I have always loved studying history. I especially enjoyed U.S. History. It is full of so many fascinating people.
For example, if you were to study the American Revolution, you would learn about one of America’s greatest generals. This man bravely fought to defeat the British at Ridgefield and Dansbury. He helped Capture Fort Ticonderoga. He led the invasion of Canada. He single-handedly rallied the troops at the Battle of Saratogo while enduring a crippling leg injury. This man was General Washington’s most trusted officer. Without his leadership and military contributions, few believe we would have won our independence.
Who is this man? General Benedict Arnold.
Benedict Arnold is never remembered for any of his outstanding military achievements. Because he betrayed his country by attempting to sell West Point to the British, his name became synonymous with the most heinous acts of betrayal. This once great general is only remembered as a traitor to his country. What a sad waste of talent, ability, and potential!
We, as soldiers in God’s army, need to be so careful that we do not commit treason against God. We want our legacy to be mighty warriors and godly men in God’s army, not men who committed treason against our C.O. This is why it is important to understand exactly what it means to commit treason against God. As we return to the book of Joshua, we will see not only the act of treason we must avoid, but also the devastating effects committing treason has on our lives and the lives of those around us.
To The Victor Goes No Spoils
In the last chapter, we saw an amazing victory for the children of Israel as God single-handedly destroyed the walls of Jericho. Once the wall was gone, Joshua and his men were able to rout the city. However, before they entered the city, they learned exactly what it was God wanted them to do.
18 And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. 19 But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the Lord; they shall come into the treasury of the Lord.”
God made it perfectly clear to them that they were not to loot the city of Jericho for personal gain. They were to kill all of the people in the city except Rahab and her family. They were also supposed to burn everything in the city, except the silver, gold, and bronze which were supposed to go to the Lord’s treasury. Sounds easy enough, right? As we continue on, we see it is harder than we think.
But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel.
One of Joshua’s men, Achan, disobeyed the orders of God. He committed treason by disobeying his C.O.’s commands. However, his actions were unknown to Joshua. All Joshua knew was that they had just won an amazing victory. Now was the time to strike again.
2 Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth Aven, on the east side of Bethel, and spoke to them, saying, “Go up and spy out the country.” So the men went up and spied out Ai.
Joshua set his sights on the city of Ai. After the stunning victory at Jericho, he was sure the people could defeat this tiny city. The report from his spies only bolstered that opinion.
And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not let all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not weary all the people there, for the people of Ai are few.” 4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people, but they fled before the men of Ai. 5 And the men of Ai struck down about thirty-six men, for they chased them from before the gate as far as Shebarim, and struck them down on the descent; therefore the hearts of the people melted and became like water.
What?! This wasn’t supposed to happen. They lost the battle! What was going on? What happened to God and his power? These are the questions we naturally would ask, and they are exactly what we hear from Joshua.
6 Then Joshua tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, Lord God, why have You brought this people over the Jordan at all—to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? Oh, that we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies? 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear it, and surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?”
Joshua did what many of us would do. He blamed God. He told God He had failed. He felt God had set them up only to have them be defeated by their enemies. Basically, He told God that He made Himself look bad.
However, Joshua didn’t know the whole story, but God did. He quickly put Joshua in his place.
10 So the Lord said to Joshua: “Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? 11 Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. 12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you
God basically said to Joshua, “Listen Sparky, this is not My fault. Your people disobeyed Me. They committed treason against Me. I can’t fight for you when you disobey Me. Until you make things right, your enemies will defeat you.”
We can now see what it means to commit treason against God. Achan, one of God’s children, deliberately disobeyed God. He did exactly what he knew he wasn’t supposed to do. Anytime we willfully disobey God, it is treason.
Disobedience is deadly to a soldier in God’s army. Like the Israelites, we cannot defeat our enemies if we are living in disobedience before God. We will never be free to love God if we don’t obey His commands. God demands total obedience. Anything else is treason. Just like with treason on the battlefield, disobedience against God affects us greatly. If we don’t deal with our disobedience, it will destroy us forever. Let’s continue on with the passage to see what I mean.
We will encounter spiritual defeat.
13 Get up, sanctify the people, and say, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the Lord God of Israel: “There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you”’
God commanded Joshua to remove the sin from the camp. If Joshua didn’t deal with the sinner, then Israel would never defeat their enemies. The same is true for us. If we have willfully disobeyed God’s commands which He gave to us either through His Word or a direct revelation, then we are guilty of treason before God. Until we consecrate ourselves and remove the sin, we won’t defeat our enemies. As a matter of fact, they will gain strength and begin to defeat us. Thus, spiritual defeat is the first consequence of treason against God.
We will cause those around us to suffer.
Treason against God will not only destroy us, but it will affect those around us. It certainly affected those around Achan. We already read that 36 men lost their lives and the entire nation’s military reputation was ruined. However, the effects didn’t end there.
14 In the morning, therefore, you shall be brought according to your tribes. And it shall be that the tribe which the Lord takes shall come according to families; and the family which the Lord takes shall come by households; and the household which the Lord takes shall come man by man. 15 Then it shall be that he who is taken with the accursed thing shall be burned with fire, he and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he has done a disgraceful thing in Israel.’ ”
16 So Joshua rose early in the morning and brought Israel by their tribes, and the tribe of Judah was taken. 17 He brought the clan of Judah, and he took the family of the Zarhites; and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man, and Zabdi was taken. 18 Then he brought his household man by man, and Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.
Achan’s sin caused his entire tribe to suffer. They were all placed under suspicion because of his act of deliberate sin. Eventually, Achan’s family is put to death because of his acts of treason. Our disobedience can have a far-reaching affect. However, the consequences don’t end there.
It causes hardness of heart which can eventually separate us from God.
19 Now Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I beg you, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.”
20 And Achan answered Joshua and said, “Indeed, I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and this is what I have done: 21 When I saw among the spoils a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. And there they are, hidden in the earth in the midst of my tent, with the silver under it.”
Achan tells Joshua the great sin he had committed. However, it was not a repentant confession. Achan doesn’t show the sorrow or remorse that accompanies true repentance. He never willing stepped forward and confessed. He was simply caught. He had no choice but to state the facts of what he had done.
Deliberately sinning against God causes someone to harden their heart. The more they do it, the easier it gets until they feel no remorse and see no shame in what they have done. It is at this point they lose any ability to defeat their enemies.
Achan seems to have reached this point. He showed no concern for the 36 lives he had caused to die. He shows no regret for what he put his family through. He doesn’t care that he offended God, causing God to stop fighting for Israel. He just coldly states the facts of his sin.
Joshua is now furious. He sent men to examine the facts to see if Achan was telling the truth. Once the story is confirmed, Joshua took Achan outside the camp and pronounces his judgment.
Then 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 donkeys, his sheep, his tent, and all that he had, and they brought them to the Valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, “Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.” So all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire after they had stoned them with stones. 26Then they raised over him a great heap of stones, still there to this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore the name of that place has been called the Valley of Achor to this day
Achan, along with his family, was put to death and all of his possessions were burned. What had begun as a week of joy and victory for Israel had turned into one of defeat, sorrow, and judgment. Treason certainly has its price.
This story cannot be taken too lightly or passed over quickly. We must take it very seriously. Achan was a man just like us. He was a follower of God. He experienced God’s power. He had promises on his life. However, because he committed treason by willfully disobeying what God told him to do, he lost it all.
He never defeated his enemies. He never built his home in the Promised Land. He never grew old with his family. He lost any relationship with God. He lost all of his family and possessions. He died as a rebellious traitor. All of this happened because he chose to disobey God. We need to be careful we don’t do the same thing.
We must be careful to always obey God and do exactly what He commands. To know to do right and choose not to do it is sin and high treason against God. To do so leads to separation from God, defeat from our enemies, a hardened heart, and eventually spiritual death. How do I know this? I have seen it first-hand.
A Modern Man’s Treason
I know a man who is guilty of treason in much the same way as Achan. He was given direct orders from God, but he refused to obey them. This man grew up in physical and sexual abuse from a family member. However, instead of hating this person, he formed an odd bond with them. He was loyal to the end with this family member.
When the man entered his twenties, he began attending church with his wife. As he attended, he claimed to become a Christian. He went to church every Sunday, served on boards, and even became an elder. It looked like he was quickly moving through the ranks in God’s army. However, it wasn’t genuine. He was only playing games. His entire life was a lie. His true allegiance was still to his abuser. No one knew this fact because he kept the abuse and allegiance a secret. Only God knew the truth. That is, until some twenty years later when He started exposing the man for what he really was.
God began to reveal the truth. He exposed all the man’s secrets. The man was stripped bare before God and his family. However, God didn’t want to leave the man like this. He wanted to free him and make him into a godly, usable man. God laid out specific instructions for this man to take in order to break free and enter God’s Promises. He told him how to break the bond with his abuser. He laid out clear steps on how to change, overcome his past, and grow into the man he had the potential to become.
However, this man said “No” to God. He refused to obey God’s commands and do what He asked. He rejected God’s will and thumbed his nose at God’s offer of freedom. He chose to stay bound in the sin and pain of his past. He committed treason against God. Like Achan, this decision cost him everything.
The man lost the blessing of God on his life. God stopped fighting for Him. As a matter of fact, God started fighting against him. God took away all that the man held dear. God continually allows demonic attacks against the man in hopes he will cry out to Him for help. God stripped the man of his reputation and esteem. God caused a total separation between the man and his abuser.
The man has lost everything. However, his treason has not only affected him. His family suffers daily. They daily feel the hurt and rejection from this man because they love and serve God. He hates God and persecutes them because of Him. They have seen an active man become practically disabled because of his sin against God. They watched daily as a once-smart, capable man slips into mental sickness because he refuses to deal with the pain of his past. His treason has left them in emotional dismay, all because he refused to obey God.
The effects of this man’s disobedience stretch to even more people. He had a call on his life to minister to other abused people. However, because of his treacherous decisions, he never learned how to live free so he could help others. Who knows what good he could have done if he had just obeyed God and dealt with his sin? At any moment he could change his mind, repent, and begin to obey God. However, the constant choice to sin against God has hardened his heart to the point that he feels no need to repent. He sees nothing wrong with his life and behavior.
I’ve seen this man as he descended downward in rebellion and disobedience. I’ve seen the horrendous pain it causes him and his family. I know the ultimate price he will pay as he moves closer to facing God’s final judgment. I pray he comes to his senses so he can make it to Heaven.
I have witnessed the price treason against God costs. I implore you. Take this chapter seriously. Surrender to God. Do whatever He asks. Strive to always live in obedience to His Word. Granted, we all sin, but immediately, repent. However, we are talking about something deeper. The treason of disobedience we are discussing is when we know what God wants us to do but we deliberately choose not to do it. It is willful and sinful rebellion against God. It will destroy you and all those around you. We must choose to obey God and follow His commands.
As we bring this chapter to a close, we must face this head on. Some of you reading this are facing a time when you must decide if you will continue to follow God and obey His commands. I have tried to lay out a clear argument of why you need to stay in a state of obedience; however, only you can make the decision. Will you choose to stay loyal to God and obey whatever He asks, or will you decide to willfully disobey Him?
Others of you may be like the man at the end of the chapter who is living in disobedience to God. If you are, I want you to know it is never too late to turn around and do what He asks. God will forgive you for committing treason against Him. There still may be consequences for your disobedience, but they in no way can compare with what you will face if you don’t turn around today. You need to decide today if you will confess your sin, humbly repent, and begin to once again serve and obey God. There is hope for you. Please decide today.
1. Analyze yourself. See if there are any areas of your life that you are committing treason against God by willfully disobeying Him. Make a list of any areas. Write down when you made the decision and why. Then repent and get back into formation with God.