Failure is a process. “Nobody plans to fail, but fails to plan.” I don’t meet people that say, “Today I’m going to have an affair!” “Today, I’m going to destroy my family.” It’s a slow process of steps that if we understand them we can begin to avoid them before we get too far down the path of destruction.
Achan didn’t just walk into that Jericho home and steal those things. No. If you examine what happened closely you can see that there was a discernable process in his failure, a downward spiral to sin.
Here’s what happened,
20 Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.” Joshua 7:20-21 (NIV)
Notice the pattern: “I saw…I coveted…I took.. I hid.” The same pattern is often repeated. Eve did the same thing when she listened to the devil in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:6-7), and so did David when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. (2 Sam. 11:2-15).
We will break each of these down to learn from them.
Achan’s first mistake was to look at these treasures a second time. He probably couldn’t help seeing them the first time, but he should never have looked again and considered taking them. A man’s first glance at a woman may say to him, “She’s attractive!” But it’s that second glance that gets the imagination working and leads to sin Matt. 5:28).
His second mistake was to reclassify those treasures and call them “plunder.” As if they belonged to him from his hard work in battle! They were not “his plunder”; they were a part of the Lord’s treasury and wholly dedicated to Him. They didn’t belong to Achan, or even to Israel; they belonged to God. When God identifies something in a special way, we have no right to change it.
Achan’s third mistake was to covet. He should have been of singing praises in his heart for the great victory God had given! Instead Achan was imagining in his heart what it would be like to own all that treasure
His stealing from God began with him being dissatisfied.
Like all of the Hebrews, I’m sure Achan knew that God had promised to lead them into a new land of great wealth and opportunity, a country in which each family was to possess its own land and own its own house.
As he explored his assigned part of Jericho he probably entertained thoughts like this: “God has not treated us very well in these years of wandering. Sure-He gave us manna and quail to eat and He has kept our clothes from wearing out all these decades but I don’t like wearing the same outfit every single day. I’m tired of the same food day after day, week after week, month after month. I’m sick of having no money for the future. The first chance I get I’m going to improve my situation.”
Think about it Achan didn’t need any of the things he stole.
In fact, if he had waited one more battle Achan would have had all the gold he could carry, because in that battle God told them they could have all the spoils.
I’m reminded of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33 where He said, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, [put God’s will first] and all these things will be given to you as well.” But Achan didn’t think this way. He wanted the other things first. The will of God could wait. He wasn’t satisfied with God’s provision and this mindset led him to justify his stealing.
Dissatisfaction gives birth to us taking what is not ours. Satan rebelled against God because of his dissatisfaction with his position in God’s world. He was the creature. God was the Creator and he wanted more. He wanted to be like God. It was the same with Adam and Eve. They ate the forbidden fruit because they were not happy with what God had given them. Their desire for more led them to disobedience and sin. We would do well to remember this and learn as Paul did “…the secret of being content in every situation…” (Philippians 4:12) by learning to trust God to provide for our needs.
Achan’s stealing (and ours too) becomes even more disturbing when you stop to realize all that God had done for him. God had cared for him and his family in the wilderness. He had brought them safely across the Jordan and given the army victory at Jericho. The Lord had accepted Achan as a son of the covenant at Gilgal. Yet in spite of all these wonderful experiences, Achan disobeyed God just to possess some wealth that he couldn’t even enjoy. Had he waited just a day or two, he could have gathered all the spoils he wanted from the victory at Ai!
What about all the blessing God has giving you? Is it not enough?
Achan forgot that even though he was a soldier he had no right to take any of the bounty because God, not Achan, had conquered Jericho. As God told Joshua, Achan had, “…taken some of the devoted things…” He had, “…stolen, lied, and put them with his own possessions.” He probably justified his actions by thinking, “My family and I have been deprived of many good things during our years of wilderness living. Here is this beautiful, new, stylish garment-just my size, a little bit of silver, and a handful of gold. Think of what it could buy! After this long journey I deserve a little finery. This is no big deal. God will never miss this in light of all the treasury that we’ll haul back from Jericho. After all, I marched for seven days! I’m entitled to a few nice things in life.” So, dissatisfaction led to coveting…
And then Achan acted.
He stole and then tried to hide his sin. This is the way sin always works. Sinful thoughts lead to sinful rationalizations, which lead to sinful actions. The fact is sinful speculations will inevitably break out into the open. As James 1:13-15 says, “Each one is tempted when by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” So Achan’s deed was not a single act. No, it was a downward spiral to sin, a series of stumbles. He saw, coveted, took, and hid.
Think how much happier we would be in life if we could learn to nip failure in the bud by controlling our thoughts and desires. This is what Paul was talking about when he said, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) The more we make Jesus Lord of our thought life, the less we will fall captive to sin because sin is a process.
In the next post we will see the danger of trying to hide our mistakes.