But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah…
Immediately after the taking of Jericho, Israel found itself suddenly arrested in its career of conquest. Its advanced guard received a humiliating repulse from the inhabitants of the small town of Ai. Joshua was driven almost to despair by this defeat, because it seemed to doom the army of Israel to feebleness and failure, by the withdrawal of the presence and power of God. It seemed as if the heavens were closed against him, and he could no more reckon upon that invincible Divine aid which had been hitherto the strength of his arms. He rent his garments and called upon God, and the answer came, "Israel hath sinned... for they have taken of the accursed thing." This trangression of the covenant was the cause of their defeat, and this alone. And in our own day it is "the accursed thing" which is still the sole obstacle to the victories of the people of God, and to His blessing resting upon them. Let us look at flits sin in its cause, in its effects, and in its reparation.
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.
WEB: But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the devoted things; for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. Therefore Yahweh's anger burned against the children of Israel.