God takes sin seriously
Early the next morning Joshua had Israel come forward by tribes, and Judah was taken. 17 The clans of Judah came forward, and he took the Zerahites. He had the clan of the Zerahites come forward by families, and Zimri was taken. 18 Joshua had his family come forward man by man, and Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 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." 20 Achan replied, "It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: 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." 22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent, and there it was, hidden in his tent, with the silver underneath. 23 They took the things from the tent, brought them to Joshua and all the Israelites and spread them out before the LORD. 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. 25 Joshua said, "Why have you brought this trouble on us? The LORD will bring trouble on you today." Then all Israel stoned him, and after they had stoned the rest, they burned them. 26 Over Achan they heaped up a large pile of rocks, which remains to this day. Then the LORD turned from his fierce anger. Therefore that place has been called the Valley of Achor ever since. (Joshua 7:16-26)
“’Fess up!” We know that individually, personally, everyone on this planet wants to hide their sins, some sins more than others. But we will often demand of others that they admit what they’ve done. We know the importance of finding out “whodunit,” but we can also understand a guilty heart not wanting to face the consequences.
Wouldn’t this text make us fearful to “’fess up?” Joshua almost makes it sound comforting (to our English ears, anyway) as he urges Achan to “give glory to God” in confession. Achan does so and gets a nice stoning for his “glory.”
While we don’t know the state of Achan’s heart, it’s possible Achan received his stoning and went on into glory. Our gospel-centered training, however, longs to read of Joshua urging Achan to turn to his Savior-God for forgiveness and Achan responding in faith. But God the Holy Spirit did not include such a thing, whether it happened or not, because he wants us to see the seriousness of sin. It can’t be hidden from God and there are always consequences.
The earthly consequences can be severe, obviously. I’m reminded of Karla Faye Tucker, famed murderess turned born-again Christian. In 1998, she was the first woman to receive the death penalty in this country in 14 years. Many Christians were calling for her execution to be stayed. In my humble opinion, it was better that her sentence was carried out so that she could express her faith and confidence in Jesus her Savior as she faced the needle.
And that’s the point. We do glorify God when we humbly and honestly admit our wrongdoing and turn to Jesus in repentance and faith. Yes, we may have to face consequences, even deadly ones, because we didn’t keep quiet. However, we know what David knew about holding sin in and the forgiveness that we have in Jesus. “When I kept silent, my bones became brittle from my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy on me; my strength was drained as in the summer’s heat. Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not conceal my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You took away the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 32:3-5).