Achan (Joshua 7)
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Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord who meditates on his law day and night. With that in mind, let’s meditate on His Word together. Go ahead and grab your Bibles and open up to Joshua chapter seven. That’s where we’ll be this morning. As we continue in our series, People God killed. Now, as you’re turning to Joshua seven, I have a very special surprise for you. I made you all brownies this morning, because I just love you so much. There is a surprise ingredient in them, however, just the tiniest bit of arsenic. That’s what you get for critiquing the length of my sermons. All right. So if you were to compare, I mean, the ratio of arsenic to rich, delicious, creamy chocolate is so low, though it’s almost as nothing. So I’m hoping you will still come and partake. What’s the point of this, I did not make you brownies, some of you are gonna be crushed. I’m sorry. She just said that up front. This was an illustration. The point is that it doesn’t take much of a bad thing to ruin a good thing. Right, just a little bit of poison is enough for you to go I’m gonna pass on dessert. It might be a teenager’s one lie that destroys trust between him and his parents for years, or colleagues one outburst that destroys that sense of teamwork that you’ve been building for the last year or so. Want to keep this in mind as we go. Remember what God is doing here? Because we were in Joshua six last week. So we’re just following right on the heels of where we were. We talked about the fact that God was establishing this New Covenant community by bringing his people into the promised land, they were going to be like this kingdom of heaven on earth, this first outpost of a heaven on earth. But what happens when we bring just a little bit of poison into that new, perfect community that he is trying to create? What should God do? When that’s brought in? That’s what we’re gonna look at this morning. So our story today again, immediately after this wondrous miracle of Jericho, the display of God’s power and goodness, right they’re evident to all and yet immediately followed up by this it’s actually it’s interesting it’s really similar to what happens and acts as God establishes his church and right after that, we’ve got this story with Ananias and Sapphira bringing the poison of sin into the community I mentioned that because we’re we’re gonna hit on them a few points as we go it’s just so interesting right after God does something amazing. It seems like his people are quick to mess it up. So we’re gonna look at this story how they mess it up. We’re looking at it in three acts. This is basically a good crime drama here if you like that sort of things. We get crime investigation and punishment as we go act one, the crime Joshua chapter seven, let me read verses one to nine for us. But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things akin son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of zero of the tribe of Judah took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel. Now, Joshua sent men from Jericho to AI, which is nearby, even to the east of Bethel and told them go up and spy out the region. So the men went up and spied out i. When they returned to Joshua, they said not all the army will have to go up against I said, two or 3000 men to take it and do not weary the whole army for only a few people live there. So about 3000 went up, but they were routed by the men of Ai who killed about 36 of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this, the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water. Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same and sprinkled dust on their heads. And Joshua said, Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring it into bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan part in your servant Lord, what can I say now that Israel has been routed by its enemies, the Canaanites and the other people the country will hear about this, and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name? So we left off last week at this moment of triumph, the last verse we read 627 The Lord was with Joshua and his fame spread throughout the land everybody knew Israel and Israel’s God and then the very next verses Yeah, but
but the Israelites were unfaith fool to this God who had delivered them unfaithful. It’s the idea of spiritual adultery. They’re prostituting themselves to foreign gods to idols, in this case to the god of money. It’s this reminder that word unfaithful that sin is more than just breaking laws. Sin is seeking ultimate joy and significance apart from God. And so sin is at its core relational. It is an asking God to leave if he would. So how does this happen here akin steals some of the devoted things, those things that were intended for the temple, they belonged to God, akin is robbing God here. This has never happened to me. But I can only imagine that if kids robbed from parents steal money from the purse or something like that, I don’t think the biggest concern the parent has is the loss of possessions. It’s the breach in that relationship. How could you do this to me, who has loved you as I have, and that’s what God is experiencing here. The hardest part for us, though, as Westerners is that all Israel it says is culpable for this one man’s sin. We don’t like that. We are a highly individualistic, but we’re not dealing with a Western individualistic culture. Here we’re dealing with a strong group culture, which is true buy land most times, and most places even today, in most parts of the world. If dad sins, the whole family is dishonored. Bringing the family into that shame. We’re weird. Not really Israel at this point. We’re weird, by the way because of Christianity. That has changed us that’s moved us towards individuals. And we’ll see that in a little bit, by the way, but no, this is a communal culture, and an individual’s sin reflects on that community. We do see this today this happens but there’s a police shooting. And people don’t say we should fire this one officer but defund the police as a collective. Or if you don’t like that example, take a different one. It’s just an example. But that’s the point we see this idea. It’s very much like the poison in the brownies idea that that poison doesn’t just sit in the one brownie if it did, you could eat the rest of it. No works its way through it all. I mean, how does scripture say it that little leaven works its way through the whole batch of dough. And so the community is responsible for the community we all are. And when someone sins, it calls into question that community and frankly, the god of that community as well. So akin sin is grievous, and we’re gonna look at ache and sin plenty. But the community is truly at fault in this process. And we see this in their spiritual pride in particular, look what happens, starting in verse two, Joshua, send some spies to check out the land, the spies come back and give their report. And then they help the military devise this strategy which the military carries out. Anyone missing in that story? God, if you’ve read the rest of Joshua is really noticeable. There’s no prayer. There’s no waiting on God. There’s no asking him. What would you have us do as a people they have grown familiar with God, which has been this theme throughout our series, they begin to presume upon his good favor. He was with us last night. He’ll be with us this time. It doesn’t matter what we do. We know he’s always there. This is interesting, because it reminds us that there are two ways to lack faith. And Israel’s done both of them as they’re coming up to the promised land. The first one is the reason why they got to wander around the desert for 40 years at first time, way back at Kadesh. Barnea numbers 14, the first way to lack faith is to think that your God is not big enough. So they show up at the promised land. They go, these people are huge, their cities are huge, we will get wiped out. There’s no way God could actually do this. But there is another way to lack faith is what we see here at AI. It’s not that God isn’t big enough, it’s that we are big enough. We don’t even need God. We can handle this on our own. And depending on our circumstances, we probably fall into both but I would guess most of us fall into that second category more often mean how easy it would be for me to example for example, to to preach without prayer. You know,
I’ve got my education, I got some gifts. I can just do this without the help of God. You and your vocation probably feel the same way. You’re probably good at what you do. And see You can close that deal without the Lord’s help. And without prayer or a life decision, maybe there’s perfunctory prayer, but basically, you’re just going to spy out the land, and then make your strategy on your own. We sing a song here sometimes in the bridge says we won’t move without you. But then we do a lot of the time, and that’s the issue. We need to be careful about this because what happens they go up without God, and they get routed. This is significant by like people die because of Aikens sin. Let’s not forget that because God is no longer with them. He can’t dwell in a sinful camp. After Jericho, this amazing display of God’s power. This is absolutely shocking. This is the World Series champs missing the playoffs the next year, like what happened we were so good last time and now it all fell apart. And so they know something has happened. Joshua leads this corporate lament where they’re tearing their clothes and putting ashes on their head. They’re crying out to God, what happened? It doesn’t make sense. Joshua says that you deliver us out of Egypt. So miraculously, and then knock down Jericho is walls. So miraculously, just to let the wicked Amorites massacre us? I love that in verse nine, we see the Joshua’s primary concern is God’s name, which in Hebrew thought is really just a substitute for His glory, His fame, His honor, what will they say about you, Lord, for Your sake, for Your glory deliver us. In fact, you get this pun on name, even as he he prays, if they wipe out Israel’s name that will defame your name, Lord, which is true. Part of this covenant I mentioned that there’s this breach of covenant part of covenant is that God has bound his glory to His people, and the way we live, which is a bold move, to say the least considering what we know about our selves. But you see the problem quite clearly here in Act One can’t stand against God’s enemies and against our enemies. While sin remains within us. A crime has been committed. And so now we get the who done it, and like a good who done it. We got the first commercial break right here. Then act to the investigation. Let’s keep reading I’m gonna read verses 10 to 18. The Lord said to Joshua, stand up, what are you doing down on your face, Israel has sinned they have violated my covenant which I commanded them to keep. They’ve taken some of the devoted things they have stolen, they have lie, they put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies. They turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. Go consecrate the people. Tell them consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow. For this is what the Lord the God of Israel says, There are devoted things among you Israel, you cannot stand against your enemies until you remove them. In the morning, present yourself tribe by tribe. The tribe the Lord chooses shall come forward clan by clan, the clan the Lord chooses shall come forward family by family, and the family the Lord chooses shall come forward man by man, whoever is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the Lord and has done an outrageous thing in Israel. Early the next morning, Joshua had Israel come forward by tribes, and Judah was chosen. clans of Judah came forward and the Zehra heights were chosen. Here the clans of the Zehra heights come forward by families and Zimri was chosen Joshua had his family come forward man by man and Aiken son of Cami, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, the tribe of Judah was chosen.
Notice, first of all, that this act restores the proper order of things God speaks, then Joshua leads and the people obey. That’s what should have happened last time also. So there’s this investigation to determine guilt. Israel has sinned, there’s poison in the collective brownie pan, they have broken faith with God, and again, violated this covenant. Covenant, which like marriage is what we think of when we think of covenant. So this covenant of how God binds himself to us and yet akin tramples on that counts it as nothing it is this disgusting breach. The word that’s used there as is violate. And it’s the same word that’s used of cross when we think of transgression is to cross a boundary to transgress a boundary. What’s so interesting is that’s a word that’s shown up a lot in Joshua. That’s exactly what the people of Israel are supposed to be doing. They just crossed the Jordan. And now they’re supposed to cross into this land kind of city by city. It shows up in verse seven, it shows up in chapter six as well. But now there’s been this perversion of crossing that has taken place. And so the whole situation changes. In fact, the language of verse 14, where the Lord says he will choose, it’s the same word that often gets translated as take in Joshua, it is the language of conquest. It is the language of the taking a city is the language we use today, of course. And so this selection ceremony is really God’s act of warfare against the nation. Why? Because God opposes sins destructive power, which is now at work in the nation of Israel. And so he has declared a war on sins destruction. He’s going to take this stronghold, not Jericho, but the spiritual stronghold that has been built up in in among the people that he is called by his name. And whoever is caught he says, we’ll be destroyed by fire. Verse 15. Fire we’ve seen a lot of in this series think of Sodom where fire falls from heaven or Nadal and Avi who who are destroyed by a fire. It’s the same sort of punishment that’s going to happen. Now, is God being unfair? Is he is he being too harsh? Was he not clear about this? I read this last week when he read it for us again, this is Josh was six, verse 18, tell me if this is unclear, but keep away from the devoted things so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. God has been oh so clear. Get again, he always is we are without excuse before him. So this is a true transgression. God drew a line in the sand Don’t cross this. And Aiken said, You mean this one? And walks right across it. He is without excuse to rob God is no small thing. Now we’re not told the mechanism of God’s taking or choosing a kin? Are they casting lots? Are they using the human and fumine? It doesn’t matter. That’s why it doesn’t tell us what matters is the suspense in this moment. When just think for a moment, put yourself in Aikens shoes. And imagine how you’re feeling as all this is happening. Do you think you’re escaping notice?
There’s the defeat at AI, first of all. Then there’s Joshua’s prayer of lament. And then his announcement coming out of this, this is what’s going to happen. We’re all gonna gather and the Lord is gonna tell us who did this. He explains the process. And maybe he can still go in? I don’t know, there’s a lot of people here. And then they choose his tribe and his clan and his family. I mean, clearly the guy is sweating bullets at this point. But think of why that’s happening. The Lord could have said Joshua was akin. Go get him. Why does he go through this process because the Lord is slow to anger. One of the points I keep making in this series, even though it’s called people God killed, is the Lord is so slow to anger, he’s giving ache and all that time to repent. Like a can knows what’s coming. Good time to confess. I remember in my years as a teacher down on the mission field, in Colombia, we caught some kids in pretty obvious forgery. The younger brother had gotten in big trouble. And instead of having mom sign the note that said, I understand he’s in big trouble, big sister signed the note, really obvious, like ironclad proof. So I as chaplain got to sit down with these two people and kind of put the stuff out in front of them and was like, Is there anything you want to tell me? That’s the opportunity to repent? That’s the opportunity to say, we shouldn’t have done this. And instead, they just continued with it. No, we got nothing to say. That’s mom’s signature. Okay, so we’ll do this the hard way. We did it the hard way. That’s what Aikens doing here. He’s doing it the hard way, like just stepped forward and own it. But no, he’s cowering in the back. Still. Would things have turned out differently? If when they all gathered that morning, he’d just gone it was me. It was me. He could have done it. Probably things would have turned out differently. A god tends to respond to our repentance. You think of the difference between Saul when Samuel confronts him and Saul says, no, no, no, I didn’t sin. And then when Nathan confronts David and David goes, who was me on the man, I said, and there’s a totally different response on God’s part. If nothing else, though, even if this still ends the same way it would be better for Aiken soul. If he had owned Dutch. And what a word for us today. Don’t hide your sin, bury the evidence and found it in the darkness like Gollum with his ring just confess. This is part of why community exists, why God calls us into community so that you have a safe place to confess sin, a safe place to confess sin because the cross outs US has already outed us. The cross is behind me on the wall as a reminder, we’re wicked people. We sinned, we deserved God’s righteous anger. And yet, graciously, he took it on himself so that it did not have to fall on us. Who are you fooling? God has already told all of us that all of us have sin. So hear me clearly now, the church is not a safe place to sin. The church is not a safe place to sin. Quite the contrary, that’s kind of been the point of this series. But the church is and must always be a safe place to repent. The church is the safe place for you to come in and go, I messed up, and we go, I understand you got sin in your heart. We’ve all messed up. Alright, let’s talk about it. Are you hiding something? Are you trapped in that web of lies like you took that initial wrong turn, and you’re still just going the wrong way? Now is the chance to turn around. Do you know why you haven’t been found out yet? If you are cherishing a hidden sin, it’s because God has given you time to repent. That’s why bring it into the light. If we confess God is faithful, and just and he will forgive us our sins. And if we’re not numbers, 3223, you may be sure that your sin will find you out. There is nothing hidden, that will not be disclosed.
There’s no investigation needed. Because the Lord knows all things. You’re not hiding anything really not from the one person who matters anyway. Like if you’re trying to see what you can get away with, let me help you out here. The answer is nothing. Nothing whatsoever, because you can’t lie to God. Here’s David in Psalm 139. David who tried to keep some things from God. He says this if I say surely the darkness will hide me in the light become night around me. Even the darkness will not be dark to you. The night will shine like the day for darkness is as light to you. Like how often we think we’re sitting in a dark corner, maybe people can’t see us. But the Lord it’s not just like he’s got cool night vision goggles, it’s like noon day to him. The light is shining brightly and all that you do. So don’t play the church game is my point. Our youth are gone today, I’d probably go off with the youth because that’s one of the key places where this happens. But it’s happened with college students has happened with adults as way late. You may fool your parents, or your peers for a time you will not fool God. And it’s worse. Your heart is a living thing. And as a living thing, it means it’s constantly changing. It is either going softer or harder at every moment you cuddle your hidden sin and watch your heart twist and calcify and harden and possibly irrevocably, which should terrify us. But God has given us the solution. We don’t need to fear this. God has given us the solution. Just own it. Say it out loud. Maybe that’s in community group. Maybe that’s in Journey group. Maybe that’s in counseling. You will wish you had in the end, certainly Aiken wishes he had as we’ll see an act three punishment when he read the rest of the chapter for us beginning in verse 19. Then Josh was said to akin my son give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel and honor him. Tell me what you have done. Do not hide it from me. Aiken replied, It is true. I’ve sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done. When I saw in the plunder of beautiful robe from Babylonia, 200 shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels I coveted them and took them. They’re hidden in the ground inside my tent with a silver underneath. So Joshua sent messengers and they ran to the tent and there it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the Lord. Then Joshua together with all Israel took Aikens son of their the silver the road, the gold bar, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had the Valley of a core, and Joshua said, Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today than all Israel stoned him. After they had stoned the rest, they burned them. Over Aiken they heaped up a large pile of rocks which remains to this day and Lord turned from his fierce anger. Therefore, that place has been called the Valley of a core Ever since. Aiken comes clean, once he has no other option, and he acknowledges that he has sinned and he’s sinned against God’s specifically all sin is against God. Like David says in Psalm 51 against you, you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight, acknowledgement of the relational breach that has occurred. It’s so interesting. He describes what happened when he sinned. And it’s what we all do when we sin, by the way, all the way back to our very first father and mother in Eden, says when I saw
that something was beautiful, the word could also be rendered desirable. I coveted it. And I took it exactly what Eden says, when I saw that the fruit was desirable for gaining wisdom, I took some, we’re always trying to make ourselves happy without God. That’s what he’s done to. And here he thinks it is an abundance of possessions that will bring Him joy. Now, this is a significant amount, you probably have a footnote at the bottom of your Bible that tells you how many pounds this is. But this is several pounds of gold and silver plus a bunch of other stuff. And it’s buried in the ground under his tent. And by the way, this helps us understand some of why the family is caught up in his guilt. My one daughter said as we were talking about this as a family this week, if Dad dug a hole in the living room and put some things in it that he shouldn’t have had, do you think we’d notice? The answer is yeah, they should have said something is the reality and so they are equally culpable, of course, but it does go deeper than that. I get that this is hard for us because we are individualists. But this is what’s happening because Aiken Dishonored it God’s name. He has a stolen God’s glory. Akin has to relinquish his name, which was important for the Israelites and so he is not granted descendants at this point. What a contrast, by the way, with Rahab last week whose name is preserved Rahab, the Canaanite, the prostitute Her name is preserved. She is given descendants among those descendants is Jesus Himself. Aiken does not get descendants His name is not preserved, even though he’s an Israelite with a religious upbringing. It just reminds us by the way, how grace works. that Christianity is not a question of the religious versus the irreligious, but the repentant versus the not. All are welcome, who will come in repentance and faith. Now I gotta say, because some of you are looking at me really nervous right now, your kids around you and stuff. We are individualist as I said, Because of Christianity. Because there is this shift in the new covenant that happens, where we are no longer guilty of another’s sin. There’s a huge change between the Old Covenant and the new covenant. The old covenant was national, racial, tribal, right, it had to do with the people of Israel, specifically, the new covenant in Christ is both bigger and smaller simultaneously. It is not national, but global, and universal. All donations may enter in as we’ve seen throughout this series, but it’s also smaller because it is personal, and individual. There are plenty of us here who are here alone among our families, and we have come out in our families have not but here’s what Jeremiah says, for example, Jeremiah 31, verses 29 and 30. You can see this shift happening in those days. That is when the New Covenant is established, people will no longer say the parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. Instead, everyone will die for their own sin. Whoever eats sour grapes, their own teeth will be set on edge. The very next verse, By the way, Jeremiah 3131, is in those days, I will establish a new covenant. So that’s where we’re going. Now, that does mean some things for us. One thing it means like this is good news. If your parents were really messed up, you don’t have to get stoned to death. That’s great. We also don’t stone people to death anymore. Lots of things we could talk about there. But the bad news is, you can’t blame your parents any longer. Your family of origin may explain you it does not excuse you, under the terms of the New Covenant, you are responsible for your own sin. There is this chilling end of the story. This is the kind of story that makes us uncomfortable for sure. They take him outside the camp that is significant. And where does sin go outside the city? And that’s what’s happening here. He’s been taken outside the camp outside the city, he’s being exiled and they stone him there and his family. And then they are burned up, which is fulfillment of verse 15. And they’ll be destroyed by fire. We’re expecting fire from heaven, especially with a series like this and that’s not What happened but instead the stuff that is, in essence devoted to God is burned up. That’s what happens. It’s almost a sacrificial moment here. This raises all the same questions for us that we keep asking throughout the series. Is God too harsh? Like, this doesn’t seem like that big a deal if ever you wanted to have that excuse of it didn’t hurt anyone. Surely this didn’t hurt anyone. I guess was either stuff they were going to burn up anyway or a little extra in the temple treasury, why wouldn’t he be given a second chance at least? Well, let’s
not forget all that we’ve learned in this series. So we can make sense of this. We learned last week, in the last chapter, that God’s purpose ultimate purpose in human history is to reconcile Heaven and Earth, to bring them back together after they were fractured, separated at the fall. And so he establishes the nation of Israel in the Promised Land as this first outpost of Heaven on Earth, he’s driving the hell out of at least this land to start with. But what happens when he discovers that Hal was actually inside the camp, just a little poison in the brownies, sure, so much chocolate, but still, there’s poison there. If God is going to establish this new city, without sin without pain without mourning, then he can’t leave the rubbish of sin inside, it needs to be cast outside the camp. That’s the main idea like this is what we take away from this passage. Certainly, God will not permit even a trace of sin to remain in the New Covenant community. Not ultimately, because that would wreck it at the get go. So his purpose is loving everything we saw last week, His purpose is loving, he is still doing violence to violence. Specifically, He’s declaring war on war, his intent is peace, what we sang about that time when there will be shalom, his intent is peace and purity, his intent is not vengeance. And the irony in all this, of course, is that the irony of our complaints in particular that God is too harsh here is that this is exactly what we want. When we keep calling out to God for like, we want God to deal with hypocrisy among his people. I mentioned earlier in the series, one of my closest friends was abused by a priest, my favorite writers, his wife was abused by a pastor and we go, you’re going to do something about that, Lord? And how often by the way does Jesus say they’re gonna be surprises on Judgement Day? Because the prostitutes and tax collectors, people like Ray habarana come into the kingdom because they’ve left their sin behind. And the people who don’t think they have any sin, because they got the right religious title are gonna be left outside because their sin remains. So we want God to deal with hypocrisy, do we then get angry with him when he does? No way. Because if he didn’t deal with it, that would infect heaven, like scandals infect the church. In fact, it’s more serious inside the people of God. This is why Peter says First Peter 417, it is time for judgment to begin with us, with us with God’s household. And how this changes the whole framework of understanding judgment. Again, it’s not us versus them. The good people we hang out in this room, the bad people who are out there No, it is God versus sin. And God verses sins, destructive power wherever he finds it. Now this is undoubtedly a severe mercy. But make no mistake, it is mercy. What God does hear anything No, it’s punishment. It wasn’t mercy. Punishment can be mercy. I mean, you think the kid who’s constantly getting into trouble? The best thing for him might be to leave them in jail overnight one time. Like a parent bailing you out over and over and over again, is teaching you what your actions have no consequences. Well, guess what lesson you’re gonna learn. It doesn’t matter what I do. I can just keep going on my merry way. But that night in jail that might change your life forever, that might finally open your eyes to what’s happening. The absence of punishment? Hear me on this the absence of punishment is not a sign of mercy. It is a sign of abandonment.
That’s what happens when God says, Okay, fine, go your own way. Romans one tells us that is the harshest punishment when we are handed over to our sins. God has two choices and a moment like this, he could choose mercy in judgment, in essence, to punish the body so that you can save the soul. Or God can choose judgment in leniency. And so let people continue to harden their hearts against him. Thomas Brooks, the great Puritan preacher says it like this God is most angry when he shows no anger. And he says this, this is a shocking statement. He says, God keep me from Mercy. This kind of mercy is worse than all other misery. A few chapters later, he says it’s a little bit like when the doctor finally gives up on the patient, there’s nothing more I can do. Like that’s when you bring the death now, that person’s a goner. And so when God says, very well, you’re on your own. All hope is then lost. Now, I know some of us have this question going in our minds, because I keep saying, okay, punishment is a sign of mercy, in essence that God is directing and chasing us. Okay. There’s a whole lot of sin in this room right here. Yeah, right. Yes. Okay. Good. Thank you. So how come we aren’t like dying regularly? Then? It kind of takes us back to the question we asked under Uzza when he gets wiped out. And I quoted Hans Cohn, who said, the most mysterious aspect of sin is not that sometimes God zaps a sinner dead. The most mysterious aspect of sin is that most of the time the sinner is allowed to continue living. That’s shocking. So what’s going on here? Why does God do it here and I think looking at Acts, chapter four will help us understand what’s going on here. I mentioned Ananias and Sapphira. Very similar story, right, as the church is being formed. And churches formed in Acts chapter two, this is chapter four, but like, right there, okay. Early weeks, the church being formed, similar kind of situation, actually, there’s a holding back of money. In this case, I’m sure greed motivates it. But more likely, it’s reputation in the community that motivates their sin, where they sell their field. And they say, here’s all the money we got for the field, except it wasn’t. And so they’re lying, not just to the church, they’re lying to the Spirit. Luke tells us in Acts, and so what happens there struck down dead. They’re struck down dead. But what’s so interesting is, in both cases, it’s right, as the new community is being established, right, as Israel gets into the Promised Land, right, as the church is born. And so God acts in both cases in extreme ways in order to nip it in the bud, which serves as a warning then, which is grace to us. And it’s interesting, of course, like Israel gets the picture, read the rest of Joshua, they do pretty well after this. We read at the end of Acts chapter four, actually, after five, I’m gonna say that for this whole time, it’s actually chapter five, or the the end of the anodized inspira story, it says, great fear fell upon the people.
Yep, that would, that would happen, wouldn’t it. But as a result, of course, then they grow as a church because they deal with their sin, it serves as a warning, which is grace to us. Like you don’t begrudge the warning when it’s saved. You don’t begrudge the person who tackles you as you’re about to walk off a cliff, you thank them. And that’s what’s happening here. And we get the graciousness of this moment if we play make believe. Like, what happens if God is lenient, and he doesn’t punish a can and his family? What do you think happens to Aikens heart? It will harden because now he knows I can get away with sin. What do you think happens to his kids? Who seemed like innocent victims and all of this although they are not? What are they gonna learn? They’re gonna learn that they can get away with it. They will learn hypocrisy, that you can just play church, and they will learn delight in sin, so their bodies may thrive, but their souls will die. And then others will find out of course, eventually people gonna go boy Aikens a whole lot richer than he used to be, wonder how that happened, and what is going to happen in the community and now we got poison in the bloodstream, the infection is going to spread. And this is one of the reasons by the way, why the so called harm principle fails as a matter of ethics. Again, he didn’t hurt anyone. Right now. He’s doing enormous harm to others, to his family and to the community. Never mind to God No wonder God will not permit even a trace of sin to remain in the New Covenant community because He loves us. And he hates sins destructive power in our lives. So what does this then mean for us practically? What do we do as we go from here I got three takeaways for us. We can learn from Joshua seven. First of all, it means we better eradicate sin, eradicate sin, akin and I this story, it is a parable for the Christian life in so many ways. It is the reminder that we cannot allow hidden sin in our lives and expect to flourish really in any way but especially spiritually. And so we got to deal with it as ruthlessly as Israel deals with the sin in this story. Like last week, we put on the full armor of God, because this is warfare, right so that we can take our stand against the devil’s schemes. We fight to eradicate sin in our lives be killing sin, John Owen said or sin will be killing you. Eradicate sins second, endure trials. This is not straight from the text. But it is implicit here. Like our dear desire should be letting God drain the poison from our bloodstream. Kill the infection within us. However, not just by the way punishment for sin, sometimes you can kind of draw that one to one connection. Sometimes you can’t sometimes you’re just going through a hard time. But what do we think about those moments when we’re going through trials? The Bible is straightforward. God uses trials to mature us in the faith. Romans eight God works all things for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose. He uses all things to conform us to the image of His Son First Peter one we’re being refined like gold in the fire was AW Tozer who said, I don’t think I’ve learned anything of value that I have not learned in affliction. And so we endure trials because we know if that’s what God’s gonna use to get this poison out of my life, then thank God, third will be longer here. engage others. engage others one piece we can’t miss in this story is the importance of community. Did you notice it’s all Israel, that stones Aiken at the end? This is why I chose this story by the way and not Ananias and Sapphira. I’m cheating. Okay, I just talked about you should confess your sin. So here you go.
I cheated this week. Because God did not kill Aiken, Israel killed Aiken. And God zapped and niacin, Sapphira. Dead. They’re a much better choice except I wanted us to talk about this piece that the community was involved in purging sin from among them. I said before your sin reflects on your community. And on the God that community proclaims mean for how many years after the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. Did that reflect negatively on not just individual priests but the Catholic Church? Still, in so many ways? What about evangelicals? We don’t have any problems like that, right? Ravi Zacharias, Mark Driscoll, James McDonald, Bill Hybels, Brian Houston, Carl lens, I could keep going. You have 100 others I could mention real quick. Do you think that’s reflected negatively on the Evan Jellicle church at all? And what culture thinks about us? That’s why the community is involved in the punishment. Because we’re implicated in it as well. This shocks us I get but it shouldn’t. We should be zealous for the purity of this community. The community is responsible for the holiness of the community, which means you are responsible for the holiness of this community. We saw this in June we just did you’d be merciful to those who doubt save others by snatching them from the fire to others show mercy mixed with fear hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. We get involved we engage in the mass. Now I gotta talk for a moment here about what this looks like. I cannot form a community for you. Now there can Kyle or the other elders. It is not our job to form a community. me say that again, because I’m not sure everyone’s clear on that. It is not our job to form community it would be impossible. How can we possibly connect you in those ways? All we can do is creates structures, spaces for community to form. But you have got to engage in those structures that are created, again, community groups, Journey groups, whatever this looks like. But that means that we all have this part to play, we all engage each other. We have conversations regularly, in which we engage in loving, rebuke. Otherwise, we’re just toddlers tattling. I cannot tell you how many times people come to me and let me know about somebody else’s sin. I’m going What do you want me to do about it? No, me to say so and so told me. That’s gossip. That’s not spiritual. You come to me and say that, here’s what I’m gonna tell you this way. You don’t have to come to me anymore. Go talk to them. You were the one who was there in engage with your community. This is the pattern Jesus sets for church discipline anyway, which is exactly what our story is about. Jesus says, If you see a brother or sister in sin, go tell your past. No, go talk to them. You see something, you say something, if they don’t respond if they harden their hearts to Okay, now you involve others. And that is church discipline. That’s significant. One reason we emphasize membership at this church and we certainly do. Membership class starts in two weeks, by the way, so come on, sign up for it. It defines the community. It tells us where the walls are. And it allows for discipline, we cannot do discipline where there isn’t membership. And that’s significant. Why because discipline is mercy. Discipline is mercy. I’ve done church discipline a number of times my life, it doesn’t happen regularly. It happens sometimes. Twice. I’ve done it where the person just left and went to another church. And we do what we should do there. I call up that pastor and say, Hey, so and so’s come to your church. They’re under discipline. And both times you know, the pastor did nothing. That is a heartbreaking, because that is a handing someone over to death.
You see how important this is? Why it matters. But here’s the thing, we don’t want to have to get to that stage anyway. Can I say it like this you are the gentlest discipline your friends and family will know. Because if you call me it gets intense. Because now the principal’s in the room. And that just gets you know, it’s all much bigger deal. Love your brothers and sisters in Christ enough to act we struggle with cowardice in community. We are guilty of a sinful politeness that scripture condemns engage, duly read it for us earlier speak the truth in love. That’s how the body is built up and matures. And if somebody had done it would it have been a different story for Aiken and his kids, God will not permit even a trace of sin to remain in the New Covenant community. Because if he did, that would make hell of heaven. So eradicate sin in your own life. endure trials is purifying grace and engage with others be zealous for the purity of the community, to Let’s eat the brownies, by all means. Let’s get the poison out. First, let’s pray.
Father, we are grateful for your discipline in our lives. We know that you discipline us because you love us as a father loves His children. The discipline is how you correct us for our good, so that we can experience life and not death, both in this life and forever. Help us Lord, to receive discipline as an act of mercy, to receive it with thanksgiving. And to receive it with humble soft hearts. As you by your Spirit empower us to eradicate sin in our own lives and to be zealous to help others eradicate sin in their lives to God. Would you form us into the sort of community that is passionate about the purity of the people of God? Because we know that our lives will either bring you honor or dishonor and we would love a ball above all else for you to be glorified in and through us. Amen.