The book of Joshua records the conquest of the land of Canaan. It shows us the triumph of faith at Jericho, and the far reaching consequences of sin as Israel was defeated at Ai.
With full faith in the power of God, Joshua had sent 3,000 soldiers to attack Ai (Joshua 7:1-5). It came as a great shock when this little town not only stayed the attack, but killed 36 Israelites. Joshua, despondent over this defeat, tore his clothing and fell to the ground in prayer. God explained to Joshua there was sin in the camp of Israel. While this sin remained unpunished God would not be with them.
In Joshua 7:21 we find Achan had sinned by stealing goods at Jericho. After Achan's confession "Joshua and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, the silver, the garment, the wedge of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his sheep, his tent and all that he had and they brought them to the valley of Achor ... so all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned him with fire after they had stoned them with stones" (Joshua 7:24, 25). One commentator observed that "Public executions are public examples."
Years later, after the conquest of Canaan, we find a sermon in which the sin of Achan is recalled. "Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? And that man did not perish alone in his iniquity" (Joshua 22:20).
We need to remember that Achan "did not perish alone." Thirty-six of Achan's comrades, plus his sons and daughters, died because of his sin. I do not know much about Achan, but I am certain that if you could talk to him today he would tell you he had no idea how many lives his sin would affect. The tragedy is that he did not think about what his sin would do to other people.
None of us lives in a vacuum. Our actions have a lot of bearing on the eternal destiny of others. Paul tells us that "none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself" (Romans 14:7). Have you ever thought about how your sins affect your spouse, children and those you work with?
When parents forsake the assembling of the saints their children must suffer the consequences, i.e., growing up without a knowledge of the Lord. I have met too many parents who waited till their children were almost grown before they tried to teach them the Bible. Most of the time it's a case of "too little, too late."
In a divorce, it is the children who have to pay the highest price. They have to pay for the immorality of their mother or father. For six years I was a volunteer tutor in the public schools. I do not believe it is a coincidence that all the children I tutored came from broken homes. They needed help at school because no one would help them at home.
Sometimes parents have to pay the price for the sin of their children. "A foolish son is the ruin of his father" (Prov. 19:13). The grief inflicted is not because the children hate their parents, I'm afraid it's because they just don't care.
I pray that we can all learn a lesson from Achan without having to learn it the hard way.