It has been noted if a person is a thief you simply put your things in a safe place. But, if a person is a liar there is no way to really protect yourself. Working with a pathological liar is tough. It’s hard to believe anything they say. My Grandpa Ditty used to say of his brother Vick, “He would lie even if the truth was better.”
What does lying have to do with Joshua? First the lying. This is in reference to God’s fiercest enemy and humanity foremost threat. Of course this threat is Satan. Jesus said of him, “he is a liar and the father of lies.” One of his top three may be: You won’t hurt anyone but yourself.
How does this fit into a story from Joshua? The answer to this question is found in Joshua 7 and the story of a man name Achan. Take a moment and read the account in Joshua 7:1-26. As you do see what it was that Achan did and consider the possibility that he might have felt that his careless, sinful act would affect only him.
Let’s set the stage for the event that is front and center in story. The Israelites had just conquered the seemingly impregnable city of Jericho. In the mopping up action that followed the soldiers were to collect any precious metals and give them to Aaron who would put them in the Tabernacle treasury. It all belonged to God as a first-fruits offering of sorts. As Achan did his part he found a bit of loot that he decided to keep. It didn’t amount to much, about five pounds of silver, a little over a pound of gold and a really nice Babylonian robe; no doubt a mere pittance. As a matter of fact, it was such a small amount of plunder that he easily snuck it out of the ruins of the city and into his tent.
The next battle was against a small, walled community east of Jericho called Ai. It was so small that when the spies brought their report back to Joshua they suggested that only two or three thousand men go up against it. Three thousand went. Disaster struck. After the first day’s battle the Israelite army found themselves beaten back and thirty-six were killed, thirty-six husbands, fathers, sons, and brothers. When they returned to camp all mourned. Even Joshua fell on his face before the Lord and asked God why He brought them across the Jordan into the Promise Land only to hand them over to their enemies.
The Lord responded, “Stand up! Why are you on the ground? Israel has sinned. They have violated My covenant that I appointed for them. They have taken some of what was set apart. They have stolen, deceived, and put the things with their own belongings. This is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies. They will turn their backs and run from their enemies, because they have been set apart for destruction. I will no longer be with you unless you remove from you what is set apart.” (vv.10-12)
Now jump to the end of the story. “Then Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the cloak, and the bar of gold, his sons and daughters, his ox, donkey, and sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and brought them up to the Valley of Achor. Joshua said, ‘Why have you troubled us? Today the Lord will trouble you!’ So all Israel stoned them to death. They burned their bodies, threw stones on them, and raised over him a large pile of rocks that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from His burning anger.” (vv.24-26)
Is it possible, as he buried the stole treasure, Achan thought what possible harm could come from taking so little? “If I’m caught I’ll only be hurting myself.” What he could not foresee were the thirty-six killed on the first day of the battle, a whole nation stalled as they mourned and buried their dead, losing their will to fight – making them all vulnerable in the face of their enemies – and his whole family dying as a result of this one little sin. It all happened; more than one life was devastated.
This may be one of Satan’s favorite lies because as a liar and a thief he comes to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Our enemy is never satisfied with taking a little, he wants it all. He doesn’t tell a person that and often by the time it’s figured out it’s too late, like it was for Achan.
I’m only hurting myself. Tell that to the wife and mother of three whose husband gets caught up in the underworld of the pervasive online pornography business and now the marriage is over. Tell it to the family who struggles to get beyond the tragic, sudden death of a child killed by a drunk driver. Tell it to the company whose embezzled funds force the lay-off of hundreds. Tell it the congregation whose minister is the talk of the town after running off with another woman, leaving a stunned and devastated wife.
By design humanity is tied pretty tightly together. Is it not true that when one hurts many do? Is it not also true that when one thinks they are only hurting themselves many are hurt as well?
When you sin the effects of ripple out like the concentric circles on a pond when a stone is tossed in. How far does the circle travel, when will it end? You don’t know. But it is a guarantee that it will go further than you wanted and do more damage than you ever imagined.
The solution to the dilemma of this lie is a two-fold and easy one: Stay close and hold tightly to Jesus, and don’t buy the lie.