And they heaped over Achan a large pile of rocks that remains to this day. So the LORD turned from His burning anger. Therefore that place is called the Valley of Achor to this day.
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.
And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord shall trouble thee this day.
Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.I. THAT SIN IS A VERY TROUBLESOME THING.
1. The load of guilt by which it oppresses us.
2. The shifts, subterfuges, and tricks resorted to for the purpose of concealing our sins, or transferring the blame to others, are convincing proofs that sin troubles us.
3. Sin troubles us by its corrupt and restless influence on the tempers and dispositions.
II. HOWEVER ARTFULLY CONCEALED, SIN MUST BE EXPOSED.
1. The most secret sins are often revealed in this world.
2. Those sins that escape detection here, will be manifested in the last day (Ecclesiastes 12:14).
III. WHEN THE SINNER IS EXPOSED, HE IS LEFT WITHOUT ANY REASONABLE EXCUSE. Joshua said, "Why hast thou troubled us?" What could he say? Could he plead ignorance of the law? No; it was published in the camp of Israel. The weakness of human nature? No; he had strength to do his duty. The prevalence of temptation? No; others had similar temptations, and yet conquered. And what shall we have to say when God shall summon us to His bar?
IV. THAT PUNISHMENT TREADS UPON THE HEELS OF SIN. "The Lord shall trouble thee this day."
1. God has power to trouble sinners. The whole creation is a "capacious reservoir of means," which He can employ at His pleasure.
2. God will trouble sinners. He will either bring them to repentance, when they shall "look upon Him whom they have pierced, and mourn," or He will vex them in His wrath, and dash them in pieces as a potter's vessel.Infer —
1. What a powerful preventive this should be to deter us from committing sin.
2. See the madness of sinners, who, for the sake of a few sordid despicable pleasures, which always leave a sting behind, will desperately plunge themselves into an abyss of troubles which know no bound nor termination.
3. Since sin is so troublesome, let us all seek a deliverance from its dominion and influence.
4. Learn what ideas you should entertain of those who seek to entice you to sin. They are agents of the devil, and you should shun them as you would shun perdition.
(Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)
Israel stoned him with
(T. W. M. Lund, M. A.)
They raised over him a great heap of stones
"Macbeth hath murdered sleep, the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleave of care,
Balm of hurt minds."
Oh! what a long, black, miserable night was that. The voice cried, "Sleep no more," and on the morrow, as with bloodshot eyes he took his place in the ranks of his tribe, what must have been his terror! And then to mark the circle of condetonation closing upon him, growing less and less at each casting of the lot, he rooted meanwhile to the dark spot, its centre, till at last, pointed out by the finger of God, he stood alone, the incarnation of disaster and disgrace, the hateful object for every eye in Israel, the awful focus of their fiery indignation, burning into his soul one thought, one agony, "We have found thee, O our enemy." The method of discovery was most impressive for the people, revealing so marvellously the finger of God. Whatever the precise process of the lot may have been, and that is hard to discover, there was no difficulty, hesitation, timidity, uncertainty, or partiality in its carrying out. The method of discovering the crime was also the most merciful that could have been adopted for the offender. It gave him time to think; a blessed space for repentance; an opportunity, if there was any spark of spiritual life within, to cast off the incubus of iniquity. Every step would serve to convince him how utterly foolish it was to promise himself secrecy in sin, and how certainly at the last God would discriminate between the innocent and the guilty, however for a little while they were involved in the same condemnation. Thus Achan stands exposed in the sight of all Israel. Joshua, filled with unutterable compassion for the trembling sinner, though absolutely certain of his guilt, has no harsh word to utter, but only seeks to win him to a right frame of mind. Nothing could be more touching than this venerable leader's words. He deals with him as a grey-haired father with a wayward son, urging him to the only course that in the circumstances could yield one spark of consolation (ver. 19). Achan breaks down under this unexpected kindness. He had looked for nothing but harsh reproof and unmitigated severity; therefore in broken accents he replies, "Indeed I have sinned," &c. This confession is worthy of notice, and has some features which relieve the darkness of the scene. To begin with, it was voluntary. There was here no extortion of a confession from unwilling lips. Joshua spoke in love, calling him "my son." It is evident that he has no personal ill-will, no hard spirit of revenge. He appealed to the glory of God. Thus Joshua brought forth this free confession of Achan's guilt. His confession was as full as it was free. The miserable man kept nothing back. He made a clean breast of it. His full confession shows that penitents cannot be too particular. His confession was also personal. He felt that it was first of all, and above all, a matter between himself and God, and therefore, though others, in all likelihood, were sharers in his guilt (for he could not well have hid these things in his tent without the cognisance of his family), still he made no mention of them, he condemned none but himself, for he felt himself the greatest sinner. Also Achan's confession was sincere. He did not attempt in the faintest degree to excuse himself. He pleaded no palliation of his offence. Surely, therefore, in this confession we have a gleam of light thrown across the gloom of this narrative. Just as in a picture of this dark valley and its black pile of stones, we have seen one white bird hovering amid the gloom, so this confession is the white bird of hope hovering over Achan's grave, and relieving somewhat the blackness of its darkness, His punishment trod swiftly on the heels of his confession. This punishment was at once a solemn expression of the evil of sin, a vindication of God's truth and justice, a prelude to future victory, and a monument to all succeeding ages, declaring, "be sure your sin will find you out." We are also told that all Achan's substance was destroyed, that which he possessed, as well as that which he stole. What a poor prize had Achan then in the things he so much admired. No good ever comes of ill-gotten gains. In regard to this punishment of Achan, the fate of his family deserves to be noticed. What happened to them? Two explanations have been offered. The first is that they shared Achan's sin and therefore shared his punishment. Another explanation is that Achan's family were spared. This rests on the fact that there is a change from the plural in ver. 24 to the singular in ver. 25. Joshua took Achan and all his possessions and all his family to the scene of execution, but the punishment fell only on Achan, for Joshua said (ver. 25): "Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord will trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them (his cattle and goods) with fire after they had stoned them with stones." Whichever is the true explanation we may rest assured that the demands of justice were not ignored. Thus we leave Achan, and surely as we stand by this heap of stones and consider his sad end, these words come to mind — "the love of money is the root of all evil, which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith and pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Looking again at this event, we are struck with the parallelism between the early history of Israel as recorded in the Book of Joshua and the early history of the Church as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. The taking of Jericho corresponds in its mighty triumph to the Day of Pentecost and the casting down of the walls of rebellion and prejudice through the proclamation of the gospel. Then the sin of Achan is strikingly paralleled by that of Ananias and Sapphira. The cause of transgression was the same in both, and the punishments present a striking resemblance. It was a salutary lesson taught both to Israel and to the Church. It showed that the God who dwelt among men was a consuming fire, that His judgment must follow shortly and surely on the heels of sin, and that holiness is the only source and secret of success in the work of the Lord.
(A. B. Mackay.)
The valley ofI. WE SHOULD GRIEVE MORE FOR SIN THAN FOR ITS RESULTS. As soon as we have committed sin, we look furtively round to see whether we have been watched, and then we take measures to tie up the consequences which would naturally accrue. Failing this, we are deeply humiliated. We dread the consequences of sin more than sin; discovery more than misdoing; what others may say and do more than the look of pain and sorrow on the face that looks out on us from the encircling throng of glorified spirits. But with God it is not so. It is our sin, one of the most grievous features in which is our failure to recognise its intrinsic evil, that presses Him down, as a cart groans beneath its load. The true way to a proper realisation of sin is to cultivate the friendship of the holy God. The more we know Him, the more utterly we shall enter into His thought about the subtle evil of our heart. We shall find sin lurking where we least anticipated, in our motives, in our religious acts, in our hasty judgment of others, in our want of tender, sensitive, pitying love, in our censorious condemnation of those who may be restrained by the action of a more sensitive conscience than our own from claiming all that we claim to possess. We shall learn that every look, tone, gesture, word, thought, which is not consistent with perfect love indicates that the virus of sin has not yet been expelled from our nature, and we shall come to mourn not so much for the result of sin as for the sin itself.
II. WE SHOULD SUBMIT OURSELVES TO THE JUDGMENT OF GOD. "And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?" It was as if He said, "Thou grievest for the effect, grieve rather for the cause. I am well able to preserve My people from the assaults of their foes, though all Canaan beset them, and I am equally able to maintain the honour of My name. These are not the main matters for concern, but that a worm is already gnawing at the root of the gourd, and a plague is already eating out the vitals of the people whom I have redeemed. With My right arm I will screen you from attack, whilst you give yourselves to the investigation and destruction of the accursed thing." Whenever there is perpetual failure in our life, we may be sure that there is some secret evil lurking in heart and life, just as diphtheria breaking out repeatedly in a household is an almost certain indication that there is an escape of sewer gas from the drains.
1. In searching out the causes of failure we must be willing to know the worst, and this is almost the hardest condition. Ostrich-like, we all hide our heads in the sand from unwelcome tidings. It is the voice of an iron resolution, or of mature Christian experience, that can say without faltering, "Let me know the worst." But as we bare ourselves to the good Physician let us remember that He is our husband, that His eyes film with love and pity, that He desires to indicate the source of our sorrow only to remove it, so that for Him and for us there may be the vigour of perfect soul-health and consequent bliss.
2. When God deals with sin He traces back its genealogy. Notice the particularity with which twice over the sacred historian gives the list of Achan's progenitors. It is always, "Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah" (vers. 1, 16-18). Sin is sporadic. To deal with it thoroughly we need to go back to its parentage. A long period will often intervene between the first germ of sin, in a permitted thought or glance of evil, and its flower or fruit in act. We generally deal with the wrong that flames out before the sight of our fellows; we should go behind to the spark as it lay smouldering for hours before, and to the carelessness which left it there. We only awake when the rock disintegrates and begins to fall on our cottage roof; God would lead us back to the moment when a tiny seed, borne on the breeze, floating through the air, found a lodgment in some crevice of our heart, and, although the soil was scanty, succeeded in keeping its foothold, till it had struck down its tiny anchor into a crack, and gathered strength enough to split the rock which had given it welcome. And by this insight into small beginnings our God would forearm us against great catastrophes.
3. It is a good thing at times to muster the clans of heart and life. We must make the principal tribes of our being pass before God. The public, and private, our behaviour in the business, the family, the church, until one of them is taken. Then to take that department and go through its various aspects and engagements, analysing it in days, or duties; resolving it into its various elements, and scrutinising each. This duty of self-examination should be pursued by those who have least relish for it, as probably they really need it; whilst they who are naturally of an introspective or morbid disposition should not engage themselves in it to any large extent. And whoever undertakes it should do so in reliance on the Holy Spirit, and give ten glances to the blessed Lord for every one that is taken at the corruptions of the natural heart. It is looking off unto Jesus which is the real secret of soul-growth.
III. WE SHOULD HOLD NO PARLEY WITH DISCOVERED SIN. God never reveals an evil which He does not require us to remove. And if heart and flesh fail, if our hand refuses to obey our faltering will, if the paralysis of evil has so far enfeebled us that we cannot lift the stone, or wield the knife, or strike the flint stones for the fire, then He will do for us what must be done, but which we cannot do. Some are cast in a mould so strong that they can dare to raise the hatchet, and cut off the arm just madly bitten, and before poison has passed from it into the system; others must await the surgeon's knife. But the one lesson for all the inner life is to be willing for God to do His work in us, through us, or for us. So the valley of Achor becomes the door of hope. From that sterile, mountain-guarded valley, Israel marched to victory; or, to use the highly-coloured imagery of Hosea, it was as though the massive slabs opened in the cliffs, and the people passed into cornfields, vineyards, and olive-yards, singing amid their rich luxuriance as they sang in their youth in the day when they came up out of Egypt. Ah! metaphor as true as fair! For all our inner life there is no valley of Achor where the work of execution is faithfully performed in which there is not a door of hope, entrance into the garden of the Lord, and a song so sweet, so joyous, so triumphant, as though the buoyancy of youth were wed with the experience and mellowness of age.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.).
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