20/20 Vision-Keep an Eye on Your Idols Joshua 7:1-15

One of the biggest news stories happening is the Corona-virus that is spreading world-wide. The last time I checked there were 12,000 confirmed cases.  I’m sure in time when the disease has peaked, there will begin to be evaluation of the response that was made to the outbreak.  Governments, medical and, health resources will most likely assess their response to the crisis.  Time will reveal some wrong steps that were taken to combat the situation.  But those who assess will also need to consider many efforts were done putting the best understanding at the time into practice.
The seventh chapter of the book of Joshua is one of those type of Bible passages that requires that type of caution as we gather principles from this chapter.  Let me go ahead and tell you how chapter seven ends.  God’s people including leaders like Joshua, believe God instructs them to take a man who was guilty of a very serious offense against God and put to death both the man and his family.
Because stories like contradict so much Jesus taught, we often avoid preaching and teaching on these passages because they seem so brutal and completely irreconcilable with the teachings and person of Jesus.
Our reaction when we come across stories like these may be similar to people who when they see surprise company pull in the driveway, out of embarrassment for a messy house, they shove the magazines, newspapers laying on their coffee tables under the couch.  We might like to shove stories like these off to the side and not have to explain them or even acknowledge they are in the Bible. 
I am not going to preach on the brutal portion of the story today, but I do want to make you aware how the story ends, because you should be aware of the challenging passages that appear in the scriptures. We need
to carefully understand the stories because if we don’t have thoughtful answers, we as Christians are easy targets for criticisms about contradictions in what we teach.  
So next Sunday, we’ll look at the second half of this painful story and see as clear as we can how stories such as these need to be understood and passed along to others.
The chapter begins and harshly ends for a man named Achan.  His name means man of sorrows and he lived up to his name.  Let’s get moving at the beginning of this story.
Joshua 7:1 “But the Israelites broke faith in regarded to the devoted things.”  The phrase, “broke faith” means something unholy entered into the space of God’s holiness.) “Achan son of Carmi son of Zabdison of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things; and the anger of the Lord burned against the Israelites.” V.1
The “devoted things” were items of value that were found after Israel defeated the people of Jericho, which you can read about in chapter 6 of Joshua.  When the walls of Jericho came down; Israel rushed and overpowered the people.  Things of value were to be saved and considered belonging to God.  The devoted valuables would help pay for the religious practices and needs of the community.  The devoted things Achan took were fine linen, gold and silver coins. 
According to Joshua 6:18-19 God had provided instruction no one was to take any of these valuables for personal use.  Achan did something he knew wasn’t to do.  
Illustration:  You know how when you were kid, you might have had a stern warning not to touch the desert in the refrigerator because it was for dinner and possibly guest and if you did eat some of it, that was just as bad as if you ate all of it!!
Achan, taking a little was just as bad if he took all of the devoted things.
I entitled the message, Keep an Eye on Your Idols because idols are nothing more than objects, things, that reveal to what were devoted.  Idols capture what we really lean on most to give us purpose and have our allegiance.  
• Achan defied God, he took things that gave him more reward than knowing he obeyed God and did the right thing.   • Then he covered them up to keep his sin a secret.   • I’m sure from that point on he probably wasn’t the same around Joshua and others because Achan had a secret.  I’m sure he was probably a little off his game as they say, or as many recovery groups will reinforce that secrets keep people sick or in dis-ease.
Achan sinned because he reached for something that gave him more meaning than being in tune with doing God’s will.
Let’s move on in the passage.
Joshua 7:2-5 “Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Bethaven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.’ And the men went up and spied Ai.  Then they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Not all the people need to go up; about two or three thousand men should go up and attack Ai. Since they are so few do not make all the whole people toil up there.”  So about three thousand of the people went up there and they fled before the men of Ai.   The men of Ai killed thirty-six of them chasing them from outside the gate as far as Sheb-a-rim and killing them on the slope.  The hearts of the people melted into water.”
The leaders underestimated the challenge of the battle and the opposition they would face.
PRIDE CREEPS IN Maybe it is possible the reason for the defeat was just as some pride crept into Achan and he talked himself into taking some of the devoted things, perhaps excessive self-confidence crept into the hearts of the leaders. Maybe pride began to help the leaders think they were the reason Jericho was defeated.  If they could defeat a walled city with more people, certainly Ai with fewer people was a no-brainer.
Isn’t wild how the script has been flipped here.  The people we now read about fighting for the Promise Land, had the exact opposite reaction than their parents.  The previous generation was too afraid to trust God and go up to fight, even though God had instructed them to go into battle.
Yet this generation with Joshua, went to the other extreme of unhealthy pride and arrogance.   • They fell into trap of too much confidence in themselves.   • They failed to approach their challenge with a renewed reliance on God.
Worship team Illustration:  One step of reliance we attempt happens on Sunday morning before worship at 10:15. The praise team strives to do our best to gather for prayer.  So, if the person running sound, computer, playing instrument, singing or anyone else involved in worship suddenly walks away from you at 10:14, you know why.  We want worship to truly be led by the spirit.  Prayer helps remind us this is not a performance; but worship of God.
Application: Maybe this story is a needed reminder for you today to take time and steps to keep that sensitivity to be reliant on God to help you live your best.
Joshua 7:6-9 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the ground on his face before the ark of the Lord until evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads.” V.6 Joshua and his men were in a time of shock and mourning by the defeat and they were devastated.
“Joshua said, Ah Lord God!  Why have you brought this people across the Jordan at all, to hand us over to the Amorites so as to destroy us? Would that we be content to stay beyond the Jordan!  O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has turned their backs to their enemies! The Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth.  Then what will you do for your great name?” 
Joshua was unloading his disappointment on the Lord.  He makes comments as if God’s plan doesn’t was flawed and senseless.
Again, the script is flipped.  Because in the generation before when Moses was leading, Joshua along with Caleb were two of the twelve spies that said the enemy could be defeated and God could be trusted.
Now listen to Joshua.  You wonder if he muttered under his breath, “I am just getting too old for this type headaches, turmoil.”
In a single word, Joshua blames God for the defeat.
Keep an eye out for setting up idols for our hearts.  You know you have them when blame starts rising from our hearts to protect them.  Blame can just be an extension of wanting to do life our way, and God should really follow my ideas.
Blame doesn’t come out of thin air.  Blame comes from the covered-up emotions and mind-set of anger, hurt, distrust, that are like hot coals being fanned because we are faced with a painful experience. 
Let’s just pause for a moment and realize in this difficult challenging story that will continue to wrestle with next week, this much we know, Achan wasn’t the only one reaching for something they should have left alone.
I heard a variety of sermon titles about this passage that seem to focus just on Achan and make him the problem-child.  A website named Sermon Central contained these sermon titles.
• The Sin of Achan by Pastor David Radcliff • Achan in the Camp by Lee Vary • God’s Prescription for an Achan Heart by Ian Humphrey • Whole Lotta Achan Going on by Rick Finister
Those titles seem to suggest Achan was the only problem, however, it would 
 seem that more than just Achan needed to confront unfaithfulness.
“The Lord said to Joshua, Stand up.  Why have you fallen on your face? V.10
Make no mistake, God will bear with us in our time of hurt and carry us through.   We used that great passage from Matthew 11:28, at Jane Williams funeral, “Come unto me all that are weary and carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.”  And he will and he does.  
But I would propose, God’s command for Joshua to stand up, followed by a question, reveals to us God’s lack of patience with pride, blame and arrogance.  
Remember, in Matthew 6, Jesus had his strongest words of correction and critique for the religious types who stood in the places at the markets to draw attention to themselves through long prayers, droopy faces to let everyone know they were fasting and doing God a favor.
Stand up reminds us God doesn’t go along with prideful and arrogant spirits.
Joshua 7:11-12 “Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I imposed on them.  They have taken some devoted things; they have stolen, they have acted deceitfully, and they have put them among their own belongings.  Therefore, Israelites are unable to stand before their enemies; they turn their backs to their enemies, because they have become a thing devoted for destruction themselves. “I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you.” Vs.11-12 
Maybe this story is a needed reminder for you today to take time and steps to keep that sensitivity to be reliant on God; more than anything else to bring us meaning and purpose.    
God is full of grace but also boundaries of what displeases him and what is not good for us. His words to Joshua remind that not anything is okay with God as long as we feel good about it.  Like Jesus telling the women, I don’t condemn you; but go and sin no more.
The passage that grabbed me while reading this a few weeks ago was the second half of verse twelve which has God saying, “I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you.” V.12
 In other words, get your thinking and life in order so I can work through you.
Don’t you hear the spirit of the words of Jesus from Revelation when he said, because you are lukewarm, I will spew you out of my mouth.
God will only be followed he will not follow us.
Let me close with a couple of quick points to consider so we keep an eye on the things that could cause to be more devoted to thing, than we are to God.
Stay realistic about your vulnerability in life so that you rely on God first and foremost.  Achan relied on things, the army relied on their numbers, Joshua relied on the assessment of leaders, but all of them neglected relying on God’s direction.
Stay ready to repent which means have a heart, have an attitude that is willing to alter direction and change.  One of the best ways to practice this is to notice the tension you feel when: • plans change,  • when it is possible your initial idea/answer may not be the best option,  • when more time needs to be taken to enact a decision, and direction, • when especially information begins to reveal your information is inaccurate,  • and you can do all this without being offended.
Stay renewed by seeking the leading from the Holy Spirit and engaging scripture so we can obtain insight/truth; we cannot obtain on our own. 
These three principles are take-a ways from Joshua 7 that can help us keep an eye on our idols and false gods that come in many forms and get constructed in our hearts.  
Next week we’ll considering the conclusion of this story with all its challenges.

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