For forty years Israel had wandered in the wilderness. It was forty years of frustration due to the failure of the previous generation. Surely, they learned from that generation’s mistakes. Surely they would prove themselves faithful and know victory in their new home, right?
Within days of entering the Promised Land Israel is making the same mistakes and suffering the same failures as before. Looking at the sin of Achan, our failures aren’t all that different.
This “Bad Example” wasn’t in Paul’s list from 1 Corinthians 10. In fact, three out of the seven in this series were of my own choosing. I think this was the first one on my mind. In the months before I put the series together I had seen the sin of Achan referenced in several articles about how unfair God can be. Apparently this story is a favorite of the new atheists. I didn’t want to confront their misreading, but I wanted to make sure my people were familiar with the story in case it was ever thrown at them.
I put a lot of work into this one and I feel like I could have used a lot more work. Sunday morning I was still honing the points a bit and making a few adjustments. Most of my preaching in the last couple of years has been with smaller passages. Preaching a whole chapter has become a bit of a challenge for me. I found myself cutting some supporting scriptures in an attempt to not overwhelm my audience.
By the way–and this note is just for you preachers out there–in my research I looked up some examples of how other preachers have handled this text. There were a few good outlines out there and some great supporting material, but I had to shake my head at the titles some of these sermons were given. Titles like:
- What’s Achan You?
- God’s Prescription for an Achan Heart
- Prescription for an Achan Nation
and who could forget:
- When Achan Became Bacon
Look, I will be the first one to say you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously, but these puns do not convey the horror of this story. A man sinned and his children were stoned and burned with him. Bacon? Really?!?!?
I got to share the message a second time with my other church Sunday evening. It’s a much smaller and more laid back crowd and I’m able to chase a few rabbits with them and do some dialogue. As I did, I fleshed out a thought on the text that I really wish I had time for in the message itself.
The sin is explained in the first verse that Achan “took some of the devoted things.” Later in verse 12 God says, “Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction.” When Achan took the items that God had devoted for destruction, they didn’t become his, rather Achan became theirs. Their doom became his.
Sin is like that. We can’t master it, it can only master us. We can’t bring it where we’re going, we can only let it enslave us to its ultimate destruction.
Man, I would love to preach that!