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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Matt's Messages "Sin Is Serious"

“Sin Is Serious”

Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
February 22, 2009
Joshua 7:1-8:35

Last week was a major decisive victory for the people of Israel and for their leader, Joshua! The walls came tumblin’ down. And they rushed in and captured the city of Jericho.

It was exciting, wasn’t it?! Yes!

And, in their victory, they basically had only one command from God–to NOT take any of the things in the city devoted to destruction. The LORD Himself had fought the battle of Jericho for them. And He wanted all of the spoils of the battle for Himself–either in the treasury or in the giant heap of a burnt sacrifice that the city of Jericho had become.

But...we find out in chapter 7 that they had NOT been obedient to this one command.

And they were about to experience terrible defeat because of it.

From amazing victory to overwhelming defeat in a heartbeat.

All because of sin.

“Sin Is Serious.”

That’s what we are going to see today.

Sin is not slight.
Sin is not silly.
Sin is not small or slim.

Sin [thinking, wanting, or doing that which displeases God] is deadly serious.

Joshua chapter 7, verse 1.

“But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Carmi, 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.”

Notice that this chapter begins with “but.”

Chapter 6 ended with “The LORD was with Joshua and his fame spread throughout the land!”

“But...” there was sin in the camp.

“But the Israelites acted unfaithfully [sinfully] in regard to the devoted things; Achan...took some of them. So the LORD's anger burned against Israel.”

Sin is serious.

#1. SIN MAKES GOD ANGRY.

Do you see that in verse 1? “So the LORD’s anger burned against Israel.”

Sin makes God angry.

Sometimes, we get to thinking that God doesn’t care about our sin. We know that God is love, and God is loving, and we tend to dismiss the seriousness of sin.

But sin is not a laughing matter.

Many in our culture today dismiss sin as a relic from a time past. And the mention of the word causes people to titter. “Ha ha. Sin. Ha ha.”

Perhaps you’ve engaged in something you know to be sinful and you’ve just laughed it off recently.

But sin–violating God’s holy standard, falling short of the glory of God, failing to obey His commands and missing the mark that He has set out for us–is not light thing.

It is serious.

It makes God mad.

Now, some people think of God as mad for no reason. God is capricious and mad in general. But the Bible presents God as mad for only one reason–because He is holy.

And sin is a rebellion against His holiness. And wrath, anger, is the right response to unholiness.

Sin is serious because sin makes God mad.

#2. SIN AFFECTS OTHERS AROUND US.

How many people sinned in verse 1? Warning. It’s a trick question.

Well, the verse says that Achan sinned. He took some of the “devoted things” that were supposed to be accursed and burnt and “under the ban.”

But what else does the verse say? Who else sinned? “But the Israelites acted unfaithfully...”

There was a connection between Achan’s sin and the whole covenant community.

Sin affected more than just the sinner.

We’ll see that really clearly in the next battle. V.2

“Now 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. [Now, notice that it doesn’t mention anything about the LORD in this. Where is He? V.3] When they returned to Joshua, they said, ‘Not all the people will have to go up against Ai. Send two or three thousand men to take it and do not weary all the people, for only a few men are there.’”

“Hey, don’t worry about it! We took Jericho, no problem. There isn’t even a big wall here. Send up a little commando force and we’ll show you another victory!” v.4

“So about three thousand men 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 and became like water.”

Whoa! What happened? If we didn’t have verse 1, we sure would have been surprised to read about this! This is the first bad thing to happen to Israel in the whole book of Joshua.

The little army went up and got whipped. 36 died. Doesn’t sound like too much until you realize that it was a littler town and nobody had died so far. Not at the River and not a Jericho. They had to get chased home! Humiliating and devastating and demoralizing.

And Joshua hits a low point here. V.6

“Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the LORD, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. [Mourning. Sadness. Grief.] And Joshua said, ‘Ah, Sovereign LORD, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! [There’s some unreasonable, unbelieving self-pity there.] O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?’”

Now, he’s talking to the right person. But he’s saying the wrong things. He should be asking what they’ve done wrong. But he’s acting almost like God has done something wrong.

That’s why the LORD responds to strongly. V.10.

“The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? [You’ve got work to do.] 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. Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, 'Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it. In the morning, present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe that the LORD takes shall come forward clan by clan; the clan that the LORD takes shall come forward family by family; and the family that the LORD takes shall come forward man by man. He who is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the LORD and has done a disgraceful thing in Israel!’’”

Do you see how the people were connected?

The one man’s sin affected all of the others.

No man is an island.

No one stands completely alone.

Sin is serious because it affects the people around us.

In this case, so much that the LORD says, “Israel has sinned. They have violated my covenant. They have taken. They have stolen. They have lied.”

And they are all reaping the consequences of it.

Sin is serious because it affects the people around us.

Now, just because one person in our church sins or our family sins, doesn’t mean that we are all guilty of that sin in the same way.

But, don’t think that you can sin and it NOT affect the people around you.

A couple of weeks ago, I gave in, in a major way to gluttony. Which, as many of you know, is one of my besetting temptations.

I had had a long day, and decided that I was entitled to a huge supper at the Jumbo Chinese Restaurant–by myself–no accountability whatsoever.

And I went back and I went back and I went back.

And I began to feel sick.

Did it stop with me?

Well, no one else got sick. But I had a meeting that night.

And everyone at the meeting had to put up with a pastor who was not able to pay as much attention, much more prone to anger or impatience with other, and uncomfortable–not as sharp for providing good leadership in the meeting.

I had to apologize.

And then I went home. And my sin affected my family, too.

In fact, I was up for hour in the middle of night, thought I was going to upchuck. And I lost sleep.

And then, do you think I was a lot of good for my family the next day?

I had to apologize, especially to my wife–for my sin.

You say, well, that’s a small thing. But it could easily add up to something bigger.

Sin is not isolated. It affects the people around us.

Are you lying to yourself right now about a sinful habit that you have picked up?

I know that many men, including many many Christian men struggle with pornography.

I’m going to be writing an article for EFCA Today on Christian leaders who struggle with pornography.

One of the lies men believe is that their secret lusts don’t affect anyone else.

Don’t believe it. Not for a second.

You’re not just letting yourself be defeated, you are hurting others–especially the women and children around you–and all of your relationships.

It might be subtle for a while, but it is inevitable.

Sin is serious because it affects others around us.

#3. SIN CAN’T STAY HIDDEN FOR LONG.

Did you get the LORD’s plan for rooting out the sin in the camp? Everyone is supposed to go home and consecrate themselves. Tomorrow, God is going to reveal who is the problem that his plaguing Israel. V.16

“Early the next morning Joshua had Israel come forward by tribes, and Judah was taken.”

Stop for a second. Imagine what that night must have been like in the Israelite camp.

And now, the entire nation gets out on parade.

All 12 tribes come marching past. And God (somehow) indicates: Judah. A leader trible.

Judah.

And everyone else can sit down. V.17

“The clans of Judah came forward, and he took the Zerahites.”

Everyone else can sit down. It’s this tribe.

“He had the clan of the Zerahites come forward by families, and Zimri was taken.”

Everyone else can sit down. It’s this family. Do you see the picture? V.18

“Joshua had his family come forward man by man, and Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.”

The Lord knows.

And it’s just a matter of time before everyone does.

Sin is serious. And it can’t stay hidden for long.

I’m sure when he did what he did, Achan didn’t think that anyone was watching.

Now, the entire nation is staring at him.

How would you like your sin to be broadcast on CNN.com?

Jesus said “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.”

Moses said, “Be sure your sin will find you out.”

Sin can’t stay hidden for long.

Achan stands revealed and Joshua calls upon him to confess. V.19

“Then Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.’ [Confess. Agree with God. Give Him the glory by confessing your sin. V.20] Achan replied, ‘It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.’ So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath.”

We look at it that nobody was going to use these things, anyway, so what harm was it?

But Achan had broken at least 4 of the 10 commandments.

1. You shall have no other gods before me. He was worshiping this because he wanted it more than God.
2. You shall not steal.
3. You shall not bear false witness. He lied. He hid.
4. You shall not covet. “I coveted” he said.

You know, coveting is one of our cultures most accepted sins. It’s not just accepted, it’s the basis of our troubled economy!

Sin is serious.

#4. SIN ALWAYS BRINGS TROUBLE. V.23

“They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the LORD. Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold wedge, his sons and daughters [who probably aided and abetted his theft–at least by keeping things hidden], 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. Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor [The Valley of Trouble] ever since.”

Sin always brings trouble.

There are always consequences.

“The way of the unfaithful is hard” (Proverbs 13:15).

Sin always brings trouble.

Achan’s sin made him like the Canaanites.

He’s getting the same treatment as Jericho did.

Remember how Rahab got the same treatment as Israel? She was basically counted as an Israelite?

Achan is counted as a Canaanite.

And his whole family suffers.

The whole nation suffered! “Why have you brought this trouble on us?” Joshua asked.

He was stoned, and burnt, and they piled up a pile of rocks on him.

And they called that place the Valley of Trouble.

Friends, if you are flirting with sin, don’t allow yourself to be fooled.

There will be consequences.

There will be trouble.

You are not bullet-proof.

We tell our children, “With disobedience comes danger.”

That’s the way it is in God’s world.

It doesn’t always seem that way. The Book of Job and Psalm 73 explain that it doesn’t always seem that way while this short life goes on.

That’s why the media portrays a very different story.

“You can life like you want and there are no consequences!” Nu’uh.

You can’t have sex outside of marriage without trouble.
You can’t gossip about your friend or your enemy without trouble.
You can’t cheat on a test without trouble.
You can’t cut corners at work without trouble.
You can’t click to those websites without trouble.
You can’t read those smutty stories or lustfully watch those vulgar movies without trouble.
You can’t take those drugs or get drunk with that beer without reaping trouble.
You can’t dishonor your parents without reaping trouble.

Sin is serious. It always leads to trouble.

#5. SIN MUST BE DECISIVELY JUDGED. V.25

“Joshua said, ‘Why have you brought this trouble on us? The LORD will bring trouble on you today.’” And they stoned and burned him.

There is a necessary punishment for sin.

Sin is so serious, so other-affecting, so unable to stay hidden, so trouble-inducing, so wrath incurring–that it must be dealt with decisively.

It must be judged.

God is holy, and He must judge sin.

In His wisdom, He decided that NOW was the time for Achan.

In His wisdom, He has set a time for you and me to stand before judgment.

To give an account of our deeds done in the body.

And justice will be done and be seen to be done.

Sin must be decisively dealt with. Decisively judged.

But here is the good news for us. Here it is!

There is One who has taken on the judgment for our sins FOR US.

There is One who, in His love for us, bore the punishment we deserved–not just for one act of covetousness and hidden theft–but for all of our sinful failings, all of our direct and indirect sins, all of our passive and aggressive sins, all of our sins of omission and commission–all of our sins, past, present and future.

There is One who bore our sins in His body on the tree, the just for the unjust to bring us to God!

There is a Redeemer! Jesus, God’s own Son!

And He has taken our judgment for us at the Cross!

That’s how serious sin is, friends!

It’s serious enough for us to need a Savior!

Do you know Jesus as your Savior?

It’s the greatest thing in the world.

If you don’t I invite you, I implore you, I challenge you to turn from your sins and trust in Him alone.

He is mighty to save.

Do you know Jesus as your Savior?

If you do, why would you stay in your sins?

Why would you hold on to secret sin? Hidden sin? Offensive habits?

Say, “No!” to your besetting temptations.
Say, “No!” to the world’s enticements.
Say, “No!” to what your flesh has been trying to talk you into.
Say, “No!” to the devil’s plan for your life.

Because as serious as sin is, it’s no longer that powerful in the life of a real Christian.

Victory is possible for Christ-followers.

#6. SIN SPELLS DEFEAT BUT OBEDIENCE RESULTS IN BLESSING.

Achan’s death was not the end of the story. We have to look at chapter 8.

When sin was dealt with, victory returned. V.1

“Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

Does that sound familiar? That’s more like it! That’s how He sounded in chapter 1. “Be strong and courageous!”

“Take the whole army with you, and go up and attack Ai. For I have delivered into your hands the king of Ai, his people, his city and his land. You shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king, except that [this time!] you may carry off their plunder and livestock for yourselves. Set an ambush behind the city.’ [Achan didn’t wait for the generosity of God. V.3] So Joshua and the whole army moved out to attack Ai. He chose thirty thousand of his best fighting men and sent them out at night with these orders: ‘Listen carefully. You are to set an ambush behind the city. Don't go very far from it. All of you be on the alert. I and all those with me will advance on the city, and when the men come out against us, as they did before, we will flee from them. They will pursue us until we have lured them away from the city, for they will say, 'They are running away from us as they did before.' So when we flee from them, you are to rise up from ambush and take the city. The LORD your God will give it into your hand. When you have taken the city, set it on fire. Do what the LORD has commanded. See to it; you have my orders.’

“Then Joshua sent them off, and they went to the place of ambush and lay in wait between Bethel and Ai, to the west of Ai–but Joshua spent that night with the people. Early the next morning Joshua mustered his men, and he and the leaders of Israel marched before them to Ai. The entire force that was with him marched up and approached the city and arrived in front of it. They set up camp north of Ai, with the valley between them and the city. Joshua had taken about five thousand men and set them in ambush between Bethel and Ai, to the west of the city. They had the soldiers take up their positions–all those in the camp to the north of the city and the ambush to the west of it. That night Joshua went into the valley. When the king of Ai saw this, he and all the men of the city hurried out early in the morning to meet Israel in battle at a certain place overlooking the Arabah. But he did not know that an ambush had been set against him behind the city. Joshua and all Israel let themselves be driven back before them, and they fled toward the desert. All the men of Ai were called to pursue them, and they pursued Joshua and were lured away from the city. Not a man remained in Ai or Bethel who did not go after Israel. They left the city open and went in pursuit of Israel.”

Do you get the picture? They ran towards the city, and then said, “Oh No! Ai is attacking us again” and ran away. V.18

“Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Hold out toward Ai the javelin that is in your hand [kind of like the staff of Moses], for into your hand I will deliver the city.’ So Joshua held out his javelin toward Ai. As soon as he did this, the men in the ambush rose quickly from their position and rushed forward. They entered the city and captured it and quickly set it on fire. The men of Ai looked back and saw the smoke of the city rising against the sky, but they had no chance to escape in any direction, for the Israelites who had been fleeing toward the desert had turned back against their pursuers.”
“For when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that smoke was going up from the city, they turned around and attacked the men of Ai. The men of the ambush also came out of the city against them, so that they were caught in the middle, with Israelites on both sides. Israel cut them down, leaving them neither survivors nor fugitives. But they took the king of Ai alive and brought him to Joshua. When Israel had finished killing all the men of Ai in the fields and in the desert where they had chased them, and when every one of them had been put to the sword, all the Israelites returned to Ai and killed those who were in it. Twelve thousand men and women fell that day–all the people of Ai. For Joshua did not draw back the hand that held out his javelin until he had destroyed all who lived in Ai.”

“But Israel did carry off for themselves the livestock and plunder of this city, as the LORD had instructed Joshua. So Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day. He hung the king of Ai on a tree and left him there until evening. At sunset, Joshua ordered them to take his body from the tree and throw it down at the entrance of the city gate. And they raised a large pile of rocks over it, which remains to this day.”

When Achan’s sin had been decisively dealt with, victory returned to Israel.

Sin spells defeat but obedience results in victory and blessing.

What a difference between the battle of Ai in chapter 7 and the battle of Ai in chapter 8!

And the difference was whether or not there was sin or obedience.

Which one are you pursuing?

Joshua wanted to cement this lesson into their heads, so he used this moment in their history to obey the commands that Moses had given them in Deuteronomy chapter 27.

The entire nation took part in a dramatic ceremony of reminding themselves of the warnings and promises of God. Look at verse 30.

“Then Joshua built on Mount Ebal an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded the Israelites [You can look it up in Deuteronomy 27]. He built it according to what is written in the Book of the Law of Moses–an altar of uncut stones, on which no iron tool had been used. On it they offered to the LORD burnt offerings and sacrificed fellowship offerings.”

Worship! And reminders of how God deals with sin.

“There, in the presence of the Israelites, Joshua copied on stones the law of Moses, which he had written [the Word of God!]. All Israel, aliens and citizens alike, with their elders, officials and judges, were standing on both sides of the ark of the covenant of the LORD, facing those who carried it–the priests, who were Levites.”

Now, catch this:

“Half of the people stood in front of Mount Gerizim and half of them in front of Mount Ebal [six tribes on one side, six tribes on the other], as Moses the servant of the LORD had formerly commanded when he gave instructions to bless the people of Israel. Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law–the blessings and the curses–just as it is written in the Book of the Law. There was not a word of all that Moses had commanded that Joshua did not read to the whole assembly of Israel, including the women and children, and the aliens who lived among them.”

Do you get the picture?

Half of Israel here. Half of Israel here.

And as Joshua reads, they listen.

And [Deuteronomy says] they get to the promises. And this group over here says, “Amen!”

With obedience comes blessing!

And then they read some warnings. And this group over hear echos back like a great big stadium, “Amen!”

With disobedience comes danger!
With sin comes defeat!

And they go back and forth through the whole law.

And they are saying, “Let’s follow the LORD!”

Let’s not give in to sin.

Let’s not go there.

Sin is serious business.

Let’s not go there. Let’s follow the Lord!

And how much more, you and I having the Spirit, having the completed Word, and (espeicially) living on this side of the Cross and the Empty Tomb–should we say, “Yes, Lord! Amen! We will obey.”

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