Sin in the Camp
Sometimes, it is easy to forget how much grief and sorrow sin can cause. Often, the lone individual does not think that his sin will affect anyone but him, but rarely is that the case. Consider, for instance, the sin of Achan. We first read about Achan in Joshua 7 after the Israelites destroyed the city of Jericho. In Joshua 7:1, we read "But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the LORD burned against the children of Israel."

Achan failed to heed the command of the Lord issued by Joshua prior to the Israelite invasion of Jericho. Joshua had told the people, "And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the LORD; they shall come into the treasury of the LORD" (Josh. 6:18-19).

Because of Achan's sin, the Israelites were cursed and much trouble came upon them. They learned of their predicament when they were defeated at Ai--the next city they battled against. They were forced to flee and "about thirty-six men" were slain as they retreated. As a result of this defeat, "the hearts of the people melted and became like water" (Josh. 7:5). Joshua tore his clothes, fell down on his face, and called out to the Lord, asking why the people had been delivered into the hands of their enemies.

The Lord answered Joshua, saying "Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you. In the morning therefore you shall be brought according to your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the Lord takes shall come according to families; and the family which the Lord takes shall come by households; and the household which the Lord takes shall come man by man. Then it shall be that he who is taken with the accursed thing shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done a disgraceful thing in Israel" (Josh. 7:10-15).

The next morning, everything came to pass just as the Lord had said. When all was said and done, it was Achan who was revealed by the Lord as the transgressor. When questioned about his sin, Achan replied, "Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done: When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it" (Josh 7:20-21).

What was the final result of Achan's sin before the Lord? "Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor" (Josh. 7:24). Then "all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. Then they raised over him a great heap of stones" (Josh. 7:25-26).

Friends, the account of Achan's transgression paints for us a vivid picture showing how the sin of one individual can cause pain and suffering for others. Achan's sin affected himself, his family, and the rest of Israel. Truly, Achan "did not perish alone in his iniquity" (Josh. 22:20). Those today who would say, "my sin will only hurt me" should pay attention to the hard lesson that Achan learned, for sin can leave lives and relationships shattered in its terrible path of destruction.