Purify and Get Ready for Tomorrow
Joshua 7:6-15 (Rev. Ahn Choongsik)
6 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.7 And Joshua said, “Ah, 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! 8 O Lord, what can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? 9 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?” 10 The LORD said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? 11Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. 12 That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymoreunless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction. 13 “Go, consecrate the people. Tell them, ‘Consecrate yourselves in preparation for tomorrow; for this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: That which is devoted is among you, O Israel. You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it. 14 ” ‘In the morning, present yourselves tribe by tribe. The tribe that the LORD takes shall come forward clan by clan; the clan that the LORD takes shall come forward family by family; and the family that the LORD takes shall come forward man by man. 15 He who is caught with the devoted things shall be destroyed by fire, along with all that belongs to him. He has violated the covenant of the LORD and has done a disgraceful thing in Israel!’ “
This is the third week/day of Advent. This Scripture we read isn’t really related. So, why did I choose it? Here’s the reason:
One day the Lord said to Moses, “Go up the Abraham’s mountain and look over the land I’m giving to the Israelites. After you’ve seen it, you’ll die. Take Joshua and place your hand on his head – he will be your successor.”
Joshua was a great man in many ways.
- A field commander in the battle against the Ammonites
- Moses’ helper, they went to the Mt. to get the 10 Commandments
- Joshua stayed in a tent for leadership service all the time
- He was one of 4 spies sent to explore the land of Canaan
- He was one of 2 spies that said, “Don ‘t be afraid of the people over there. The Lord is with us and has defended us – so don’t be afraid.”
Joshua was the right person to lead the people to the Promised Land. He was a man of responsibility and faithful to obey God’s commands, and a faithful person to keep his own promises at the risk of his own life.
But he was in danger here by the battle with the Ammonites. He sent some men from Jericho to explore the land. They reported back to him, “There is no need for everyone to attack – send only about 2-3,000 people. It is not a large city.” So he did, but the outcome was totally unexpected. They were driven away and chased away by the people.
36 people were killed and the Israelites lost their courage.
Joshua and the Israelites tore their clothes in grief and laid before the ark of the covenant until evening, praying, “Lord, why did we even come across the Jordan? Are you handing us over to the enemies? Why did we not stay there? What can I say Lord, we’ve retreated and everyone else in the country will hear about this. They will surround us and kill us all. And what will you do to protect your honor?”
This is a prayer of extreme heartbreak and sadness. This is (he’s worried) the cause of God’s dishonor. He’s worried that the people might back down from God’s given Promised Land.
God said, “UP! Why are you lying down?”
Here’s the cause:
- God didn ‘t leave them alone, rather the people broke the agreement with the Lord that God ordered them to keep. The cause of defeat = Israel has sin.
- God told Joshua the sins in detail: thievery, lies, put the possessions in their own houses.
Why did God rebuke Israel with such strong language? Go back to the story of Jericho. On the 7th day, they marched around the city 7 times and the men shouted and the trumpets blasted and Joshua said, “EVERYTHING must be destroyed in the city as an offering to the Lord. Do not take anything from the city or you will bring destruction upon Israel. All bronze, silver, gold, and iron is the Lord’s to be put into his treasury.”
The Lord knew that the Israelites (who had nothing in the wilderness – houses, suits, silverware, etc – after 40 YEARS of this) would eye the decorations and keep them…
Jericho was a once great city and it means “City of Gardens”? It’s a very rich city.
According to Luke, there was a chief tax collector named Zaccheus – he stood up and said to the Lord, “Listen, I will give half of my belongings to the poor, and if I have cheated anyone, I will pay him back 4x as much.”
He made so much money because this city he worked in was an important city on a trade route that joined east and west. Many merchants were passing through the route and he collected money from not only store owners, but also the foreign traders.
The Lord wanted his people to stay away from that kind of way of life – cheating and greed. If they were involved in that kind of life, they would be unable to live the kind of life that God had called them to. This is why the Lord spoke so strongly to the Israelites.
The next morning, Joshua called ALL of the Israelites out and found out Achan. He said, “Confess before the Lord – don’t hide what you’ve done.” Achan answered “It’s true, I’ve sinned. I took a beautiful coat, 2kg of silver, and 1/2kg of gold.” Joshua sent some men to the tent and found that stuff under the tent. The men of Israel seized Achan, the stuff, all his possessions, and his family and told him, “Why have you brought such trouble upon us? Now the Lord will bring trouble upon you.” The people then stoned and burned him and his whole family and all his possessions.
What’s the meaning today? Why so cruel to Achan and his family?
This is a relationship between the individual and the community in which that individual belongs. For example, Achan’s greed doesn’t just affect HIM, but also the ENTIRE community.
- The Lord said to Joshua very clearly, “I will not stay with you any longer unless you destroy all the things you were ordered not to take.” The Lord chose the community as a whole and not just the individual.
- The Lord said to the NATION, “I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you, and through you I’ll bless all nations.”
In the spring of this year, remember the Sewol sinking? The captain’s mistake became a national disaster – grief, anger, distrust, are a national wound. Individuals within the community cannot be separated from the community. The greed, sin of an individual affects the WHOLE community.
The Lord wanted to get the whole community of Israel ready and pure before him to meet him tomorrow. He said, “You have some things in your possession which I told you not to take. You cannot stand before your enemies before you deal with your sin.”
Remember the Beatitudes?
- Blessed are the meek, they will inherit the earth.
- Blessed are the hungry and thirsty for righteousness, they will be filled.
- Blessed are the merciful, they’ll get mercy.
- Blessed are the pure in heart, they’ll see God.
That the Lord demanded purity is related to these things. The Lord said, “I won’t stay any longer unless you purify yourself from your sins.”
The way of purity for ourselves is cutting off our desire and self. Cut off the one who sees greed and is not truly a community member.
Zaccheus – after he spoke his promise and confession, Jesus said, “Salvation has come to this house today for he is also a descendant of Abraham.” The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost.
How does a hunter capture a monkey?
- Make an iron box
- Put many fruits into the box
- Monkeys see the fruit and stick their hands into the box to get the fruit
- The hole in the box is just the size of his fist
- Because of his character, the monkey cannot take out the fruit one by one – he uses the monkey’s character of greed to catch the monkey
(Same way they used to catch racoons in America)
Do you want Jesus to stay in our hearts and minds and remain in our families and work places and homes? Purify your hearts and your homes. Repent and confess like John the Baptist declares.
The shopping malls and music and decorations are out there waiting for shoppers, not for Jesus. Let us purify ourselves and wait for Jesus. Let’s cut off all our material greed and consumerism and prepare for his coming.