Summary: The failure at Ai

The Power of Secret Sin

The failure at Ai - Joshua 7

A man purchased a white mouse to use as food for his pet snake. He dropped the unsuspecting mouse into the snake’s glass cage, where the snake was sleeping in a bed of sawdust. The tiny mouse had a serious problem on his hands. At any moment he could be swallowed alive. The mouse needed to come up with a brilliant plan. What did the terrified creature do? He quickly set up work covering the snake with sawdust chips until it was completely buried. With that, the mouse apparently thought he had solved his problem. The solution however came from outside. The man took pity on the silly little mouse and removed him from the cage. No matter how hard we try to cover or deny our sinful nature, it’s fool’s work. Sin will eventually awake from sleep and shake off its cover. Were it not for the saving grace of the Master’s hand, sin would eat us alive.

Secret sin

The fact is most if not all of us have a secret sin.

There are many secret sins we all face.

The problem is we try to cover up these sins like that mouse.

But they are always there ready to pounce.

Psalm 66:18 warns us of one consequence of secret sin.

“If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me”

In other words if you have a cherished secret sin that you habitually hold on to, it will hurt your prayer life.

This morning lets look at the very tragic story about a certain secret sin and it’s dire consequences.

1. But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel. 2. And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east side of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai. 3. And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few. 4. So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai. 5. And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.

A little background on this

In previous chapter we learn of the mighty defeat of Jericho

We all know the story

Israel marched around once a day, 6 days, 7th,- 7 times

Priests blow the trumpet, people shout

And the walls came tumbling’ down

All the inhabitants of Jericho were killed ,except Rahab and family.

So at this point in time Israel was flying high

Strutting around proud of their victory at Jericho

The fall of Jericho was followed by the temporary fall of Israel.

This shows us a powerful lesson that we need to beware of the dangers of success.

The seed of pride and self-confidence is often sown in the joyful but unguarded hour of victory

Or amidst the dangerous applause of men.

We can examine two revealing thoughts in this passage.

I. The Shameful Defeat of Israel, or

the believer’s doom

The defeat was

A. Unexpected

What did they say in verse 3?

“let not all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are few.”

We don’t need to waste our strength, there’s not many over there 2 or 3 thousand will be plenty

Kind of boastful isn’t it?

We read later that “few” here means about 12,000 that’s 4 times larger army

Yeah they were full of pride.

They were very confident of success

But very ignorant of their own condition in the sight of God

Confidence and earnestness in a Christian worker will never stand in the stead of holiness.

And there is a big difference between confidence and arrogance.

It doesn’t matter how confident and earnest you are as you work for the Lord

If you are not truly following His will.

Israel was basing this confidence on their victory over Jericho

The victory that God had given them

Joshua 6:2 says “And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho.”

Our power lies not in our past experiences.

It lies in the very hand of God.

Is thy heart right with God?

Even unexpected failure has its root of evil somewhere.

The shameful defeat of Israel, the believers failure was not only unexpected is was also…

B. Complete

Look at verse 4 again “So there went up thither of the people about 3000 men: and they fled before the men of Ai”

They ran away screaming like a little girl.

Why did they flee?

a. because the Lord was not with them

b. the man whose strength is God alone is totally helpless without Him.

c. John 15:5 “I am the vine ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa hold it, back the truck up

a. ask them - Do you believe God is with you?

b. they say- Yes of course Look how He helped at Jericho. But the past is not the present.

We can get so caught up in what God has done for us in the past we forget we still need to fully rely on Him

How quickly can we step out of the will of God.

- All our efforts will be as completely fruitless unless the presence and power of God is in it.

Have you ever seen the show American Gladiators?

Used to watch? Now its new again

I love to see the contestants get the best of these beasts of men

Me and the kids where watching the other day

And this small 5’10” 160 man got the best of this group of Gladiators

One of these guys was 6’8” 270 THAT’S HUGE

You would think the contestant didn’t have a chance against him

But the Gladiator didn’t win simply because he was this huge monster of a man

Israel didn’t achieve victory simply because they were Israel, the mighty conquerors of fallen Jericho

Just like we don’t win victory simply because we are Christians.

We must be Christians striving after the holy mind and will of God if we would be over comers.

This defeat caused the nation of Israel’s hearts to melt.

They lost all confidence.

Thus their defeat was complete.

It was also…

C. Humbling

6. And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. 7. And Joshua said, 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! 8. O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies!

Verse 8 “O Lord what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies.”

Israel’s failure brings dishonor upon Israel’s God.

Even today our failures hurt the reputation of the church, of Christianity and of God Himself.

Verse 9 “For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: what wilt thou do unto thy great name”

Joshua pleads that God’s honor in the eyes of all the world was at stake in the fortunes of His people.

Imagine praying this way to God.

This is not a formal church prayer

It is a prayer of a man who is afraid and confused

Joshua poured out his real thoughts to God

This is a prayer of humility

Our failures like Joshua and Israel’s should cut us to the heart when we know that by those failures our Master is dishonored.

How we should bow our hearts to the dust confounded and ashamed saying “O Lord, what shall I say”

If past failure does not bring humbling and self-searching before God we will never find out the true source of power

Those who expect failure are never humbled because of it.

And thus the Lord cannot be magnified

He that humbleth himself shall be exalted

“what will you do for your own great name”

Our failures, the believer’s failure should humble us for they bring dishonor to our Lord.

The shameful defeat of Israel was unexpected, complete and…

D. Needful 10-13

10 And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? 11 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. 12 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. 13 Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.



Many are mourning over their failure, like Joshua who have more need to mourn over their sin.

The Lord cannot use us at times because of secret sin

Although we may be ignorant of it, God is not.

He cannot treat sin lightly just because we don’t realize it.

This failure was needful because if they had not failed they would have just gone on in their sin.

God can have no fellowship with unrighteousness.

The accursed thing must be taken away or His presence will be taken away.

God reveals that the root of all Israel’s problem at Ai

Their pride

Their self-reliance and

Their eventual defeat - Was in the sin of one man

Verse 11 “They have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing and have also stolen and lied.”

Verse 1 “for Achan…of the tribe of Judah took of the accursed thing”

II. The Sin of Achan - the sinner’s doom

Achan’s history is very short and very sad

Four thoughts on his legacy

A. His Desire verse 21

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.

This verse shows the 4 steps of Achan’s hidden sin

I saw

I coveted

I took

I concealed

Sin often begins with a look

Eve saw the fruit

Lot saw the well watered plains

David saw Bathsheba

But Achan’s sin lay not in seeing the gold etc.

He couldn’t help but see it

But he coveted them

He loved the forbidden gain, until desire moved his hand

The pleasures of sin will always attract us more when we look on them with a desire.

This is where Satan’s work is most profound.

He knows our weaknesses better then we do.

He attacks those and stokes that fire of desire in us until we covet the forbidden pleasure.

We need to guard our hearts closely - because certain circumstances might bring ruinous results of every thought is not captive by Christ.

So Achan’s desire helped define his legacy

The second part of his legacy …

B. His disobedience

He took of the accursed thing

They were given specific instructions

6:18 “and ye , in any wise, keep yourselves from the accursed thing”

He sinned willingly not ignorantly

The fact that he hid the goods proves that he was conscious of his wrongdoing

Achan’s sin was not merely his keeping some of the plunder

God allowed that in some cases

It was his disobeying God’s explicit command to destroy everything connected with Jericho.

His sin was indifference to the evil and idolatry of the city, not just a desire for money and clothes.

God is not content with us doing what is right some of the time

He wants us to do what is right all the time

We are under His orders to eliminate any thoughts, practices or possessions that hinder devotion to Him.

Achan was an old-time hypocrite

Achan’s hypocrisy is not uncommon these days

Even among professed workers for Christ

Today many willingly disobey God by preferring the world to Christ

All the while keeping up the appearance of godliness to deceive men.

Although the Lord has clearly said, “Love not the world” , how much of it is hid in the heart?

Achan’s desire, disobedience and then…

C. His Detection

19 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. 20 And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done:

Achan was taken

Be sure your sin will find you out

Amongst all the thousands of Israel, he was found out.

Nothing is hidden from the eye of God.

His sin was now revealed

For all the world to see

Every hidden thing brought to light

What a forecast of the Great Judgment

He that covereth his sin shall not prosper

One of the problems is, we are not prevented from sinning

Someone told of a church that believed in sinless perfection once you trusted Jesus Christ into your life and were baptized.

A visitor to that church heard this teaching and asked to be baptized.

He was tired of dealing with his habitual sin without any success.

Unfortunately, it was the middle of winter and the river was near frozen.

The man with much persistence got the Elders to baptize him in the river.

After the man and two Elders came out of the freezing cold water, the man was so excited he said

“I feel so good, I’m not even cold.”

One Elder turned to the other and said,

“ He’s lying, we have to do it again.”

Having a right relationship with God does not make us robots without a free will.

We are forgiven, but we are not prevented from sinning.

Covering your sin has nothing but negative results and for Achan his desire, his disobedience and his detection all led to

D. His Destruction 24-25

24 And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones.

And all Israel stoned him with stones

What a tragic end to this man’s life

There was no way of escape

The punishment had to be dealt

But why did Achan’s entire family pay for his sin?

The Bible never refers to any accomplices

In the ancient world the family was treated as a whole.

Achan was like a tribal chief

If he prospered, they prospered

If he suffered, so did they

Many Israelites had already died in battle because of Achan’s sin

Now he was to be completely cut off from Israel.

Achan’s entire family was to be stoned along with him so that no trace of the sin would remain in Israel

This is hard for us to comprehend in our permissive and individualistic culture

But this was a common punishment

The punishment fit the crime

Achan had disobeyed God’s command to destroy everything in Jericho

Thus everything that belonged to Achan had to be destroyed.

Sin has drastic consequences, so we should take drastic measures to avoid it.

Achan’s secret sin caused dire consequences not only for himself

But for his family

And for the entire nation of Israel

Our secret sins can have the same affect today

You may not think that sin your are cherishing in your heart is hurting anyone.

A victimless crime

But it is

Were it not for the saving grace of the Master’s hand sin would eat us alive.

That sin also hurts your family and could lead eventually to its destruction.

That sin also affects your church

Eating away at the fellowship between brothers and sisters

And just like Achan when one person fails it could lead to everyone failing

If Achan’s sin had gone unpunished, unlimited looting could break out

The nation as a whole had to take responsibility for preventing this undisciplined disobedience

The same goes for the church

We need to be thankful God doesn’t deal with disobedience today the same way He did in this event.

If you confess a secret sin, or are found out in one we are not going to take you out back and stone you and your family.

But that sin does need to be brought before God

Allow Him to take that burden from you

And forgive you When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins

Gary Larson, the artist responsible for the Far Side cartoons that used to appear in the Sunday comics

Had a knack for making us realize the obvious

In one particular cartoon

There were a group of scientists gathered around another scientist

The one is the middle was normal looking

But the others were grotesque

Huge eyes, hideous noses, monstrous lips, elongated faces

They were trying to get the normal looking guy to take a drink out of a steaming jar

The caption said “Laboratory peer pressure”

If people could see how ugly sin is

And how much it distorts them

They would stay away from it too.

If we could see how much it would distort those around us as well we would flee even faster.

Its easy to fool those around us

We can put fronts on to trick people we see every day

It can be even easier to do that at church

Someone you usually don’t see but once a week

But outside appearances don’t tell the true story from the inside

Maybe this morning you are hiding a secret sin inside

Covering it up so that no one can know you are struggling

That sin is eating away at you shredding your heart.

That secret sin is a burden weighing heavy on your back.

It may cause you to stumble and hurt the reputation of God

Don’t cover that secret sin up anymore

Hiding your needs from God is ignoring the only one who can really help

God welcomes your honest prayer

And wants you to express your true feelings to Him

Bring it to God, remove that cherished sin from your heart

Take the burden off of your back

Don’t allow this secret sin to stay hidden and cause you to stumble.