Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. IT DISOBEYS A COMMANDMENT. Only two precepts had been issued at the sacking of Jericho, one to spare Rahab and her family, another to "keep from the accursed thing," and the latter precept was broken. The command was distinct, unmistakable; no difficulty in comprehending its import. Scripture defines sin as the "transgression of the law." "By the law is the knowledge of sin." A prohibition tests man's obedience perhaps even more than an injunction to perform some positive act. The tempter easily lays hold of it, keeps it before the eye, irritates man's self will, and insinuates doubts respecting the reason of the prohibition. Christ endorsed the moral law of the old dispensation - nay, made it even more stringent; but He altered the principle of obedience, or, better still, increased the power of the motives to compliance. When we sin we still transgress a law, and sins of wilful commission are, in number, out of all proportion to sins of ignorance.
II. SIN IS OFTEN THE EFFECT OF COVETOUS DESIRES. - Achan saw, coveted, and took (ver. 21). The seeing was innocent; the dwelling on the object of sight with desire was sinful. "Coveted" is the same word as used in Genesis 3:6. "Saw... a tree to be desired." "When lust (desire) hath conceived it bringeth forth sin." The outward object has no power to make us fall except as it corresponds to an inward affection. If the object be gazed upon long, the affection may be inordinately excited, and desire produce sinful action. Hence the counsel of the wise man regarding "the path of the wicked: .... Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away." It is not mixing in the world to perform our duties that is reprobated, nor even that amount of care which shall secure us an honourable position therein; but such an intent fixing of the eye upon riches, honour, pleasure, as denotes a love of the world and the things that are in it. Our affection must be set on things above as the best preservation against the influence of unholy passions; for where the heart is occupied, there evil finds it hard to effect a lodgment.
III. SIN ROBS GOD. - All the metals were to be brought to the treasury, to be dedicated to the use of Jehovah (Joshua 6:19). But Achan wished to appropriate a portion to his own ends, thus taking what belonged to God. He set up self in opposition to his God. Sin deprives God not only of gold, but of honour, love, obedience, and the use of those talents committed to men, that they may be faithful servants and stewards, not sordid proprietors. From the sinner's heart ascends no sweet incense of faith and love; in the household of the worlding there is no family altar with its grateful offering of prayer and praise; the body of the unbeliever, instead of being a temple of God, is part of the kingdom of darkness.
IV. SIN IMPLIES A DELIGHT IN WHAT GOD ABOMINATES. The possessions of the Canaanites were placed under the ban; they were denominated "the accursed thing." The Babylonish garment was to have been burnt, and the silver and gold could only be redeemed from the curse by being set apart for sacred uses. The very fact that the Almighty had condemned the property should have been sufficient to deter any one from seeking to seize it. And so with us; regard for our Father in heaven ought at once to make us shun what He has declared hateful, and look upon it with aversion; and belief in His unerring discernment should cause us readily to acquiesce in His judgment, even if at first sight the places and practices condemned do not appear hideous or sinful. The grievous nature of sin is evinced in its betrayal of a hankering after what the laws of God denounce, and consequently its revelation of a character differing from that of God, loving what is unlovely in His sight.
V. SIN IN GOD S PEOPLE IS A VIOLATION OF A COVENANT. Achan had transgressed the "covenant" (vers. 11 and 15), or, as it is expressed in ver. 1, had "committed a trespass " - i.e., a breach of trust - had acted faithlessly. Jericho, as the first city taken, was to be made an example of, and therefore none of the spoil was to accrue to the Israelites, but the plunder of other cities was to be allowed to enrich them. Yet Achan disregarded the understood agreement. Nor must it be forgotten that Israel stood in a peculiar relationship to the Almighty, who promised to bless them if they adhered to the terms of the covenant, which required them to be very obedient unto every commandment which the Lord should give by the mouth of His accredited messengers. A similar covenant is reaffirmed under the gospel dispensation, only it is pre-eminently a covenant of grace, not of works. Jesus died that they who lived should henceforth live unto Him who died for them. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and all other things shall be added unto you," was the stipulation of the great Teacher. To "sin wilfully" is to count the blood of the covenant wherewith we axe sanctified an unholy thing (Hebrews 10:29). Jesus is the Mediator of a "new covenant." The same epistle concludes with a prayer that the God who, in virtue of the blood of the everlasting covenant, raised Christ from the dead, may perfect His people in every good work, that thus on both sides the "conditions" may be observed.
VI. SECRECY IS THE USUAL ACCOMPANIMENT OF SIN. Achan did not wear the "garment" or exhibit the "gold," but hid his plunder "in the earth in the midst of his tent" (ver. 21). The attempt to cloak sin may arise either from a feeling of shame, or from the fear of detection and punishment. This last is a baser motive than the first. Shame is an evidence that the man is not wholly bad, that the voice of conscience has not been totally silenced. That after the Fall our first parents did not set their faces;like a flint was a testimony that evil had not acquired complete mastery over them. Oh that men visited with these compunctions of conscience would attend to the self attesting nature of sin! We may rejoice in the endeavour to conceal crimes, so far as it indicates that society is not yet so corrupt as unblushingly to acknowledge sin as such. Since God mentions the "dissembling" of Achan as aggravating his offence, it is probable that he was afraid of the vengeance which discovery would bring upon his head. Already sin was inflicting its punishment. There could not be open, unrestrained fruition of ill-gotten gains. Rejoicing naturally demands the presence of others to share our joy, and by participation to increase the common stock; but there can be no such gathering to greet the result of sins, for they -
"The cloak of night being plucked from off their backs,
(1) the relation of Achan and his in to the people;
(2) the relation of the people to Achan's sin.
I. NOTE THE INFLUENCE THE SIN OF ONE MAN MAY NAVE ON THE LIFE AND DESTINY OF MANY OTHERS. Nothing is said about the effect of Achan's trespass on his family, except that it involved them with himself in the same miserable end. We are not told whether he had any associates in crime. Probably he had. Men are seldom able to keep dark secrets like tiffs locked up long in their own bosoms. But however this may be, we cannot well confine our thoughts to the mere participation in punishment. We are reminded of those bearings of human conduct which are at work long before the final issues stand revealed - the near, as well as remote, effects of wrong doing. Men cannot sin alone any more than "perish" alone (Joshua 22:20). Consider that great law of moral action and reaction that underlies all the superficial forms of social life, and which is to it very much what the laws of chemical affinity or of attraction and gravitation are to nature. By this men are held together, linked one with another, cemented into one living anti organic whole. By virtue of this we are continually giving and receiving impulses. And it is as impossible that we should act without producing effects on others, as that the smooth surface of a lake should be broken and there be no undulations spreading to the banks. This influence will be for good or ill according to a man's personal character. Our words and deeds, charged with the moral quality of our own inner life, tend thus inevitably to awaken something like them in others. Every good man diffuses a moral influence that assimilates all around him to his own goodness. Every bad man stands in the midst of human society the moral image of the deadly upas tree, blighting and withering crew fair thing that comes within its shadow. "Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone!" Go not near him. For your own sake "let him alone!" So with every single act of transgression. We may not be able to trace its moral issues; only know that it adds to the ever-accumulating sum of the world's evil. So far as its power reaches it is another contribution to the building up of Satan's kingdom among men, another blow struck at the kingdom of truth and righteousness. Moreover, sin cannot always be hid, though men seek the darkness for the doing of their dark deeds - though the memorials of their guilt be carefully concealed, like the "costly garment," etc., of Achan beneath the ground - yet God's eye "seeth in secret," and He will sooner or later "reward it openly." "For nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest," etc. (Luke 8:17). "Be sure your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23). And as its influence spreads far beyond the place of its birth, so its penalty will fall on the innocent as well as the guilty. All this may seem out of harmony with the present dispensation of grace. But not so. Christianity does not alter the fundamental laws of moral government. These considerations clothe the sinner with guilt independently of the intrinsic quality of his deed. They deepen the shadow that rents on the path of the transgressor.
II. THE RELATION OF THE PEOPLE TO ACHAN'S SIN. The crime of this one man is imputed to all Israel on the principle of the organic unity of the nation. As the body is said to be diseased or wounded, though the malady may lie only in one of its members, so his trespass destroyed the moral integrity of the whole nation. We are reminded of certain ways in which a community may be implicated in a wrong actually done by only one of its members.
(1) When the sin does but give definite expression to a spirit prevailing more or less through all. Distinct forms of practical evil often bring to light principles that are secretly leavening a whole society. It is vow possible that Achan's solitary trespass was indicative of a spirit of insubordination, or of selfish greed among the people, that would have utterly subverted the Divine purpose if it had not been thus sternly rebuked at the beginning. Upon this principle of fellowship of spirit Christ said that "all the righteous blood shed on the earth" should come on that generation (Matthew 23:35); and Peter charged the multitude on the day of Pentecost with having slain "the Holy One and the Just," though many of them can have had no actual part in the transgression (Acts 2:23; Acts 3:14, 15).
(2) When the many connive at that sin, or share the profit of it. Men sin by proxy, and thus think to secure the end without involving themselves in the wrongful means that lead to it. But to consent to reap any part of the profit of an iniquitous transaction - to place yourself willingly in any sort of connection with it - is to share its guilt. Indeed, the moral sense of mankind declares that there is a special criminality, an added element of baseness and meanness, belonging to him who has such indirect interest in the wrong doing of others. The question of so-called "national sins" arises here. A national sin is one committed in the name of a nation by its representatives, or on which the State sets the stamp of its authority and license. If Achan's sin had been connived at by Joshua and the elders it would have been a national sin.
(3) When those who are aggrieved by the sin fail to bear faithful witness against it. The guilt of this "trespass" rested on all Israel until, by public condemnation, it was wiped out (2 Corinthians 7:11). - W.
I. THE CAUSE OF THIS SIN is covetousness born of the selfishness which leads to rebellion. The unhappy Achan could not resist the desire to secure for himself a share of the booty, he sought his own selfish ends in the cause of God. That cause requires to be served with complete self devotion, and with an eye to God alone. Achan thought first of satisfying his own avarice. A holy war must be waged holily. From the moment when the base passion of selfishness creeps in, it ceases to be a holy war. It is then even worse than any other war, for God will not suffer His name to be profaned. Whenever the so-called defenders of the Church have sought their own glory, when they have aimed at securing power or fortune for themselves, they have paved the way for defeat. This is equally true of individuals. To make use of the cause of God for one's own ends is not only to dishonour, but fatally to compromise it; for it is then no longer the cause of God, but the cause of the devil.
II. THE EFFECT of intermeddling with the accursed thing IS TO LOSE THE HELP OF GOD, and to bring down His anger. The heavenly Father is no blind and unjust parent, who has favourites whose transgressions He winks at. He chastises those whom He loves, and because He loves them; He does not allow them to harden their hearts in rebellion against Him. Hence He makes them feel the Father's chastening rod (Hebrews 12:16). It is not tolerable, moreover, that the cause of God should be confounded with that of ambition and self seeking, or that His name should be used as a cloak for covetousness. Therefore, as soon as Israel violates the covenant of God, it is visited with condign punishment. The victory of the rebel who makes use of the name of God would be, for that very reason, worse than his defeat. Defeat will show that the honor of God cannot be sullied by the sins of His people, for He repudiates them. We must not be suprised at finding that in every age God has made His people pass through the sharpest ordeal of chastisement. The heaviest of all chastisements is the interruption of communication with God. The heavens are pitiless iron and brass so long as the accursed thing is tampered with. The sin forms a wall between God and the soul, which there is no passing through.
III. THE REPARATION OF THIS EVIL IMPLIES TWO SUCCESSIVE ACTS.
1. Its confession. Achan must acknowledge his sin before all the people.
2. The utter putting away of the accursed thing. Under the stern discipline of the old covenant, the guilty man perished with his unlawful prey. Under the new covenant, the justice of God is satisfied with that inward death which is called mortification, and which ought to be a true sacrifice of self. It is equally true now, however, that mere confession is not enough; that the idol must be consumed in the sacrificial fire. Any one who keeps in his possession the accursed thing, places himself under condemnation from which there is no escape. It does not signify whether the forbidden thing be materially of much or little value. It might have been thought that the theft of a single garment and of two hundred shekels of silver was of small account amidst all the rich booty of Jericho. It is the act itself which God condemns. The smallest forbidden thing retained is enough to shut up the heavens, and to draw down upon our Church, our home, and ourselves the severe judgment of God till it has been confessed and put away. - E.DE.P.
I. EVERY SIN IS KNOWN TO GOD. Joshua was ignorant that Achan had secreted spoil, but the searching glances of God reached further than the most watchful oversight of the leader. As afterwards, when the disciples did not suspect the character and intents of Judas, the Lord discerned the sinister proposes of his heart. The omniscience and omnipresence of the Almighty have been strangely disregarded even by His own servants. Witness the curious flight of Jonah, as if he could really "flee from the presence of the Lord." "I know thy works" is the heading to the practical address in nearly each of the seven letters to the Churches of Asia. "Thou God seest me."
II. SIN REVEALED BY FAILURE IN AN UNDERTAKING. The overthrow of Jericho inspired the Israelites with such confidence that they disdained to employ all their forces in assaulting Ai. To their surprise, their attack was repulsed with loss. The greater the previous security, the more intense the subsequent alarm. They were unconscious of the presence of a traitor in the camp. The theft of Achan was a stronger opponent than the men of the city. Sin destroys our power. As one has quaintly observed, "In running a race, an inward pain hinders more than if a dozen men jostled you." When men have taken cold, they immediately reflect where they could have been exposed to draught, and non success in any enterprise causes us to inquire. What have we done amiss? Trouble leads us to scrutinise our past life, conscience accuses of sins which have deserved, if they have not actually drawn upon us, this proof of Divine displeasure. Self examination is healthful if not carried to excessive lengths; it may produce "carefulness, clearing of ourselves," etc. (2 Corinthians 7:11). The effect of sin is not confined to the particular guilty member. Sin taints the community, or often involves it in its suffering. As a drop of ink discolours a whole glass of water, so thousands of innocent persons may be affected by the neighbourhood of one sinner. This concerns us individually, for if one limb offends, the body is defiled; and collectively, as members of Churches, and as belonging to a nation.
III. THE OFFENCE MADE KNOWN IN ANSWER TO PRAYER. Deep was Joshua's solicitude. With the elders of Israel he rent his clothes and fell prostrate before the ark all day. To a lover of God, the belief that His favour is withdrawn is the most overwhelming sorrow. Nor is the grief merely selfish in its origin. Joshua lamented the dishonour which would be affixed to the glorious name of Jehovah when the news of Israel's defeat was bruited abroad. Prayer is the believer's unfailing resource. Receiving any woful tidings, he "spreads the letter," like Hezekiah, before the Lord. He ventures to plead, to expostulate, to argue. And the answer surely arrives though it appear long to tarry. In this narrative we find Joshua reproved for imagining that God would arbitrarily desert His people. He might have known that something was wrong in the conduct of the nation, and his inquiry should have been, Wherein have we offended? We must not at once rush to the conclusion that the events which befal us are "judgments," for when we think God's smile is absent, it may be flint the clouds of our marshy land interrupt the heavenly rays. Nevertheless the advice of the preceding paragraph holds good, and the rebuke administered to Joshua may be often seasonably applied to ourselves.
IV. THE OFFENDER MANIFESTED. The drawing of a lot was the means resorted to on all important occasions for appointment to positions of honour or shame. Picture the gradual contraction of the circle of fire till it enwrapped only "the troubler of Israel," and he stood before all the people as the cause of a national disgrace. The slow and stately discovery, as well as the proceedings of the day before, afforded time to the criminal to reveal himself, if he would. What must have been his feelings as he saw detection drawing nearer and nearer till it pointed its finger to his breast, saying, "Thou art the man!" The method of manifestation also afforded time for the spectators to be thoroughly aroused, so that they might appreciate more deeply the awfulness of the sin committed, and be ready with one shout to inflict the penalty due thereto. God may advance slowly, but His step is sure. Delay is no presumption of final impunity.
V. We see lastly, THE FOLLY OF SIN. Achan "wrought folly in Israel" (ver. 15). The word means stupidity - as Abigail uncomplimentarily remarked of her husband, "Nabal is his name and folly is with him." Sin is certain of detection. Known to the Almighty, He often brings it into the light of day here, and will surely manifest it hereafter. Sin imperils real, enduring bliss for the sake of transitory gratifications. A little pleasure, and severest pain; for brief fame, lasting infamy; for temporary wealth, eternal loss. - A
I. CONFESSION IS DUE TO THE HONOUR OF GOD. All sin is committed against God, inflicts a wrong upon His Divine Majesty. To acknowledge this is the least reparation the sinner can make, is a sign of a right disposition, indicates that the basis of God's government remains firm within the sinner's bosom, though transgression had clouded it for a time. Confession magnifies the broken law and makes it honourable. Its omission from the Pharisee's prayer was a fatal defect; whilst the publican went down "justified" because of his proper attitude with reference to a holy God. The penitence of the thief upon the cross was evinced by his utterance, "We indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds." To confess is, in truth, to "give glory unto God," and hence is required, though not for His information, yet as essential to His character and law.
II. CONFESSION RELIEVES THE BURDENED BREAST. One of the clearest proofs that man was designed for companionship is to be seen in the tendency of any strong emotion to create an eager desire to communicate the same feeling unto others In our joys we long for the congratulations of our friends, and we seek their sympathy in our sorrows. And though the consciousness of sin is naturally accompanied at first by an endeavour to screen it from the gaze of our fellows, yet very soon the desire for secrecy is overcome by the more potent wish to speak of the deed which lies so heavily upon the conscience. Otherwise, as with the Spartan boy who, in hiding a fox under his tunic, allowed it to devour his very entrails, we shall discover that our concealment of sin can only end in the destruction of our being. And if it be thus helpful to discharge our woes and our follies into the ear of a fellow creature, how much greater must he our satisfaction when we have poured our tale into the audience of our heavenly Father. Men may view us with loathing, and shrink from future contact with us; they may fail even to make allowance for the strength of the temptation and the difficulties under which we laboured; but our Father is acquainted with all the circumstances, loves us as His children, and, whilst pained at our backsliding, is glad to witness our contrition. In Achan's confession here are several features worthy of imitation.
1. It was a full confession. There was no more dissembling, but an open declaration of all he had done. No attempt to extenuate his guilt; he laid it bare in all its enormity. The antithesis to confession is covering our sins, which may take place in various ways. We may try to justify them as necessary or excusable, as Saul did when he spared Agag. We may show that the matter was comparatively trifling and unimportant, as when we give names that soften vices and lessen our apprehension of them. Or we may charge other persons or things with the responsibility, shifting the blame from ourselves, pleading the requirements of business, the rules of society, the expectations of our friends, and the solicitations received, as when Adam replied, "The woman thou gavest, she gave me of the tree."
2. It acknowledged that the chief injury had been committed against God. "I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel." He had displayed a spirit of ingratitude and disobedience, and though he had brought evil upon the nation, and deserved their reprobation, he knew that it was the Almighty whom his conduct had especially wronged. So David cried, "Against thee, thee only have I sinned." Jesus Christ joined together the two branches of the moral law; but there are many who seem to think that if they fulfil their duty to their neighbour, their duty to God matters not. They say, "I have never done harm to any, have always paid my debts, been truthful and honest, charitable and upright; what sin, then, have I been guilty of?" We might in answer deny the accuracy of their statements, since due regard to others can hardly be observed apart from regard to God; but it is better, perhaps, to insist upon the obligation resting upon every man to "love the Lord with all his might," and to point out the numerous instances in which the worship and ordinances of God have been uncared for at the same time that selfish pleasures have been indulged in to the full. When the prodigal comes to himself, he does not merely resolve to reform, and that in future he will not join in the rioting of the world, but will live soberly before men; his one thought is to return to his Father and to confess, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee."
3. It was a confession to the people, since they had suffered through his misconduct. Achan's avowal was made in the face of Israel, and was followed by punishment according to the law. "Confess your faults one to another." Conclusion. - The day approaches when "God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil." - A.
I. Mark ACHAN'S FAULT. There was this feature peculiar in the capture of Jericho - that man had no hand in it. It was God's work throughout. No risk, no loss was entailed on Israel. The earthquake of God - if such was the mode of its destruction - threw the walls down fiat. The capture, God's work; the spoil was, in a special sense, God's spoil. The first fruits of their booty; He required the entire consecration of all the gold and silver to His service. In all their subsequent operations of wax the spoil they take will be their own. In this God claims all. In such a prescription there was nothing that was unreasonable, but much that was divinely wise. Israel as a whole obeyed the Divine command, doubtless helped thereto by the solemnity which the presence and miracles of God imparted to their task. The destruction - righteously ordained - was carried out as God ordered. The whole of the wealth that was indestructible was reserved for God. But Achan is tempted. He suddenly lights on one hundred ounces of silver and twenty-five ounces of gold - a large sum in those days - probably more in purchasing power than a thousand pounds today. To see is to covet intensely, and to find a score of reasons rising within him for disobedience. "To take it hurts no one." "Nobody need know anything about it." "The sanctuary is quite rich enough." "There will be plenty left untouched by his more scrupulous neighbours." "It will stock a farm and build a house." So the vivid imagination of greed discovers a multitude of reasons for taking the spoil. And, somehow, the suddenness of the opportunity and the impulse stuns all his better nature and makes it speechless. There is no voice to remind him that he will despise himself, or that he imperils his nation. It is nothing to him that within an hour, and just at hand, God's omnipotence had been working a miracle. Under the very shadow of the Almighty he dares to sin. And every thought but that of his material advantage banished from his mind, he takes the forbidden treasure, and, concealing it in his clothes, hurries with it to his tent, and, with or without the connivance of his family - more probably the former - buries it in the earth. It is these sudden temptations that test a man. A good habit is the only protection from a bad impulse. Had he been habitually honourable, he would not so have sinned. But he was one of those who like to be deemed smart and clever, and who often imagine that self preservation is "the fulfilling of all law." Did he enjoy his loot that night? Probably with some faintest misgiving he enjoyed it greatly, and his wife and family and himself made out a most plausible case of self justification, and built pleasant castles in the air out of their treasures. But -
II. Mark how ACHAN'S SIN FINDS HIM OUT. No sin is ever entirely concealed. Every virtue puts its seal upon the brow, and every fault its mark. When concealment is perfect, the man is still embarrassed - preoccupied. His taste, and with his taste his look, degenerates. Something of restlessness makes at least his spirit a "fugitive and a vagabond in the earth." His eye is on fence, and he alternates between a glance which, in its curiosity to know whether you suspect him, glares on you, and the averted look which shuns your eye altogether. So every fault, however secret, gives some tokens of something being wrong - so much so, that the special form of wrong can often be detected in the mere look. And in addition, how strikingly is it the case that often just one precaution has been left untaken that brings the truth to light. God is light, and is always illuminating by His providence our hidden deeds of darkness; sometimes by methods more, and sometimes by methods less miraculous, God does this. In this instance how swift, terrible, and certain is the discovery! The unexpected, needless failure of the attack on Ai, where success was easy, suggests something wrong. In answer to Joshua's prayer, God's oracle reveals it. The culprit is not named, but, using the lot probably, the tribe to which he belongs, then his division of the tribe, then his family, then himself, are successively indicated; and he who but a day or two before felt so secure in the absolute secrecy of his crime, stands revealed to all the people in all the meanness of his greed! Your sin and my sin will find us out. It is better for us to find it out, to own and end it. Plume not yourself on craft or subtlety. For God's light will disclose whatever God's eye discerns. If you do not wish a wrong thing to be known, keep it undone. All sin finds out the doer of it.
III. Mark THE RESULTS OF HIS WRONG. How different from what they dreamed! There was no comfort; no farm, no castle ever came of it - only shame, disappointment, death. Mark specifically its mischiefs.
1. Israel was damaged. In the two attacks on Ai rendered necessary by this sin, many lives were lost needlessly. The heart of the people was discouraged, and the success of their enterprise imperilled.
2. Then there is the probable corruption of the man's family, the digging and hiding being hardly possible without their knowledge. It is an awful penalty of a parent's sin that it tends so directly and strongly to corrupt the children. Let us see that those whom God has given us be not harmed by what they see in us.
3. It involves all his family in the penalty of death. The law of Moses was explicit that the child should not be put to death for the father's sin. But here - whether because the family had been partakers of his crime, or because that crime was one of terrible presumptuousness - the family share his fate. Whatever the reason, it reminds us of the fact that God "visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of those that hate him, and shows mercy unto thousands [of generations] of them that love him and keep his commandments." Here the parent's fault involves the family in ruin. Such is too often the case. Let us guard against the possibility of it.
4. It costs him his own life: he is stoned to death. Late repentance perhaps letting him make a fairer start in the other world, but not availing to prolong his existence here. How dearly he paid for his silver and his gold! How commonly men do this; how much they part with to get what sometimes only hurts them when they gain it! Let not greed be our ruin. Be generous in self protection, if from no higher motive. Only goodness is wisdom, and they consult worst for their own advantage that seek to further it with craft or with impiety. - G.
I. A TERRIBLE PUNISHMENT. Achan is stoned to death, and his goods are then burnt with fire. He lost not only that which he had stolen, but even his own property, and above all his life. Such is the sinner's rots-reckoning!
1. The laws of God have their sanctions annexed. Sin is followed by its peculiar immediate effects, which are a punishment in themselves, and there are besides the retribution awards of the Legislator. Achan must have felt a gnawing and a fire within him as soon as the evil deed was done; but this was only preliminary to the pain of detection and subsequent penalty of stoning. It is not well with the wicked even in this world, and we cannot forget the hints of the Bible respecting stripes to be inflicted in the world to come.
2. This narrative is intended to impress us with a deep sense of the evil of sin. God speaks to us solemnly respecting the deserts of sin. So swift a retribution could not but act as a warning to the Israelites, and the record of it may serve the same purpose with respect to ourselves. If Jehovah seemed stern for a season, he dealt in real kindness with the people, for surely it was expedient for one family to die, rather than that the whole nation should be disobedient and suffer extinction.
3. Seldom does the sinner suffer alone. Achan's family lost their lives also. Perhaps they had connived at his theft. "By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men." If we are reckless of our own interests, let us not cruelly blight the prospects of others.
II. THE SIDE OF THE DIVINE CHARACTER HERE REVEALED. He is shown to be a jealous God, hating sin, and taking vengeance upon those who disregard His precepts. "The fierceness of God's anger" may not be such a pleasant object of contemplation as the exceeding riches of the love of God, but it is good for us to think of it in connection with evil, and is part of our notion of a perfect character. The meek and lowly Jesus could kindle into holy indignation at the sight of the hypocrisy and oppression of the scribes and Pharisees, and a cloud of brightness that has no element of fire is not the representation given in Scripture of the appearance of God. Daniel saw "a fiery stream, which issued and came forth from before" the Ancient of days.
III. THE COMFORTING ASPECTS OF OUR THEME.
1. We are not informed of Achan's final destiny, and this thought may alleviate the difficulty which some minds feel. Tempted as we are to disbelieve the genuineness of forced confessions and late repentance, it may be that Achan was sincere, and God chastised the flesh that the spirit might be saved. His death was necessary for example's sake, and the burning of the bodies and the heaping them with stones all indicated the horrid nature of sin which, like a leprosy, frets inward till all be consumed. But the offender himself may have been saved "so as by fire;" and eternal life was purchased at the expense of temporal death. God grant, however, that we may live the life, and so die the death, of the righteous.
2. The gospel offers of mercy stand out in striking contrast to the severity of the ancient dispensation. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." - A.