WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday July 3, 2011
GOD ALWAYS RESPONDS TO DISOBEDIENCE
(Your personal sin always affects others)
After the Israelite’s resounding victory at Jericho, Joshua sent spies to scout out the tiny city of Ai. Ai is actually the name of two cities in the Old Testament, and its name means “the ruins”, or “heap of ruins”. One “Ai” is the Canaanite city of Palestine that is the subject of this passage of Joshua 7. It is located east of Bethel next to Beth Aven, and north of Michmash.
The other “Ai” is the Ammonite city of Moab, located near Heshbon that is mentioned in Jeremiah 49:3. “Ai”, in the King James Version of the Holy Bible, is also called “Aiath” (a-EYE-ath), which is the Hebrew feminine form of the name, which is used in Isaiah 10:28. In Nehemiah 11:31 it is called “Aija” (a-EYE-juh), and in Genesis 12:8, and 13:3 it is called “Hai” (HAY-eye).
Here in Joshua 7, after getting a favorable report from his spies, Joshua dispatches a small regimen of about 3000 soldiers to attack this seemingly vulnerable city of Ai, and is met with a stunning defeat that left 36 Israeli warriors dead. The defeat left Joshua and the rest of Israel’s leaders with a grim feeling, wondering why the GOD of Israel had forsaken them so quickly. He is subsequently told by GOD that someone in his camp had fallen into disobedience by violating HIS command not to take certain treasures unto themselves, but rather, to set them apart for HIM. And so the task falls to Joshua to find out just who in his camp had violated the covenant with GOD, by taking certain objects that had been dedicated as tabernacle treasures.
GOD instructed Joshua to get up quickly, and go and command the people to purify themselves. Hidden among the people of Israel, were things that were set apart for the LORD, and GOD told Joshua that they would never defeat their enemies until these things were found and removed from among them, and discarded.
The following morning the Israelites presented themselves, by tribe, before the LORD, just as HE had instructed Joshua, and the LORD identified which tribe (Judah) the guilty party belonged to. After the tribe came forward, the LORD identified the guilty clan (Zerah) who lived among the tribe. Then, when that clan came forward, the guilty family (Zimri) was identified. And finally, when the guilty family came forward, the guilty person (Achan) was singled out.
After being confronted by Joshua to confess his sin, Achan complied and uttered this statement; “I have sinned against the LORD, the GOD of Israel. For I saw a beautiful robe imported from Babylon, two hundred silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound. I wanted them so much that I took them. They are hidden in the ground beneath my tent, with the silver buried deeper than the rest” (Joshua 7:20-21 – NLT).
In the Hebrew, the phrase used in verse 15 for “disgraceful thing” is “nabalah beyisrael”. It comes from the same root as “nabal”, which means “fool”. It indicates the gross immorality of one who denies and defies GOD, and then, remains closed to HIM. To the Israelites, to commit a “disgraceful thing” was to defy the standards of GOD, by selfishly gratifying one’s own perverted desires. To not repent of that “disgraceful thing”, was to remain closed to GOD, or, shut off from GOD.
And even though Achan confessed his sin, it was a confession that came not only while under duress, but if we examine his statement closely, we see no sign of repentance in his words. Only when we come to the end of ourselves, and repent, can we find the LORD and HIS forgiveness. I am often asked by people, “Where, or how, can I find the LORD?” and the answer is a simple one, “By coming to the end of you”.
When we come to the end of ourselves, we can “surrender” into the “victory” that is, CHRIST JESUS. GOD will never allow HIS “wonderful grace” to trump the truth of HIS even more “wonderful Word”. And HE will always respond to disobedience with discipline. Achan’s sin had far-reaching consequences, as it caused not only his death, but also the deaths of his entire immediate family, who, because they lived in such close quarters with him, had to be aware of the stolen treasures buried in their own tent. And because they were all silent about his indiscretion, they too, had to bear the pain of the punishment.
If we can take one thing from this lesson of Achan, it should be that we understand that our sin doesn’t just affect us, but it can affect our entire family. Sins of a sexual nature, murder, lying, stealing, cheating, etc., can destroy the fabric of an entire family, sometimes, for more than one generation.
The spiritual laws of “sowing” and “reaping” apply to everyone, for all time. And with that thought in mind, I close out this lesson with the words of the Apostle Paul, which he wrote in his letter to the Galatians, all those years ago. There he writes; “Don’t be misled. Remember that you can’t ignore GOD and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow!” Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires, will harvest the consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the SPIRIT will harvest everlasting life from the SPIRIT. So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessings at the appropriate time”. (Galatians 6:7-9 - NLT)
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
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