Christianity 201

November 30, 2020

“There’s Sin in the Camp”

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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The phrase that forms the title of today’s thoughts may be familiar to you, especially if you grew up in Pentecostal or Charismatic or Holiness churches where there is often a stronger emphasis on personal confession of sin, and the teaching that much damage can be done to an entire family or church family due to unconfessed sin.

The Story

The backstory is part of a four-chapter narrative, and to take it all in, you need to read Joshua, chapters 6 – 9 which space does not permit me to reproduce here. So let’s do a quick overview. (Scriptures NIV unless indicated.)

■ Joshua and the Battle of Jericho: You know that story. Big military victory. Supernatural victory.

■ The contents of the city are entirely destroyed (and the city is ordered never to be rebuilt) with one exception:

6:24 Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord’s house.

The burning of the rest of the contents of the city, even though those things weren’t retained for any monetary value they might have added to that treasury, can be seen as a sacrificial offering to the Lord. They weren’t to go through the residences and businesses of Jericho like they were shopping at a thrift store. (“Oh! This would look in my tent next to the clay pitcher.”) It was all (but for the silver, gold, bronze, and iron) to be to be burned.

So far, so good. On to chapter 7.

■ In the next chapter, the story goes south.

7:1 But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things, Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.

The NIV uses the term devoted things. This is consistent with the idea of the sacrifice of everything else in Jericho being burned as an offering to the Lord. Perhaps a thanksgiving for the battle victory. I checked this out in various translations, and The Message sees items plundered as violating the holy curse, inasmuch as they fall under the category of things which could be enveloped in the concept of rebuilding the city.

■ Then Israel faces the city of Ai, which should be a much easier military conquest. A piece of cake, right? They don’t even send the entire army. However,

7:4 So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.

■ So God reveals to Joshua that the reason for the defeat is connected directly to someone taking and keeping things from Jericho.

7:11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.

■ The question is, whodunnit? Joshua orders everyone to do a walk-past so he can narrow it down:

tribe by tribe
clan by clan
family by family
man by man

and by process of elimination, it’s a man named Achan who gets centered out.

20 Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels. I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

■ Upon his confession, Achan, his family and all his animals are taken away and are stoned, and they burn the bodies, his tent, and all his possessions (see v. 24-26). It’s not a pretty story, is it?

■ In chapter 8, Israel’s army under commander Joshua re-attack the city of Ai, and in a spectacular victory ambush the city behind while the army is chasing a smaller contingent in front. (It’s every bit as good as the first story about the walls of Jericho!)

What it means today

The application of the story that’s often repeated today is the teaching that sin can just easily enter your family or your church.

First and foremost is the concept that we can never hide our sin. The website Back to the Bible notes:

That we can never successfully hide our sin from God is the teaching of Jesus’ parable of the lighted candle. Luke 8:16-17 records, “No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a bowl or hides it under a bed. A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house. For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.” (reference changed to NLT)

See also

Though his hatred covers itself with guile, His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.
 – Proverbs 26:26 NASB

People with integrity walk safely, but those who follow crooked paths will be exposed.
 – Proverbs 10: 9 NLT

Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
 – Matthew 23:28 NKJV

The story of Ananias and Sapphira is also a useful study of people whose deception was exposed.

In 1 Corinthians 5: 1-13, there is a particular New Testament passage which also has some parallels to the story of Achan:

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. … (ESV)

The website looks at why Achan’s family was also killed. To our modern eyes, the story seems a bit severe at that point.

There is no way to know all of God’s reasons for what seems to us His harsh punishment of Achan and his family. He doesn’t always explain His reasoning to us, nor does He have to. The story of Achan and many other biblical narratives give us sufficient information to understand that God is holy and that He is not to be disobeyed without risking dire consequences.

Only those hearing God’s voice, or possessing the gift of discernment or the gift of the word of knowledge can make the proclamation, but sometimes it does happen; sometimes, “There’s sin in the camp.”




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