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Why We Should Trust God Even When No One Is Looking

Jul 3, 2008
There's an amazing story from Joshua 7 that tells us we are to trust God even when no one is looking. It's the story of a man named Achan, who paid the ultimate price for thinking he can pull one over on God.

And not only him but his entire family, and almost his entire nation.

Here's the background: Israel has just entered the Land of Promise. They are standing before Jericho the first city they are to conquer. They have marched around the city for 6 days according to the Lord's command. This is the seventh day, they have now marched around the city 7 times and the priests blow their trumpets and Joshua addresses the people saying:

"Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the LORD and must go into his treasury. (Josh. 6:16-19)"

The Lord delivered Jericho into the hands of the Israelites and they witnessed firsthand the power of the almighty God.

God made a covenant with Israel. He gave them Jericho and promised to deliver the rest of the land also to Israel. However, he placed conditions on this covenant, he instructed them that all silver, gold, and bronze must go into his treasury or all the camp of Israel would be liable. The Lord was clear and left no ambiguity about his desire of complete obedience.

As we come to Joshua 7 we see that already that covenant was broken. We read in verse one that Achan took some of the prohibited items and his actions incurred the Lord's anger. Notice that he was one man out of thousands and his solitary action caused the Lord to be angry with all of Israel.

As we shall soon see, his sin committed when no one else was watching has a ripple effect that touches the entire nation of Israel.

Joshua and the army of Israel, unaware of the sin of Achan, plan the next conquest which involves the attack of the city of Ai. Joshua sends spies out to survey the city. They come back with a positive report and say that not all the people need to go to battle. They recommend sending only two or three thousand men for the job. (As is later learned in 8:25 Ai only consisted of 12,000 people including both men and women). The plan is agreed and the men are sent however they are thoroughly routed and 36 men are killed in battle, this is extremely disheartening for the nation of Israel. They had just witnessed an amazing victory at Jericho and now what was supposedly an easy battle was utterly unsuccessful.

Joshua and the elders mourn and cry out to the Lord asking why he would bring such calamity to Israel. The Lord is quick to answer Joshua's plea. He informs Joshua that Israel has violated the covenant and he tells Joshua, "I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction" (Josh. 7:12b). Again one man's sin has consequences that touch the entire nation. The curse that comes from breaking God's covenant is serious and is not to be taken lightly. God tells Joshua and the people to consecrate themselves and that tomorrow they were to present themselves publicly tribe by tribe and family by family until the perpetrator was found. The next day Joshua did as the Lord commanded and finally Achan was identified, and confessed his sin before Joshua and the people. He confessed that he had stolen silver and gold and fine garments in direct disobedience to God's commands.

Joshua verified his story and found the items under his tent where he had hidden them. Joshua and all the people of Israel took his family and all his possessions to the valley of Achor which means the valley of trouble. Joshua the pronounced his sentence on Achan and his family saying, "Why have you brought this trouble on us? The Lord will bring trouble on you today" (7:25). Achan and his family were stoned, burned and buried.

Why did God visibly and powerfully punish Achan for his sin? Why does God not always deal with sin in such an immediate and public manner? God was showing Israel (and by extension us) at this critical juncture in redemptive history that his covenant was to be taken seriously. All sin is a violation of God's covenant and the fact that all sin is not punished in such a manner is only by the grace and mercy of God.
Through the story of Achan we see three reasons to trust God when no one is looking.

1.Because God's Expectations are Real and do not Change.

Achan learned this the hard way: God commanded not to take any gold, silver or bronze, and he took these things. It is the same for us today, God commands us to love one another, remain sexually pure before marriage, to be honest in our dealings with others, to put the needs of others before our own. God takes the choices we make in regard to these situations that we encounter on a daily basis as serious as Achan's situation. We need to trust God in all things, even when no one is looking.

2.Because our sin has consequences that often affect others as well as us.

This is so clear in the story of Achan. Not only was his family stoned and burned along with him (regardless of whether they were implicit in his scheme), but the entire nation of Israel came under God's wrath and at least 36 men lost their lives in battle because of his sin "when no one was looking."

It is the same today, how many sins that we commit in private affect others in ways we may never even know. Even though God forgives our sin, it still carries consequences. A night of drinking just a little too much can leave a family without child. One moment of indiscretion can ruin a marriage, or a career. We must take seriously our life and character and strive through God's grace to live a life that is in line with God's will even when no one else is looking.

3.Because when no one else is looking, God still is.

The final point is that even when we think no one is looking, God is. There is nowhere to escape God. David says in Psalm 139:7-8, "Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there." Satan loves to tempt us with the lie that "no one is looking, that no one will ever know." Nothing can be further from the truth. Achan had successfully hidden his stolen goods so that no one knew, however this never escaped the view of God. Let us not profane the name of the Lord with our sin as Achan did, let us glorify his name with all our thoughts, words and deeds.
About the Author
The author is publisher of the Online Christian Shopper store specializing in Christian T-Shirts and the Christian Jewelry Online Christian jewelery store.
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