This text always gets me.
Here is the background.
In Joshua chapter 7 we read about Achan's sin in taking things from Jericho, which the Lord had commanded them against.(Joshua 6:17-19) His sin led to the defeat of the Israelite army by Ai and the death of about 36 men.
After Joshua and the elders fell on their faces crying out to God, he revealed to them what had happened and the punishment to be suffered by the guilty, to purify the camp of Israel.(Joshua 7:11,15)
The next morning the people were brought forth by tribes, clans, and households until finally Achan was revealed as the one who had sinned.(Joshua 7:18) Right here I think it is worthy to note that Achan could have confessed on his own, but instead waited until he was singled out, hoping to the very end that he wouldn't get caught.
I'll let scripture tell what happened next.
And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor.
And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The LORD brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones.This is where I struggle. They stoned and burned his sons and daughters. Now the text doesn't say how old they were. They could of all been adults at this time. Having young children myself, I always think of them being young. Though I have no reason to, it just adds to the shock factor.
(Joshua 7:24-25 ESV)
So how should we respond to this.
- First, we should see this as an example of the seriousness of sin. Our Holy God, doesn't take sin lightly, and neither should we.
- Next, we should be upset by the punishment suffered by sinners. Pain and suffering is real regardless of whether or not someone "deserves" it. We can become so hardened to the consequences that others face, that sometimes we even rejoice when people get what we feel they deserve. This shouldn't be, and is a testament to the fact that we often forget that we are saved by grace, and not because we are good or without guilt. Just think how broken and burdened our hearts should be for those who will one day suffer eternal torment in Hell.
- Finally, sin hurts more than just ourselves. I have a gut wrenching reaction when I read of the death of Achan's children, but doesn't all sin effect more than just the guilty? It can be so easy to overlook the deaths of the 36 Israelites in the battle against Ai. These died as a direct result Achan's sin. Their blood is on his hands. Think of their families and the pain they are experiencing.
Not only did these suffer, but the whole congregation suffered the crushing blow of defeat on their courage and resolve to follow God's commands. Could they trust God to always be faithful? Would he leave them to die at the hands of their enemies? Achan's sin inflicted the people of God with discouragement and doubt.
Yes, if there is anything we should take from this, it is that our sin affects more than just ourselves. The consequences of our actions can hurt those around us, even those we love most.