Joshua 7:1 -
The way of the transgressor.
In order to understand Achan's sin, we must bear in mind the absolute nature of the decree that everything belonging to Jericho should be devoted to the Lord—all living beings slain, and destructible materials consumed as a sacrifice to His offended Majesty; all indestructible materials—silver and gold, vessels of iron and brass—consecrated to the service of the sanctuary. The sin was, therefore, something more than an act of disobedience. It was a violation of the Divine covenant. It was sacrilege, a robbery of God, an impious seizure, for base, selfish purposes, of that which belonged to Him. And the secrecy with which the sin was committed was a defiance of the Divine Omniscience. Trifling as the offence may seem on a mere superficial view of it, it thus contained the essential elements of all transgression. The penalty was terrible; but the moral exigencies of the time demanded it. The sovereignty God was asserting so solemnly over the Canaanites could suffer no dishonour among His own people. "Judgment must begin at the house of God." The point of interest in this passage is the view it gives of the connection between Achan and all Israel in this transgression; it speaks of his deed as the deed of the whole nation, and one that brought down on it the anger of the Lord. Consider
I. NOTE THE INFLUENCE THE SIN OF ONE MAN MAY NAVE ON THE LIFE AND DESTINY OF MANY OTHERS . Nothing is said about the effect of Achan's trespass on his family, except that it involved them with himself in the same miserable end. We are not told whether he had any associates in crime. Probably he had. Men are seldom able to keep dark secrets like tiffs locked up long in their own bosoms. But however this may be, we cannot well confine our thoughts to the mere participation in punishment. We are reminded of those bearings of human conduct which are at work long before the final issues stand revealed—the near, as well as remote, effects of wrong doing. Men cannot sin alone any more than "perish" alone ( Joshua 22:20 ). Consider that great law of moral action and reaction that underlies all the superficial forms of social life, and which is to it very much what the laws of chemical affinity or of attraction and gravitation are to nature. By this men are held together, linked one with another, cemented into one living anti organic whole. By virtue of this we are continually giving and receiving impulses. And it is as impossible that we should act without producing effects on others, as that the smooth surface of a lake should be broken and there be no undulations spreading to the banks. This influence will be for good or ill according to a man's personal character. Our words and deeds, charged with the moral quality of our own inner life, tend thus inevitably to awaken something like them in others. Every good man diffuses a moral influence that assimilates all around him to his own goodness. Every bad man stands in the midst of human society the moral image of the deadly upas tree, blighting and withering crew fair thing that comes within its shadow. "Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone!" Go not near him. For your own sake "let him alone!" So with every single act of transgression. We may not be able to trace its moral issues; only know that it adds to the ever-accumulating sum of the world's evil. So far as its power reaches it is another contribution to the building up of Satan's kingdom among men, another blow struck at the kingdom of truth and righteousness. Moreover, sin cannot always be hid, though men seek the darkness for the doing of their dark deeds—though the memorials of their guilt be carefully concealed, like the "costly garment," etc; of Achan beneath the ground—yet God's eye "seeth in secret," and He will sooner or later "reward it openly." "For nothing is secret that shall not be made manifest,'' etc. ( Luke 8:17 ). "Be sure your sin will find you out" ( Numbers 32:23 ). And as its influence spreads far beyond the place of its birth, so its penalty will fall on the innocent as well as the guilty. All this may seem out of harmony with the present dispensation of grace. But not so. Christianity does not alter the fundamental laws of moral government. These considerations clothe the sinner with guilt independently of the intrinsic quality of his deed. They deepen the shadow that rents on the path of the transgressor.
II. THE RELATION OF THE PEOPLE TO ACHAN 'S SIN . The crime of this one man is imputed to all Israel on the principle of the organic unity of the nation. As the body is said to be diseased or wounded, though the malady may lie only in one of its members, so his trespass destroyed the moral integrity of the whole nation. We are reminded of certain ways in which a community may be implicated in a wrong actually done by only one of its members.
HOMILIES BY E. DE PRESSENSE
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