Friday, January 30, 2015

Three Lessons from Achan

Now Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I beg you, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” – Joshua 7:19

Picture yourself being one of the Israelites, freed from the slavery of Egypt, walking across the parted red sea, following the cloud of God through the desert for years, being fed manna that freely fell from Heaven, and finally arriving after 40 years in the promised land.  That’s a pretty amazing life!  How easy it would be to believe in God who performed so many miracles in your sight.  And yet, continually, you and those around you fell into idolatry and sin.
It happens today.  All around us God is working, doing great things.  But we forget! We forget as quickly as He answers the prayers sometimes.  He heals, we thank Him, and tomorrow is business as usual.  Days later we get a bad report from the doctor and we go into a full panic, forgetting that God can heal.  He delivers us from our enemy, causes us to prosper.  But the very next day if someone says something against us in the workplace, we are filled with fear again as to what everyone will think and will it cost us our job.  We are a people of little faith, and a lack of faith is required to please God.

Hebrews 11:6 says “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Faith in God is nothing if it is not a full understanding and recognition of who God is that changes our life.  Recognizing the power and sovereignty of God should cause our lives to focus on nothing less than what pleases Him most.  That is what it means by saying that we “must believe that He is”.  And because of that faith, our lives are transformed because “He is a rewarder of those who dlilgently seek Him.”  Friend, you cannot believe in God and not desire to seek Him!  That would be like wandering through a dry hot desert for days and not seeking water!
The story of Achan in the book of Joshua is one that shows the little belief we have in God and how blinding it can be when we do not fully believe in Him.  It begins when they defeat the city of Jericho, and God tells them that all the “accursed things” made of silver, gold, bronze and iron should be “consecrated to the Lord; they shall come into the treasury of the Lord.”(Joshua 6:19). 

After the defeat of Jericho, they were faced with a small town called Beth Aven.  It was so small that when spies went to look on it and see how many it would take to defeat it, they reported back in Joshua 7:3, “Do not let all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not weary all the people there, for the people of Ai are few.”  They only took three thousand men to battle.  This should have been an easy battle – one quickly won.   Jericho was HUGE compared to Beth Aven. 
But there was only one problem – one obstacle to their success.  When they returned from Jericho, Achan had hidden a beautiful Babylonian garment, silver, and gold in the dirt under his tent.  God had already spoken regarding the silver and gold.  It was to go into His treasury.  Yet, Achan, knowing it was wrong, decided not to believe God and take it for himself. 

That day they went to battle against Beth Aven and quickly turned back.  Thirty-six men lost their lives.  Had Achan decided to confess his sin before those lives were lost, God most likely would have had mercy and forgiven Him.  But at the point Joshua inquired of God as to why they had lost the battle, God dictated a punishment.  God told Joshua that because of the sin, the sin of ONE man, the Israelites had become “doomed to destruction” and that “he who is taken with the accursed thing shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done a disgraceful thing in Israel. 

When Joshua had determined that Achan was the one who had rebelled against God he said in Joshua 7:19, “My son, I beg you, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.”  Joshua did this knowing that he had already been instructed to take the man’s life.
There are three lessons to be learned from the story of Achan.  First, your sins are never personal.  Thirty-six people died due to Achan’s sin.  Though people may not die from your sin, they are affected. 

Secondly, confession is required.  Hundreds of times throughout the Bible God tells us that we are to confess our sins to Him and get forgiveness.  James 5:16 tells us to “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” 
Confession has two purposes.  First, it enables us to draw near God again without the unconfessed sin grieving His Holy Spirit.  Isaiah 59:1-2 says ““Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”

Secondly, it enables us to use that sin, that horrible moment in life, as part of our testimony to bring others into belief in Him.  Consider the testimony of a healed alcoholic to that of one struggling with addiction.  Unless you have confessed it, and received healing, you cannot use that testimony to help others.  Consider that of a forgiven adulterer who can now council the married regarding the pain and suffering associated with that sin.  God will use your sins to aid your ministry and bring Him glory if you will confess them and turn from them.
The last lesson we can learn from Achan is to believe in God fully – as both a loving and a just God.  Achan had believed in God for many things over the years in the desert, and God provided them all.  But his willful sin against Him proves that he had taken God’s grace for granted.  We are told in Numbers 32:23 that we can “be sure your sin will find you out”.  It will not stay hidden.  And we’re told in Hebrews 10:26-27 “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 

Thirty-six men lost their lives due to Achan’s sin.  How many will lose their lives due to yours?


Friday, January 2, 2015

The Outstretched Hand

“I was sought by those who did not ask for Me;
I was found by those who did not seek Me.
I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’
To a nation that was not called by My name.
I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people,
Who walk in a way that is not good,
According to their own thoughts;” – Isaiah 65:1-2

The Prophet Isaiah is delivering a message from God in Isaiah 65 regarding those that were searching for something they needed, and didn’t realize that it was God.  He speaks God’s words saying that they were looking for Him, but didn’t know to ask for Him, and they found Him even when they weren’t seeking Him.  It was God that reached out to them – saying “Here I am! Here I am!”.

These people are described as seeking something to help them, but living in rebellion to God’s word, and living life according to their own ways and their own thoughts. 
Today our society is filled with those that fall into this category.  We need something, but we don’t realize that it is God.  We seek to just feel better about ourselves, to feel peace and love.  We go searching for it through drugs and alcohol, and only find ourselves addicted to those things that hurt us even more.  We search for it in relationships through meaningless sexual encounters, and they leave us broken and often the shreds of a broken home and broken children in the ruins. 

Yet, He still reaches out His hands.  He still cries out “Here I am! Here I am!”
Each day is a chance to begin again.  You can repair what’s broken and find the love, peace and joy that is missing.  The first step is to realize that the path you are on is not where it’s at.  The second step is to reach out to His outstretched hand.