Part 2: Recognizing the fear that God may not be as good as He says He is in ourselves.
I'll be posting this short book by parts: Intro. Part 1. Part 2. And Part 3. If you'd like to skip ahead, feel free to download all four parts here, now. Enjoy.
Story 2: Achan
1. What does God say?
In this case, through Joshua, Israel’s leader:
“The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.” 6v17–19
2. What does the person do?
“But the Israelites were unfaithful in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Karmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of them.” 7v1a
One guy, Achan, knowing the command… choose to reject God’s way and took what what not his.
3. What fear did the person/people trust more than God that moved them to reject God’s way?
Fear: If I don’t take what I want, I won’t ever get it. Or, in a relational sense, the fear that God may not be as good as He says He is. That God wouldn’t give him everything he needed in life.
See this: The text says, “the Israelites were unfaithful (or rejected God’s way)” even though it was one person who acted this way. Why? I believe in this text (and many others), we see the communal participation between God and us. Our modern day assumption is that obedience, and salvation for that matter, is individual only. An example is seen in the phrase, “I can do whatever I want as long as it doesn’t hurt you.” And while there are moments we must make up our “own mind,” there seems to be a form of communal blessing or salvation that exists between God and His family.
So what’s the big idea? Well, simply put… what you do matters and doesn’t exist within a personal vacuum. Everything you do or don’t do will affect those around you for better or worse in some way. Everything is connected. Everything belongs. This non-dualistic way of seeing our everyday moments is key to living a life of meaning framed with a God scripted format for all relational interaction.
4. What happened?
“So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.” 7v1b
“So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.
Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the Lord, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?” 7v4–9
The fear that led Achan to reject God’s way created tension between God and Israel and led to a lack of success. In this case, victory and protection for the nation of Israel.
Here’s another way to think of it. A Father said to his son, “If you clean your room, we’ll go to the ice cream shop.” The son refuses. The Father then says, “Because you didn’t do what I asked, we won’t go get ice cream.” Is the Father being wicked by holding this goodness back from the child? No. In a similar way, God (like a Father) gave instructions to Israel. These instructions would produce a result. Trust God and He’d give them the intended gift of His promised land. Don’t trust God, don’t get the land, and trouble will arise.
See this: God is far more than a passive cause and effect system. As we read the Scriptures, we see Israel so often refusing to obey God and then suffering the lack of goodness He wants to give them. But God continues to extend His goodness – over and over and over. This is the story of the Scriptures… that God desperately loves His family and longs for them to know and experience His goodness even in the face of their failures. Jesus was called Emmanuel, or “God with us”. God is close because He loves us.
Recognizing the fear that God may not be as good as He says He is in ourselves.
It’s not bad to want something, in fact I think it’s a part of our God nature. The desire for good things. But when our desire turns to fixation and begins pushing up against the way God says is best for us to use that desire, that’s when the problem begins.
Practice: Read this practice all the way through, then create a quiet space and spend a few minutes working through the exercise.
Think back to a time you rejected Love (choosing to reject God’s way) by taking something that you knew wasn’t yours to take. It may have been a thing small, with little consequence. Or possibly it was a big thing. It could have been something tangible or maybe it was relational. Whatever it was, I want you to close your eyes and step back into that moment. Picture yourself watching the moment unfold.
Depending on the situation, this may be difficult and bring up old memories or emotions. That’s okay. I believe God wants to help you work through them.
As you picture yourself in that moment, ask Holy Spirit to help you see Jesus standing next to you. Look at His face. Allow the scene to continue as it happened. As you look from the outside in, you may feel the weight of rejecting God’s way. Guilt, shame, disgust.
Now shift your attention back to Jesus’ face. Hear His kind words to you. His invitation to come close to Him. He is not ashamed of you. Not disgusted by you, but longs for you to know His kindness. Allow His kindness to lead you to changing your thinking about what’s best. Recognize the rejection of His way and how His love is better. How His way would have been better. And as you do, simply rest. If you need to say something to Jesus, do. Otherwise, just receive His forgiveness and allow Him to be your hiding place.
Note: I wonder how often the fear of “if I don’t take it, I won’t ever get it” is rooted in a broken picture of God. Matthew 7v11 in the Message says, “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This isn’t a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your child asks for bread, do you trick him with sawdust? If he asks for fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing. You’re at least decent to your own children. So don’t you think the God who conceived you in love will be even better?”
In the moments when we want to take what we know isn’t ours, choose to enter into a conversation with God. He already knows your desires. Already knows what you want, but longs for you to return to Him again and again to ask and believe that His way is best.
Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed it. Part 3 will be posted soon, stay tuned :)
My prayer is that we’d continue to allow the Spirit of God to form the way we see and know all things.
That we’d be honest about our weaknesses, both with God and each other.
And that together, we’d learn to recognize the fears that lie at the foundation of our brokenness, and have the courage to agree with Love to move through them.