The Heitzig boys were trouble, especially my brother Bob. Bob was six foot eight, drove a Harley, and could be very intimidating—and he liked it. Underneath it all, he was really tenderhearted, but he liked to give off the rough, tough exterior.
The man Achan in the book of Joshua was exactly the opposite. He wanted to appear like he was no trouble at all, but he was. In fact, his name means troubler, and he brought trouble to the entire nation of Israel. Let's look at four truths from Achan's life:
1. Every disobedience is detrimental. After the children of Israel had miraculously taken over Jericho, we read in Joshua 7 that they "committed a trespass regarding the accursed things"—the spoils of war that were supposed to be set apart for the Lord—"for Achan…took of the accursed things; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel" (v. 1). Because of Achan's actions, all of Israel was held liable (see v. 11) and about thirty-six of their men were killed when they went to attack Ai (see vv. 2-5). In the same way, in the body of Christ, every member's actions affect the whole body, for better or worse (see Ecclesiastes 9:18; 1 Corinthians 12:26).
2. Every sin comes in stages. Just read Achan's confession: "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" (v. 21). Notice the different stages: he saw, he coveted, and then he took. According to James 1:14-15 and Romans 6:23, the final stage of sin is death, which Achan would soon experience.
3. Every prayer isn't pure. Instead of praying before going up against Ai, Joshua pled with the Lord afterwards, essentially blaming Him for what happened (see vv. 6-9). What was God's response? "Get up!... Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you" (vv. 10, 12). Prayer is good—and essential. But it was time for Joshua to deal with the problem at hand.
4. Every failure isn't forever. Verses 25-26 say that the Israelites took Achan and his family to the Valley of Achor—which also means trouble—and executed them there, and "the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger" (v. 26).
Achan's story was a blot on Israel's national record—but it wasn't the end of the story. Later on in the prophet Hosea's time, God would say, "Behold, I will allure [Israel], will bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfort to her. I will give her her vineyards from there, and the Valley of Achor as a door of hope" (Hosea 2:14-15). In other words, the place that was associated with defeat and downfall would one day be a place of victory.
Achan's story shows us that sin can't be taken lightly; it leads to judgment. But God uses judgment to turn people to Him and offer them hope, so that even their worst failures become part of their testimony. So take comfort today in the fact that God can turn your trouble into triumph; He can close a door of heaviness and open a door of hope. To put it in the words of the prophet Isaiah, He can "give [you] beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness" (Isaiah 61:3).