19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and give praise to him. And tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.” 20 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I did: 21 when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”

Verses 19-21: It could be argued that it was a small thing that Achan did. After all, historically the victors in battle would claim a share of the spoils for themselves. He took a cloak, some silver, and a bar of gold. Yet he makes the proclamation: I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel. With our own sins, our own actions, it can be easy to try and justify them or write them off as being so small that they aren’t really “that bad” as far as sins go. Instead of proclaiming our sin, we try to mold God into a version of God where He is okay with what we’ve done and write off the need to confess and repent. We justify our faults and blemishes with the phrase “I’m a good person” or through comparison “I’m not as bad as that person, so if they are good enough to get into Heaven I would be, too”. But God isn’t molded into who we think He should be, nor does He judge us how we think He should judge. Which is why there are times in the Bible that we scratch our heads as to why someone faces such harsh punishment from God, or even encounter those instances that make us question God for why He would allow things to happen that way. God is too large to fit into a box, especially those which we craft so that He aligns with what we’d prefer or expect. In His eyes, all sins are equal, and even one sin is deserving of punishment. In His great mercy, He has provided salvation as a gift through the sacrifice of Jesus, yet we should still treat every sin in our lives with serious repentance. No matter how small or insignificant it may appear to us, it is a big deal to God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom  (See Proverbs 9:10, Psalm 110:10) so start the New Year off right by getting right with God. Confess those hidden sins and the not-so-hidden sins in your life and resolve to fix those areas. Not only will it put you in better standing in your relationship with God, but it will make you a better and holier person overall. None of us are perfect, and none of us can be holy, but it will be a step in the right direction.

22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to the tent; and behold, it was hidden in his tent with the silver underneath. 23 And they took them out of the tent and brought them to Joshua and to all the people of Israel. And they laid them down before the Lord. 24 And Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver and the cloak and the bar of gold, and his sons and daughters and his oxen and donkeys and sheep and his tent and all that he had. And they brought them up to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why did you bring trouble on us? The Lord brings trouble on you today.” And all Israel stoned him with stones. They burned them with fire and stoned them with stones.

Verses 22-25: The brutality of the punishment is hard to reconcile in terms of the crime committed, yet as mentioned above it is not our place to try to get God to fit in line with our desires or expectations. Whether or not his family also deserved to serve in that punishment is questionable at best: if they knew what he did and either aided him in hiding the items or remained quiet, they could be deemed as willing accomplices. If they had no knowledge of the actions of Achan, then by our own standards they should be innocent. Passages like this one can turn our entire view of God on its head and make us reconsider who God is and what His qualities are. Passages like this are certainly effective in dispelling any thought that God is a personal genie-in-a-bottle who wants to grant your deepest desires and make all those wishes come true. It also should give us pause toward the idea that we can live our lives steeped in whatever dark sins and fantasies and desires we may have, counting on God’s grace to wipe them all away when we die. Who of us wants to be the one to whom Jesus says “I never knew you” (See Matthew 7:21-23)? By the time this was over, I’m guessing there wasn’t a single Israelite who thought twice about taking something for themselves when God commanded them not to. We should hold that same consideration when it comes to breaking the Ten Commandments laid down by God back in the days of Moses.

26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones that remains to this day. Then the Lord turned from his burning anger. Therefore, to this day the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor.

Verse 26: Two things of note happen here: the Israelites mark the place where Achan died and the Lord turns his anger away from them. The sacrifice was enough to get them back in right standing with God. Back in these days, they still had to sacrifice animals in order to atone for their sins. Thankfully, we have a much easier path thanks to Jesus! Our salvation path lies within the Gospel. And we once again see memorials being built so that they will never forget what happened. This is something that we should definitely put into action in our own lives, so that we never forget the things God has done for us and shown us. And, as a bonus, we will have talking points for our kids and grandkids to teach them about what God did for us.