Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken.
Israel had just won the biggest battle in its military history. The impregnable fortress of Jericho was destroyed by the mighty hand of God. The inhabitants of Canaan trembled in terror before the armies of Israel. But as is frequently the case, a great victory had made them susceptible to a great defeat.
With the ashes of Jericho behind it, Israel now faced the next battle in its conquest of Canaan. Situated east of Bethel, in the foothills of the Judean highlands, was the tiny town of Ai. When spies returned from scouting this town they reported that three thousand soldiers were needed to seize this tiny, indefensible town. What they did not know was that, whereas God had gone with them into battle at Jericho, because of sin in their ranks God would not go with them in battle at Ai. The Israelites soon learned that the difference between victory and defeat is not military strength but the presence of the Lord.
The men of Ai routed the Israelite force, slaying thirty-six of them and chasing the rest all the way to Shebarim. Licking their wounds, they returned to Joshua and the elders who immediately fell on their faces before the ark of the Lord. Joshua thought he had been abandoned by God, but the Lord quickly revealed to him that the defeat at Ai was due to sin in the camp of Israel. "So he rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes (Joshua 7:16). The tribe of Judah was indicated. Then all the families of Judah were marched before Joshua and Zerah pointed out as head of the sinning family. From the family Zerahites, man by man, they were escorted into the presence Joshua and Zabdi was taken. The household of Zabdi remained and Achan, the son of Carmi, was accused.
Joshua bade Achan to give glory to the Lord God of Israel and make a public confession. Achan confessed that his sin began innocently enough when he saw the spoils of war. But immediately that simple sight degenerated into covetousness and to actually taking the accursed thing. But worse than that, because he thought he could get away with his sin, he hid the beautiful garment and the silver and gold he took in the earth beneath his tent. Although succumbing to the temptation to sin was evil enough, Achan's greatest mistake was thinking that he could hide that sin from God.
That we can never successfully hide our sin from God is the teaching of Jesus' parable of the lighted candle. Luke 8:16-17 records, "No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candle-stick, that they which enter in may see the light. For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid, that shall not be made known and come abroad." The seeing eye of God searches even the innermost secrets of men. No sin, however large or small, escapes the eye of God.
Exodus 2 describes how Moses spied an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, and he looked this way and that way, and when he saw no man watching him he slew the Egyptian and hid him in the sand (Exodus 2:12). The very next day however Moses' sin was discovered and he had to flee from the land of the Pharaoh and spend the next forty years in Midian. Moses' sin was unsuccessfully hidden. Beloved King David had a similar experience. After sinning with Bathsheba and attempting to cover his sin through the death of Uriah the Hittite, the trespass of David soon came to light when Nathan the prophet pointed his finger in the king's face and said, "Thou art the man" (2 Samuel 12:7). In remorse King David said, "O God, Thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from Thee" (Psalm 69:5).
From the sad experiences of Achan and these others, let us learn well the truth that sin is never successfully hidden. We cannot hide our sin from God; we only can deal with it. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). Don't try to hide sin today; let God forgive it instead.
MORNING HYMN Depth of mercy! Can there be mercy still reserved for me? Can my God His wrath forbear Me, the chief of sinners spare?
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