I’m reading a book at the moment called Glorious Intruder by Joni Eareckson Tada, and it’s challenging me in many ways to go deeper in my relationship with God. I recently read part of a chapter of the book which made me think about ONE People, which is the church plant Ant and I will be joining in August in Harare, Zimbabwe. I thought of it because the subject name of the chapter is exactly the same name as ONE People.
Here is what I read:
Think of someone you wish you could come alongside to help today. Take a minute to visualise that person’s face. A close Christian friend, perhaps, or a family member living far away. You’d love to reach across the miles with a gift of strength wrapped in the sunlight of encouragement. You’d love to inspire him or her to walk straight paths and stay close to the Lord.
Yes, you can pray. Please do. You can also pick up the phone or drop a card in the post. But there is something else. Something you might not have considered. Something mysterious and powerful. It has to do with an obscure little story about a man named Achan.
In Joshua 7 we read about the astonishing victories which Joshua and his citizen army secured for God and His people. But God laid down some strict guidelines about these conquests. After the battle of Jericho, for instance, God made it clear that all the booty – whether gold or silver, bronze or copper – was to go directly into the Lord’s treasury. No one was to line his pockets with Jericho’s plunder; these things were to be consecrated to God and kept in His sanctuary.
But Achan had other ideas. He tucked away a few of those costly items for his future retirement and told no one about it except his family. He thought He was getting away with something, but He didn’t count on God the Intruder. He didn’t consider his all-knowing, all-seeing God.
The Lord knew all about it. Joshua 7:1 tells us that ‘God’s anger burned against Israel’ – the whole nation! In fact, the very next battle which Joshua led was a disaster. The Israelites were beaten and humiliated by a wimpish rag-tag militia, and that evening the people stood in disbelief around thirty-six fresh graves. Thirty-six sons and husbands didn’t come back to their tents and firesides that night… and never would.
Wasn’t this the same army that had defeated mighty Jericho? Why had the Lord withdrawn His blessing at such a critical moment? General Joshua was beside himself. He tore his clothes and literally fell on his face in the dirt before the ark of the Lord.
But listen to the Lord’s amazing words to His servant:
Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant… They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites can not stand against their enemies (7:10-12).
Then Joshua got wind of what Achan had done. It was because of this one man’s greed and disobedience that God’s anger had been kindled against the rest of the people. The central truth from this chapter is sobering to say the least: the sin of one person affected the whole camp.
It’s a valid lesson even today. We may tuck away little sins out of the sight of others. We might cleverly disguise the way we manipulate other people. We might falsely accuse folks behind their backs. We might chip in our twopence’ worth when people are huddled around gossiping. We might hide some private sins, which dishonor and displease God.
If Achan could speak to us today, he would warn us that our sins will find us out. Our disobedience can – and does – affect the rest of the body of Christ. When we stumble and fall into sin, we’re setting the stage for others to do likewise. Like the camp of Israel, God still deals with His church as a whole, and we mustn’t think we can get away with our ‘little sins’ without them affecting our Christian friends.
Believers are ONE with other Christians – we’re never told to become ONE, we’re already ONE. Corinthians chapter 12 says that together, we Christians are like a human body with Christ at the head. The human body is probably the most amazing example of teamwork anywhere. Every part needs the other. When the stomach is hungry, the eyes spot the hamburger, the nose smells the onions, the feet run to the food stand, the hands douse the burger with mustard and shove it back into the mouth where it goes down to the stomach. Now that’s co-operation! No organ in the body can act without affecting all the rest.
There is something almost mystical about the intricate, intimate link between us believers. If we care anything about Christ, the Head of the body, if we care anything about the rest of the body – our wives, husbands, children or neighbours – we must face our daily challenges and temptations with them in mind.
So what’s the ‘something nice’ you can do for your friend today? In a mysterious way, you can help that person in his or her spiritual walk by simply obeying. Obeying God in all those little tests and struggles this day may bring. Obedience may seem like a private, personal decision, affecting no one but yourself. That’s what Achan thought.