Joshua 7:1-5 -
One of the most valuable uses of the historical portions of the Old Testament is the valuable moral lessons they convey. "The Old Testament is not contrary to the New." Both come from God, and the offences God denounces and punishes under the old dispensation will be equally denounced and punished by Him under the new. Let no sinner flatter himself that he will escape because his doctrine is sound, or because he belongs to an orthodox body of Christians, or because he feels assured of salvation. If he sins he will be punished. And he sins when he does what God has forbidden under the law as well as under the gospel. To be a moral man will not save the soul; but not to be a moral man will assuredly ruin it. We should therefore take good heed to the lessons of morality taught in the Old Testament.
I. THE EVIL OF OVER - CONFIDENCE . Even the good Joshua errs sometimes. We hear of no counsel being taken of God here, any more than when the Gibeonite embassy arrived. The report of the spies is acted upon at once. The siege of Ai seems to have been undertaken relying upon human means alone. But the Israelites were to learn how entirely dependent they were upon Divine aid. We need the lesson as much as they. In cases of difficulty we betake ourselves to God. In ordinary affairs we trust to ourselves. Yet we need His aid as much in the one as in the other. How many of our failures in the conflict with ourselves, or with the evil around us, are due to forgetting this truth? Or we take scant pains about what we think easy work. We need not" weary" ourselves, we think, with that. And our scanty preparation is inadequate to the task, since we are compassed with infirmity.
II. THE EXCEEDING SINFULNESS OF SIN . It was ruin to the Israelites' campaign. It brought disgrace, not only to the sinner, but to the cause. So now,
III. THE DANGER OF DISOBEDIENCE AND COVETOUSNESS . God had given no reasons for His command about Jericho and its spoils. It is true that they were obvious enough to an inquiring mind. But some minds will not inquire, except to find reasons for disobedience. Of such a disposition was Achan. Why should such a command be given? "To what purpose is this waste?" What is the good of it all? And the promptings of self interest are sufficient to outweigh the obvious reason that this solemn ban upon Jericho and all that was therein was to impress upon the minds of the Israelites the awfu1 and irrevocable nature of the sentence God had pronounced against the inhabitants of the land. Such abstract considerations had little weight besides the concrete fact of a wedge of gold and a Babylonish garment. The welfare of society, the necessity to its well being of God's moral laws, are cobwebs easily brushed aside when interest or passion impel us to break those laws. We look at the temptation and look again. We let the idea gain possession of our minds. "Where is the harm?" we cry, and then we commit the sin, and involve ourselves in its terrible, and even upon repentance, to a certain extent, irremediable consequences. Though our Joshua has redeemed us from the extremest penalty of His outraged law, yet must He bring us to detection and shame, and consequent punishment. "The valley of Achor" may be given us "for a door of hope," but the anguish must come before the peace, to which, by His mercy, it is destined to lead. One lesson from Achan's sin is that no one can disobey God's laws and come off seathless. Not for nought does He say, "Thou shalt not do this thing." He who in wilful folly transgresses His commands must bear his burden, whosoever he be.
IV. THE DECEITFULNESS OF SIN . It seemed a light thing to Achan when he did it. "I did but taste a little honey"—a little of the sweetness of forbidden pleasure—"and lo, I must die." So almost all sin seems light when committed. A little deceit or lying, a little indulgence in impure imaginations or actions, a little compliance with the customs of an evil world, a little yielding to the promptings of anger or avarice, seem slight matters when they occur. But they often bring serious consequences in their train. Repeated acts become habits, and habits are not easily broken off. We are their captives before we are aware, and then we wish, and wish in vain, that we had never made ourselves their slave.
"'Twas but one little sin
We saw at morning enter in,
And lo! at eventide the world is drowned."
Keble, 'Christian Year,' Septuagesima Sunday.
HOMILIES BY S.R. ALDRIDGE
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