Summary: 13th in long series on Joshua. This sermon speaks about Achan’s sin, and the relevance of truth telling. Ties together Prov.23:23 (the cost of the truth, and the value of it) and Eph.4:15 (doing it in love) as well.
Joshua 7:19-20 – You Can’t Handle the Truth
Max Lucado, in his book Just Like Jesus, tells this story. A man received a call from his wife just as she was about to fly home from Europe. "How’s my cat?" she asked.
"Oh, honey, don’t be so honest. Why didn’t you break the news to me slowly? You’ve ruined my trip."
"What do you mean?"
"You could have told me he was on the roof. And when I called you from Paris, you could have told me he was acting sluggish. Then when I called from London, you could have said he was sick, and when I called you from New York, you could have said he was at the vet. Then, when I arrived home, you could have said he was dead."
The husband had never been exposed to such protocol but was willing to learn. "OK," he said. "I’ll do better next time."
"By the way," she asked, "how’s Mom?"
There was a long silence, then he replied, "Uh, she’s on the roof."
Today we are taking one more look at Joshua 7, the story of Achan’s sin and the Israelites’ defeat at the hands of the men from Ai. I’d like to look at one thing that stuck out in my mind as I read and re-read this passage. It’s the issue of truth. Look at what Joshua said to Achan in v19.
I like that phrase. It’s a serious command to tell the truth. But it’s worded in a way to imply that God is pleased when we tell the truth. Glory goes to God when the truth is told. Praise goes to God when someone tells the truth, at least, in a big picture sense. I’ll explain more about that in a bit.
Truth is a topic that people love to discuss. Today, many people believe that truth is relative. That is, something may be wrong for you to do, but not for me. Morals, which are determined by truth, are flexible, because truth is flexible, or so it is thought.
Even within the church, at times, I’m sad to say. We compromise the truth when it would hurt too much. We candy-coat it when it’s too hard to take. Edward R. Murrow said, “Most truths are so naked that people feel sorry for them and cover them up, at least a little bit.” And Harry S Truman, former president of the US, about whom was said,”Give ‘em hell, Harry” – he himself said, “I never gave anybody hell! I just told the truth and they thought it was hell.” For every hard topic avoided by preachers, for every time a lie was tolerated for the sake of getting along with others, for every time a story was told to prevent hard feelings, a lie was allowed to rise to the surface.
Well, what does the Bible say about the truth? 1 John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1 Peter 1:22 says that we “have purified yourselves by obeying the truth.” In 2 Thessalonians, Paul speaks of people who “love the truth and so be saved.” Salvation comes from loving and obeying the truth. In Ephesians, Paul speaks of how our faith in Jesus shows up in our lives. He speaks of fruit of the light consisting in all goodness, righteousness and truth.
And of course, in a passage we are quite familiar with, Paul tells us in Eph.6 to put on the full armor of God, which includes the belt of truth. Truth is a weapon we fight with. It protects us from attacks of Satan. By putting on truth, we guard ourselves against lies of the enemy. When he throws half-truths at us, we recognize them and reject them. Truth is something to protect us, not hinder us or hold us back.
Jesus considered the truth quite important. He prayed, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” God’s Word, the Bible, is truth. This sanctifies us, cleanses us, sets us apart, makes us holy before Him. That’s pretty important.
Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit. Jesus called Him “the Spirit of truth”. And Jesus said He would “guide [us] into all truth.” The Spirit is here to help us sort out fiction from non-fiction, error from fact, fantasy from reality. It doesn’t help the cause when we Christians lie. That must grieve the Spirit within us.
And of course, Jesus said this in John 8: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” I like what Mal Pancoast said about this, rewording his crude language slightly. He said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will make you really angry.” That’s funny.