Achin’ Over Achan

Not sure I can really develop the thought that’s spinning around in my head. Want to be careful about “over-applying” an Old Testament narrative to the New Testament church. But I think there’s something worth noodling on here. So, just gonna throw down a few thoughts “on paper” and see what lands.

While not extensively versed in the book of Joshua, I’m pretty familiar with it. So, when I start in on Joshua 7 and see the section title, “Israel Defeated at Ai”, I know why before I read it. More accurately, I know who. That’s why reading the opening words of chapter 7 cause a question mark to pop over my head.

But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things . . .

(Joshua 7:1a ESV)

Stop right there. Hold on a sec. Wait a minute!

The people of Israel broke faith? Really? The whole nation? Everyone? Nope! Not how I remember it. But, evidently, yup! That’s the way it was.

. . . for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.

(Joshua 7:1b ESV)

Achan. One guy. One family. They were the ones who had specifically “broken faith.” They were the ones who took some of the spoils of Jericho (7:20-21) they were told not to take (6:18-19) and stashed them in their tent. Achan, not Israel. Yet, the holy record, breathed out by the Holy Spirit, says that Achan’s sin translated into a national transgression. Though one man was at fault, the whole nation was counted as guilty (7:11).

Doesn’t process really well through our culturally informed, individualistic mindset — the mindset that says, I’m responsible for me and you are responsible for you. Might be true in the world, evidently not so much when it comes to those chosen out of the world. Might make sense to those aligned to the individual pursuit of happiness, apparently doesn’t line up so well with those who have been set apart as a chosen people.

What does this say about being the people of God? Owning not only our individual salvation but also our collective witness? Not just about our individual actions, but something also about our collective accountability? That it’s not just about my “personal relationship” with Christ but also about my being a “member of the body” of Christ? Not only am I no longer my own (1Cor. 6:19), I’m also no longer on my own (Rom. 12:5, Eph. 4:25).

Like I said, want to be careful about carrying any application too far (there was also other sin, presumption, and complacency at play which led to the defeat at Ai). But I do think there’s something to chew on here about how we should view being the people of God and “members one of another” (Rom. 12:5). Something about collective responsibility. Something about mutual accountability. Something about why there needs to be a deep, authentic, relational care and concern for one another in the church (1Cor. 12:25).

If one member suffers, all suffer together . . .

(1Corinthians 12:26a ESV)

Achin’ a bit over the implications of Achan. Seems so foreign to our culture. But aren’t we called to be foreigners in this land and somewhat counter-cultural? Aren’t we of a different kingdom? “A chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1Pet. 2:9)? I’m thinkin’ . . .

O, to live authentically as the people of God. To love one another as the people of God. To watch out for each other as the people of God. To own our reputation and witness together as the people of God.

By His grace. For His glory.

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1 Response to Achin’ Over Achan

  1. Hi Pete,

    The concept of corporate responsibility is good food to ruminate on. I also saw that at least twice in these two chapters we see “Joshua rose early in the morning” and I thought of you rising early to feed me.

    Thanks (for getting up early and labouring in the kitchen), blessings and know you have been prayed for, Bob

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