The Signs of the Times


May 5, 1881

The Sin of Achan


The Lord not only made known to Joshua the cause of Israel's defeat, but gave him definite instructions for the detection and punishment of the criminal: “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. 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.” The Lord did not immediately point out the sinner, but left the matter in doubt for a time, that Israel might feel their responsibility for the sins existing among them, and thus be led to searching of heart and humiliation before God. ST May 5, 1881, par. 1

In the morning the whole congregation assembled before the Lord, and a most solemn and impressive ceremony began. Step by step the investigation went on. Closer and still closer came the fearful test, until Achan was pointed out as the man whose sin had brought upon Israel the wrath of God. ST May 5, 1881, par. 2

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. And Achan answered Joshua, 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.” A messenger was immediately despatched to the tent; he returned with the spoils, thus establishing the guilt of Achan, and vindicating the justice of God. ST May 5, 1881, par. 3

For a Babylonish robe and a paltry treasure of gold and silver, Achan consented to sell himself to evil, to bring upon his soul the curse of God, to forfeit his title to a rich possession in Canaan, and lose all prospect of the future, immortal inheritance in the earth made new. A fearful price indeed he paid for his ill-gotten gains. ST May 5, 1881, par. 4

Shall man declare the judgment upon Achan too severe? God himself pronounced the sentence, and shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Achan's confession was made too late to be of any value. He saw the armies of Israel return from Ai defeated and disheartened, with thirty-six valiant men sacrificed; yet he did not come forward and confess his sin. He saw Joshua and the elders of Israel bowed to the earth in grief too great for words, their heads covered with dust in token of self-abasement. Had he then made confession, he would have given some proof of true penitence; but he still kept silence. He listened to the proclamation that a great crime had been committed in the camp of Israel, and even heard its character definitely stated. But he had not the honor of God or the good of Israel at heart, and his lips were sealed. Then came the solemn and searching investigation. How his soul thrilled with terror as he saw his tribe pointed out, then his family, and his household! But still he uttered no confession, until the finger of God was placed upon him. ST May 5, 1881, par. 5

So great had been his hardihood and persistence, that even at the last Joshua feared he would assert his innocence, and thus enlist the sympathy of the congregation and lead them to dishonor God. He would not have confessed, had he not hoped by so doing to avert the consequences of his crime. It was this hope that led to his apparent frankness in acknowledging his guilt and relating the particulars of the sin. In this manner will confessions be made by the guilty when they stand condemned and hopeless before the bar of God, when every case has been decided for life or for death. Confessions then made will be too late to save the sinner. ST May 5, 1881, par. 6

There are many professed Christians whose confessions of sin are similar to that of Achan. They will, in a general way, acknowledge their unworthiness, but they refuse to confess the sins whose guilt rests upon their conscience, and which have brought the frown of God upon his people. Thus many conceal sins of selfishness, overreaching, dishonesty toward God and their neighbor, sins in the family, and many others which it is proper to confess in public. ST May 5, 1881, par. 7

Genuine repentance springs from a sense of the offensive character of sin. These general confessions are not the fruit of true humiliation of soul before God. They leave the sinner with a self-complacent spirit to go on as before, until his conscience becomes hardened, and warnings that once aroused him produce hardly a feeling of danger and after a time his sinful course appears right. All too late his sins will find him out, in that day when they shall not be purged with sacrifice nor offering forever. There is a vast difference between admitting facts after they are proved, and confessing sins known only to ourselves and God. ST May 5, 1881, par. 8

While the Israelites were still encamped on the east side of Jordan, the tribes of Gad and Reuben, seeing that the country was favorable for their occupation of raising sheep and cattle, desired to settle there, and accordingly presented their request to Moses. The great leader was displeased at this request, supposing that these tribes were seeking to avoid the conflicts which their brethren must encounter in dispossessing the Canaanites. He said, “Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here?” Moses feared that sloth and cowardice, the result of unbelief, prompted this suggestion, and that these tribes would incur the Lord's displeasure. ST May 5, 1881, par. 9

The men of Gad and Reuben assured their leader that they would not shun the burdens and responsibilities which the Lord had laid upon all Israel. After preparing homes for their families they would take their position beside their brethren, in all their conflicts, until every man had come in possession of his inheritance. Moses consented to this, but fearing that these tribes might yet fail to keep their promise, he added “If ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out.” ST May 5, 1881, par. 10

Here is a lesson which professed Christians at the present day may study with profit. God's displeasure rests upon those who seek only their own ease and temporal prosperity, leaving their brethren to endure hardship and privation and to bear heavy responsibilities in the church. There is an unceasing conflict between the cause of truth and holiness and that of error and ungodliness. All who claim to be children of God must be armed for the battle. God has not left this warfare upon a few soldiers, while the others rest at ease. Said the great apostle, to his Corinthian brethren, “I mean not that other men be eased, and ye burdened.” All who profess any interest in the cause of God, the advancement of truth, and the conversion of sinners, should be soldiers in the Lord's army. They should have one interest, one motive, one object, as long as life shall last. The great reason why so little is accomplished in the cause of God is indolence and indifference of his professed people. ST May 5, 1881, par. 11

“Satan's power is increasing, he is terribly in earnest, knowing that his time is short, he is working with all deceivableness of unrighteousness.” Those who would escape his wiles must be vigilant and determined. If we would meet the demands for this time, we must put on the whole armor, and go forth with energy, perseverance, and unswerving faith. In God alone is our strength. Indolence and slothfulness, presumption and self-confidence, will alike bring defeat and destruction. God takes cognizance of the works of all. Those who have sought their ease, and shunned care, anxiety and labor for God's cause, may be sure their sin will find them out. Those who, like Achan, cherish selfishness, avarice and deception, may be sure that God's eye is upon them. As he searched out Achan, he will search them out, as he pronounced a curse upon Achan, he will surely pronounce a curse upon them. ST May 5, 1881, par. 12

Some may claim that these severe denunciations belong only to the Jewish age, that we are now in a dispensation of mercy rather than of wrath and condemnation. But New Testament history presents many instances which show that the same sins which brought the wrath of God upon his people anciently will bring his wrath upon his church today. ST May 5, 1881, par. 13

John the Baptist, addressed the scribes and Pharisees, who made high claims to learning and piety: “Ye generation of vipers who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? bring forth therefore, fruits worthy of repentance.” And although Christ had such a love for humanity, as was never possessed by man or angel, he uttered the fearful sentence, “And thou Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven [in light and privilege] shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.” ST May 5, 1881, par. 14

The judgment visited upon Ananias and Sapphira was to be a warning to the church through all time. The sin committed by these persons was similar to that of Achan, and the power of God searched them out and brought swift retribution upon them. He who bade Joshua, rise from his position of humiliation and search within the camp of Israel for the reason of their defeat, the same Jesus searched out the hidden iniquity of Ananias and his wife and told Peter what course he must pursue toward them. ST May 5, 1881, par. 15

While the servants of God are in constant danger of indulging a zeal that is wholly human, and while great harm is done by those who seem to be in their element in censuring, reproving, and condemning their brethren, there is fully as great danger of going to the opposite extreme, and making the sum and substance of Christian duty consist in love. The apostle Paul writes to his son Timothy, “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine.” This work is just as essential to the prosperity of the church as is the exercise of gentleness, forbearance and love. Those who are consecrated to God will be as faithful to reprove and rebuke sin with all long-suffering and doctrine, as to comfort and encourage the desponding, and strengthen the weak. All who love God will show their abhorrence of sin. ST May 5, 1881, par. 16