We need a radically God-centered perspective of sin. Sin has affected our lives and leads us to the mercy of God. In this message on Joshua 7:1–26, David Platt calls us to change our view of sin.
1. Sin harms the entire people of God.
2. Sin forfeits the blessing and presence of God.
3. Sin brings dishonor on the glory of God.
4. Sin warrants the swift and just wrath of God.
5. Sin leads us to the available mercy of God.
Good morning. If you have a Bible, and I hope you do, I invite you to open with me to Joshua 7. Feel free to use your table of contents there in the Old Testament if you need to. I feel kind of bad that we’re camping out on ”Sin In The Camp” for an extended period of time. I really don’t want you to be depressed coming to worship every Sunday. I was telling some of the staff that part of me feels like if for the last couple of months it’s just been so heavy I feel like I just need to get out and tell some jokes or something one Sunday and here’s the reason I’m not going to tell jokes – well number one, I’m just not that funny and then second – it’s 2 Corinthians 4:4–6, give a picture that in a sense haunts me as I preach. It certainly overwhelms me.
Second Corinthians 4:4, just to let you know, verse 4, the verse says, Paul says that the god of this world, little ‘g,’ god of this world—the adversary, Satan—“The god of this world blinds the minds of unbelievers from seeing who God is.” So you’ve got the god of this world in verse 4. In verse 6 it says, “The true God,” capital ‘G,’ God, “The True God is shining light into hearts.” And so what you’ve got in verse 4 and verse 6 is a picture of the god of this world, the adversary trying to blind minds, and you’ve got the true God shining light into hearts, and in the middle, verse 5, Paul says, “We preach Christ,” and the gravity of 2 Corinthians 4, versus 4 thru 6 is evident. There is a God, true God who desires to shine light into our hearts, who desires to lead us to bow at the feet of a loving Savior. That is what God is doing.
At the same time there is a god in this world, an adversary, who is doing everything he can to blind us from this reality so that in the end we might burn in hell. It’s what’s at stake here. The god of this world wants to blind us in our culture, in the church from seeing that God is infinitely holy and sin is infinitely offensive in His sight, and His wrath is infinitely just, and His grace is infinitely precious, and the lives of every single person in this room, and every single person in this community, each of our lives, each of our brief lives is either headed to everlasting joy or everlasting suffering.
The difference is Christ, and so that’s why I’m just not going to tell jokes because if we don’t see the gravity of these things when we look at God’s Word then where will we see the gravity of these things? TV? Movies? The Internet? The god of this world is blinding minds and I believe he’s blinding minds all across the church, and one of his biggest strategies for doing that is through little sins, through subtle sins that don’t seem that big, don’t seem like that matter too much.
The Bottom Line…
Joshua 7:1–26 Calls In Need Of A God-Centered Perspective of Sin
One of my favorite writers is C.S. Lewis and he wrote a book called The Screwtape Letters, and it’s a fascinating book. It’s letters written from an older, more experienced demon to a younger more inexperienced demon about how to try to pull people away from God, and in one of those letters the older, more experienced demon writes to the younger demon, “You will say that these are very small sins and doubtless like young tempters you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness, but do remember the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from God. It doesn’t matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to keep the man away from the light. Murder is no different than cards if cards can do the trick.” He says, “Indeed the safest road to hell is the gradual one, the gentle slope, soft under-foot without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”
The adversary’s strategy is to lull us to sleep with little sins that don’t seem like they make that big of a difference. In fact, I think he’s done it all across the South. There are many of us in the South, many of us I fear in this room that have just enough religion to send us to hell, and so we come back to the bottom line that we saw last week and we realize that we need a radically God-centered perspective of sin. We need that in the church and you just can’t treat that with levity.
Joshua 7:1–26 Reminds Us That Sin Harms the Entire People of God
So we’re going to come back to this picture in Joshua 7 just to re-cap if you weren’t here last week the story that’s going on here. Joshua 1–6, they start going into the Promised Land, the people of God and things were going great. They get to Joshua 7 and they experience defeat at a town called Ai, and the reason is—36 men died there, they lose the battle—because one guy named Achan. One guy named Achan when they went into Jericho and they took that city took a robe, and some gold and silver—not a lot, just a little—and he kept it for himself, and he hid it in his tent. And because Achan did that one thing, one sin, they started to experience defeat.
Joshua ends up calling the people of God out tribe by tribe, clan by clan, family by family, and finally it leads to Achan. Achan’s the one who is guilty, Achan is the one who has caused all of this with his sin, and he confesses his sin and Achan and his whole family are stoned and then burned, and the whole picture of Joshua 7 is a picture of the seriousness, the severity of sin, and last week we talked about how one sin harms the entire people of God, and we camped out there.
We had five to get through and we got through one and I want – really want us to get through these other four today. That means we’re going to have to put our seatbelts on, especially for these first two. I want us to camp out on the last two, and so I want you to hold on tight with me. I want us to run through these first two and see this picture, and then lead to the last two where we can camp out a little bit.
Sin Forfeits the Blessing and Presence of God
All right. One, sin harms the entire people of God, second, one sin forfeits the blessing and presence of God. One sin forfeits the blessing and the presence of God. Now we’re not going to be able to turn to all these places. You might write some of them down but there is a huge contrast in Joshua 7 when you compare this chapter with all of Joshua’s life and leadership up to this point. One of the main themes in Joshua’s life and leadership has been the presence of God. Deuteronomy 31:23, God says when Moses is kind of passing the mantle of leadership from Moses to Joshua, God says, “I’m going to be with you. Just like I was with Moses, I’m going to be with you,” Deuteronomy 31:23.
Then you get to Joshua 1, three times in the opening chapter of Joshua God says to Joshua, “I’ll be with you,” Joshua 1:5, Joshua 1:9 and Joshua 1:17—5, 9 and 17, all three verses God is saying, “I’ll be with you.” Then you get to chapter 3. The people of God are crossing over the Jordan into the Promised Land, in Joshua 3:7, God says to Joshua, “I’m going to be with you.” You get to Joshua 5:13, 14, 15, what you see is Joshua kind of in a lonely place in his leadership where he’s wondering how he’s going to take on this task of leading the people into the Promised Land, and God comes to be with him, and talks with him and reminds him that he’s not alone.
And you get to the end of Joshua 6, right before chapter 7, look at verse 27. It reiterates it again, “So the Lord was with Joshua and his fame spread throughout the land.” So the theme is clear, “I’m with you, I’m with you, I’m with you.” This is Joshua’s life and leadership, the presence of God, but go to chapter 7:12 with me and I want you to listen to what God says. When you realize that context these words just leap off the page, verse 12, “That is why the Israelites…”—this is God speaking to Joshua—He says, “That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction.” Now hear what God says Joshua, “I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction” (Josh. 7:12).
These words leap off the page, “I’ll be with you, I’ll be with you, I’ll be with you.” God now saying to Joshua, “I will not be with you anymore unless –” and Joshua realizes – don’t miss it. Joshua realizes that the presence of God is dependent on the purity of God’s people. The presence of God is dependent, even conditional upon the purity of God’s people.
Now this reality rings true throughout Scripture, Old Testament and New. Now there’s a significant difference in the New Testament. In the Old Testament God’s presence comes and goes on people at different times. In the New Testament when you trust in Christ he sends His Spirit to live in you and the Spirit doesn’t come and go. You don’t one day have the Spirit and the next day lose the Spirit, and the next day you get the Spirit back. The Spirit lives in you. Ephesians 1:13, 14, “The Spirit is in you, a deposit guaranteeing your inheritance.” The Spirit lives, dwells inside of you. And so the presence of God doesn’t come and go like that but at the same time New Testament picture is just as clear. The fullness of God’s presence… The fullness of God’s presence is dependent on the purity of God’s people.
The fullness of God’s presence is dependent on the purity of God’s people, and it makes sense. It makes sense if you and I live our lives and when the Spirit of God, the presence of God convicts us of sin and we ignore Him, and we continue on in sin then how can we expect the Spirit of God to lead us and to guide us, and to empower us for all that we do? This is great mistake we have made in the church today. We have ignored sin, we have not treated the seriousness of sin. As a result we have jeopardized the purity of God’s people and we expect God’s presence to lead us, and the reality is one sin – picture in Joshua 7, one sin forfeits the entire blessing and the fullness of the presence of God. This is why God has us where He has us as a church, Brook Hills. This is why we’re fasting and praying every Tuesday. This is why I want to urge you every week to fast and pray on Tuesdays. In fact you’ll notice in your worship guide we’re opening up that time in here for longer, some other people who couldn’t make it from 6:00 to 8:00. We want to be a people who long to be holy but we realize we can’t do that without His presence.
Last week men covered the front of this room on their knees and on their faces saying, “I want to lead my family, lead His church.” The reality is there’s not one man in this room that can lead his family apart from the power of the presence of God. You can’t do it. There’s not one of us, including myself, who can lead one person to Christ in Birmingham apart from the power of the presence of God. We can do absolutely nothing, absolutely nothing of eternal value apart from His presence. That’s why we’re fasting and praying.
And it’s the mistake Joshua made in Joshua 7. The sin had pervaded the camp and Joshua doesn’t pray before he sends out the troops to go into Ai. He doesn’t seek the face of God. Instead he says, “This is an easy deal, send a few thousand guys up there and we’ll take down Ai, piece of cake.” And he assumed the presence of God while there was sin in the camp. He assumed the presence of God and they’d have the fullness of God’s presence while there was sin in the camp and we can’t make that assumption. This is why we are saying, “We are finished and done.” God help us to be finished and done with cultural, monotonous, routine, do-it-yourself Christianity. Help us to realize that we are destined to live defeated Christian lives apart from the presence of God.
And so we fall on our faces day after day, week after week, and we’re fasting and praying because we don’t want to move one step forward without the fullness of His presence. “We want you God, we want you in the fullness of your presence, and we want you, oh God, to reveal any and every sin in each of our camps, and in our camp as a whole remove them so that we can experience the fullness of your blessing and your presence.”
Joshua 7:1–26 Warns of Dishonor on the Glory of God
One sin forfeits the blessing and the presence of God. So that’s number two there. Number three, effects of sin, seriousness of sin, one sin brings dishonor on the glory of God, brings dishonor on the glory of God. Now when I say that I’m not talking here about glory as in the worth of God. We don’t take away from the worth of God when we sin. God’s worth is infinite. He is infinitely worthy, and you and I can’t change that, but I’m talking here about the reputation of God. I’m talking about the name of God. I’m talking about the honor of God in the world.
And Joshua knew what was at stake here in Joshua 7. In fact, you look in Joshua 7:9 at what he prays. Look at what he prays. This is Joshua speaking to God after they had been defeated at Ai and he says, “The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth” (Josh. 7:9). Then listen to what he says. He knows what is at stake. He says, “What then will you do for your own great name?” (Josh. 7:9). Joshua knew what was at stake. He knew that God’s reputation in the Promised Land, God’s reputation among all these pagan nations was bound up in His salvation of His people, His deliverance of His people, and that’s why taking these devoted things, things that have been devoted to worship of false Gods, why it was so important not to hold onto them and hide them in your tent.
He had delivered them from pagan Egypt not so they could worship pagan gods in the Promised Land. He had delivered them from pagan Egypt so they would display the holiness of God. This is why God saved them. God saved them, Joshua knew it – God saved them to demonstrate His glory through them, to demonstrate His power through them. This is where we keep coming back. We keep coming back to how we have so cheapened salvation and the ramifications of our cheapening the gospel. We come back to this picture of if salvation is all about praying a superstitious prayer and then living your life however you want to from that point on, if that is salvation do we realize what’s at stake there? Do we realize how that picture of salvation jeopardizes the glory of God, the reputation of God? A church, so to speak—professing Christians—saying I prayed a prayer, and living our lives in a way that is completely not noticeable from the rest of the world, indistinguishable from the rest of the world? Living our lives like most of unbelieving America? If that is the case, what are we saying about salvation? We are saying that our God has no power over sin. This gospel makes no difference in our lives. This is the reputation of God. It is being dishonored with our cheapening of the gospel. Your life is intended to be a commentary on the greatness of God.
This is why God saved you and me. He didn’t save you so you could get out of the going to hell line and get in the going to heaven line. He saved you to transform you so that His glory would be made known though you, so that people you work with, people you live with, people who see you would see in you a reflection of the glory of God. If we claim salvation, call ourselves Christians, and yet live still holding on to sin in our tents, then we display to the world that God is not powerful, He is not holy, He gives no victory over sin, and we blaspheme His name in front of the city of Birmingham and all nations.
This is the picture of fear in Scripture. First Peter 1:17–19 says, “Live your lives here in reverent fear.” What does that mean, “Live your lives in reverent fear?” Well, he says what it means right after that. He says, “Because you have not been bought with perishable things like gold or silver, but you have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.” Bible warns us… Fear living in a way that you show the blood of Jesus is not precious to you. Men, women, students fear living in a way that shows that the blood of Jesus is not infinitely precious to you. Run from sin. Run from sin because it’s the blood of Christ that saved you from that and you don’t want to in any way jeopardize the beauty of that picture.
It’s the picture in house churches in Asia. We shared with you before these pictures of believers, new believers gathering together to study the Word all day long in secret at the risk of their lives. When I was training there one particular time I remember one lady came to know Christ. Somebody who was in that training led somebody to Christ in their village and brought her the next day, an older lady, and she comes and somebody gives her a Bible, and she’s sitting there and she listens to the Bible taught for the first time. She’s hearing the truths of Scripture and at the end of the day she comes to me and the church leaders, those house church leaders and says, “I have become a follower of Christ and this means everything must change, and my house is full of idols, full of literal gods that are set up all around my house.” She said, “I need to get rid of them so the holiness of God shines from my house.” What a picture. And so the next morning before we start the training we go into her house and we take all these idols, foreign gods, and bring them together, and we start training that morning with the smell of idols burning outside.
Get rid of the devoted things. Uncover any and every sin in your tent because the glory of God, the reputation of God is important to you, is infinitely valuable and you want His honor – this is the picture Joshua knew and we need to realize today, our holiness before God has a direct effect on His honor before the world. Our holiness before God in the church has a direct effect on His honor before the world. One sin brings dishonor on the glory of God.
Warrants the Swift and Just Wrath of God
I want us to camp out on these last two, as if those aren’t important enough but these last two, one sin warrants the swift and just wrath of God. One sin warrants the swift and just wrath of God.
Now let’s just come aside for a second and be really honest with each other. All right? When you hear this story, when you read this story in Joshua 7 it’s a bit disturbing. This one guy takes the robes, some silver and gold, and he hides it. Doesn’t seem like that big a deal after all. Haven’t most if not all of us done worse things than that? And because of this one thing he’s brought out in front of everybody, and he and his family are taken outside the camp. People pick up rocks and they stone him, and then they burn him.
Doesn’t that seem like a little overkill, so to speak? No pun intended. Doesn’t that seem like God is a little overly-severe here? I mean this is the God we’re singing to this morning about His love and Him being a rock and our hope. This is the God that mandates this man and his family be stoned and burned and it’s passages like this in Joshua 7 that, to be honest, there’s just a great tendency for us to overlook or to discount as the God of the Old Testament.
Let me take you on a quick tour here. Go back to the first book of the Bible, Genesis. I want to show you a few passages, Genesis 19. First book in the Bible, Genesis 19, and what I’d like for us to do this morning is to be so bold as to stare the God of the Bible in the face in all of His seriousness and all of His holiness, and all of His wrath, and I want you to consider some passages that we just don’t talk about very often.
Genesis 19. This is the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Genesis 18, Abraham pleads on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah, if only a couple of righteous people we can find there, will you still destroy the city? God says, “No.” But in chapter 19 it becomes evident there’s no one righteous in the city and delivers Lot. Abraham’s family – Lot and his family are going to be delivered out, and that’s what we see happening in verse 16. Lot is the one that’s being talked about here, verse 16, “When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, ‘Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!’” (Gen. 19:16–17). Just get the picture, just imagine you and your family running from a city that God is about to bring total destruction on. And somebody said, “Flee for your lives, don’t look back.”
You get over to verse 23. “By the time Lot reached Zoar, the sun had risen over the land. Then the Lord rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah—from the Lord out of the heavens. Thus he overthrew those cities and the entire plain, including all those living in the cities—and also the vegetation in the land” (Gen. 19:23–25). Now if that is not severe enough, verse 26 says, “But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.” You’re running and your wife just takes a quick glance, and all of the sudden on the spot, she is annihilated. It seems a bit severe.
Well, the story continues. Go two books over to the right; come to Leviticus 10. Leviticus 10. Look with me starting in verse 1. The picture here is Aaron. Moses and Aaron were the main leaders of the people of Israel. Aaron was kind of the right-hand man, second in command and Aaron’s sons, Aaron’s family, the priests who served in the worship of God, his two sons Nadab and Abihu, listen to what happens to them. Verse 1, “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, contrary to His command. So fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Moses then said to Aaron, ‘This is what the Lord spoke of when he said: “‘Among those who approach me I will show myself holy; in the sight of all the people I will be honored.’” Aaron remained silent” (Lev. 10:1–3).
Dad, imagine your two sons, Nadab and Abihu. We don’t know exactly what’s meant by unauthorized fire but obviously they did something they had been commanded not to do. They got careless in their worship one day and all the sudden fire comes out of the presence of God and consumes them on the spot, and you sit back struck into silence.
The story continues, next book, look with me at Numbers 15. We’ve seen the death penalty for a glance, the death penalty for careless worship. Now look at the death penalty in Numbers 15:32. You may not be familiar at all with this part of Numbers. “While the Israelites were in the desert” verse 32 “a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him” (Num. 15:32–34). You can imagine the conversation, “All he did was pick up some sticks on the Sabbath. What do we need to do?” “…The Lord said to Moses,” verse 35, “the man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp. So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord commanded Moses” (Num. 15:35–36). Is this striking you? Does that not seem overly severe? Stoned for picking up sticks? The Lord says he must die?
Let me show you two more. Keep going to the right and you’ll go to 2 Samuel. Go past Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, then 1 Samuel, then 2 Samuel 6. Look with me at 2 Samuel 6. That will give you a little more context leading up to this one. The ark of God, which was a picture of the presence of God among His people, had been captured by the Philistine army. And it’s really a funny story because the ark of God just haunts these Philistines, and finally they’re like, “We need to get rid of the ark of God,” and so they send the ark away. The Israelites go and they get the ark, and they’ve got the ark on a new cart, like the Philistines had transported it on, not the way they were supposed to be transporting it, and listen to what happens in 2 Samuel 6:1.
David again brought together out of Israel chosen men [get the picture here], thirty thousand in all. He and all his men set out from Baalah of Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the LordAlmighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim that are on the ark. They set the ark of God on a new cartand brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. David and the whole house of Israel were celebrating with all their might before theLord, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums and cymbals (2 Sam. 6:1–5).
You go the picture. You got 30,000 people surrounding this ark. They’re singing, they’re praising, they’re dancing, they’re rejoicing. Verse 6, “When they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled. The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God” (2 Sam. 6:6–7). You’re walking behind the ark and you see the oxen trip on a rock, and all of the sudden the ark starts to teeter and it’s about to fall off. You don’t want the ark of God to fall off, and so you reach down and you grab it and you touch it. The Lord’s anger burns against you, you’re struck down on the spot. Now we don’t have time in all these passages to look at all that’s going on here but the severity is clear.
Let me show you one more and just so this doesn’t stay in the Old Testament, go to the New Testament, Acts 5. Acts 5. Just to remind you this is not just an Old Testament picture. Look at Acts 5:1. This is a passage we have studied before as a faith family, as a community of faith. This is the beginning of the early church when everybody was bringing together their offerings to help those who were poor and needy. Listen to what happens:
Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet.
Then Peter said, ‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.’
When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.
About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, ‘Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?’
‘Yes,’ she said, ‘that is the price.’
Peter said to her, ‘How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.’
At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events (Acts 5:1–11).
Well, you would think so. Imagine, husband comes into the 9:00 service, gives an offering but tries to deceive everybody else with what he gives. Struck down dead right there and a couple of folks carry him out. Wife comes in the next service not knowing what had happened, does the same thing, struck down dead. She’s carried out. Nobody comes back to Brook Hills when that happens on a Sunday, nobody.
What’s the deal? Talk about severity. Isn’t this overly-severe? Passages like Joshua 7 and these others, isn’t this punishment overly-severe? And that’s a valid question. It’s a valid question because it’s a question that leads us to the entire point of Joshua 7 and all these other texts.
The reason we think this punishment is severe, the reason we wonder, “Is that right or is that just?” The reason we wonder that is because we have a man-centered perspective of sin. Obviously if someone lies to you, if someone speaks against you, if someone does something careless to you, then would we say that the penalty should be death for that? Certainly not.
It’s at this point we realize the issue is not how big or small the sin is. The issue is who is sinned against? The issue is not how big or small the sin is. The issue is who is sinned against? If you sin against a rock, you’re not very guilty. If you sin against a man, you are very guilty. If you sin against a God, you are infinitely guilty because He is infinitely worthy, and He is infinitely worthy of every single ounce of your worship, every single second of your worship, and so one sin, no matter how small against an infinite God is infinitely offensive in His sight and deserves infinite punishment.
This is the picture ever since the beginning of the Bible, Genesis 2 and 3, “If you eat of this fruit –” eat a piece of fruit, if you take one bite out of the fruit you will surely die. Take a bite, you will die. It seems severe. Its at this point people all across our culture and I’m guessing many of this in this room begin to point the finger at God and say, “I can’t worship a God who says those kinds of things. I can’t worship a God who does those kinds of things. That’s evil of God. That’s not just of God, that’s not right of God.”
Ladies and gentlemen, be very careful. Be very, very, very careful when you begin to say those things because you are only expressing the very sinful character that warrants the death penalty in your own life because you are slandering the character of God and violating the very holiness of God, and you have no clue what sin is in the sight of a holy God.
Psalm 99:4 says, “God is just, he loves justice. Everything he does is just and right.” This means God’s wrath is infinitely right. It is infinitely just. We do realize that what should shock us after Genesis 3 is the fact that we’re still here. “Eat of the fruit, you will surely die.” Why? Because you ate a piece of fruit? No. See sin from the perspective of God. No matter what sin it is in any one of our lives, one sin is looking in the face of our Creator and saying, “You are not good, your law is not good. Your jurisdiction does not rule over my life. I defy your cosmic authority over me and I do what I want instead of what you command. I know what is better for me than you do.” One sin.
That’s what’s going on in Genesis 3, and God had said, “You will surely die.” What should shocks us in Scripture is the fact that we’ve got Scripture from Genesis 3. You realize that the curse of God, the facts of sin we see all across the world came from one sin in the beginning. Do you realize that? Think about that. All the sin we’re seeing, all the suffering in creation as a result of that sin, all of it, every tsunami, every earthquake, world wars that we know about, holocausts, the attempt of people to exterminate an entire race of people, hurricanes, tornadoes, school shootings, terrorism, the whole picture that we see is a result of one sin.
Romans 5 says that “One sin brought condemnation on all men.” One sin. And you and I have committed thousands of sins. One sin warrants the swift and just wrath of God. His wrath is swift, His wrath is just. It is right and I would add it is eternal, but the beauty of it is God’s wrath is swift and just, and right and eternal, but it is also escapable. It is also escapable. It is avoidable. This is the point of Joshua 7 and all of those other scriptures.
Joshua 7:1–26 Asks to be Lead to the Available Mercy of God
The point is to show us the reality of the wrath of God and the final effect of sin, one sin, leads us to the waiting mercy of God. And the beauty of Scripture is that God does not leave His people under His wrath. He delivers them out into the umbrella of His mercy. Ladies and gentlemen, God has massive wrath but he has massive mercy and he is massively loving. This whole business of saying this is the God of the Old Testament and not the God of the New Testament that we’re seeing misses the whole point. Is the God of the New Testament a God of wrath? No question. Even more so than the God of the Old Testament, the God of the New Testament is a God of wrath. How do you know that? Ladies and gentlemen, look at the cross of Jesus Christ. It is the epitome of the wrath of God. He pours out the wrath of our sin upon His son, and His son bears the wrath of God so that you and I can come out from under that wrath into the mercy of God. Hallelujah, what a Savior! Glory be to Jesus Christ! He delivers us from the wrath of God into the wide open arms of the mercy of God, and they are wide and they are open. Ladies and gentlemen, they are wide and they are open for you to run to.
But how do you run to the mercy of God? How do you run to the mercy of God? We come to Joshua 7 and we see how sin is dealt with. How is sin dealt with? You get to verse 19, “…Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me” (Josh. 7:19). What an amazing phrase, “Give glory to God in your sin.” How do you give glory to God in your sin? By telling what you’ve done, by confessing your sin.
Now here’s the deal. What we see is a confession of sin here in Joshua 7 but it is remarkably different than other confession of sin we see in Scripture, remarkably different than say for example Psalm 51 in David’s confession of sin there. And what we see in Scripture, and Paul talks about this in 2 Corinthians 7:8–11, he talks about how there is a confession of sin, an acknowledgement of sin that is pleasing to God, and there is a confession or acknowledgment of sin that is not pleasing to God, and there is godly confession, and there is worldly confession.
What’s the difference? What separates the two? Because Achan here admits what he had done wrong. This is not the picture of confession we see later in Psalm 51 like I mentioned. And I wonder. I wonder if there are scores of people across the church that have confessed sin but not in a way that brings honor to God. Let me ask you, have you truly confessed? I want to show you four facets of confession. I want you to ask the question, “Have you confessed sin like this?”
Confession starts with recognition. You recognize your sin. You recognize—this is when you face the facts, so to speak. You realize that you have sinned against God and you recognize the serious of sin. You recognize you’ve done something wrong. And a lot of people do this. This can be really superficial. This is the intellectual component of confession. You recognize you’ve done something wrong. In fact, Romans 2 says that all people have a knowledge of right and wrong inscribed on our hearts and we know when we do right, we know when we do wrong. So there’s an intellectual component here, recognition of sin, but that’s not where confession stops. That’s where it starts.
Recognition leads to second, remorse. Remorse, this is the emotional component of confession. This is when you begin to not just realize your sin but you feel sorry for your sin and you are affected by your sin emotionally, and you feel the weight of sin. This is what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 7. He talks about a godly sorrow, godly remorse and a worldly sorrow, worldly remorse, and I’m convinced the picture here in Joshua 7 is a worldly remorse. You realize that it’s possible to feel bad because you got caught. You realize that it’s possible just to feel bad because, you know, “I’m a fool, I shouldn’t have done that, I don’t know what I was thinking and now I’ve got these consequences to bear as a result.” That’s easy. That’s superficial, and I am convinced it’s rampant across the church. It’s when we realize, “Yeah, you know, I messed up, I got caught doing something and I know that God forgives me,” and so I ask Him to forgive my sin and just kind of move on, forgive and forget, and there’s a not a depth of sorrow there that we see for example in Psalm 51.
There is a godly sorrow that says, “I know I’ve sinned and I feel bad, not because I got caught. I see the weight of what this involves. This wasn’t me lying. This was me looking in the face of my Creator and saying, ‘I’d rather deceive than follow you.’ This was me bringing dishonor on the glory of my God with one little sin,” and you see that, and you begin to see it now as God sees it. You start to think if I see it this bad, than how does God see it? And you begin to abhor sin, you begin to hate sin, you begin to abominate sin. You want nothing to do with it. You shudder at the thought of ever doing that sin again. You shudder at the thought of the fact that you did that and you brought dishonor on the glory of God for that, and it brings you to your knees, and you’re crying out for God to forgive you. This is not forgive and forget, and move on. This is seeing the seriousness of your sin. Have you ever done that?
A depth of remorse over sin, to see it as God sees it, and then that leads recognition to remorse, to repentance. That’s what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7, “Godly sorrow leads to repentance.” Godly remorse leads to repentance and this is where the whole idea of praying a prayer and then living your life how you want is shot out completely because when you see sin for what it is, you can’t get up and rise, and do it again over and over, and over again, and we’ve all – we all know. We all know it’s possible. Isn’t it possible to confess sin with no intent of leaving sin? Isn’t it possible to confess sin with no hatred for that sin that will cause you next time you see it to say, “I don’t want it.” Godly sorrow and remorse leads to repentance, leads to running from that sin, fleeing sin, wanting nothing to do with that sin, getting as far away from it as you can because you hate it. You don’t want anything to do with it.
It’s Godly remorse that leads to repentance and that leads recognition, remorse, repentance, to finally fourth facet of confession, restoration. This is Psalm 51:12. David says, “Restore to me the joy of my salvation,” because you have turned from sin and you are running to Christ, and you are pursuing Christ, and you want to know the joy of knowing Christ and you want to treat the blood of Christ as of infinite value to you, and you experience restoration to Him. Here’s the picture from recognition to restoration, and the path to restoration is paved with deep, true, honest, vulnerable, even painful confession of sin. God, how we need to be there. God, how we need to be there.
Martin Lloyd Jones, talking about revivals, and he said these words. He said, “Go and read the history of revivals again. Watch the individuals at the beginning. This is invariably the first thing that happens to them. They begin to see what a terrible, appalling thing sin is in the sight of God, and it’s the thought of sin in the sight of God, how terrible it must be. Never has there been a revival but that some of the people, especially at the beginning, have had such visions of the holiness of God and the sinfulness of sin that they have scarcely known what to do with themselves.”
God bring us – Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama bring us to a holy discontent with sin that causes us to no longer be content with Sunday to Sunday superficial observance of Christianity. Brings us to our worship and we don’t know what to do with ourselves, brings us before God on a daily basis so we don’t know what to do with ourselves because we see the gravity of sin, and we hate it and we want to leave it. God, bring us to this point and God show the power of your presence when that happens.
One sin, God help us to see that it harms the entire people of God, it forfeits the fullness of your presence, it brings dishonor on the glory of your name but here’s the beauty of it. Here’s the beauty of it. Once you go on that path, once you come to Christ, you trust Him to deliver you out from under the wrath of God. The beauty of the gospel is this: once you trust in Christ, come to see sin as he sees it and run to Him. At that point you are delivered out from under the wrath of God and you need no longer fear it ever, ever, ever again.
Sure, God will discipline. God will discipline us when we sin and bring us into the image of Christ but we need no longer fear the wrath of God ladies and gentlemen because we are under the umbrella of the mercy of God, and when His wrath rains out on sin like we hear rain all around us now, we know that the umbrella of the cross of Jesus Christ keeps us safe from it all.
All glory be to the God who takes sin and uses that to lead us to His mercy. And that is exactly where we find ourselves this morning. Across this room, our Lord’s Supper tables with bread and cup, and before you start folding up your notes and Bibles just hear me out for a second. This is what the Lord’s Supper represents.
The Lord’s Supper is an extremely serious picture of the severity of sin and the body and the blood of Christ that deliver us out from under that severity. And Christian, follower of Christ in this room, I want to urge you in just a moment, when we pass the bread and the cup, I want to urge you to contemplate the seriousness of sin, not from your perspective but from God’s perspective, and when you do it from God’s perspective you’re not content anymore with a general confession, “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ve sinned.” It’s individual, it’s, “God, this is what I’ve done, this is what I’ve done, this is what I’ve done. I need you to deliver me from this and this, and empower me in this and this.” And I want to urge you to spend time in concentrated confession as the bread and the cup are being passed to you and contemplate what it means to live in a way that shows that this body and this blood are infinitely precious to you.
If you are in here this morning and you do not know for certain that you have come out from under the wrath of God into the mercy of God then I want to urge you in the next few minutes – this is the beauty, this is startling. It is astounding that in the next few minutes, in this holy moment, in this room you can come out from under the wrath of God into the mercy of God and do nothing. Do nothing but trust in Christ.
See the reality of what we’ve seen this morning and trust in Christ. See sin and abhor it, and run from it to Christ, and in the next few moments you in your life can come out from under the wrath of God into the mercy of God. What an astounding truth! If you’d do that, I want to invite you when this bread and this cup come by you take that bread, and take that cup, and let this be the first time where you celebrate the body and the blood of Christ as the path to mercy.
And if you are not a Christian here this morning and you are not ready to go down that path of confession and trust in Him then I want to invite you, when the bread and the cup come by you, just to simply pass that to the next person. This is something that followers of Christ celebrate together and I want to invite you to observe during this time. I don’t want you to feel isolated. Nobody is going to single you out but I want to urge you not to take this supper unless you bring your life under the body and the blood of Christ. And I hope you’ll see in this picture that a family that believes the body and the blood of Christ are infinitely precious to us.
God we pray that in the next few moments you would grip us with the severity of sin and the wonder of mercy. God, that you would give us grace to experience deep, true, honest confession in this room. God, help us not to treat your blood and your body lightly, the cross lightly. God, help us to see sin in each of our tents, in each of our lives with the severity that you see it with, and bring us not only to a recognition but to a deep remorse and repentance, and that you would restore to us the joy of our salvation. And I pray that people all across this room, I pray that church people and people who are not involved in church alike would leave behind sin and the wrath that is due sin, and for the first time enter into the mercy of God. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
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