Sin of Achan - ST, April 21, 1881

                            T h e     S i n    o f    a c h a n                             

                      Writings  of  Ellen G. White  ( published in 1881)                            See page on Original website

                              Signs of the Times,  April 21, 1881

                                               The Sin of Achan

Soon after the conquest of Jericho, Joshua determined to take possession of Ai, a city about ten miles farther north. Accordingly, chosen men were sent to visit this place to ascertain the number of its inhabitants, and the strength of its fortifications. The spies returned with the tidings that the city contained but few defenders, and that a small number of the Hebrew host could easily overthrow it.  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 1}


The great victory which God had gained for them had made the Israelites self-confident.  Because the Lord had promised them the land of Canaan, they felt secure, and failed to realize the necessity of putting forth every effort in their power, and then humbly seeking for divine help, which alone could give them the victory. Even Joshua laid his plans for the conquest of Ai, without seeking by earnest prayer to obtain counsel from God.  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 2}


The congregation of Israel had begun to exalt their own strength and skill, and to look with contempt upon the inhabitants of the land. Jericho had been marvelously overthrown, and an easy victory was expected at Ai. Hence three thousand men were considered sufficient to make the attack. The Israelites rushed into battle, without the assurance that God would be with them. They were unprepared for the determined resistance which they met, and, terrified by the numbers and thorough preparation of their enemies, they turned and fled. They were hotly pursued by the Canaanites, and thirty-six of their number slain.  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 3}


The unexpected defeat brought grief and discouragement upon the whole congregation of Israel. Joshua looked upon their ill-success as an expression of God's displeasure, and in deep humiliation he fell to the earth upon his face before the ark. The elders of Israel united with him in this act of self-abasement, and dumb with astonishment and dismay they remained in this position until the even. Then Joshua presented the matter before the Lord in earnest prayer:--  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 4}


"Alas, O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us around, and cut off our name from the earth; and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?"  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 5}


Joshua manifested a true zeal for the honor of God, yet his petitions were mingled with doubt and unbelief. The thought that God had brought his people over the Jordan to deliver them up to the power of the heathen was a sinful one, unworthy of a leader of Israel. Joshua's feelings of despondency and distrust were inexcusable in view of the mighty miracles which God had wrought for the deliverance of his people, and the repeated promise that he would be with them in driving out the wicked inhabitants of the land.  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 6}


But our merciful God did not visit his servant with wrath because of this error. He graciously accepted the humiliation and prayers of Joshua, and at the same time gently rebuked his unbelief, and then revealed to him the cause of their defeat:--  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 7}


"Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them; for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed; neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you."  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 8}


Israel had sinned; and as their chief magistrate, Joshua had a work to do to search out the guilty one, and put away the sin from the congregation. Instead of concluding that the Lord had brought upon his people defeat and ruin, Joshua should rather have made diligent inquiry if all Israel had been faithful to their covenant with God.  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 9}


The Lord had wrought wondrously for his people. It was not their skill or valor that had overthrown the mighty walls of Jericho. The power of the Lord of hosts had given them the victory. That city might be regarded as the first-fruits of Canaan, and hence was to be wholly devoted to the Lord. The only advantages which the people were to gain from their success were the destruction of their enemies, and the control of the country. Therefore they were forbidden to appropriate any of the spoils. The gold and silver, with the vessels of brass and iron, were to enrich the treasury of the Lord. Besides these, all the wealth of that great city, with every living creature, was to be utterly consumed with fire. Should any Israelite venture to reserve a portion of the spoils, the curse which rested upon Jericho would surely fall upon him.  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 10}


Here the Lord gave expression to his abhorrence of idolatry. Those heathen nations had turned from the worship of the living God, and were paying homage to demons. Shrines and temples, beautiful statues, and costly monuments, all the most ingenious and expensive works of art, had held the thoughts and affections of the veriest slavery to Satanic delusions.  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 11}


The human heart is naturally inclined to idolatry and self-exaltation. The costly and beautiful monuments of heathen worship would please the fancy and engage the senses, and thus allure the Israelites from the service of God. It was to remove this temptation from his people that the Lord commanded them to destroy those relics of idolatry, on penalty of being themselves abhorred and accursed of God.  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 12}


When Joshua was appointed as the leader of Israel, all the people entered into a solemn covenant to be loyal and obedient. They assured their leader,--"All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go. According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee; only the Lord thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses. Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death; only be strong and of a good courage."  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 13}


Yet in spite of all this, and upon the very occasion of a most glorious victory, one man in Israel ventured to transgress the command of God. When Achan saw among the spoils a magnificent Babylonish robe, his cupidity was aroused. Conscience was silenced with the plea that the richly adorned garment was too costly to be consumed, and he hastily rescued it from the flames. One step in transgression prepared the way for another, and he next appropriated the gold and silver which should have gone into the treasury of the Lord. The things which God had cursed, Achan eagerly gathered as a precious treasure, and secreted them in his tent. No human eye saw the act, but the eye of God was upon the sinner, and marked his transgression. No human voice was raised to testify against him, but God became his accuser, and appointed him to utter destruction.  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 14}


Achan had fostered covetousness and deception in his heart, until his perceptions of sin had become blunted, and he fell an easy prey to temptation. Those who venture to indulge in a known sin will be more readily overcome the second time. The first transgression opens the door to the tempter, and he gradually breaks down all resistance and takes full possession of the citadel of the soul. Achan had listened to oft-repeated warnings against the sin of covetousness. The law of God, pointed and positive, had forbidden stealing and all deception, but he continued to cherish sin. As he was not detected and openly rebuked, he grew bolder; warnings had less and less effect upon him, until his soul was bound in chains of darkness.  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 15}


There are many Achans among the professed people of God today. They have become so familiar with sin that they no longer perceive its heinous character. If just retribution should be visited upon all who are guilty of sins similar to that of Achan, how would the numbers in our churches be lessened! God's eye is upon the sinner, and a righteous Judge will in no case clear the guilty.  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 16}


 The history of Achan teaches the solemn lesson, that for one man's sin, the displeasure of God will rest upon a people or a nation till the transgression is searched out and punished. Sin is corrupting in its nature. One man infected with its deadly leprosy may communicate the taint to thousands. Those who occupy responsible positions as guardians of the people are false to their trust, if they do not faithfully search out and reprove sin. Many dare not condemn iniquity, lest they shall thereby sacrifice position or popularity. And by some it is considered uncharitable to rebuke sin. The servant of God should never allow his own spirit to be mingled with the reproof which he is required to give; but he is under the most solemn obligation to present the word of God, without fear or favor. He must call sin by its right name. Those who by their carelessness or indifference permit God's name to be dishonored by his professed people, are numbered with the transgressor,-- registered in the record of Heaven as partakers in their evil deeds.  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 17}


A deplorable state of coldness and backsliding exists in the Christian world today. The Spirit and power of God seems in a great measure to have departed from his professed people, and the enemy of truth rejoices at their weakness and defects. Infidelity is lifting its proud head, and denying the evidences of Christianity, because of the sins existing among professed followers of Christ. Many who are zealous for the honor of God, feel that he has indeed hid his face from them, but, like Joshua, they are more ready to complain of God than to make diligent search for the sins which have shut out his blessing.  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 18} 


There is need of earnest work to set things in order in the church of God, and it is fully as essential to do this work as it is to preach or to pray. If we would enjoy the favor of God, we must search our own hearts and lives to see if we are not cherishing that which God has cursed. Is there not some unlawful gain placed with our own possessions? Have we robbed God by retaining the portion which should be appropriated to his treasury? Have we withheld from the poor the means which God has given us to supply their necessities?  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 19} 


While we profess to revere and obey God's holy law, are we keeping the first four commandments, which require us to love God supremely? Are we keeping the last six, which teach us to love our neighbor as ourselves? Is there not a cause for our great spiritual weakness, for the lack of fervency and grace and power in preaching God's word? Do we not encourage sin, by failing to meet it with plain and pointed reproof? We may have the clearest understanding of God's word, we may make a high profession of godliness, yet if injustice or iniquity is concealed among us, we need not wonder that our souls are dry and fruitless as a withered branch.  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 20} 


The love of God will never lead to the belittling of sin; it will never cover or excuse an unconfessed wrong. Achan learned too late that God's law, like its author, is unchanging. It has to do with all our acts and thoughts and feelings. It follows us, and reaches every secret spring of action. By indulgence in sin, men are led to lightly regard the law of God. Many conceal their transgressions from their fellow-men, and flatter themselves that God will not be strict to mark iniquity. But his law is the great standard of right, and with it every act of life must be compared in that day when God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or evil. Purity of heart will lead to purity of life. All excuses for sin are vain. Who can plead for the sinner when God testifies against him?  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 21} 


Through divine grace, all men may live in harmony with the requirements of God's law. It is not enough that we have not blotted the page of life with revolting crimes; unless the record bears witness of noble deeds, of self-denying efforts to save not only our own souls but the souls of others, we shall be found wanting.  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 22} 


The spirit of hatred against reproof is steadily increasing. It is considered uncharitable to deal plainly and faithfully with the erring. Sin is glossed over, and thus blindness has come upon souls until it is impossible for them to discriminate between right and wrong, between sin and holiness. Many have closed their ears to reproof, and hardened their hearts against every influence which would set their sins before them.  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 23} 


We repeat, God holds the church responsible for the sins of its individual members. When coldness and spiritual declension exist, God's people should put away their pride and self-confidence and self-exaltation, and should come to the Lord in sorrow and humility, not charging him with injustice, but seeking wisdom to understand the hidden sins which shut out his presence.  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 24} 


Those who have the true love of God in their hearts will not teach that sin should be handled with gloved hands. The words of God to Joshua contain a solemn lesson for every one who professes to be a follower of Christ, -- "Neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed thing from among you."  {ST, April 21, 1881 par. 25} 


                   Return to  Phrases related to SIN  page

                   Return to  Signs of the Times  page

                   Return to  Spirit of Prophecy  section

Related Information

Signs of the Times Beatitudes - ST, May 9, 1892 ST - 1882 - Sons of Samuel ST - 1885 - Address to the workers ST - 1892 - the living vine ST - 1899 - Our country (USA) dangers - July 4