How often we do wrong, make bad decisions, do that which we don’t want to do, sin ~ our choices aren’t healthy for a life of peace, yet we let the weeds grow crossing our fingers and deny we are seeing what we are really seeing. Achan is the model sinner in our scripture today… You know the craziest thing he does? READ Josh. 7:21. Achan could have possession of this robe for 50 years and he’d never ever be able to wear it ~ he’d be found out in an instant. Same with the money…Achan hid the loot ~ he’d never be able to show any of it in public. Sin is the craziest thing////…in the long run it always compromises your life… the momentary pleasure leads to a dead end. Sin is like cultivating a row of weeds and crossing your fingers hoping it’s corn ~ you’re just fooling yourself.
1. Every city attacked and destroyed is a completely depraved place with such things as sacred prostitution, child sacrifices, ruthless abuse of the vulnerable ~ utter and complete rejection of the one true God. God is not having the Israelites destory cities that happen to be in the way of God’s grand plans, these are places of immorality and corruption.
2. God’s judgment is real.
3. The wages of sin is death.
4. We are supposed to be shocked when we read these scriptures. We are supposed to hate evil. We are supposed to be bothered. We are supposed to hate sin.
5. Grace is always a possibility, but it’s not automatic. We have to want grace and accept it. In the case of the cities of Canaan the citizens rejected grace ~ death is the consequences of sin. Grace is the free gift of God for those who receive grace. Rahab accepted grace. When Jonah preached destruction to the City of Ninevah centuries later from this time the people of Ninevah repent and the city is spared and Jonah gets made because God doesn’t destroy the city. When we see cities destroyed by God’s judgment it is because they are totally evil and there is no repentance. That’s what judgment and grace is all about.
Back to today’s scripture. In Josh. 7 the Israelites suffer defeat in the city of Ai ~ in Josh 8 there is a turn around and they are victories. I want to spend most of today looking at what happens in-between the defeat and the victory ~ CONFESSION. Vernon McGee says that when Israel went up against Jericho and the walls of Jericho, Jericho represented the challenges we face as Christians from the world. The world throws stuff at us as roadblocks to find fulfillment in God. We meet the challenges of the world through faith. That was last weeks message. The city of Ai represents the challenges of the flesh/sin. Sin is a major roadblock in making a full commitment to Christ. The answer to the sin problem is CONFESSION: Lord, I am a sinner. God already knows our sins, yet until we confess our sins there is a chasm between us and God. Confession is the bridge between defeat and victory.
I love the insight of D.L. Moody: “People have just enough religion to make them miserable.” What he means: if you have a lot of knowledge about what it means to be a Christian, yet confession is a minor part of your life, if you are not fully living for God and resisting making a full commitment, then you are a discontent person. Enough religion to be miserable. Are we afraid to make a full commitment to the Lord?
Henri is a quirky character in Steinbeck’s “Cannery Row.” He’s known for the unique and intricate boats he builds, often taking years to work on each one. But there’s something odd about Henri. He never finishes a boat. When it’s almost completed, he takes it apart and begins anew, having no intention of ever putting the boat in the water. Two of his friends discuss his behavior: “Every time he gets it nearly finished, he changes it and starts all over again. I think he’s nuts. Seven years on a boat!”
The other friend explained: “You don’t understand. Henri loves boats, but he’s afraid of the ocean. He likes boats, but suppose he finishes his boat. Once it’s finished people will say, ‘Why don’t you put it in the water?’ Then if he puts it in the water, he’ll have to go out in it and he hates the water. So you see, he never finishes the boat – so he doesn’t ever have to launch it.”
Is this what we do with God? We begin a journey towards God, but halfway through we fear what a full commitment means , and so we hold back … What if our commitment to the Lord becomes more serious, what will he ask us to do, to be, to think, to behave… The real battle is within. We meet the obstacles of this world with faith. We meet the sins of the flesh with confession. It’s tempting to let the weeds grow and cross your fingers that somewhere in those weeds the corn will grow. Until we admit these are weeds, we’ll never get corn planted. Confession must be a way of life.
As we begin Josh. 7, notice a slight of hand. God dares us to focus so much on Achan’s sin we miss the larger point: we are all sinners. The chapter begins: “But the Israelites acted unfaithfully….” It doesn’t say one of the Israelites, it is saying all acted unfaithfully. Then the story is told of one of the Israelites, Achan. The temptation is to conclude the reason the Israelites were defeated is because of the sin of Achan, but all are at fault. But Achan’s sin is so much worse we might object! In God’s eyes, sin is sin and causes a chasm between us and God. It is so easy to blame Achan/blame others.
I like the story of a man who went to the doctor and told him he believed his wife had become hard of hearing. The doctor said, “Stand 40 feet from her, ask her a question, if she does not respond, then move 10 feet closer, ask again, and repeat these steps until she responds, even if you must stand right behind her.” So the man went home and found that his wife was in the kitchen. Standing 40 feet away, he asked “Honey, what’s for dinner?”. No response. Again, at 30 feet. Nothing. He repeated the question at the 10 feet intervals, until he was directly behind her at the stove. He asked, “Honey, what’s for dinner?” She answered loudly, “Chicken, for the fifth time, chicken! Go get your ears checked!”
When we fail and miss God’s blessings it is tempting to blame others, but maybe we are the ones that are hard of hearing…. Many times I have invited somebody to church or an event; I can tell they appreciate the invitation; when they didn’t show up, more than once, they later explained they were still in bed, accompanied by the excuse: “You should have called.” I.e. It’s my fault. Until a person takes responsibility, until they set their own alarm clock, until they admit it is weeds they will see themselves as a victim. It’s tempting to blame Achan. But all Israel must take responsibility.
The sin of Joshua and Israel is pride and arrogance. The sin is reducing God to a Genie in a bottle and thinking they don’t need him to defeat Ai. READ Josh. 7:3. After the great victory in Jericho, Joshua became arrogant and took the enemy for granted … the Israelites think they’ve got it all figured out as they come to the small city of Ai. They have left God out.
We get into trouble by taking people/God for granted. That’s the big problem with Israel, they take God for granted and think too much of themselves. May we be a community that is constantly thanking God, asking God’s blessings, looking to God and never assume, never presume… the things we take for granted. One woman writes: “… kids really enjoy and appreciate the little things in life. After his nightly prayers, my son will often add-on something he wants to thank God for giving him. A few evenings back he said, “And thank you for Daddy hitting me in the head with a stuffed animal when I was hiding under my covers.” He has actually thanked God for that moment numerous times since then. He hasn’t lost his appreciation of the little things.
This idea really hit home during a recent homily at Church. Our priest was telling us that his sad week following the Super Bowl (when his team lost) was turned around by an incredible blessing that made it one of his favorite weeks in recent memory. Wow, I thought, this is going to be big news! He went on to share that he had recently been invited to dinner at a parishioner’s home, but the real magic came after the meal. When the family’s young daughter was getting ready for bed, she had approached him and asked if he would read her a bedtime story. And he did.
And THIS was the huge blessing that had turned his week around! He explained that this was first time in his 41 years of life that he had been asked to read a bedtime story…I have the opportunity to read to my own kids most nights before they go to bed. I don’t give it a second thought. In fact, I sometimes get annoyed when they want an extra story…Talk about taking them for granted!”
A life of confession translates into appreciation for the blessings of life… Joshua is taking God for granted so quickly after Jericho. He wants God to bless whatever it is he does. Joshua decides after the defeat at Ai to feel sorry for himself. He whines: READ Josh. 7:6-9. Joshua is blaming God, doubting God, trying to black mail God. It does not occur to him he has turned his back on God. Talk about taking God for granted!
I love God’s response: READ Josh 7:10. Stand up… the problem is unconfessed sin in the camp. God tells the people that they have to set things right and look within. READ Josh. 7:11-13. Confession must become a way of life. Get rid of that which distracts you from God. As long as we see ourselves as victims/take God for granted, we will never change. Confession must become a way of life, a constant attitude. “Cleanse me Lord, change me, mold me, show me where I have gone wrong…”
Achan is once again spotlighted. The story is told in Josh. 7:14-26, ending in Achan admitting his guilt and the community stoning him to death. I don’t know why Achan is singled out as the only one to receive the penalty of death, but I know this: Achan was not the only guilty person. Achan deserved death, and so did all Israel. All Israel acted unfaithful to God we were told back in Josh. 7:1. But only one man dies. Sounds like a familiar story, doesn’t it?
Achan is not quite a Christ figure because when Jesus died for our sins, he did not deserve it. Achan is an imperfect Christ figure. I cannot imagine what it would be like for Joshua to throw stones at Achan, for Joshua deserved to die alongside Achan. It is by grace God spared Joshua and Israel. It is by grace God gave Joshua one more chance to obey the voice of God. READ Josh. 8:1. The rest of chapter 8 is God orchestrating the victory over Ai ~ in it’s own way every bit as exciting and detailed as Jericho and the walls.
Pride, arrogance and violating God’s commands led to defeat at Ai. Joshua first blamed God, but by going through a dramatic process of identifying Achan, it became clear the problem was not God ~ the problem was sin in the camp. Our own flesh/ sinful human nature, is our greatest enemy. We overcome the flesh by confession.
Through Achan’s death, Joshua found a renewed Spirit. The recommitment is affirmed in the final verse of Josh 8:30-35 (read underline words). Confession, renewal, and cleansing go together. Without confession we are like the boat builder who never finishes a boat because he hates the water. Without confession we are like the silly man who let the weeds grow crossing his fingers hoping the weeds were actually corn. Without confession we have just enough religion to be miserable. Constant confession to overcome our sinful nature and be renewed by the Spirit of God is how we walk with the Lord. Death is always deserved as the penalty for sin, but we have Jesus Christ, far superior to Achan, who died for our sins. Confession becomes the bridge to new life in Christ, taking us from defeat to victory. Amen.