Our Brother’s Keeper- A Devotion on Joshua 7

June 7, 2009

But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, 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. . . . The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned.’” -Joshua 7.1,10-11a

Even though only one man, Achan, had sinned, God views this action as a sin by the whole people.  That is because his covenant is with the whole people (Joshua 6.18) and it is the covenant which is transgressed (Joshua 7.11).  We typically say that Achan’s sin had corporate consequences, but in reality there are corporate consequences because this is a corporate sin.  Had the people held one another accountable, had the leadership shepherded the people better, knowing the ways of the individuals in their flock, they might have caught Achan sooner or removed him from the situation altogether.  This also explains the remedy.  It is not merely (or maybe at all) punishment for Achan.  Stoning him and burning him and the stolen goods is the people dealing with their own sin (contrast with the punishment of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6.6-7).  This is a highly literal example of putting to death what is earthly in them (Colossians 3.5).

So then, how does this speak to us today?  Contemporary church and Christianity is too ready to turn a blind eye to immorality and occasions of sin among us.  We cannot stomach the transparency and accountability that God’s Word demands and thus we all become culpable when sin is allowed to occur and go undealt with in our congregations.  We expect God to only hold that individual responsible, and if the sin affects us then we are just being oppressed by someone else’s disobedience.  But we are to blame too!  We must take care with all people and not just ourselves.  We are our brother’s keeper; we need to act like it!