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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Secret Sin Exposed
Text:Joshua 7:1-26 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Repentance
 
Preached:2018
Added:2020-08-19
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
Pastor Ted Gray
10/28/18 - a.m.
“Secret Sin Exposed”
Joshua 7:1-26
 
Achan did something that every Christian has done at one time or another: He cherished sin in his heart. He acted on that sin. And then he tried to hide what he had done. The tragic account of his life and death reminds us that our sin – yours and mine – if left unrepented will catch up to us. It will be exposed, if not in this life, the life to come.
 
In the previous chapter the Lord had given this command regarding the items in Jericho: “But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD” (Joshua 6:18-19).
 
Yet what did Achan do? Chapter 7 begins with this sad report: But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.
 
And in verse 21 Achan describes what he did: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
           
Somehow, he must have thought that the tent would hide him from view, that the earth would conceal the fact that he took things that belonged to God. Perhaps at times you and I have acted the same way. Perhaps we have reasoned that we could sin, at least “just a little bit” in secret, without God noticing it, and that we would get away with it.
 
But this passage reminds us of the truth of Hebrews 4:13: “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before Him to whom we must give an account.”  And it reminds us of 1 Timothy 5:24: “The sins of some men are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them.”
  
In his blog, Tim Challis quotes from Numbers 32:23 which warns,Be sure your sin will find you out.” And then comments: “Sin has a way of being found out. We can hide it for a while, but eventually, inevitably, it is made public. Really, sin wants to be found out because sin wants to have the last laugh! Sin is content to dwell in the darkness for a while, but its end goal is to be known so it can bring reproach upon the gospel.”
 
That is one truth this chapter teaches us: Unless repented of, and turned from, sooner or later, our sins will find us out.
 
A second truth that is that sin always has repercussions. You may think that a secret sin in your life will never make waves into other people’s lives. But sin always has a “ripple effect.” Just as one small stone thrown into a placid pond causes ripples throughout the pond, so sin has its inevitable ripple effects.
 
In that way sin is also like a hornet’s nest. Outwardly it looks like one hive, but inside are hundreds of little compartments where the individual hornets live. Play around with that nest and you will be repeatedly stung, along with anyone else in that area.
 
We see that Achan’s sin had a ripple effect throughout Israel as many were stung by his sin. Verse 4 and 5 describe how about three thousand (soldiers) went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.”
 
This came to a great shock to the Israelites. They had marched around Jericho, which was much larger than Ai, and the walls fell down. They conquered Jericho easily. How much easier would it be to conquer Ai!  But because Achan had sinned, the whole community suffered.
 
When Joshua fell to the ground in grief, the Lord told him to stand up and face the reality of what was happening. The Lord explained, in verse 11 and 12, Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.”
 
Not only were the soldiers and the nation of Israel affected by Achan’s sin, so was his family. Verse 24 and 25 describe how after Achan admitted his sin, then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold bar, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor. Joshua said, ‘Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today.’  Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them.”
 
There are some, I’m sure, who would say that God is unjust to allow sin to have repercussions. Why should 36 Israelite soldiers die just because Achan sinned? Why should Achan’s wife and children incur the wrath of God because of what Achan did?
 
We don’t need to defend God in this matter, or any other, but there are a number of reasons why God allowed the repercussions of Achan’s sin to affect so many others. First, the Lord allowed Achan’s sin to chastise Israel for their presumption. Verse 2 and 3 describe how Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth Aven to the east of Bethel, and told them, ‘Go up and spy out the region.’ So the men went up and spied out Ai.”
 
     When they returned to Joshua, they said, ‘Not all the army will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary the whole army, for only a few people live there.’ So about three thousand went up…”
 
Nothing is said about prayer, about seeking the Lord’s guidance, about trusting in Him alone for victory. But all that changed after Israel was defeated. God used the repercussions to refocus the people’s thoughts upon Him. Verses 6 to 9 describe Joshua’s impassioned prayer to God. And undoubtedly, many others were calling out to the Lord in prayer, too.
 
The repercussions of Achan’s sin also serve as a powerful deterrent for us, should we be tempted to play with “secret sin.”  Achan’s life story is a powerful example given to us to keep us from trying to sweep our own sins “under the carpet.” 1 Corinthians 10, in speaking about Old Testament Israel explains, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (1 Cor. 10:10-11)
 
Other commentators point out that Achan’s wife and children may have had knowledge, and may have even collaborated in hiding the stolen items. Still others point to the clear example of Exodus 20:5 where God says: “I will punish the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” We read that verse weekly in the morning service, as it springs from the third commandment, should we then still be surprised that God is true to His warnings as well as His promises?
 
Still other commentators point out that the Lord often works through families. When Rahab was saved, so was her family. In the same way, when Achan was judged, so was his family. This passage reminds us that the repercussions of sin are like the tentacles on an octopus. Sin has a sinister ability to reach out and entwine and strangle, not only those who are nearest and dearest to us, but even others whom we may not know are affected by our sin.
 
A third truth this chapter teaches us is that God has a righteous wrath against sin. You and I are sometimes tempted to think of sin as a small, trifling thing. But to the Lord every sin is serious and is hated with a righteous and proper wrath. Did you notice how the first and last verse of the chapter serve as “bookends”?  Verse 1 explains how “the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.” And after explaining why God’s anger was roused, and after describing the tragic consequences of Achan’s sin, the chapter ends by saying, Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his fierce anger” (26).
 
God is love. Many passages assure us of the love, grace and mercy of our God. But the Bible also clearly teaches that our Lord is a just judge. He will not wink at sin. Instead, sinners who do not repent from the heart with what 2 Corinthians 7:10 describes as a “godly sorrow”, will face judgment. 
 
One of the greatest revivals in the early history of the United States came about because of the sermon preached by Jonathan Edwards, entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  His references included Hebrews 10:30-31: “For we know Him who said, ‘It is Mine to avenge;’ ‘I will  repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge His people.’  It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
 
The Progressive Nature of Sin
 
What observations can we make about this passage, to help us live our lives in an honorable way before God? One observation: We must guard ourselves against the progression of sin, so that we don’t follow the same progression of sin that Achan did. In verse 20 we see a definite progression of sin.  In that verse we read a list of verbs. Regarding the stolen goods Achan says: “I saw them.  I coveted them. I took them.”   
 
Do you see the progression?  It begins with his eyes. “I saw.”  Then it leads to the thought process. “I coveted them.”  And that, in turn, progresses to sinful action: “I took them.”
 
Did you notice that the pattern is the same one Eve followed?  Genesis 3:6 describes how “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. She saw that the fruit looked good. She reasoned that it would be advantageous to know good and evil. Then she took the fruit and ate and gave some to her husband.
 
There is so much truth in that song we teach to little children, “Oh be careful little eyes what you see...” The truth in the children’s song springs from the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 6:22-23: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
 
In the same way that we guard our eyes, we must also guard our thought process. Both David and Joseph saw sexual temptation flaunted before their eyes. David’s thought process was evil; he committed adultery with Bathsheba. Joseph’s thought process was pure. He said to Potiphar’s wife, when she brazenly propositioned him, “How could I do such an evil thing and sin against God?”
                      
The difference between those two men is that one guarded the thoughts in his mind, and the other allowed his mind to dwell on the temptation put before him. There is good reason why Scripture tells us to flee from temptation. If we don’t flee, our thought process will lead us into sin.
 
In the fifteenth century a man named Thomas a’ Kempis observed: “First there comes to mind the bare thought of evil, then a strong imagination thereof, afterward, delight and evil motion, and then consent.” 
       
And in the first century a man named James wrote, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire” – his or her thought process – “he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.”  (James 1:14-15)
 
If you follow the sinful inclination of your thought process your heart will become so calloused that you won’t be able to repent. Young people, sometimes the temptation is put before you to wait until you are older to commit your lives to Christ and live wholeheartedly for Him. There are millions of people who live a life of sin with a vague thought of repenting and believing in Christ someday when they are old.
 
As has often been pointed out, death may strike long before such a person has an opportunity to repent and believe in Christ. But what isn’t often mentioned is that repetitious sin, whether secret or not, creates a calloused heart. The heart can become so calloused that repentance is impossible even on one’s deathbed. Dr. Derek Thomas writes: “The real solemn thing about this passage is not that Achan was given an opportunity to repent, it was that he couldn’t repent. He couldn’t repent, because sin had so hardened his heart that when the opportunity for repentance presented itself, he couldn’t do it.” (sermon on Joshua 7:1-15, “How Achan’s Sin Was Found Out”)
 
Achan was sorry that his sin found him out, and he admitted to that sin. But it was a worldly sorrow, not the godly grief that 2 Corinthians 7:10 describes when it teaches, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” Achan’s heart was calloused by the unchecked progression of sin that had consumed him and led him to take the devoted things.
 
A second observation is that sin within the body of Christ – the church, which Israel in the Old Testament represented – must be dealt with. Israel was not blessed, was not even able to overtake the small town of Ai, until they dealt with sin within their membership.  The reason is that Israel, like the New Testament church, was made of many members. When some of those members sin, without remorse or repentance, they must be disciplined. They must be disciplined for their own good, for the welfare of the whole body of Christ – the church – and above all, for God’s glory.
 
If discipline is not exercised, then the whole body is held accountable. Did you notice verse 11? In verse 11 The Lord says, “Israel has sinned.” And in verse 12 we read of the effect one person’s sin had on all the Israelites. The Lord said to Joshua: “That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.”
 
Until the Israelites dealt with the sin of Achan, they could not be blessed. They could not even gain victory over the small settlement at Ai until discipline, severe as it was, was administered. It is no different today. A church that does not exercise church discipline will not be blessed. The Bible gives specific instructions for discipline, including the words of Jesus in Matthew 18:15-17: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
 
1 Timothy 5:20 teaches that “those who sin are to be rebuked publicly so that others may take warning.” Acts 5 records how Ananias and Saphira were judged guilty by God for their deceitfulness within the church. A basic biblical principle is that sin in the body of Christ must be dealt with. You cannot sweep it under the rug or look the other way and expect the Lord to bless the church. That didn’t work for Israel and it won’t work for the church today.
 
The Door of Hope
 
Yet, even in the place where God’s righteous wrath is unleashed at sin, there is a door of hope.  Joshua chapter 7 is one of those tragic passages describing the misery and pain of sin. No wonder the people named that place, “The Valley of Achor” meaning “The Valley of Trouble.” Yet through the prophet Hosea, in Hosea 2:15, the Lord says: “The Valley of Achor will be a door of hope.” 
 
Nowhere was the righteous and proper wrath of God against your sin and mine unleashed more powerfully than at Calvary. There at Calvary, Jesus took the full measure of wrath for your sin and mine. There He took upon Himself the curse that we deserve. It was there that He bore the humiliation and shame that you and I deserve. It was there that He was forsaken by His heavenly Father so that all those who by His grace put their faith in Him, will never be forsaken.  He is the door of hope.
 
Jesus described Himself in many illustrious ways, including this description in John 10:9: I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” The pasture represents the security and blessing we have through faith in Christ. Our salvation is secure because it is in Him alone. And from that gift of salvation, through faith in Christ, we who believe receive blessings after blessing, grace after grace (John 1:14).
 
Yet in this life, we still struggle with sin causing friction in our relationship with the Lord, “for the flesh struggles against the Spirit…” (Galatians 5:17). But in the life to come we will have perfect fellowship with our triune God, and perfect fellowship with all who have believed on Him throughout the history of the world, as we live and reign with Christ over the new heavens and the new earth.
 
But just as you must enter a door to enter a house, so you must enter into a relationship with God the Father through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. He alone is the way the truth and the life. As Jesus Himself said, “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
 
Have you come to the Father through faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation? If sin is holding you back, know that Jesus came for sinners. Consider that in the space of a few chapters in Joshua we read about a prostitute, a great sinner in society’s eyes, and we have come across a man who outwardly was an upstanding citizen. Achan was a member of the Old Testament church, part of the covenant; he had good parents, he was “the son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah.” He was from a highly respected family; he was a member of Israel in good standing.
 
Yet one person was saved, and one was stoned to death.  What was the difference?  One repented of their sinful lifestyle and believed in the Messiah, the Christ to come. The other had remorse, he was sorry he got caught red handed. But there was no godly sorrow, no true repentance on Achan’s part. He repented with his lips, but not his heart. He fit the description of worldly sorrow found in 2 Corinthians 7:10: For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
 
Is there a secret sin in your life or mine? A sin that hasn’t been brought to the Lord in true repentance and faith? Now is the time to confess and be forgiven. 1 John 1:8-10: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.”
  
May you and I confess our sin and place our faith in Christ alone, before our hearts get hardened and callused by sin. Then we will find that whatever sin problems are in our life, and no matter how painful their repercussions are, the valley of trouble will become a door of hope because of Christ.
 
That door is still open, and He beckons all to enter in! Amen.
 
 
 
                                    - bulletin outline -
 
 
But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri,
the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel. – Joshua 7:1
 
                            “Secret Sin Exposed”
                                  Joshua 7:1-26
 
I.  Achan’s sin teaches us:
     1) Sooner or later unrepented “secret sins” (1) will be discovered (16-
         21; Hebrews 4:13; 1 Timothy 5:24)
 
 
 
      2) Sin always has repercussions (1, 4-5, 11-12, 24-25)
 
 
 
      3) God has a righteous wrath against sin (1, 26; Hebrews 10:30-31)
 
 
 
II. Observations:
     1) We must guard ourselves against the progression of sin (20-21;
          James 1:13-15)
 
 
 
     2) Sin within the body of Christ (the church, which Israel represented)
          must be dealt with (11-12; Matt 18:15-17; Acts 5:1-11; 1 Tim 5:20)
 
 
 
     3) Even in the place where God’s righteous wrath is unleashed at
          sin, there is a door of hope (26; Hosea 2:15; Isaiah 65:10; John 10:9)
 
 
 
III. Application: Forgiveness is freely given to all who confess their
       sins, believing in Jesus Christ alone for salvation (1 John 1:8-10)
 
 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Ted Gray

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