Well, the fall of Jericho went according to God’s plan — mostly. Who knows why we never seem to take God seriously, but Achan didn’t. In our reading today he takes a bit of loot from the banned city of Jericho, and it was a huge problem.
The “ban” boils down to this, everything under the ban is considered “holy”. Holy certainly means that something is separate or different from common things, it is a bit more than that, especially in this context, it is something that belongs to God and is specifically for God’s use alone. For example, knives that were used in the Tabernacle or Temple were considered holy, and that meant that they were only to be used for sacrifice of the animals in service to God. They weren’t to be used as steak knives, to whittle with, or even cut a string. And things given to God were considered holy or under the ban. God also could claim things to be His and His alone — put them under the ban. Jericho and everything in it was one of those things. And something about holiness that you may not know — it’s sort of counter-intuitive — if something holy touches something common, the common thing becomes holy. This is important to know as this story progresses, because Achan decides to take some of the holy things in Jericho and hide them in his own family’s tent. Guess what that makes Achan and the rest of his family.
No one knew what Achan had done at first, until Israel shockingly and distressingly was defeated by little Ai. When Joshua and Israel came in terrible distress at this unexpected defeat, God told them that someone had taken something forbidden, something from the banned city of Jericho. Achan was eventually “fingered” by God as the offender, and the consequence was that his entire family and everything he owned was killed and destroyed! Why? Achan had put them all under the ban by bringing the holy (banned) things into his tent! The principle is contained here…
“The graven images of their gods you are to burn with fire; you shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them, nor take it for yourselves, or you will be snared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. You shall not bring an abomination into your house, and like it come under the ban; you shall utterly detest it and you shall utterly abhor it, for it is something banned.” Deuteronomy 7:25, 26, NAS95.
The treasure looked good, nobody was looking, and did God really care anyway? It’s all too common a rationalization, isn’t it?
Give this a few moments of thought: Christians are called saints, holy ones. What does this imply for us? What use are we to make of ourselves?
Ai was eventually conquered, of course, because Achan’s sin had been atoned for and God was with them again. But Joshua’s challenges were not over yet. Some of the Canaanites could read the handwriting on the wall and attempted to use their wits to save their lives. The Gibeonites came to Joshua looking like they’d been traveling for weeks and months and it was a good enough ruse to fool Joshua into entering into a covenant and treaty with them. Later when he found out that they were really from only a few miles away he … kept his word and learned a really big lesson about checking with God first, before going into covenant with them.
Perhaps you expected Joshua to break the treaty of peace with the Gibeonites. Most westerners would; after all, they lied to Joshua, the misrepresented themselves, they cheated. But to Joshua and to God, one’s word was one’s word. The compromise is that they Gibeonites became slaves to the Tabernacle and put under the ban in that way — still for God’s exclusive use as wood choppers and water carriers (some of the hardest work to be done for the Tabernacle in service to God).
There’s a couple of lessons here for us to take in — God expects us to consult with Him (today, the Bible) and He expects us to keep our word.
” O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? … He swears to his own hurt and does not change;” Psalms 15:1-4, NAS95.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.