if we’re satisfied, then we’re trusting Him. And when we are trusting Him, sin doesn’t have an opportunity to enter. But when we’re dissatisfied, we already are setting up a breach between ourselves and God, and we’re letting ourselves open for whatever else might come along. If you take the account of Satan’s fall that you have, I believe, in Isaiah 14, you find that Satan was dissatisfied with his position in the universe. God was the creator; he was the creature. But he was dissatisfied to be a creature. So he looked at God and said, “I will be like the Most High.” He wanted to push God out and take over for God. He wanted to be God because he was dissatisfied to be what God had made him.
Or you look at the story of Adam and Eve, where sin first entered into the human family. It was dissatisfaction that brought about their fall. Oh, I know there are a lot of parts to it, but it had dissatisfaction at its root. Satan suggested to the woman that if she ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree, she would be like God, knowing good and evil. And, of course, the insinuation is that she wasn’t like God, and she didn’t know good and evil. And, Satan suggested, that was something she really ought to be and to know. So by sowing dissatisfaction, Satan laid the groundwork for his eventual triumph.
It’s the same way with us. When we find ourselves dissatisfied with what God is doing, it may be that you have a desert experience. He’s making you wander, as it were, for 40 years. You look ahead to that Promised Land and you say, “Oh, I’d be happy and satisfied if I could be in the Promised Land.” But God isn’t doing that with you just now and so you say, “Well, I’m going to do what I can to improve my own situation.” Or you say, “Well, He hasn’t given me the kind of clothes I want or the kind of food I’d like to eat.” You say, “He’s not made me what I want to be. I’m not achieving success the way I’d like to achieve it.” So out of that, dissatisfaction and openness to further acts of sin and disobedience occur.
I know that there’s a proper kind of Christian ambition, and I don’t want to minimize that. The Apostle Paul, when he was speaking of his aspirations in life, said in his letter to the Philippians, “Forgetting those things which are behind and pressing forth for those things which lie before, I strive toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” That’s a healthy Christian aspiration. Bu the same Paul who said, “I press toward the mark for the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” says later in that very letter, “I have learned in whatever state I am to be content.” Paul said in writing to Timothy, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” And when we’re content, we’re trusting God. We are glorying in His goodness, not fretting about what we are lacking.
What is the first step that Dr. Boice mentions in the growth of Achan’s sin? What reasons might explain why this was the first step in Achan’s case?
Can you recall a situation in your own life when you shared the first step in Achan’s experience? How did you come to be aware of it, so that you could confess it before God?
Dr. Boice said that sin generally follows a process of nurture, growth, and destruction. Pray that God would make you sensitive to how sin begins, and give you grace to avoid it before it can produce its disastrous effects.