WHAT THE LORD PROMISES, HE DELIVERS, NOTWITHSTANDING ENEMIES WITHIN
As a hummer and whistler, I find myself humming and whistling tunes that pop into my head almost any time of day almost anywhere. Not unusual for other folks to notice this about me – even at times when I am unaware of it.
Reflecting upon last week’s study having to do with enemies from without – those who establish themselves as enemies of the LORD God - and looking ahead to this week’s study having to do with enemies yet again, except this time the focus is on what you might call enemies within - those who identify themselves as being for the LORD but disobey His commands - I found myself humming the tune “I Ain’t Gonna Study War no more”. . .
Please recall that our LORD felt keenly about the harsh reality that every now and then enemies surface within the ranks of the Christian Community: “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me, scatters” (Luke 11:23).
There is no way that a professing believer, who says he loves the LORD, really loves Him - if he deliberately and premeditatedly engages in practices that are unmistakably contrary to God’s Will and, for Christians, contradictory to directives given to His followers by Jesus.
Joshua was convinced by a messenger sent from God that the battle he was about to engage in was of the Lord and that the time had come for God’ people to trust God and go all the way with Him to victory. By faith, Joshua led his army, and they went “straight in, took the city, and devoted it to the Lord” who had already given them the victory. Victories over enemies of God are GIFTS of God . . . !
However, as always when God gives victory, there are those who take the credit, and seek to discredit the One who gave the victory! In the case of Jericho, at least one of them - probably more - apparently thought, “Yes, I remember God telling us not to take anything out of the city because it all belongs to Him; but I’ll just take a few treasures to reward myself for what I did.”
Big mistake! Not because God needed material treasures but, since this was only the beginning of the Conquest of Canaan, it was necessary for God’s people to have their level of trust tested in order to determine whether or not further disciplinary measures were called for. And guess what? They were! Get this:
A self-appointed “committee of one”, a Hebrew named Achan stole sacred treasure (forbidden fruit) and concealed it, but God told Joshua: “Israel has sinned, and they have transgressed my covenant . . .” (v. 1)
Do you see the negative effect an individual’s transgression can have on the whole community? With all the emphasis we place on individualism – I myself being one of those who do so – of necessity we are confronted from time to time with a stark reality: We the people of God are a community which often becomes complacent about the seriousness of sin. And we are most vulnerable in moments of success! Thus, the harshness with which God dealt with Achan – Joshua 7: 13-15 . . . 19-21 . . .
Just as the battle against the enemy from without was of God, so was the battle against the enemy within. God treated the situation as if everybody had sinned – so, accountability transfers to the community as a whole. In the “family systems approach” which we employ at The Rock counseling center we say, “If one member of the family has a problem, the whole family has a problem.”
Nowhere in our society is this lesson learned to its maximum degree than in the military. An entire company associated with the Third Army was assembled on the drill field during my tenure of duty just to identify one recruit who had gotten himself in trouble with headquarters. He was singled out, embarrassed and, right then and there, sentenced to his punishment! Every soldier took notice!
Achan was identified as the culprit, indicted as an individual but, representative of many! “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
Folks, direct defiance of God is tantamount to blasphemous conduct which always ends disastrously for anyone and everyone who knowingly consorts with God’s arch enemy Satan to do harm to God’s purpose . . . plan . . . people!
One man’s blatant disrespect, disregard and dismissive attitude toward the LORD God had (has, and always will have) dire consequences not only for the one but also for all who consort with the one and thereby consort with the enemy of God. What we have in a situation like this is a “consortium of covetousness” which, in defiance of God’s command, “Sees . . . covets . . . takes . . . reaps.”
Until there is a correction of the community’s moral compass, this pattern of abuse of privilege continues its downward spiral toward destruction and leads eventually to spiritual death. Thus, God’s judgment must not be taken lightly!
As much as some of us would like to sugarcoat it, that’s the way it is, folks! “Don’t be deceived; God cannot be mocked; a man, indeed a nation, reaps what it sows.” Yet, with the spiritual life of a nation hanging in the balance, there was hope, for, God is in the business of turning negatives into positives! So must we!
However, God is not in the business of doing so against the “free will” of a sinner or a society whose repentance (confession) is contemptuous and without genuine sorrow. “Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart.”
To be sorry one got caught and therefore ‘fess up for the wrong reason – to escape the consequences – is to pay the penalty that fits the crime anyway.
“All’s well that ends well”, they say, but things did not end well for Achan and his family. Joshua first led the community to confront grievous, gratuitous, blasphemous sins and then told them to deal with it – Joshua 7:25-26 . . .
We who are people of the New Covenant find it a hard pill to swallow that people of the Old Covenant would have been instructed to administer the death penalty of stoning inasmuch as Christ intervened in the stoning of a woman who had been caught in adultery and stopped the stoning by saying, “Let him that is without sin cast the first stone.”
The difference is that in the Old Testament God was at work to establish a nation for carrying out His purpose and plan of redemption . . . in the face of enemies who were seeking to stop God by stopping the Israelites. Therefore, the principle had to be established that nothing stands in the way of the fulfillment of God’s purpose and plan of redemption - to be realized in and through the Messiah.
Christ has come. God’s plan of redemption has been set in motion. In spite of efforts to stop it by forces that rule this world, God’s Kingdom is being built in the hearts of believers - through the Church of Jesus Christ the Chief Cornerstone. Love is the theme of His Kingdom of which there will be no end. However:
Although Jesus died once and for all, for all who confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father (relegating a life of sin to the past and initiating a life of holiness dedicated to the Lord), evil did not end and has not gone away. It has only been ratcheted up to a higher degree due to political schemes and technological strategies heretofore unheard of - thereby leaving the New Testament Church under greater scrutiny, and the Plan of God in Christ under fiercer attack than ever before. So,
The age-old principle laid down by the LORD - “whatsoever a man or a nation sows, that shall he or she reap” - is still in play; for, you see, God reveals Himself not only by miracles that astound but also by judgments that confound.
God desires, and demands, a holy people, meaning that no compromise is ever to be made with evil aimed at destabilizing God’s people so as to disrupt and eventually destruct God’s plan. When, if ever, will the world learn this lesson? Let us hope soon - and very soon! Amen.