The Sin of Achan
Taught October 8, 2023
Table of Contents
Watch & Listen
Our Sunday School lesson this week takes us into the second unit of lessons for the fall quarter which is titled – Disobedience and Failure. Over the past four weeks, we have seen that when one is obedient to God’s instructions, they will enjoy success and be blessed by the Lord. On the opposite side of that, if one chooses to disregard and disobey God’s instructions, failure awaits.
The Accursed Thing
So, our lesson this week focuses on the sin of Achan. Now, before we dive into his sin, I want to remind you of some instructions that the children of Israel were to follow after defeating Jericho.
On the seventh day, after circling Jericho seven times, you will recall Joshua confidently proclaiming Jericho was in Israel’s hands (Josh. 6:16). Why was Joshua able to say that? He could make that statement with confidence because the children of Israel had been obedient to God’s instructions.
Prior to the walls of Jericho coming down, Joshua gave some instructions for after they had taken the city. Joshua instructed the children of Israel to abstain from the accursed things – idols, etc. – as they would become accursed and curse the entire camp of Israel (Josh. 6:18).
Israel’s defeat at Ai
So, after taking Jericho, we read in the opening verse of our lesson that Achan, who was of the tribe of Judah, took from the accursed things which angered the Lord (v.1). Again, keep in mind that if one person took from the accursed things, they would curse the whole camp of Israel.
Now, what Achan had done was not known to Joshua. As you can see in scripture that our Sunday School book skips over, Joshua was preparing to move against the city Ai. The spies reported back to Joshua that Ai would be easy to take since the city had very few people (Josh. 7:2-3).
Believed victory against a few turned into a very sour defeat for Israel which confused Joshua. Joshua, we should remember, had been told by God that nobody would be able to stand before him in Israel’s conquest of Canaan (Josh. 1:5). So Joshua questioned the Lord about the defeat at Ai as he had no idea as to what led to their defeat (Josh. 7:6-7).
So, when we get down to more scripture within our lesson, we’ll see where the Lord tells Joshua to get up (v.10)! You see, Joshua had torn his clothes and fallen to his face in heartbreak over their defeat. So, the Lord told Joshua to get up because Israel had sinned and transgressed God’s covenant; God told him that Israel had taken some of the accursed things and put it with their own stuff (v.11).
When God speaks of Israel transgressing His covenant, we should think of the covenant that God made with Israel at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:1-10). Almost immediately after making the covenant, Israel transgressed against God by worshiping the calf of gold (Ex. 32:7-10). God was not pleased then when they had worshiped the accursed thing and He certainly would not be pleased at this point with Israel having accursed things within their camp.
With this in mind, the Lord tells us Joshua the reason behind Israel’s defeat at Ai. The children of Israel could not stand before their enemies because they had doomed themselves to destruction. God was still true to His promise to Joshua when He said that He would no longer be with Joshua unless Joshua destroyed the accursed thing from among the camp (v.12).
How can I say that God was still true to His promise to Joshua with Him making that statement? Well, the Lord had made it clear to Joshua that so long as he and Israel were obedient, then they would be successful. Even though Joshua had not taken the accursed thing, he might as well had since the accursed thing was within the camp.
Again, we have a lesson here where we have to do our best not to surround ourselves with wickedness. Again, as Paul said to the Corinthians, evil company corrupts good habits (1 Cor. 15:33). So, whether it is a person or thing, whatever is wicked (evil) you have to do your best to put away from you or flee from. As a child of God, you don’t want what is wicked to hinder you from possessing your blessings and enjoying success.
In scripture that our books skip, we will see where the Lord had instructions for Joshua in order for him to correct Israel’s sin. First, Joshua and the rest of the people were to sanctify themselves the next day (Josh. 7:13). Then Joshua would go before the tribes as it would be revealed who had transgressed (Josh. 7:14-15).
Achan was revealed to have taken the accursed thing. Joshua begged the man to give glory to the Lord and to make confession to God, to him, and to Israel (Josh. 7:19). This may put you into mind of what Jesus taught about seeking forgiveness. When John John wrote about forgiveness in his first letter, he wrote that we must confess to the Lord our transgressions, and that when we do so, God is both faithful and just to forgive us our sins (1 John 1:9).
Jesus, when He taught about forgiving others, He taught that if one sins against you, you should rebuke them, and if they repent, then you should forgive them (Luke 17:4). Achan had transgressed against both the Lord and Israel. So, in a manner of speaking, you see where Joshua rebuked Achan and called on him to confess to those he had transgressed against.
However, Achan would not find mercy after his confession. Why not? Well, prior to this meeting, God instructed Joshua that the transgressor was to be burned along with the accursed things and all that he possessed (Josh. 7:15). The nature of Achan’s sin was one that was treated with great seriousness.
Achan admitted to Joshua that he had sinned against the Lord. Achan told Joshua that he saw the spoils among some garments, coveted them, took them, and buried them under his tent (vss.20-21). So, Achan was overcome with temptation and gave in to it. Sadly, Achan’s downfall was the same that many have suffered.
After hearing from Achan, Joshua sent messengers he went and found the accursed things (v.22). The messengers then brought all of the accursed things before Israel and then they took him, his sons, daughters, and all that he had brought it all to the Valley of Achor (v.24). There in the valley, they stoned and burned them all because Achan sinned(v.25).
Now, this sounds rather harsh, doesn’t it? Israel, however, desired to be obedient as they desired to take possession of their blessing. As they followed in God’s instructions, the final verse of our lesson tells us that the Lord turned His anger away from Israel (v.26).
This may seem harsh, but you and I, again, have to flee from sin especially since we desire to dwell in fellowship with the Lord. We desire to be blessed and highly favored with God and God, we must understand, does not dwell with sin. You and I, must also come to understand that sin – dwelling with sin – hinders us from our blessing. So, we have to burn sin out of our life – tear it away from us – so that we can take possession of our blessing.