Clean the Camp

SIN AMONG PEOPLE AND NATIONS produces consequences for the entire people and nation. So many of us assume that our own sins are manageable within our own boundaries of control, but sin is almost never an isolated event that only produces consequences for an individual. Like a wildfire that spreads beyond our control, disobedience to God can bring widespread destruction and damage to those in its midst. 

Sin in not a subtle offense. And to tolerate sin is to side ourselves with those who act in opposition to the Holy God and Judge of the Universe. It is not enough for us as the people of God to turn our eyes away from the sins of our brothers and to just stay focused on ourselves and our own personal pursuit of purity. God has called us into a family. We are his people (collectively). We are the true Israel and people of God as his church (body of believers). If you confess the name of Christ then you have confessed that you belong to a people who are consecrated or set apart for God. Together we are a living sacrifice devoted to be a pleasing aroma to God. Therefore, we are to constantly cleanse our camp of sin. 

In the book of Joshua, the Israelites are just beginning their conquest of the Promised Land. This land was to be an inheritance for the people of Israel that God had previously promised to give them, but at the same time, their conquest of the land was an act of God’s judgement against the people currently living in that land. God’s forbearance and patience towards the sin of the Canaanite people had finally come to an end, and therefore his judgement against them was now going to be executed by the Israelites. 

As God’s chosen instruments for carrying out his judgment and wrath, the Israelites were to devote everything in the land to destruction. Nothing was to escape the wrath of God. Therefore, it was to be considered a crime of enormous proportions for Israel to take for themselves any of the spoils of the city or people that God had righteously declared to be devoted to destruction. This kind of disobedience would have perverted the plan of God and turned the Israelites into murderers for profit rather than pure instruments of God’s judicial order.  

The Lord had clearly stated on several occasions that the Israelites were to “keep themselves from the things devoted to destruction.” They were to avoid preserving and treasuring the things that were objects of his judgement and wrath. To do so was to bring the judgement and wrath of God upon yourself and your own people as well.

However, as we read the results of their very first battle in the land, we are told that one among them “broke faith in regard to the devoted things.” A man by the name of Achan had secretly taken some of the spoils of war for himself, and “the anger of the Lord burned against the people” because of it. 

On account of Achan’s sin, Israel then suffered a humiliating defeat in their very next battle against a much weaker enemy, and thirty-six of their finest soldiers were killed in the process. 

Sin’s done in secret still have a way of impacting the lives of those around you. 

Think for a minute about the sin of pornography. How many men today keep their lusts in the dark assuming that nobody’s suffering from what they are doing in secret? We fail to realize that the images that feed our lust go right into the bedroom with us placing expectations on our wives or future wives to look a certain way or to do a certain thing that has satisfied your sexual desires elsewhere through film and fantasy. We also fail to realize that behind each one of those images is a human being utterly used and abused for selfish profit in an industry that puts people on a certain path of shame, guilt, brokenness, despair and ultimately eternal destruction. 

Your individual sins always have a way of infiltrating your surroundings.  

Sin had come into the camp of Israel through one man, and therefore death and destruction had come into the camp through that sin. Israel had disobeyed their covenant with God and therefore, God declared, “I will be with you no more.” The destruction intended for the Canaanites would now fall upon the Israelites who associated themselves with the sins of the Canaanites through Achan’s decision to take for himself the things devoted to destruction and for the judgement of God.

After their defeat in battle and the death of his men, Joshua falls on his face in prayer pleading with God asking, “Why has this happened to us? We are your people, and you have promised us so many great things. Why are we suffering such a defeat when you are on our side?”

God responds to the prayer of Joshua and says, “Get up! You are suffering defeat because you are disobeying my Word. You are taking for yourself the very things that I have devoted to destruction. If you want my blessing then be the people I have called you to be and obey my Word.”

Many of us as God’s people today in the culture in which we are living are beginning to wonder, “What is happening? Why has the last hundred years seemingly been constant defeat and a slow death for the church in this country? If God is supposed to be with us then why do we seem so powerless against the smaller groups of people in this country that oppose the things of God?”

Perhaps God would respond to our concern the same way that he responds here to Joshua, “It’s time you wake up! You’ve lost your influence because you’ve lost your identity as my people who are set apart to be different and distinct from the other people in the land. You’ve lost your voice because you’ve disobeyed my Word. You are adopting and affirming things that are completely contrary to what I have commanded of you as my people. You are taking upon yourselves the very things that my Word declares are devoted for destruction. If you want my blessing then you must learn how to once again be my people and obey my Word.”   

There are detestable things being tolerated in the midst of the church today, and unless we want to continue to experience defeat in the realm of influence in this culture and place ourselves in a position of suffering the judgment that God might bring upon a society that disregards his name, we as his people need to consecrate ourselves and devote our lives to being his people who obey his Word with the highest regard for what he says. 

Early on in their entry into the Promised Land, Joshua and the Israelites were losing hope in experiencing the blessings that God had promised them, and they had begun to become discouraged that the task was too great and that their power was too limited. If they couldn’t win the seemingly small battle against Ai then how on earth were they going to go about winning over the entire land of Canaan? 

But in the midst of their despair, God in his wonderful and gracious way, intervenes for his people. He begins to expose and reveal the sin that has infiltrated their ranks, and he even does with tremendous grace and mercy. 

At the breath of his Word, God could have killed Achan immediately among the people of Israel. However, he steadily and progressively narrows in on him giving him an opportunity to repent of what he had done. God slowly sorts through the people from the tribe to the clan to the specific family showing the progression and patience of our Lord that is always meant to lead people to repentance. 

However, Achan doesn’t repent of his sin and only confesses his sin after being found out. He simply confesses what he would have kept a secret if he could have. 

How many of us are choosing not to repent but just hoping to not be found out? Do we really assume that the day is not coming when all things will be brought before the Lord and nothing that was hidden from him will be overlooked before his judgement? Do we not realize that in that moment it is too late for a confession?

Achan (from the tribe of Judah by the way) is put to death for his sin, and then we are told that the “the Lord turned from His burning anger.” One man's sin brought a curse upon God's people, and one man's death delivered God's people from the curse of that sin. Sound familiar? 

The death of the sinner brought deliverance from the curse upon Israel. We ought to be ever more thankful that it was the death of our Savior that has delivered us from the curse upon us.  

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5)

If we as God’s people want to experience the blessing of God once again in this culture then we must consecrate ourselves as his people and get rid of the sinful things that we have intermingled ourselves with in our own society and culture. However, it is not our job to do this by throwing stones at those who are found in their sin. It is also not our job to do nothing in the name of love, tolerance, political correctness and acceptance. 

Our job is to purify our surroundings from sin by pointing people back to the One who purifies us from sin in the first-place. We don’t need to crucify people, we need to share with them how Christ was crucified. We need to live in a manner that is worthy of being called a child of God. 

Are you simply turning your eyes and ignoring the sin that has infiltrated your surroundings and doing nothing about it? Are you, like Achan, covering up your own sin assuming it’s not that big of a deal? If so, hear the voice of God here in the Word of God. Our Lord is calling all of us as his people to wake up and once again be his people who obey his Word. Therefore, we need to get up and clean the Christian camp of any lingering cultural idols.