Friday, April 5, 2019

Tucked Away

Israel stormed into the Promised Land with great victory, confirming the worst fears of the inhabitants of the land - that the Lord was really with them and there was nothing for the people to do to defend themselves. But it doesn't take long before things start to look a little different.

Before Israel gets soundly defeated in battle.

The people are stunned, on both sides. Israel doesn't know how they lost so badly after winning so big, when she knew that the Lord had given her that city, too, and the people of the city couldn't believe they had pushed back and defeated Israel - the Israel. And in fact, you kind of wonder if this early defeat changed Israel's entire trajectory, if it emboldened the other nations and put more fight in them. If other peoples took this defeat as a sign that maybe Israel wasn't all she was rumored to be. She could be defeated, and well, gosh, maybe other peoples started to think they were just the people to defeat her.

But Israel's defeat had nothing to do with the strength of other nations; it had everything to do with the sin of a single Israelite. (Remember when we recently looked at how one man's sin affects the entire tribe? Here's another example of that.) Achan had taken plunder from the battle that he wasn't supposed to have. He had used it to increase his own wealth. And he had buried it in his own house. As long as he was holding onto his sin, Israel didn't stand a chance against her enemies.

An assembly of the nation was called and the people were divided by tribe, then by clan, then by family, then by man until it was narrowed down and revealed that Achan was the source of their great defeat. Achan had come to the assembly, as any dutiful man would, knowing what the assembly was about, knowing that he was the guilty one (perhaps hoping he was not the only guilty one), knowing it was likely that he was about to be singled out in front of the entire community. 

And when he was, he confessed. He plainly admitted what he had done. He even told them where they could find the contraband in his tent, where exactly he'd tucked it away under the dirt. But it's worth noting here that he didn't bring it with him. He didn't offer it up willingly. If the people - if God - wanted it, they'd have to go get it. 

He was going to confess, but he wasn't going to surrender.

Isn't that the way we do it? Isn't that the truth about all of us? Pushed to it, we'll confess what we've done. We'll tell you exactly what our sin is. We'll hang our heads in shame and talk about how sorry we are for the damage we've done, for the hurt we've caused, for the pain and trouble that's come out of our wrongdoing. We'll speak until we're blue in the face, even get some tears rolling down our cheeks for good effect.

But we won't surrender. We won't bring our sin with us and lay it down. We won't give up what we've got. We won't really change how we act or what we're doing with our lives. If the people - or God - want that, well, they'll have to go get it. 

They'll have to invest the energies to dig through our lives, to turn over our floors, to push through our doors and pull it all up by the roots. They'll have to pursue us to the place where we live, where we can't get away from them any more. We make it so hard to actually elicit any real change in our lives, even though we're so good at being confessional with our language.

What if it wasn't that way? What if we were better at surrender? What if we let our words drive our hearts into change? What if we let our confession spur our true repentance? What if we were more than sorry?

What if we brought our contraband with us to our confession and laid it down before God and before the community? What if we showed, rather than just said, how sorry we are? 

We might just restore more than ourselves. 

(Note: after Achan and his contraband were destroyed, Israel went on to conquer the people who had just driven them back, securing their places once more as victors.) 

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