There are several challenges that make dealing with this enemy difficult. First is that we are quick to deny defend, make excuses for or even believe that this enemy could lead to our downfall. Second we are reluctant to recognize and identify this enemy because most of us like him/her too much. Nations, cities, churches, and individuals have been destroyed by the enemy within.
You may have heard of the old story of how the city of Troy held off the Greeks for ten long, weary years. Finally the Greeks sailed away leaving a wooden horse. The Trojans took that wooden horse within their gates, and that was the undoing and destruction of Troy.
In a similar way churches are wrecked from within, not from forces without. “Jesus Christ in his letters to the seven churches in Asia Minor gave them certain warnings; yet not one of these churches received warning as to the enemy on the outside,” commentator J. Vernon McGee reminds us. Christ said to these churches (in effect), “You have something within that is bringing about your own destruction.” Disloyalty and unfaithfulness in the church today is hurting God’s cause more than any enemy that is on the outside.
Individuals are destroyed from the inside too. Alexander the Great was probably the greatest military genius who ever moved armies across the known world in victory after victory. Before the age of thirty he had conquered the world, but historians report that he struggled with drinking and lost that battle at age 32. He had conquered the world, but he could not conquer Alexander the Great.
The only battle that Joshua and Israel lost in taking the Promised Land was a battle in which the defeat came, not from without, but from within.
One guy named Achan caused the defeat of his fellow soldiers and countrymen; one guy was responsible for 36 men losing their lives.
Joshua and the elders had to go through this long procedure in order to find the guilty party. It was difficult for them to distinguish evil in the camp. For us, also, it seems to be difficult to distinguish evil in the church. Church members seem to be the most blind to evil in their own communities. They can see evil in a night club downtown or in the adult film store or in some politician, but they cannot see sin in their family or church. How tragic that is.
As I wrote in the last post, God could have just told Joshua who the guilty party was, but He didn’t. And I think the reason He didn’t was to give Achan time to confess. God was giving him a chance to admit his wrong and show that he realized what he had done to his people. In fact, I think if he had come forth earlier, perhaps the night before when Joshua said they would draw lots or the next morning or even at the beginning of the lottery process. I think if he came forward then that God would have forgiven Him but he didn’t. Achan hid his deed until the very end.
His stubborn behavior reminds me of something I learned as a child-it is always better to admit your sin to your parents rather than have them discover it. You still get punished, but not as severely. As someone has put it, “The pain of exposure is better than the pain of concealment.”
Achan’s name literally means “trouble” and Joshua played on this in verses 23-25 as he confronted Achan and said, “Why have you troubled us? Why have you lived up to your name Achan?” Achan finally confesses.
Before justice could be carried out, Joshua had to present the evidence that substantiated Achan’s confession. The messengers dug under Achan’s tent and found the stolen items that had brought defeat to Israel. The stolen goods were spread out before the Lord so He could see that all Israel was renouncing their hold on this stolen treasure. The confession and the evidence were enough to convict the accused man. (Joshua 7:22-23)
Since a law in Israel prohibited innocent family members from being punished for the sins of their relatives (Deut. 24:16), Achan’s family must have been guilty of assisting him in this crime.
He and the guilty members of his family were executed. (Joshua 7:24-26)
Achan’s experience shows that there really is no such thing as hidden sin, secret sin. As Numbers 32:23 says, “You can be sure that your sin will find you out.”
As Matthew 6:18 says our God, “…sees what is done in secret.” Psalm 139 goes so far as to say that God knows literally everything about us. He knows, “…when we sit and when we rise….He perceives even our thoughts…He is familiar with all our ways.” There is no where that we can go that He does not see what we do for, “…even the darkness is not dark to Him…” Psalm 90:8 says, “[Oh God] You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence.” As Psalm 10:13 says, “Why does the wicked man say, ‘God won’t call me into account?’” He will. Romans 2:16 says that a day will come when God will, “…judge men’s secrets.” The clear teaching of Scripture is that there is no such thing as a secret sin. Sooner or later our sins will find us out.
One night a drunk husband snuck up the stairs quietly. He looked in the bathroom mirror and carefully bandaged the cuts and scrapes he had received in a fight earlier that night. In his befuddled mind he reasoned that the next morning he would tell his wife the bandages were the result of his cutting himself shaving or something like that. Then he proceeded to climb into bed, smiling at the thought that he had pulled one over on his wife. When morning came, he opened his eyes and there she stood looking down at him. She said, “You were drunk last night weren’t you.” “No, honey.” he replied. She said, “Well, if you weren’t then who put all the band-aids on the bathroom mirror?”
Like this deceptive drunk a time will come when our sins will be revealed. In Achan’s case it took only a few days. Achan had plenty of opportunity to repent but he stubbornly, selfishly refused to do so. He continued to hide his sin and in my mind this is why his punishment was capital. Peter Wagner is right on the money when he writes, “The Bible says, ‘Humble yourself.’ Go ahead and humble yourself because if God has to humble you, it’s too late.”
The apostle Paul said, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.” 1 Corinthians 11:31 If we don’t judge ourselves, God has to step in and judge us, and His judgment is sometimes pretty serious.
But what are we to do? “IF we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 John 1:9
Pray to God and tell Him exactly what you did. That is confession. There can be no joy in our lives; there can be no power in our lives; there can be no victory in our lives until there is confession.
I want to keep a short account with God, will you?