Israel was about to take the first city in the land God had promised them - Jericho. No rockets, no artillery, the sound of praise, amplified by God’s voice, caused the city walls to fall down flat! After walking round the city seven times, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the LORD has given you the city. And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction.” (Joshua 6:176,17)
The victors were not allowed to take anything for themselves. “But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them, you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it.” (Joshua 6:18)
Achan, however, “took some of the took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.” (Joshua 7:1)
It is significant that Achan is described as the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, and the son of Jerah. Most likely Achan, and certainly his dad Carmi, must have experienced the Lord’s provision of manna and quail as they travelled through the desert. Carmi was kept alive by the water that flowed out of the rock. When Achan was a little boy, the brazen serpent was set up high on a pole and when he and his family looked at it all those poisoned by the serpents’ venom were spared. They looked and lived.
His granddad and great-grandfather must have told them how the Lord delivered them from Egypt, taking with them great riches.
These are the stories Achan’s family told him. Achan himself witnessed how Israel walked right across the Jordan River with dry feet! You would have thought he experiences enough of the Lord’s power and provision for him to trust God completely!
But no. Entering a house, he opened a locked cupboard and saw a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels. Achan coveted these precious objects, and he slyly took them and hid them under his tent. Achan saw the gown, which was associated with an idol, he touched it, coveted it, and just had to have it for himself.
Achan admitted, “when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” (Joshua 7:25)
Paul calls covetousness, ‘idolatry., because the things you crave become your gods and they can take over your life. He weighed the gold and silver in his hands thinking he could trust in these for his future needs, not knowing they would destroy his future.
There was a proud spirit of unbelief in Achan, that he knew better than God. He thought he could do this, and God would never know. He thought life would be made better through having nice clothes, money in a safe spot. God was far less interesting and desirable than a wedge of gold and beautiful clothes.
He involved the whole nation in guilt, and caused its defeat in the battle of Ai, in which thirty-six Israelis were killed. To assuage the wrath of the Lord against the people, the twelve tribes were assembled according to their clans and households, and the sacred lot was cast in order to discover the guilty family that had come under the ban. Achan was singled out and confessed that he had stolen silver and gold and a costly Babylonian mantle, and had hidden them in his tent. The stolen things were immediately sent for and laid before the Lord, and Achan and his family, his cattle, his asses, his sheep, and all his belongings were brought to the valley afterward called the ‘Valley of Achor,’ (‘Trouble’) and destroyed.
Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.” (Joshua 7:25)
Achan’s sins were disobedience and covetousness.
All the spoils of Jericho were to be dedicated to the Lord, burned with fire in a huge bonfire except for the gold and silver which was to be taken to the tabernacle - one day a great temple would be built in the land of Canaan! The people were to make no profit from this victory; it was wholly through the Lord and for the Lord.
Joshua said about Jericho, “And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction.” (Joshua 6:17) The Hebrew word is ‘cherem.’ It means to be cut off from common use. Jericho was a ‘first-fruit’ city, and the first fruit belongs to the Lord and devoted to him.
I believe this corresponds to the tithe, which is the first fruit of all our endeavour. This is ‘cherem’ or ‘devoted to the Lord for destruction.’ (See also Leviticus 27:27)
Achan could have recognised that the first fruit belongs to the Lord. If we are not returning the tithe to the Lord, then we do not get to use the fruit of it - it is ‘for destruction.’ Failing forward means to faithfully dedicate your tithe to the Lord.
Achan could have realised from his family’s history that the Lord can deliver from any tough situation and can provide in tough times. Failing forward is to start trusting in the Lord for Him to provide, to follow His ways, and not taking matters into your own hands!
Failing forward for Achan would be to learn to “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
Next time: The Broke and the Frustrated