Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Where is Your Devotion?
Josh. 7:10 ¶ The LORD said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?
Josh. 7:11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.
Josh. 7:12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.
Josh. 7:13 ¶ “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it.
Josh. 7:19 ¶ Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.”
Josh. 7:20 ¶ Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done:
Josh. 7:21 When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
Josh. 7:22 ¶ So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath.
Josh. 7:23 They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the LORD.
Josh. 7:24 ¶ Then Joshua, together with all Israel, took Achan son of Zerah, the silver, the robe, the gold wedge, his sons and daughters, his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent and all that he had, to the Valley of Achor.
Josh. 7:25 Joshua said, “Why have you brought this trouble on us? The LORD will bring trouble on you today.”
The Israelites had assumed that they would sweep the land of Canaan and have no difficulties in battle. Now, suddenly things had changed and they had lost. Members of their own community had died at the hands of the enemy and Joshua wanted to understand what had happened. God told Joshua that the problem was with the people themselves. As a nation they were to be completely united and consecrated in their service to God. Now there was a problem. Unbeknown to Joshua the loyalties of the community had been divided. One member, Achan, had chosen to disobey God and to take items which had been devoted to others for himself. This act of selfishness on the part of Achan created havoc for the entire community. He saw a robe and he coveted it. What was the robe? It was probably the robe of the king of Jericho and yes, it was probably more beautiful than anything that Achan had ever seen -- but what was he going to do with it? It would have been quite obvious had he ever worn it and so now, having taken it, he could never enjoy it but had to bury it under his tent. The sad part was that his desire for a robe and some gold and silver had overtaken his desire for God. He had become devoted to the things of the world, rather than to the God whom he had been charged to worship and the result was disastrous for the entire community.
Some translations use the word "sanctify" in verse 13…."Go, sanctify the people….sanctify yourselves in preparation…" I think that the words "consecrate and sanctify" can both draw us to the same point and that is this act had brought impurity among the people of Israel. We know that in the future they would struggle on a regular basis with fidelity to God. Now, one person had already shown their devotion to the things not of God. It had defiled an entire community of faith and for the community to be made clean, consecrated or sanctified, the impurity had to be removed. The consequence of Achan's sin touched all of Israel, but was particularly disastrous for his entire household; all because he could not remain devoted to God -- and God alone. God's first commandment was to have no other gods before him -- and the Shema reminded the Israelites, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one!" Devotion to God was paramount and yet Achan was willing to throw it all away to take devoted items from a foreign people. Was it worth it for a robe, some gold and some silver?
We may think that this story doesn't apply to us today and yet, I think about the things which we desire. In my mind it seems crazy to throw away your faith and the safety of your family over a robe and some gold and silver. This is for stuff that he could never even enjoy -- it had to be buried under his home! And yet, the draw of the things of the world was so great that he succumbed and his act contaminated a whole community of faith.
What happens when those who are supposed to be spiritual become devoted to the things of this world? The sad truth is that they can bring an entire community of faith to destruction. Yesterday we were looking at the life of the Apostle Paul who said to the people of his community to follow him -- or imitate him as he did Christ. We know that people will follow and/or imitate others -- therefore when there are those within the faith community who do not continue to live in faithfulness or fidelity to God, they can destroy entire groups of people.
A couple of years ago I came across a video by Craig Groeschel, a pastor in Oklahoma. This video was about drinking alcohol and his point was that not all things are beneficial to the community of faith. This video presented a scenario in which all of the pastors from his church were together at a picnic. He, as the lead pastor went to the cooler and discovered a can of beer. He looked at that beer and in his mind justified -- just one little drink won't make a difference. However, that one little drink made a huge difference. His approval turned it into a beer party and gave license to all the others to participate. Suddenly you had an entire group of drunken people who were throwing people in the pool, arguing with one another, lying to the children present and finally getting into a fist-fight. At the end of the day the police were called and two of the pastors led off in handcuffs. Now, this was all acted out to make a point. Where did things go wrong? They went wrong the minute the leader put his seal of approval on something that could change the trajectory of the entire gathering. The choice of that one individual affected the entire community.
How often do we try to convince ourselves that what we do doesn't really matter -- that it won't hurt anyone, and yet it will. We will either be devoted to God or to the things of this world. The bride of Christ needs to take a stand and be completely consecrated and sanctified by and to the bridegroom. The things of this world must grow strangely dim! We cannot be distracted by the shining "things" -- the robes, the gold and the silver and allow those to bring us, as well as our families and communities to destruction. God desperately needs a people who will be wholeheartedly devoted to him.
Lord, my desire is to bring myself in wholehearted devotion to you on a daily basis. Please keep my eyes from wandering to the things of this world. Amen.