June 15, 2013

Babylonian Bling

There is more than  disobedience towards God going on when it comes to Achan in the book of Joshua. He did not just steal from God, he stole God’s first fruits at Jericho. Everything at Jericho was to be consecrated to God. The spoils of war were to be God’s. Since Jericho was to be the first conquest of God's people in the promised land...everything was God's. Period.

Joshua 6:17-19 ~ “And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.”

The things of Jericho were to be left alone and destroyed and at the time it appeared they were…

Joshua 6:21 ~ “Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword.”

Joshua 6:24 ~ “And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord.” 

First fruits were/are more or less a tithe. In the Feast of First Fruits the Israelites were to bring the first sheaves of the barley harvest and wave them before the Lord. At the beginning of the day representative leaders of the people would cut certain barley sheaves that had been set aside specifically for this purpose and bring them to the priest. The priest would then present them to the Lord by waving them back and forth.

Leviticus 23:9-12 The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: "When you enter the land I am going to give you and you reap its harvest, bring to the priest a sheaf of the first grain you harvest. He is to wave the sheaf before the LORD so it will be accepted on your behalf; the priest is to wave it on the day after the Sabbath. On the day you wave the sheaf, you must sacrifice as a burnt offering to the LORD a lamb a year old without defect..."

The purpose of this was to consecrate the harvest to the Lord. The first fruits were representative of the entire harvest. This act reminded Israelite people that the land and all its harvest rightfully belonged to God. The people are just stewards of the land and God's merchandise. Jesus fulfilled this feast when He became the first fruits resurrected from the dead. His new beginning in resurrected form marked the beginning of the harvest of souls who have been set apart for God through the Lord Jesus Christ.

So in effect the walking back and forth our around the city walls and then subsequent destruction and burning of Jericho mimics or shadows this feast. Furthermore, the conquest of Jericho would be the first of many conquests (harvests) in the land of Canaan for the Israelites. The saving of the metal vessels for the Lord's  treasury adds a further exclamation point to the fact that all was the Lord’s.

By the time we reach Joshua 7 we see that things were not as they seemed. Man did not see what was going on beneath the surface but God had and it is reflected in Joshua’s and the people’s defeat at Ai.

Joshua 7:1 ~ “But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.

We see that through the sin of one man, all in the covenant were going to be punished by the loss at Ai. Achan had stolen from God. This is often like us today. We think that no one knows of our sin, but God knows. We must not fail to take into account God’s omnipresence and omniscience into our lives. God is everywhere so He is most certainly at the exact location where we sin. We should be ashamed and it is only our sinful reprobate nature if we chose to ignore this fact and sin anyway. We see in this story that Achan thought first and then acted. He coveted and then he took or stole from God in a premeditated manner. No one can steal from God as all is God’s and even when it is yours, it is in reality His. It isn’t so much about the possessing and taking…it is the rebellious heart intent that concerns God. We put something other than God in God’s place. We make material items our idol.

What does Joshua 7 say about Achan in particular?

Joshua 7:20-21 ~ “And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: When I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

The words rendered, “a beautiful cloak from Shinar,” should be understood as a substantial or ample garment of Shinar or more properly a really nice Babylonian coat. We must understand that anything Babylonian was considered "cream-of-the-crop" or “high society” at the time of this incident. To have this robe or garment was to be hip and trendy. If Achan would’ve worn this garment in public, it would’ve been considered “swag” or "bling" today. To wear it would’ve been to flaunt one's material wealth or to live a flashy lifestyle. Achan would’ve been someone of the “in” crowd.

We see a man driven by all the wrong motives that are against God and his statutes. What’s worse is they are all sins common to all humanity and at times, they don’t seem like sin when we are in the act of committing them. Desirous of things that are culturally acceptable and ungodly…do we see this in society? Do we see this in the church? I suspect we do. Like Achan we desire attention to ourselves and not to God. We want the glory God most certainly deserves. In this way we are contemptuous of God and dare to walk a path only He rightfully deserves to be. We not only make possessions covetous idols, we make ourselves the worst form of idol. We make ourselves sentient self-conscious idols in rebellion against God because of our willful  manifold sins.

No one should aspire to leadership per se. No one should covet prestige of high position or even the image or "airs" of it as it is a poor heart condition or attitude. One should only be called to leadership by God. To be a leader is to get under those you lead anyway. To covet prestige and position because of the things “it does for you” is to totally misunderstand said position and to mangle the principles set forth in Scripture for leadership. That position is not there so you can "lord" over people with a whip. To be in leadership brings heavy responsibility and heavy accountability which a person will be judged more stringently for on their day before the Lord.

Luke 12:48 ~ “But the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating. Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.

So…Achan covets, steals and hides stuff that is rightfully God's. Joshua and the people march against Ai after the total annihilation of Jericho. They actually march with a stripped down force of approximately 3000 men due to the sin of complacency and pride when the covenant people should’ve all marched together. They summarily get their butts kicked and thirty-six men are killed in what should’ve been a cake walk battle.

Joshua 7:3-5 ~ “And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent…”

It ended up taking soul-searching with God by Joshua to come to the conclusion their was sin among the people that needed to be weeded out and dealt with harshly. Do we do this with our own sin…or that of our congregation and brethren or do we turn a blind eye and allow it to continue. Do we confront sin and call it for what it is or do we gradually erode our viewpoint on it and allow more and more of it in our lives and churches until it over takes us? Remember what Jesus said:

Luke 12:2-3 ~ “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.  What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

We must weed out and kill sin. We must deal with it radically before it deals harshly with us radically altering our lives for the worse. Achan and his family are summarily stoned by all the people to halt the spread of sin and rebellion among the people. This is so all the people see the end result of rebellion against God and it also puts the blood-guilt on everyone’s hand to show the communal responsibility of a covenant people.

In the end Joshua and God’s people march in force against Ai. For the same reasons God chose only Samson to go against 1000 men, Jesus chose twelve disciples and Gideon was only given three hundred…all the people move against Ai. God is not Someone that can be set to human patterns of understanding and motive. 

Numbers 23:19 ~ "God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

God does things in His own time and for His own reasons (as I know so well). We cannot put God in a box or in a bottle like a genie. We must turn to God for guidance in each and every situation as each and every situation differs based on need and purpose. At the time Joshua moves out against Ai he is instructed to do so with all the people. The reality is this. It appears God had all the people march against Ai since Ai was not the first fruits. Because Ai was not the First Fruits all the people were given the spoils of war on this occasion. God was allowing everyone to benefit from the victory at Ai, hence all were to march on and enter the city. He also commanded that all enter so that the credit for the victory would be everyone’s…so that none should boast in the victory. This is a shadow that we will see surface again in the New Testament in the work of Christ on the Cross and the Christian believer's salvation. God is not a creature of habit but rather a Being of plan and sovereignty. To assume that He will continue to deal with things in your life the same way every time is foolishness. Only you would be silly enough to believe that.

The last thing is sad irony. Had Achan been just a little more patient, his narrative would’ve been quite different. Had he waited until Ai to collect the “booty” he would’ve lived to see another day like the other people. Due to his impatience and inability to wait on God's perfect timing, he ended up quite dead along with the rest of his family. Obedience and patience waiting on God incurs a blessing in God’s economy. Disobedience and impatience with God incurs a curse. Which do you want? Who's timing and plans will you abide by?

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