Friday, March 6, 2009

Justified & Justifier...

Ah, the saga continues. In Joshua chapters 5 through 8, the children of Israel are victorious at Jericho, make good on their promise to spare Rahab and her family, and then endure an unexpected defeat at Ai.

There is so much to consider when reading through these chapters that it's difficult to narrow down just one area of focus, but I've decided to camp out in chapters 6 and 7.

First, in chapter 6 we discover that after the walls of Jericho fell paving the way for its invasion and capture by Israel, Rahab, the woman who had helped the spies who investigated the city before the attack, was spared along with her entire family.

Scripture explains that everyone in Jericho had heard about God's delivery of the children of Israel including their recent crossing of the Jordan River on dry ground, but only Rahab (a prostitute) responded positively in faith toward God. As a result of her faith, she and her family members were protected during Israel's invasion of their town. Although Rahab had lived an unquestionably sinful life, she was saved as a result of her faith.

In sharp contrast, we learn in chapter 7 that Israel was defeated during their next attempt to take possession of more land. The city of Ai withstood Israel's attack, and thirty-six soldiers died in the skirmish. Joshua was devastated, not knowing that God had withdrawn his support as a result of one man, Achan's, sin.

Against God's strict warnings, Achan had stolen some of the plunder from their previous victory. The details of how his sin was exposed are both striking and terrifying. In my worst nightmares I have never imagined being singled out by God in front of an entire nation and having my despicable sin exposed.

The death penalty was imposed because of the grievous nature of Achan's actions, and God's fierce anger was abated so that the nation could once again experience His deliverance.

Several things occurred to me as I read this account, one of them being that I expect that when Achan succumbed to the temptation to take the plunder, he probably justified his actions by telling himself things like, "who would this really hurt?" or, "nobody will ever find out," or possibly, "nobody will miss this stuff," and on and on the list could go. Rationalizing wrong is not very difficult, especially considering we have an enemy who delights in helping us make sinful choices.

But Achan's decision to disobey God's clearly stated orders was "found out" and it did "hurt" people. Thirty-six men actually lost their lives because of his sin, and the entire nation of Israel suffered.

The other striking thought that came to me while reading this account was that Achan probably felt terrible about his sin after he was exposed. But make no mistake, God knows the difference between someone who is truly repentant because they are grieved at having offended him versus someone who is remorseful simply because they got caught. After all, who doesn't regret their sin when they are found out? It's important for us to clearly distinguish between repentance and remorse when we sin because God certainly does.

In these two accounts we see that God is both merciful and just. Rahab (the prostitute) was saved from judgment for her sins by her faith. Achan (the thief) was punished by death. In each case, God looked at the heart of the sinner and dealt with them accordingly.

I'm so grateful to know that when we trust by faith in God's saving plan (Jesus Christ) we, like Rahab, are spared the punishment we deserve. As a result of this account I am also very aware that God doesn't nod at sin, and any attempt to excuse myself or justify my actions is an affront to his holiness that will be dealt with. Oh how I pray that I decide on the "front end" of sin that it's just not worth the price.

1 Corinthians 10:13 says this: The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.

This is one of the first scriptures I committed to memory and is a wonderful reminder that there is no temptation beyond our ability to avoid with God's help. How awesome it is to know that we are promised victory over sin when we trust our Lord to be our strength.

Father, I am so grateful for your Word that reminds me of how seriously you take my sin. I thank you that I will never be faced with any temptation that is unavoidable because of my saving faith in Christ, your Son, and that because of Him I can ask forgiveness and know that mercy is granted and I am pardoned. Amen.

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