“But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
The story of Achan is an interesting and sad one. The people were coming off a major victory. Their first stop on their tour through the land of Canaan had ended with them sacking a significant military outpost in the city of Jericho. The city was famous for its incredibly high and thick walls. The walls were so massive that archaeologists today can see in the various layers of rubble around the city where this battle took place. So, the people are high on a sweet victory, but then things take a turn for the sour. What happened?
What happened is that somebody blew it. I think there are several observations worth making here. First, there is no time in our life when we are most in danger of falling into sin as when we have just scored a major spiritual victory. It sounds ironic to say, but it is true nonetheless. And the reason is fairly simple. We are riding high on life because of a victory rooted in faith. And when things are going so well, we don’t feel like we need to lean on God. And when we stop leaning on God, things have a tendency of falling apart rather quickly.
Second, for Achan, his downfall was covetousness. He saw something he wanted more than he wanted to do what God had said. Sometimes, when we are riding high with God, we encounter things that are pretty exciting, pretty remarkable. If we’re not careful, we can find ourselves wanting them more than we want to stay on track with God. This never ends well. It leads us down a path of idolatry.
Third, while sin may occasionally be a private issue, its effects are never limited to just us. Our disobedience of God is going to affect someone else, probably multiple someone elses. Think about what happened next here. Achan sinned. He was the only person who took something. But, as a result, the whole nation lost their next battle. When we sin, the effects are going to reach beyond us into the life of someone else. It could be that they will find out about the sin and the relationship will be damaged. It could be that the sin changes our behavior and the way we treat them. It could be God’s discipline of us causes them pain because of the nature of our relationship with them. However it goes, sin’s effects are never limited to us.
One more just for fun: When we have sinned in some way, we cannot keep going down the path with God. We’ve got to pause and deal with the sin. Life may keep going forward, but our spiritual progress and growth will be stalled out until our relationship with Him is restored. What’s more, trying to push forward on our own will often lead to disaster because we are attempting to go where God was leading us with His help. The places God leads us are the kinds of places where we can only succeed with His help. We dare not go there without Him.
To perhaps put a bow on all of this: When we are walking high with God, following Him deep into the places He is leading us, we must keep our eyes forward, our desires focused heavenward, our hands in His, and if we should fall, reach for Him first in repentance. This is how we walk the narrow path of life.