Jericho and Achor: Part 3

Joshua 6-7
It is always well for the Christian to be able to give a calm and decided answer to the objection which infidelity is sure to offer to the actings of divine government. The answer is this—" Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" If the creature is to be allowed to judge the Creator, there is an end of all government in the vast universe of God. Hence, when we hear men daring to pronounce judgment upon the ways of God, and undertaking to decide what is, or what is not, fit for God to do, this grand preliminary question invariably suggests itself—" Who is to be judge?" Is man to judge God? or is God to judge man? If the former, there is no God at all; and if the latter, then man has to bow his head in reverent silence, and own his utter ignorance and folly.
The fact is, if man could comprehend the government of God, he would no longer be man, but God. What contemptible folly, therefore, for a poor, shallow ignorant, short-sighted mortal to attempt to pronounce, an opinion upon the profound mysteries of divine government! His opinion is not only utterly worthless, but, in the judgment of every truly pious mind, positively impious and blasphemous, a daring insult offered to the throne, to the nature, and to the character of God, for which he will, most assuredly, have to answer before the judgment-seat of Christ, unless he repent, and find pardon through the blood of the cross.
The foregoing line of thought has suggested itself in connection with the solemn scene in the valley of Achor. The unbelieving mind may feel disposed to start an objection on the ground of the apparent severity of the judgment; to institute a comparison between the offense and the punishment; to call in question the equity of Achan's children being involved in their father's sin.
To all this we simply reply, " Are we competent to judge?" If any man thinks he is, it is tantamount to saying that God is not fit to govern the world, but should give place to man. This is the real root of the whole matter. Infidelity wants to get rid of God altogether, and set up man in His place. If God is to be God, then, most certainly, His ways, the actings of His government, the mysteries of His providence, His purposes, His counsels, and His judgments must lie far beyond the range of the most gigantic human or angelic mind. Neither angel, man, nor devil can comprehend Deity. Let men own this, and hush into eternal silence their puny, ignorant, and contemptible reasonings. Let them take up the language of Job when his eyes were opened: " Then Job answered the Lord, and said, I know that thou canst do everything, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak; I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." When the soul gets into this attitude, there is an end of all infidel questions. Till then there is little use in discussion.
Let us now turn, for a few moments, to contemplate the solemn scene in the valley of Achor; and let us remember that "whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning." May we learn to watch, with holy jealousy, the incipient workings of evil in our hearts. It is on these men ought to sit in judgment, and not on the pure and perfect actings of divine government.
Joshua's address to Achan is solemn, weighty, and powerful. " My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me."
Here is the all-important matter. " Give glory to Jehovah, God of Israel." All hinges upon this. The Lord's glory is the one perfect standard by which all is to be judged—the perfect gauge by which everything is to be measured—the perfect touchstone by which all is to be tried. The one great question for the people of God, in all ages and in all dispensations, is this-" What is suited to the glory of God /" In comparison with this, all other questions are less than secondary. It is not a question of what is suitable to us, or what we can tolerate or agree with. This is a very minor consideration indeed. What we have ever to look to, and think of, and provide for, is the glory of God. We have to ask ourselves the question, in reference to everything that comes before us, " Will this comport with the glory of God?" If not, let us, by His grace, fling it aside.
Well would it have been for Achan had he thought of this, when his eye rested on the cursed treasure! What misery it would have saved him! What sorrow and trouble it would have saved his brethren! But, alas! alas! people forget all this when lust dims the eyes, and vanity and folly possess the heart; and onward they go, until the heavy judgment of a holy, sin-hating God overtake them. And then, forsooth, men presume to comment upon such judgment as unworthy of a gracious and beneficent Being. Ignorant presumption! They would fain have a god of their own imagination, one like themselves, who can make light of sin, and tolerate all sorts of evil. The God of the Bible, the God of Christianity, the God of the cross, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ does not suit such infidel reasoners. Their deep heart-utterance to Him is, "Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways."
"And Achan said, Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done; when I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it."
Here the dark, defiling river is traced up to its source in the heart of this one unhappy man. Oh, how little did he think whose eye was resting on him during the entire progress of this most melancholy and disastrous affair! He thought but of one thing, namely, the gratification of his covetousness. He saw, he coveted, he took, he hid; and there, no doubt, he thought the matter would end. He would have his treasure, and no one would be the wiser.
But, ah! the eye of Jehovah, the God of Israel, was upon him; that holy eye from which no secret thing is hidden, which penetrates to the profoundest depths of the human heart, and takes in at a glance all the hidden springs of human action. Yes, God saw it all, and He would make Israel see it, and Achan also. Hence the lamentable defeat at Ai, and all that followed.
How peculiarly solemn! The whole assembly involved in shameful defeat and disaster; Joshua and the elders of Israel, with rent garments and dust upon their heads, prostrate on their faces from morning till evening! And then the divine challenge and rebuke; the solemn muster of the hosts of Israel, tribe by tribe, family by family, household by household, man by man.
And why all this? Just to trace the evil to its source, bring it all out, and have it judged in the sight of the wide universe of God. All created intelligence must be made to see and confess that the throne of God can have no fellowship with evil. The same power that had leveled the walls of Jericho, and executed judgment upon its guilty inhabitants, was to be manifested in detecting Achan's sin, and in evoking from the very depths of his convicted heart the confession of his terrible guilt. He, in common with all his brethren, had heard Jehovah's solemn charge: " And ye, in anywise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make"—not merely any one individual's tent, but—" the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord; they shall come into the treasury of the Lord."
All this was plain enough. No one could mistake it. It only needed an attentive ear and an obedient heart. It was as plain as the commandment delivered to Adam and Eve amid the bowers of Eden. But Achan, like Adam, transgressed the plain and positive command. Instead of hiding it in his heart, that he might not sin against God, he trampled it under his feet, that he might gratify his sinful desires. He fixed his covetous gaze upon the accursed thing, in itself nothing but a wretched pile of dust, but through Satan's power and Achan's erring heart turned into an occasion of sin, shame, and sorrow.
Oh, reader, how sad, how sorrowful, how terrible a thing it is to allow the poor heart to go after the wretched things of this world! What are they all worth? If we could have all the garments that were ever made in Babylon, all the gold and silver that ever issued from the mines of Peru, California, and Australia; all the pearls and diamonds that ever glittered on the kings, princes, and nobles of this world; could they give us one hour's true happiness? Could they send a single ray of heavenly light into the soul? Could they impart to us one moment's pure spiritual enjoyment? Not they. In themselves they are but perishable dust, used of Satan, a positive curse, misery, and degradation. Not all the riches and material comforts which this world could offer are worth one hour's holy communion with our heavenly Father and our precious Savior. Why should we covet this world's wretched wealth? Our God will supply all our need, according to His riches in glory, by Christ Jesus. Is not this enough? Why should we put ourselves within the range of Satan's power, by setting our hearts upon the riches, honors, or pleasures of a wicked world which is ruled by the arch-enemy of God and of our souls? How well it would have been for Achan, had he rested content with what the God of Israel had given him! How happy he might have been, had he been satisfied with the furniture of his tent, the smile of Jehovah, and the answer of a good conscience!
But he was not; and hence the appalling scene in the valley of Achor, the record of which is enough to strike terror into the stoutest heart. " So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it. And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the Lord. And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan, the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had;
and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? The Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called the valley of Achor [that is, trouble] unto this day." Josh. 7:19-2619And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me. 20And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: 21When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it. 22So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it. 23And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the Lord. 24And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. 25And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. 26And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day. (Joshua 7:19‑26).
How deeply solemn is all this! What a warning note it sounds in our ears! Let us not attempt, under the false influence of one-sided notions of grace, to turn aside the holy edge of such a passage of scripture. Let us read, with earnest attention, the inscription on that awful monument in the valley of Achor. What is it? " God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of his saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him." Ami again, "If any man defile the temple of God, him will God destroy." And, further, " Our God is a consuming fire."
Weighty, solemn, searching words these! Much needed, surely, in these days of flippant, easy-going profession, when the doctrines of grace are so much on our lips, but the fruits of righteousness so little seen in our lives. May we learn from them the urgent need of watchfulness over our hearts, and over our private life, that evil may be judged and nipped in the bud, so that it may not bring forth its sad, shameful, and sorrowful fruit in our practical career, to the gross dishonor of the Lord, and the grievous sorrow of those with whom we are linked in the bonds of fellowship.
(to be continued if God permit.)