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Joshua 7:16-26 -

The detection.

Objections have been raised to the morality of the whole narrative. We will deal first with this subject, and then turn to the religious and moral questions involved.

I. WHY DID GOD NOT REVEAL THE OFFENDER WHEN HE REVEALED THE OFFENCE ? The answer is, that He might still further display the hardness of Achan's heart. He did not at once come forward and confess his crime. He not only had offended against God's laws, but he persisted in his offence. His was not a tender conscience, sensitive to the least reproach, he saw what disaster he had brought upon Israel, yet he clung to his ill-gotten gains as long as he could. He was not driven, either by remorse for the injury he had done his brethren, or by the clear evidence that God had found him out, to confession and restitution. He concealed his guilt till concealment was no longer possible, and thus added as much as he could to his guilt. So do men in these days hug their sins to their bosom as long as they are not found out. They cry, "Turn, God hath forgotten. He hideth His face and He will never see it;" thus adding all possible aggravation to their guilt.

II. THE JUSTICE OF JOSHUA is worthy of remark. Even Achan's confession was not regarded as final. The wedge of gold, the garment, and the silver were brought and solemnly laid out before God and the congregation as proof of his guilt. Not till then was judgment pronounced. We have here a warning against hasty and uncharitable judgments. No man can justly be visited with censure or punishment until his guilt be filly proved.

III. We should next observe THE NATURE OF ACHAN 'S SIN .

1. It was sacrilege , the most presumptuous of all sins. The tendency of modern thought is to ignore such sins. To steal what is devoted to God's service is not worse than to steal anything else. To break an oath is not worse than to break one's word. Do not such reasonings ignore the personality of God? And do not religious people very often unthinkingly surrender a fundamental article of their faith when they yield to such reasoning? If there be indeed a God—if He be nothing but the embodiment of the principle of humanity, as we are now taught, does it not add the most awful of all insolence to the sin in itself when we rob Him, or he to Him? All sins are, it is tree, a denial of His being; but that denial assumes a more naked and a bolder form when the offence is directed against Him. For then all disguises of self interest are swept away, and the offender says deliberately in his heart, "There is no God." Let us take heed, therefore, how we "rob God," whether "in tithes and offerings," or in any other way.

2 . The sacrilege was committed just when sacrilege was most inexcusable. The hand of God had been clearly visible in the capture of Jericho. The dedication of the spoil to Him was an acknowledgment of His awful power. Not long before God had dried up the waters of Jordan before His people. They had but just renewed their covenant with Him by a general circumcision of the people, and had sanctified that renewal by partaking of the passover. And God foreknew that Achan would persist in his sin, in disbelieving in the Almighty power of God until his offence was brought home beyond the possibility of mistake to his own door.

The lessons we learn from this event are four.

I. THE AWFULNESS OF THE SENTENCE AGAINST SIN . "The soul that sinneth it shall die." "The wages of sin is death." All unrepented sin is leading us up to this end. Achan is the type of impenitent sinners. He persists in his sin till the great moment of unveiling comes, as sinners persist in their sin until they are brought to the bar of God's judgment. Then is it too late to cry for mercy, when it is the time of judgment. We must learn to confess and forsake our sin in time.

II. THE CERTAINTY OF DETECTION . The heavens did not shake, nor the earth tremble, when Achan committed his sin. No lightning descended from above upon his head. No sign appeared in the earth or sky to betray him. The sun rose and set as usual. Nothing disturbed the ordinary routine of the camp until the reverse at Ai. Yet God saw all and meant to bring it to light in His own good time. Achan fancied himself undiscovered, but he was mistaken. And so are they mistaken who fancy that God does not see their secret sins. They may go on for years undiscovered, but God knows all, and can, and often does, in the most unexpected way bring all to light. If not before, yet on that day when the secrets of all hearts shall be revealed, shall the sin which the sinner has hugged so closely to his bosom be displayed in its native hideousness before God, angels, and men.

III. THE NECESSITY OF CONFESSION AND RESTITUTION . Repentance which does not involve these is no repentance at all. To repent of sin is to forsake it; but forsaking sin is impossible without confession and restitution. Confession, that is, to the person whom we have offended. If we have sinned against God, we must confess our sin to Him. If we have done wrong to man, we must acknowledge the wrong we have done to him who has suffered by it. Restitution, again, is a sore trial to the offender; he would fain persuade himself that it is unnecessary. But unless we restore our ill-gotten gains we are persisting in the very sin we profess to have renounced. We cannot really hate and desire to break off any sinful habits, while we retain as our own that which those sinful habits have gained for us. Achan was compelled

And those who, in our days, hope that they may be held blameless because they confess to God, which means to themselves, sins the shame of which they ought to endure, and the profit of which they are bound to restore, will certainly undergo the punishment which Achan, even when confessing and restoring, did not escape. The duty of confession to the person offended is incumbent on those who have slandered, or insulted, or wounded the feelings of another. That of restitution is due from those who have wronged God or man, either by withholding from the former what was due to Him, or by taking undue advantage of the ignorance or necessity of the latter. Those who defraud the widow and the fatherless, or "oppress the hireling in his wages," or drive a corrupt or unjust bargain, who use "the bag of deceitful weights," must either disgorge their ill-gotten gains, or suffer the vengeance of a just God. So the Scriptures tell us throughout.

IV. THE GRAVITY OF SIN DEPENDS ON ITS CIRCUMSTANCES . The taking of a piece of gold or silver and a garment is not in itself an offence that deserves death, nor was it ever so regarded under the law. What constituted the gravity of Achan's offence we have already seen. We may gather hence that in estimating sin, the position of the offender, his opportunities of enlightenment, the nature and strength of the temptation, his means of resisting it, must be taken into account. A sin is infinitely worse when committed by a man who has made a high profession of religion, and must have known the gravity of the offence when committing it. A sin is infinitely worse when an utter indifference to the existence of God or His justice is ostentatiously shown. It may possibly be that one weak in faith and holy resolution, and exposed to overwhelming temptation, may plead the intensity of the temptation, as well as his own ignorance and inexperience, as some palliation of his error. "The publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you," said our Lord to the scribes and Pharisees. And so the sin-stained multitudes in our large cities may be nearer to God than many decent professors of religion who combine with their comfort and decency the coldest and most cynical selfishness.

HOMILIES BY S.R. ALDRIDGE

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