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Understanding The Negative Impact Of One On Many In The Bible

Jul 18, 2008
It is a principle of the Scriptures that the individual can affect the community in either a positive or negative way. For the later, Achan serves as a prime example. His rebellion against the decree of Yahweh affected the whole nation, putting an end to the surge of excitement surrounding the fall of Jericho and foreshadowing the eventual fall and corruption of the entire nation into apostasy.

We find the story of Achan in Joshua 7. The triumphant Israelites, fresh off the effortless slaughter of the city of Jericho, are planning on the conquest of Ai. This city is in a wilderness region near Beth-aven and east of Bethel, remote enough that a journey with the entire force of Israel is considered too much of a hassle. Besides, according to the spies who search out the land, there are few in the region.

Joshua, the military and spiritual leader of Israel, decided on sending a very small contingent of soldiers to subdue this region. However, unlike the easy victory at Jericho, the forces of Israel are driven from the field by the people of Ai. According to the biblical narrative, this had a devastating effect on the people. Joshua 7:5 puts it this way, " ... the hearts of the people melted and became like water."

One man, through his disobedience by breaking the ban established in Joshua 6:17-18, dealt a severe blow to the morale of an entire nation. This can often be the case in many different facets of life. A sulking spouse can sour the disposition of an entire family. A disgruntled teammate can distract and demotivate and entire unit. One cowardly soldier can cost the lives of an entire squad. One errant editor can excite the public over phantom evils. A sanguine senator can steal the civil liberties of many citizens. The one can really mess up the group.

Joshua responds the way that a biblical leader would be expected to, he turns to God for guidance. Through the casting of lots Achan and his household are selected from the vast multitude of Israel. Confronted with his sedition, Achan confesses his sin to the people. He and his family are then executed, demonstrating the holiness and justice of God in a typological cleansing of unholiness and sin from God's covenant community. The truth that God hates sin is reinforced.

In this way, the destruction of Achan foreshadows the eventual fall of Israel. In a way, Achan stands as a type, like Korah before him, for those in God's covenant community who in their hearts will not submit to the decree of God. It can be deduced from this historical example that God is not pleased by outward subscription to his law only, for in all regards Achan probably appeared to be a perfectly good, God-fearing Israelite. However, God was also very concerned about the internal purity of Achan's actions. The God who sees the thoughts and intentions of the heart is concerned with how we act in the hidden moments just as much if not more than the times when our fellows are watching.

It is this concern of God for the secrete moments as well as the public ones that would eventually lead to the destruction of Israel by the hands of foreign invaders. As a nation, Israel abandoned the pure worship of God in both internal and external integrity. Like Achan this was followed by destruction.
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