It was early in the morning. As the dawning sun broke over the horizon the Israelite warriors could be seen marching around the city. It must have been a strange sight to the residents of Jericho. For seven days they had been marching and sounding their trumpets, yet not one advance to attempt to breach those famous walls of Jericho had occurred. Was this just a scare tactic? Maybe what they had heard about the plagues, the Red Sea, and the Egyptian army being drowned in the sea (Exodus 14) was just a myth. Then it happened. What must have sounded as a faint cry quickly turned into a thunderous shout that seemed to shake the very ground they stood on! Then the wall began to crack and tilt and then the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. At Joshua’s command the shouting Israelite warriors stormed the crumbled walls. Under divine command from The LORD they burned everything and devoted the entire city and its residents to destruction. Victory. Success. Whose next? Everything seems to be going as planned, or so it seemed. For as Joshua celebrated the news of Jericho (Joshua 6:27), Achan hurried to bury his secret sin (Joshua 7:1). But The Lord saw him take the forbidden things, that cloak from Babylon and the silver and gold, “And the anger of The Lord burned against The people of Israel” (Joshua 7:1). Make no mistake, what Achan thought to be a secret sin in Canaan was but open rebellion up in heaven. Joshua, perhaps with a touch of arrogance and a little confidence from his friends, marches three thousand troops on towards the little town of Ai, without any inquiry of The Lord. Had he sought The Lord’s will before marching perhaps Israel would have been spared an embarrassing and tragic loss. But instead, the men of Israel fled in terror as the men of Ai chased them and cut down thirty-six Israelite warriors. A previously celebratory Joshua is now confused and concerned. Now he comes to The Lord with dirt on his head, face down on the ground asking God why He didn’t just let them stay on the other side of The Jordan? But The Lord had a question too, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned” (Joshua 7:10). Oh yes, what is secret sin in Canaan is but open rebellion up in heaven.
I warn you now. The next events will likely cause an adrenaline rush. It’s an all too familiar scene for many of us. Achan is sitting in his tent reminiscing about this secret sin. Did anyone see him? He was awfully stealthy and even if they did see perhaps they didn’t perceive what he had done. Isn’t the unwritten rule of society to mind one’s own business? And then he hears him. It’s Joshua summoning the tribes to come near to the tabernacle of The Lord. If Achan was curious as his tribe, the tribe of Judah, approached where Joshua was standing then his curiosity quickly faded as they were captured (The Hebrew word that our English Bibles translates as “chosen” or “taken” can also be translated as captured). Is this really what it looks like? That must have just been a coincidence. But then the tribe of Judah is brought near and with swiftness Achan’s clan of the Zerahites was captured. Achan certainly was getting uncomfortable but he resolved to bite his tongue and refused to confess his sin. Unrepentant sinners would rather trust in their own schemes than to confess their secret sin. Yet this resolve was tested as his clan was brought near and Achan’s family was quickly captured. Did someone know his secret? No way! He had hidden his sin deep in the earth under his tent. He took all the necessary steps and cleaned up his mess. He bit his tongue yet again and refused to confess. Unrepentant sinners would rather trust in their own schemes than to confess their secret sins. His hands were sweaty, his heart palpitating, gut twisting as Joshua brought Achan’s family near, man by man. The line grew shorter until Achan was next in line. Joshua took him by the arm and begin to lead him towards the tabernacle. His blood thickened, his pulse tightened. Everything within him screamed to confess his sin, but his heart was hardened and he bit his tongue because unrepentant sinners would rather trust in their own schemes than to confess their secret sin. So Achan was captured because secret sin isn’t so secret, but is open rebellion up in heaven.
The narrative of Achan ends in trouble and destruction because he was an unrepentant sinner who trusted in his own schemes instead of trusting in The Lord. That’s the tragedy of the narrative. Mercy always accompanies repentance wrought confession. Israelite history was packed full of memories revealing The Lord who is a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6). Achan biting his tongue until the bitter end is a vivid example of an unrepentant sinner who trusts in his own schemes instead of trusting in The Lord. His confession isn’t one from repentance, but the forced talk of one caught red-handed. Joshua sends men to search his tent and they quickly recover those things devoted to destruction. They stone Achan and burn all his belongings and pile a great heap of stones on top of his body and the site of his execution is named The Valley of Achor. It means ‘to trouble or destroy’ and is even related to the Hebrew name Achan (troubler). Joshua wants us to remember what happened in The valley of Achor where the secret sins of Achan were made a secret no more. But wait there’s more because it’s not the last time that the Bible will mention the valley of Achor. From the prophet Hosea we hear it once more, “And there I will give her vineyards and make the valley of Achor a door of hope” (2:15). As the Bible unfolds we begin to see this door take shape for Jesus stepped down from heaven and passed through the valley of Achor for our sake. On His way to mount Calvary where our sin He did bear. He now stands as the door of hope for anyone in the valley of Achor who will hear. Lest you be like Achan and be found out for your sin, fall down before Calvary in repentance and faith. Two profound, but simple options are before you this day. There is life and there is death, there is blessing and there is cursing. As an ambassador of Christ I implore you to run. Run to mount Calvary and choose life and live.
If you wish to hear the full sermon to this condensed summary then you do that HERE. The sermon begins at 43:30 and was titled: The sinner in the valley of Achor.
Blessings in Christ,