Achan’s sin was an unfortunate sin. Like us, he probably had many other sins but this one sin costed his life. This one sin was recorded that generations, generations and generations after him would read his account. His sin was unforgettable because it not only became his sin, but his family’s and his entire nation. Achan’s sin nearly costed his nation, Israel, victory against their enemy. This near loss caused Joshua the commander of Israel’s army to go to God’s presence till evening, asking Him why He allowed the near loss. Joshua did not know it was because of Achan’s sin. Only Achan knew of his sin. God knew it too and let Joshua in on the sin but not the actual sinner.
‘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 have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why Israel 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 any more unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.’
The next day Joshua seeks to find out who caused this rage against God and summons all Israel, person after person. When Achan appears, he confesses, ‘It is true, I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done; 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’ (v20-21).
The enemy nations worshipped many gods carved of gold and silver made of human hands. God distasted their practices as He only required the worship and would not share His glory with another- more so with gods that had ears but could not hear and mouths but could not speak. This caused the enemy nations to be an abomination before God. The Israelites for a while shared in this abomination brought about by Achan who took some of their defiled possessions.
Surely, no one would think these few casual possessions would have dire consequences. God had earlier warned of one of the punishments for disobedience; ‘you will flee even when no one is pursuing you’ (Leviticus 26:17). True to it, Achan’s sin caused the Israelite army to run away from their enemies after some of their men had been killed. ‘At this the hearts of the people melted and became like water’ (v5).
As God tells Joshua Achan’s sin made him and Israelites liable to destruction, He also says, ‘You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it’ (v13). After Joshua and the Israelites burned the artefacts alongside Achan and his entire family, they were able to defeat their enemies. I pondered, why wouldn’t the devoted artefacts simply be destroyed, and Achan and his family allowed to live? In Deuteronomy 7:26, God clarifies, ‘Do not bring a detestable thing into your house or you, like it, will be set apart for destruction’.
Achan’s sin made him liable to destruction because he attached to something liable to destruction. He brought a detestable thing from the enemy’s camp to his tent. And because Achan attached himself to a detestable object, he became detestable to God- him, his family and his nation. Like Achan, we may carry things from the enemy’s camp because they seem attractive or so insignificant to cause us to draw away from God. Little do we know that its effects ripples, affecting us, our families and where we live.
We harbour malice, unforgiveness, injustice, worship idols in form of other gods, money and success, consult astrology, fortune tellers and people or things other than God, or open up our spirit man to foreign and evil spirits in the name of exercising or entertainment. Whatever it is we may allow in our physical or spiritual house- our bodies where God ought to dwell- we become liable to destruction on account of them because ‘what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial (the devil)?’ (2 Corinthians 6:14,15) or as Jesus puts it ‘no one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other’ (Matthew 6:24).