Through the years Preachers have devised some interesting titles for this text.
“An Achan Heart”
“What’s Achan You?”
“God’s Prescription for an Achan Home”
“The Sin of an Achan Heart.”
“An Achan Breakin’ Heart” (Yes, insert “groan” here)
My favorite, however, and more to the point of the passage is “What’s Hiding Under Your Tent?”
The narrative revolves around Israel’s conquest of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership. After 40 years of wilderness wanderings, the nation is now ready to receive God’s promise. After successfully crossing the Jordan River and scoring a resounding victory at Jericho, they’re set back by a devastating defeat at Ai.
“Why, Lord,” Joshua cried,
“There’s sin in the camp,” Jehovah replied.
God’s instruction was to destroy everything at Jericho. Not to keep any plunder for themselves. And to take the silver, gold, and precious metals and add to the Lord’s treasury. Achan, however, disobeyed. He greedily took some plunder for himself and hid it under his tent.
When Achan’s sin was discovered and he was called on to give an account for his actions, here’s his response.
“Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done: When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it.” –Josh. 7:20-21
Note the steps in Achan’s trespass.
#1 I saw.
Achan couldn’t help but see these objects during the battle. They were there right in front of him. Seeing them wasn’t a sin.
We may see things in the normal course of the day that flash before our eyes. An alluring billboard advertising an illicit activity. A scantily clad woman crossing the street. A pop-up ad on the internet. A pornographic picture passed around the office. An indecent, enticing movie preview. A raunchy, risqué halftime show during the Super Bowl. We can’t always control what suddenly appears in our sight.
#2 I coveted.
While Achan couldn’t help seeing what he saw in the course of his duties, he could control his mind. His thoughts. His emotions. His glance became a gaze. His look turned into lust. His glimpse grew into greed. His stare stirred his heart and slid into sin.
There’s a great lesson here for us. There’s a time to turn our eyes away from what we see. To turn off the TV or change channels. To ignore that link or pop up. To control our thoughts. To resist dwelling on a tempting sight. There’s an old adage I can remember my mother saying, “You can’t keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair.”
#3 I took.
Actually, he stole them. They weren’t his. They were the “devoted things.” They were set apart for the Lord.
Think about what Achan did. He took something…
…that God said not to take.
…that everyone else was not allowed to have.
…that did not belong to him.
…that was devoted to God.
…that caused 36 soldiers to be killed at the battle of Ai.
…that brought Joshua great grief.
…that slowed down Israel’s progress.
…that embarrassed the nation
…that shamed his family.
…that resulted in death for Achan and his family.
One word comes to mind. Consequences. Sin hurts. Sin shames. Sin dishonors. Sin defeats. Sin demoralizes. Sin destroys. Sin affects our family. Sin impacts society. Sin damages the church. Sin produces tragic consequences.
#4 I hid.
Why did Achan hide these items under his tent? Because he knew he was wrong. That’s why Adam and Eve hid when they ate the forbidden fruit and heard the voice of God. That’s why David tried to cover up his adulterous affair with Bathsheba.
People hide actions that they know deep down in their heart of hearts are sinful. Yet, the Scriptural axiom rings true. “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23).
The ancient account reminds us that we all have the power of choice. To choose right or wrong. Good or evil. Obedience or disobedience. And to protect our minds and hearts from evil allurements.
Achan’s tragic story reminds us of these eternal truths about sin.
Sin will take you further than you ever wanted to stray.
Cost you more than you ever dreamed you would pay.
Keep you longer than you ever thought you would stay.
Are you hiding anything under your tent?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman