Word of Encouragement- Week Ending March 17th, 2012

Series: The Questions God Asks Us

“Why Have You Fallen on Your Face” – Joshua 7:10

The LORD said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. – Joshua 7:10-12a

There’s a time to pray and fall on our faces before God in repentance. But sometimes there is a time to prayerfully act to cleanse and purify ourselves as a congregation before God. God taught Joshua and the people that sometimes even more urgent than our prayers before God is the urgency to bring about proper discipline in the congregation because of sin.

God had greatly blessed Israel with His promises and covenant faithfulness. God had promised to be with Joshua and with Israel as they entered into to possess the Promised Land (Josh. 1-2). God had promised to give Israel everything that they would need for life and godliness as a congregation and they were to be consecrated to Him, holy as God is holy (Josh. 7:13). Rather than finding hope in the grace of God alone, Achan was tempted to be satisfied in something else. He coveted, and the entire congregation was guilty because of it.

Israel had failure in their spiritual war against Ai because ‘The people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things’. Israel was called to be God’s instrument of absolute judgment on Ai (and the Canaanites), but Achan from the Tribe of Judah ‘took some of the devoted things’. ‘And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel’ (Josh. 7:1). [*Note: “Devoted things” [Heb. “herem”] were lives and possessions that were to be totally obliterated before the face of God as a temporal judgment upon sin; nothing was to remain as a type of Last Day Judgment”].

Before a congregation can expect God to bless their labors and give them spiritual success in spiritual warfare, they must act to cleanse themselves from sin. God said to Joshua: “I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you” (Josh. 7:12-13). As God’s people it is important for a congregation to practice regular confession of sins in corporate worship, accountability, and biblical discipline to prevent impurity because of sins in a congregation.

Achan, who was the one responsible for God’s temporal judgment, confessed his sin of covetousness (although there were great consequences- Josh. 7:20-21, and there was also lying and stealing involved, Josh. 7:11). But his confession was not quick enough; Achan did not confess his sins willingly because he felt the weight of sin against God and the congregation. He apparently thought he could continue to hide in his sins without any consequences for himself or his church (see Josh. 7:16-19; cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1ff).

Although God knew where the sin was to be found, and the guilty party (because He is the searcher of our hearts), he appointed Joshua and the leaders to find the sin that was affecting the entire congregation (Josh. 7:14ff). Joshua searched and waited patiently, humbly and diligently for a confession of sin (when Joshua approached Achan, he was very courteous and humble in his discipline practice which is extremely exemplary and commendable to all Christians, Josh. 7:19). This kind of confrontation of another in the congregation is not easy, and should be soberly and humbly done with God’s leading (Josh. 7:14ff).

Is there anything worse than sin? Do you know that in Scripture sin is so dangerous it is vividly described as transgression against God, slavery, idolatry, leprosy, God’s punishment, insanity, etc.? Is there anything worse than sin? Just to think of how God is offended by sin should be enough to deter us! Think of the potential dangers of what one “little” sin can do to destroy a person, rip apart a family, and severely affect an entire congregation of God’s people?

Have you seen the horrendous damage that can be done because of unforgiveness, resentment, anger, child abuse, divorce, murder, rape, greediness, theft, division, grumbling, complaining, and/or incest??!! God is serious about judgment upon sin and its prevention in His people!

When we think about the discipline that is carried out in Joshua 7 of stoning and burning, we can be shocked and speechless. But I wonder why we can be more concerned at the kind of discipline in this passage than we are of the offensive sinfulness of Achan. Why are we not angry because God has been offended and His Spirit grieved? Why is it that we are not incensed and deeply angry because of covetousness, and the lying and stealing, and the affects of our sins on others? Shouldn’t we more shocked by the sin than the discipline that is recorded here?

The Bible teaches that discipline is important as an obedient response to God’s Word (Matt. 18:15-18; Heb. 12:5ff). Thankfully, discipline practices of the Old Covenant have changed since the coming of Christ, but the need for discipline is the same in every congregation. Why would we think otherwise? God saves a people, and completes His work in a people; God saves individuals to be part of a corporate church. Why would we not be accountable to God and to one another? I realize disciple has been abused, and there will be a day of judgment for the abuse of it as well as a day of judgment for those who have not practiced it as they should.

Biblical discipline is a loving practice.When our children flagrantly sin against God, themselves, and our families, we do not merely go to pray for them to show them our love. That we must do as well! But we also lovingly practice discipline which the bible teaches is one of God’s means of growth in grace and Christ-likeness (Hebrews 12:5ff).

ESV Proverbs 12:1 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.

ESV Proverbs 15:10 There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way; whoever hates reproof will die.

We love our children and we don’t want them to hurt themselves or others. In fact, the Scriptures teach that if we are not disciplined, we are not truly loved by God (Heb. 12:8). Therefore, it is important to note that discipline when done with grace, and with an eye toward restoring the sinful offender, is a great act of God’s love. Just as we love our children in this way in our family, so we should love one another in the church in this same way.

ESV Hebrews 12:6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”

Biblical discipline can serve as a warning for both young and old of the consequences of sinning against God Almighty. Biblical discipline can protect our families, prevent sinful practices from growing and being nurtured in God’s church, causing the increase of sin and impurity in others. The truth is that we should have all by now been immediately judged for our sins against God and one another (see Acts 5:1ff). But God is patient and merciful toward us.

In the New Covenant, the judgment on Achan has fallen completely on the Lord Jesus Christ in our place. Can you see Jesus, the Beloved Savior, God in the flesh for us, taking our sin debt upon Himself; Jesus taking much more than a stone-crushing blow to the skull as He falls under the power of sin’s consequences on the cross.

Can you see God Almighty crushing Jesus under His mighty power and wrath for our sins (Isa. 53:10)? Can you see Jesus who knew no sin at all, becoming the sin-bearer of every last sin of all of God’s people past, present and future in the burning wrath and fury of God’s judgment (2 Cor. 5:21)?

Achan was punished for His sins and transgressions; Jesus was punished for our sins and transgressions. Rejoice!

Peace returned to Israel after Achan’s death; Peace comes permanently to God’s people through Jesus’ death (cf. Romans 5:1ff). Rejoice!

God was reconciled to Israel through Achan’s death and judgment; Believers are reconciled to God through the death and judgment of Christ in our place. Rejoice!

Achan’s suffering because of His sins healed Israel; Jesus’ suffering because of our sins heals all of God’s people. Rejoice! The Bible teaches:

He was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5

As believers, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed for us and this is all of grace, so that we will live purely for Him. We are unleavened as God’s people; sin has been removed from us in Christ and so we are to live like it as a congregation! Let us listen to the Apostle Paul in a similar New Covenant situation:

“Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” – 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8

As we consider the grace of the Lord Jesus, let us seek to be accountable, and to hold each other accountable in sincerity and truth; the leaven of sin will leaven the whole lump of the congregation! No man is an island, certainly not a Christian. We are in fact all part of one body in Christ (1 Cor. 12). Every person’s sin, including mine (and how I know this so deeply and sadly!), grieves God Almighty (Eph. 4:30) and has terrible consequences and harmful affects on my family and my congregation.

So, let us act humbly before God. Let us be patient and loving, but let us seek to love one another enough to discipline and hold each other formally accountable (Heb. 13:17; 1 Cor. 5:9-13). Let us speak and live the truth together in love. Recognizing that we are all potentially dangerous and sinful people, who are tempted with covetousness and other forms of idolatry that only Jesus Christ can heal (1 Cor. 10:12-13; 1 John 5:21; Col. 3:5).

“Why have you fallen on your face?”

If you have been convicted by the Spirit of your sins, then confess them. If you confess your sins, then go and make any restitution that needs to be made with others. Believe that if you confess your sins, God is faithful and just to forgive you and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8ff).

Then go and confidently follow Christ, telling others who love you of your proneness to certain wickedness, the sins that so easily beset you, and live confidently before God in His grace and love. Be encouraged to submit to one another in love, thanking God that others are watching over you and helping you to resist your sin, and to encourage you to endure righteously to the end!

ESV Hebrews 3:12-13:Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

 

In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs

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