Bible Readings for July 5th

Joshua 7 | Psalms 137138 | Jeremiah 1 | Matthew 15

I’ve never forgotten a short rhyme one of my Sunday School teachers taught us during my elementary years: “Achan stole the bacon.” It’s a silly phrase, but that light-hearted line is perfect to help children remember basic biblical content. I would not be the man I am today without those foundational building blocks that my Sunday School teachers worked hard to put in place.

So if any of my many former Sunday School teachers and youth leaders are reading this, please accept my great gratitude for your tireless work over the years. And to those of you who labor weekly to teach children now, be encouraged to know that your lessons, rhymes, songs, and handouts really do have an eternal impact in the kingdom of Jesus Christ.

But even though I have heard this story several times before, I was struck on this last reading by the strong language Yahweh speaks against Israel in Joshua 7, as though I had never read it before: “Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you” (Josh. 7:12). Two phrases in this statement are brutal in their severity.

First, Yahweh declares that Israel has become “devoted for destruction.” This was a phrase that meant far more than even killing every person in the nation. To devote to destruction meant to kill every living thing (as Jericho was devoted to destruction in Joshua 6:21), but also to raze the city to the ground (again, along the lines of how Joshua placed a curse on the one who rebuilds Jericho in Joshua 6:26). Because of Achan’s sin, now Israel had been devoted to destruction in this way.

Second, Yahweh threatens that “I will be with you no more.” This isn’t the first time that Yahweh has stated that he would not go along with Israel into the Promised Land—this also happened after Israel worshiped the golden calf (Ex. 33:2–3), and only through the intercession of the covenant mediator Moses did Yahweh relent and remain in the presence of Israel. Here, though, the solution is simple: destroy the devoted things from among you.

So Achan was devoted to destruction, and as Israel’s wrath fell on Achan, we read that “Then the LORD turned from his burning anger” (Josh. 7:26). From this story, we learn two things: (1) our sin requires the full wrath of God as judgment, and (2) until someone pays that penalty, Yahweh cannot turn away from his burning anger toward us.

But this story also raises a question: What kind of covenant mediator would it take to remove God’s judgment from all who are guilty so that we will not be devoted to destruction ourselves as Achan was?

Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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