In Four Parts—Part 2.
When one who is a transgressor is reproved, and puts on an appearance of innocence, and complains that he has been dealt with unjustly, there are many who will sympathize with him, and will cast reflection upon the reprover, who has in the fear of God sought to do his duty. Had punishment come upon Achan before he had with his own lips made confession of his wrong, the people who were naturally ready to rebel, would have charged Joshua with dealing harshly with the young man, and would have denounced him as unmerciful in apportioning so dreadful a punishment. They would have treasured up the memory of his deed, and would have repeated to others the judgment he had given, and would have used it as an example of the severity of men who were placed in high position among the children of Israel. Those who are not consecrated heart and soul to the service of God, will rise up in rebellion against God when he metes out judgment to the transgressor, although the sinner, if spared, would only pursue a course that would corrupt others, and scatter the leaven of evil until many would be involved in ruin. The Lord God of Israel would not permit that such a state of things should exist.
Achan confessed, and said, “Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done. 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.” Achan had thought that his sin was secret and hidden from all human eyes except those of his own household. “So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent, and behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it. 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. 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. 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. 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, to this day.”
This history shows how the Lord regards sin that men may think of little account. Achan had indulged in covetousness, in theft, in embezzlement (appropriating that which had been dedicated to the cause of God), and he had dissembled; he had put on an appearance of innocence through all the critical examination that had been carried on, and pretended to be a man guiltless of any crime. The Lord made manifest by his dealing with Achan just how he looks upon such a course, in order that the people of God in all ages may fear and honor the Lord of heaven. Achan's sin had caused the death of thirty-six men; and yet he had regarded it as a light matter. The men and women who claim to be keeping the commandments of God, make it manifest that they have very little idea of its grievous character if they indulge in any phase of sin. Those who profess to be Christians, and yet do things that are after the order of Achan's sin, who embezzle the Lord's goods, and appropriate for the use of their families that which should go to the treasury of the Lord's house, will not be left without judgment at the hand of God.
What was the sin of Achan? Listen carefully to the words spoken by Jesus Christ from the pillar of cloud: “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.” Let such plain statements as these given by the Lord in the Old Testament, be compared with the same line of instruction given in the New Testament. The confession of Achan, although too late to be available in bringing to him any saving virtue, vindicated the character of God in his manner of dealing with him, and closed the door to the temptation that so continually beset the children of Israel, to charge upon the servants of God the work that God did himself. It was the Lord Jesus himself who specified what should be the punishment of Achan, or there might have been murmuring among the camp of Israel, even though the stolen goods were found in his tent. The Lord knew just where the stolen goods were to be found, and had told Joshua where they were, although he had not specified who was the guilty one. But the honor of God must be vindicated by confession from the sinner's own lips, and Achan testified to the truth against himself. In the manner in which the Lord dealt with Achan, we can see how great is his displeasure against those who commit similar sins. The standard of the gospel today is no lower than it was in the days of Joshua.
In the New Testament we read that “a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession, and kept back part of the price, (his wife also being privy to it,) and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? while it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God. And Ananias hearing these words, fell down, and gave up the ghost. And great fear came on all them that heard these things. And the young men arose, wound him up, and carried him out, and buried him. And it was about the space of three hours after, when his wife, not knowing what was done, came in. And Peter answered unto her, Tell me whether ye sold the land for so much. And she said, Yea, for so much. Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out. Then fell she down straightway at his feet, and yielded up the ghost. And the young men came in, and found her dead, and carrying her forth, buried her by her husband. And great fear came upon all the church, and upon as many as heard these things.” The case of Ananias and his wife is recorded that the whole world may have a testimony as to how God regards dishonest practices.
From the pillar of cloud Jesus spoke to Joshua, condemning Israel because of the sin of coveting and of taking the accursed things of the heathen. This was written for our admonition, and we are to take a lesson from this circumstance. We are not to covet the goodly Babylonish garments, and the things which God has appointed to destruction; for they are not to be desired. They are cursed of God, they are a snare to the soul; for they lead to vanity, pride, and self-exaltation. They are not the goods which the Lord can bless; for he has specified them as accursed. They are the idols of the people who have estranged themselves from God, and corrupted their ways before him. God has borne long with them, has given them the advantages of light and knowledge; but their attitude toward him is, “We want not thy way, O God, but our own way.” God keeps a reckoning with nations, as well as with individuals. He allows to nations a certain period of probation, and gives them evidences of his requirements, of his supremacy, and makes known to them his laws which are to be the rule of his kingdom in the government of nations. All this he does that heathen nations may not be given up to destruction unwarned and without light; but after he has given them evidence and light, and they still persist in insolence toward him, then, when iniquity is full, as in the case of the Amorites, God takes the matter in hand, and his judgments are not longer withheld.
Mrs. E. G. White