By David A. Padfield
The book of Joshua records the conquest of the land of Canaan. It shows us the triumph of faith at Jericho, and the farreaching consequences of sin as Israel was defeated at Ai.
With full faith in the power of God, Joshua had sent 3,000 soldiers to attack Ai (Josh. 7:1-5). It came as a great shock when this little town not only stayed the attack, but killed 36 Israelites. Joshua, despondent over this defeat, tore his clothing and fell to the ground in prayer. God explained to Joshua there was sin in the camp of Israel. While this sin remained unpunished, God would not be with them.
In Joshua 7:21 we find Achan had sinned by stealing goods at Jericho. After Achan’s confession “Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his sheep, his tent and all that he had and they brought them to the valley of Achor . . . so all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned him with fire after they had stoned them with stones” (Josh. 7:24,25). One commentator observed, “Public executions are public examples.”
Years later, after the conquest of Canaan, we find a sermon in which the sin of Achan is recalled. “Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? And that man did not perish alone in his iniquity” (Josh. 22:20).
We need to remember that Achan “did not perish alone.” Thirty-six of Achan’s comrades, plus his sons and daughters, died because of his sin. The Bible says very little about Achan. I am certain that if you could talk to him today he would tell you he had no idea how many lives his sin would touch. The tragedy is that he did not think about how his crime would affect other people.
None of us lives in a vacuum. Our actions have much bearing on the eternal destiny of others. Paul tells us that “none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself” (Rom. 14:7). Have you ever thought about how your sins affect others?
When parents forsake the assembling of the saints (Heb. 10:25) their children must suffer the consequences, i.e., growing up without a knowledge of the Lord. I have met too many parents who waited till their children were almost grown before they tried to teach them the Bible. Most of the time it’s a case of “too little, too late.”
In a divorce, it is the children who suffer the most. They have to pay for the immorality of their mother or father. A few years ago I did volunteer work at the public schools. I do not believe it is a coincidence that all the children I tutored came from broken homes. They needed extra help at school because no one would help them at home.
I have known several women who were suffering the consequences of their husbands’ alcoholism. A drunken husband means the wife has to leave the home to provide an income for the family. Here again the children suffer. While mom is at work, they are left alone at home. Frequently they are left in the “care” of their father.
Sometimes parents have to pay the price for the sin of their children. “A foolish son is the ruin of his father” (Prov. 19:13). 1 have watched men and women grow old before their time because of the sins of their children. The hopes and dreams of parents are shattered by their sexual promiscuity of their children. The grief inflicted is not because the children hate their parents, I’m afraid it’s because they just don’t care.
Let none of us be deceived into thinking that we have never acted in such a way as to cause harm to others. Our Lord had to die because of our sins. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
I pray that we can all learn a lesson from Achan without having to learn the hard way.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 22, p. 693
November 16, 1989