Summary: The account of Achan raises more questions than answers. In humility we just need to let God be God. Or to put it another way, have faith to let God quarterback.
The conversation around many office water coolers tomorrow will be about the many CFL and NFL football games played this weekend. You’ll hear comments like: “What was he thinking throwing into that coverage?” “Why did he wait so long to call a time out?” “Couldn’t he see that they were going to blitz? Even my five-year-old could see that coming!” Armchair quarterbacks. We’ve all been one. We find it easy to criticize and second-guess others - even God. When a drunk driver plows into the car of a young mother of three killing her while the driver himself walks away with nothing more than a scratch and then gets off scot-free because the police officer failed to do the breathalyser properly, we wonder: “Lord, if you’re so just and loving, why would you let things like this happen?” Today’s sermon doesn’t offer any easy answers. Instead our Faith Factor text simply urges us to let God be God, or to put it another way: have faith to let God quarterback.
Last week we heard about the stunning victory God gave the Israelites over the city of Jericho. They just had to march around the city and God caused the walls to come tumbling down. So when the Israelites set their sights on their next target, the smaller town of Ai, they didn’t think they would need the whole army to conquer it. And sure enough there was a rout, only the Israelites were the ones routed! Some 36 men died while the rest of the army had to run for their lives from “puny” little Ai.
What went wrong? That’s what Joshua wanted to know. After tearing his robes and flinging himself to the ground he cried out: “Ah, Sovereign LORD, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan” (Joshua 7:7). He doesn’t say it in so many words but don’t you get the impression that Joshua was blaming the Lord for the defeat? That’s certainly what God thought because he responded: “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11 Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep” (Joshua 7:10, 11).
This exchange between Joshua and the Lord is sadly familiar, isn’t it? When relationships sour we’re quick to blame God. “Why did you let me marry him?” “Why do I have to put up with her?” “I thought marriage was supposed to be a slice of heaven, not a living hell.” Yes, we’re quick to blame God for our marital woes when it is our own selfishness, our own impatience, or our own lack of perseverance that has contributed if not caused the tension. You want God to change your spouse? Fine but first consider how you need to change your attitude because it’s as much our own sinful actions and reactions that cause the stress in a marriage, not the Lord.
What exactly was the Israelite’s sin that caused their defeat at Ai? Someone had taken plunder from Jericho when God had made it very clear that everything from that city belonged to him. As it turns out, it was just one man, Achan, who disobeyed. One thief out of two million people. Don’t you think God should have been happy with those statistics? But then again we’re not God, just armchair quarterbacks. When the Lord gives a command he expects it to be obeyed perfectly by everyone all the time. If not, there are consequences. That’s what makes God, holy.
Certainly there should have been consequences for Achan but why did 36 “innocent” men have to die as a result of his sin? That doesn’t seem very fair. Didn’t I say at the beginning of the sermon that our text raises difficult questions? It may not seem fair to us that 36 men died as a result of another man’s sin, or that 3,000 plus people died when terrorists slammed planes into the twin towers but it’s not as if these people were without sin themselves. The fact that they died proves that they were sinners for the wages of sin is death, says God (Romans 6:23). But I am not suggesting that the 36 men at Ai or the 3,000 people who died on 9/11 were more sinful than the rest of us. Jesus himself tells us that when we see calamity strike others it’s meant to be a warning for us (Luke 13). We are to repent of our sins and acknowledge that we deserve death too. In God’s defense it could be said that it’s amazing those 36 men, indeed, the whole people of Israel didn’t die sooner. After all that’s what they (and we) deserve for constantly rebelling against the Lord. But why those men? Why then? I don’t know but God does. Let him call the plays. Let him QB.