[Joshua 7] The Valley of Achor for a Door of Hope. In this chapter of Joshua we see a man named Achan held responsible for Israel being defeated before their enemies. He had a hidden sin in his life that affected all around him. He was brought before the people in the valley of Achor and what happened next restored hope to the people that God would yet be with them. God wants us to be willing to have a valley of Achor experience for our own sakes and the sake of others who are suffering because of choices we might have made.
[Jos 7:1-26 KJV] 1 But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel. 2 And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which [is] beside Bethaven, on the east side of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai. 3 And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; [and] make not all the people to labour thither; for they [are but] few. 4 So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai. 5 And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them [from] before the gate [even] unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water. 6 And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. 7 And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! 8 O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear [of it], and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name? 10 And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?
In reading the previous chapter what happens in this chapter is quite unexpected. The people win a great victory at Jericho and see supernatural results. You would think they would go from “glory to glory” and something wonderful would happen when they came up against the next city of Ai. Ai was nothing compared to Jericho. The name itself means “a heap” like a junk heap. Thirty-six men of Israel were killed and the whole army put in retreat before the disorganized defenders of Ai. What was the problem?
God had instructed that nothing was to be taken from Jericho. Everything would be destroyed by fire. Everything in Jericho belonged to God as the first fruits of Canaan’s conquest. It was the first city and it belonged to God. This is the Matthew 6:33 principle – “seek first the kingdom and all these things will be added…” What things? Every OTHER city in the Promised Land. However a man named Achan decided not to obey. He decided not to seek first the kingdom and his choice had consequences for himself and for many others he was connected with.
Notice of the thirty-six men who died at Ai that Achan was not among them. Others paid the price because in effect Achan did not seek the kingdom. As a member of the tribe of Judah he no doubt felt somewhat entitled. Judah was more prestigious than all the tribes in Israel. Achan accorded himself some latitude. What other tribes were required to do he was exempt from. When others died afterward he no doubt didn’t make the connection to his own choices. He probably assumed it was some fault elsewhere because after all his choices were his own. No man is an island to himself. Your choices not only affect you but they affect others. Sometimes your choices affect others in profound and deeply costly ways even though there is no seeming connection between what you choose and what others experience. This creates a spiritual imbalance that God will not allow to remain.
11 Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put [it] even among their own stuff. 12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, [but] turned [their] backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you. 13 Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, [There is] an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you. 14 In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, [that] the tribe which the LORD taketh shall come according to the families [thereof]; and the family which the LORD shall take shall come by households; and the household which the LORD shall take shall come man by man. 15 And it shall be, [that] he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel. 16 So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken: 17 And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken: 18 And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. 19 And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide [it] not from me.
Notice in verse 11 that God says that the NATION had sinned not just one man. As Paul said in the book of Romans “by one man’s sin death came upon the world so by one man’s obedience righteousness is brought to light by Jesus Christ…” In our time and in our religious culture we only look at the surface – but there are much deeper implications regarding our own fate based on the connections we make. We should exercise discernment in who we connect ourselves to and who we allow to be a part of our personal society. There are consequences that may be much more difficult to bear than we know.
The story of how Achan is exposed is very touching. The people are in a very vulnerable place and Joshua consults the Urim and Thummim and eliminates by casting of these sacred lots a form of dice to uncover the source of the problem. When he comes to Achan what a poignant question he asks. Joshua knows and Achan knows that there is only one outcome to this.
“Give glory to God son and hide not what you have done …”
20 And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: 21 When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they [are] hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it. 22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, [it was] hid in his tent, and the silver under it. 23 And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD. 24 And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.
Achan did not have a mediator. There was no blood of bulls or goats that could possibly mitigate what he had done. You and I are so much more fortunate. We have a part of a better covenant because standing between us and the consequences of disobedience we have the shed blood of Calvary.
Is there any personal implications for us in this story? In Hosea 2:15 there is an enigmatic and prophetic statement where God says that he will give “the valley of Achor for a door of hope…” If you study the valley of Achor in the scripture you will find that the only thing that ever happened there was the stoning of Achan. As terrible as this punishment was it restored hope to the people. They hoped again and believed that God would be with them. No doubt when Achan stood before the people in the last few moments of his life there wasn’t an Israelite in that valley who couldn’t see himself in that same predicament. Like the last supper when Jesus said “one will betray me …” they all asked “is it I”.
Where have you hidden your wedge of gold and your babylonish garment? What price are others paying for your little compromise? What hope have those around you been robbed of so you can have your little pound of flesh and live according to a standard that you think makes you special? What are you allowing yourself to harbor in your life that has robbed others of their breakthrough? Will you “give glory to God” like Achan did? We don’t have to be stoned or die because we can ask Jesus for forgiveness and be cleansed. The only cost to us is our own ego and sinful appetites. My counsel to you is echoed in the counsel of Joshua to Achan in the final moments before his death – “Give glory to God son and daughter and confess to him those things that need to be cleansed for your life for your sake and the sake of others.