Sermon delivered June 1, 2002 by Dr Steve Bauer

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version NRSV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

O My Achan Head

Just two or three weeks ago, I happened to be able to catch part of the evening news on the TV. They had a story on at least two networks. I'm the typical male who surfs back and forth and drives my wife nuts in the process. As I surfed back and forth, I discovered two of the three networks carried the same story that night about a computer program called "Investigator." It is software that can be installed on a computer which records every keystroke, every mouse click, every everything that is done on that computer. If you enter a password, it records your password. Anyone who can look into Investigator will then know your password.

To combat the problem of wasted productivity playing computer games or shopping online, etc., quite a few companies are installing Investigator on your computer in your office, sometimes without you knowing it. And then every evening or morning the boss can send a signal and that computer will email all the data over to him and he can look at everything you did on your computer that day. Whether your visited a naughty site on the internet or did shopping, he can tell what you bought, how much you paid for it, what emails you looked at , the personal business you did, how much time you spent doing it, the whole caboodle. Some parents are buying Investigator and are installing it on the home computer and telling their kids, "This is how this program works and we'll be checking." At least the kids are knowing about it.

I couldn't think of not only all the civil liberties issues involved, particularly in the work place with this Investigator software. And Georgia Orwell was right: "Technology will take away your privacy." It's going in a hurry. In fact, many say that privacy is an allusion. The right person with the right skills can go online and probably figure out where you work, how much you make, and quite a few of the things you have bought and sold and so forth and so on.

Those of us who are a little older, are a little more sensitive to this privacy issue, especially from a civil liberties standpoint. And yet, we are getting accustomed to having every move watched on camera or on software, and more and more we submit to being monitored for various purposes. Maybe it's simply to keep your job.

And yet, when it comes to God monitoring and being aware of every key-stroke, we suddenly get very uncomfortable. Christ said that we will give account for every idle word (Matthew 12:36), let alone every word. Ecclesiastes 12:14 says that He will judge ...every secret thing, whether good or evil. And Christ said in reference to the Pharisees that what they did in private would be declared from the housetop. What they did in secret would be revealed openly in the judgment day.

To many, the lack of privacy that we have with God is a scary thought. We don't often hear preaching about the judgment anymore. All we want to hear is how God loves us, and yet it is a loving parent who puts the software in the computer to monitor his child.

The great irony is that when we come to today's scripture reading, the Bible says this angel is preaching an everlasting gospel, but what is his good news? His good news is that God has started to judge the world. What is it about a judgment that examines every secret thing, of every person that can be said to be good news? Many fear that such a doctrine robs us of assurance of salvation. Is the judgment contrary to assurance of salvation? Or is there something else at stake? I believe we can find some interesting issues in the story of Achan. I invite you to turn to Joshua 7 because I believe the story of Achan illustrates the investigative judgment and its purposes.

Now, about twenty years ago, the Adventist church was rocked by a certain Australian theologian, last name, Ford. One of the hot potatoes was whether the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment is found in the Scriptures. Let's define our term. What do we mean by Investigative Judgment? It means we have an investigation where God conducts an investigation followed by a pronouncement and execution of judgment. So, it is not just an arbitrary, but it is an investigative judgment based on facts and investigations.

"And," said the new theology twenty years ago, "this is not a Biblical doctrine. It is invented by Ellen White and our pioneers. But I would beg to differ: It is all over the Bible, particularly all over the Pentateuch, and here in Joshua, one book later and from the first five books, we have a tremendous model of the investigative judgment.

Joshua 7. I think we all know the story well. What have they done just a chapter or two before? We sing songs and have cradle roll about this event. What was it? The fall of Jericho, right? The walls came tumbling down. And Israel is feeling real good. They're feeling so confident that they see this little city that doesn't even have walls over nearby: Ai. And they go up to Ai and they said, "Ay." They got defeated, badly. Hither before they had conquered a walled city with divine help and they go up to this little place and they get plastered. What was it? thirty six of them? And Joshua doesn't know what's happened. They are completely demoralized. And Joshua falls on his face and cries out to the Lord,"What's going on? Have You abandoned us?" And what does the Lord say? "Why are you laying on your face crying? You've got a problem in the camp. Get up and address the issue."

Let's be a little more specific now. God defines the problem. Joshua 7:10-12, The Lord said to Joshua, "Stand up! Why have you have fallen upon your face? Israel has sinned: they have transgressed My covenant that I imposed on them. They have taken some of the devoted things." Remember that all of the spoils of Jericho were not to be taken for personal gain. It was all to be handed over to the Lord, either to go to the sanctuary or to be destroyed. But now He gets more specific. Because God has claimed all of the spoils of Jericho as His, and now, somebody has taken some of it for themselves, what do we call that? Stealing. They have stolen and lied. "...and they have put them among their own belongings. Therefore, the Israelites unable to stand before their enemies; they turn their backs to their enemies, because they have become a thing devoted for destruction themselves. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you."

So, the goal was to destroy not people but "devoted things from among you." Now, why does He say "Israel has sinned?" Number one, It begs the possibility that Achan was not the only guilty party. It begs the possibility that there were others with Achan who may have yielded to temptation, but watch what's going to happen in a moment. But even if nobody else did, you can't just walk into your tent in the middle of an encampment like at camp meeting with a gold wedge and nice garments and not have some people see it and know what's happening. There are others who are aware of what has happened. "It's not my business. I'm not going to be the rat. I'm not going to confront the issue." And so, by silence, effectively are condoning Achan's activity. Not to mention, his family and household had to be aware of it. But, nepotism comes first in their list. So this is partially a public act even IF Achan is the only one to have taken some of the forbidden goods.

And at least in the issue of idolatry, we know that God said, "If you know somebody who is secretly worshipping idols, don't have any mercy. You turn them in." There was a duty, when you knew there was a problem, to confront the issue. By not confronting it you've spread the guilt through the nation.

Now, there's a very fine line between this and breaking into somebody's tent to see if they have idols, you know. But, when something comes across our path, and we know that that acquaintance of ours in the church is having an affair, when we know that person is fraudulent in business, then we need to go to that person and start doing some talking. We cannot afford to approve of sin by silence.

Again, we must not become meddlesome, looking for it when we don't have reason to. But when something comes across our path we need to have the courage to talk to the people. "I'm concerned this is a fatal path, and I don't want you to lose out."

Now, some will use this as a license for meddling and I think we can all distinguish between the two. Because they approved by silence, God says, "Israel has sinned." It is now a community problem and not just an Achan problem.

Now watch what happens. God announces to Joshua, "Here's the problem. They've taken some of the devoted stuff for themselves." Why doesn't God just say, "There he is. Go get him?" Instead, what happens? The process is laid out in advance. Joshua 7:13-15 (KJV), Up, sanctify the people, and say, "Make and announcement, Joshua, 'Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow,' for thus says the Lord God of Israel; "There are devoted things in the midst of you, O Israel. You cannot stand before your enemies until you take away these devoted things from among you. In the morning, therefore, you will be brought near by tribes. And the tribe that the Lord takes will come near by families. And the family that the Lord takes will come near by household. And the household which the Lord takes shall come near man by man. And he who is taken with the devoted things will be burned with fire. He and all that he has, because he has transgressed the covenant of the Lord.'"

Notice that it is announced ahead of time. "Here is the process of how we are going to conduct the investigation. We're going to have a lot-casting program directed by God. We're going to bring tribe by tribe. Wand we're going to be narrowing it down, narrowing it down, from clan to family to household to man. And we're going to do this tomorrow morning."

And then He even gives the sentence: "When we catch this person, this is what's going to happen."

I wonder why God announces the crime and the process ahead of time? Why didn't He just get on with it right there? "All right folks, let's call the assembly. We're casting lots." Nope. He says, "We're going to give you a night to sleep on it. And then we're gathering in the morning and we start this process. And here's what's going to happen."

And so, that's what happens. They wait over night. We'll get to why in just a moment. They wait over night, and of course, you know the story of what happens. They gather all the congregation. The lot falls to the tribe. Al the other tribes can pull back. It narrows down to a clan. And the funnel keeps narrowing and narrowing, until it lands on Achan.

Now, I would submit to you that the lot-casting is part of the investigation process. There's going to be more.

So, they rose early in the morning, starting in verse 16, and they go through the whole process, and it falls on Achan in verse 18.

In verse 19, what does Joshua do? "All right folks. Let's go burn this guy up." Is that what he says? No, what does he do? "Then Joshua said to Achan, "My son, give glory to the God of Israel." How was he to give glory? "Render praise to Him. Tell me what you have done and do not hide it from me.

So, Achan answered. He said, "Of a truth, I have sinned against the Lord and this is what I did. I saw this beautiful mantle, two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold. I coveted them, I desired them and I took them. They are hidden in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath."

How does that glorify God? Is it possible, since God was about to bring down a judgment on Achan that by having him confess himself so that everybody could hear, it would help protect against charges of miscarriage of justice. God was doing the right thing. He did know.

Not only that, what does Joshua then do? Verse 22. Achan had said, "I took this stuff and I hid in the ground under my tent." So, what does Joshua do? He sends the police over and they dig up the floor of the tent and they take inventory. They bring the goods back and say, "Sure enough, folks, see here it is."

They went through a verification procedure as part of the investigation so that when the judgment came down on Achan nobody would be able to argue that there had been a miscarriage of justice. Nobody would be able to argue that the lot had fallen on the wrong man. Because what had been secret to most was pulled out into the public and the evidence was displayed. So that all could agree with the judgment.

I believe that one of the reasons God conducts and investigative judgment is to bring into the light the reasoning behind His decisions, the evidence behind His decisions, so that the rest of us can see what God saw. And in seeing what God saw, we will agree with His judgment. There will be no grounds to challenge and revolt. God does not bring out the evidence to embarrass the sinner, but to protect His government.

Let's face it, you go to heaven and you look all over for Pastor Don and you can't find him anywhere. (Don's eyes just got big.) Might you tend to wonder if there had been a little bit of a mistake? Maybe a big mistake? But if you are not allowed to look at evidence, you have this nagging question likewise.

You go to heaven and you want to find out who your new neighbor is, right? So you walk out of your mansion, down the sidewalk, up to the other front door, and the Lord, in His great mercy, has put name plates on the doors, but He has a temporary one with our old name because we haven't learned the new names, you know. And so you look at the old name, and it says, "Adolf Hitler." And you say to yourself, "My, this poor saint got stuck with the same name as that animal who killed all those Jews. I've got to talk to this guy and find out what it was like to get stuck with that same name. And so you knock on the door, and the door opens. There's a short little man with a skinny little mustache who speaks heavenese with a German accent. Might you wonder if a mistake had been made?

And if you were not allowed to see what God saw, the seeds of doubt would linger for eternity.

And so, the investigative judgment is part of a process that brings the evidence and the secrets to light so that we can see that God indeed knew what He was doing. See, at that point it will no longer be by faith but by sight. He will show us. And what we have believed by faith we will then have verified by sight. That God is good, that God is righteous, etc. etc.

But, now let's come back to this process, this investigative phase. Why was it He announces the judgment for tomorrow morning? Why not get it over with now? Why have such a lengthy process: waiting through the night. And then, why take all this time casting lots? Couldn't the Lord just point the guy out? Why take all this time and process? It seems so inefficient.

I believe that God gave Achan overnight to repent. Instead of coming with the judgment right away, He announces the judgment is coming. He announces the nature of the crime. Achan had to know God was pointing the finger at him. He even announces the process, all so that Achan has time to repent. And I believe that in the early part of the investigation as the tribe was called and the funnel was narrowing, if Achan responded to conviction before there was no where to hide, there was time to repent and bring the stuff and only the devoted things would have to be destroyed, and not Achan.

But Achan is destroyed because he hangs on to that which God was going to destroy. When he would not let go, he got destroyed with it.

What a loving God. He warned them that judgment was coming so that they would not have to be afraid, but that they could repent, change their ways, respond to God. If Achan had come to Joshua that night, and said, "I have sinned. Here's the stuff. What can we do about it?" How history would be different.

Now again, the purpose was to destroy the devoted things out of the camp. But when Achan would not let go of the devoted things, he got destroyed with them. So it is with our sins. And this, I believe, is where we interface with the good news of Revelation 14. The bad news is that we can not hide our sins. The good new is that God has announced in Paul's day, "There's a day coming when God will judge the world. But there comes a point in history where He sends a new message: "I've started judging the world." And God does not make that announcement in order to scare us, but in order to give us time to repent. The judgment is good news. It is the good news that God will sin-proof this world, that He will make an end of things, and that He has an air-tight infallible screening process so that no sin terrorists will be able to enter heaven and terrorize it some more.

And He must have careful scrutiny of every secret thing so that dangerous people who put on good fronts can not slip through the cracks and arouse new problems. We're a little bit more sensitive to this issue since September 11 about guarding our borders, aren't we? And God is guarding His borders. And that is good news because when God is done, nobody will complain. Every knee shall bow and every tongue, including Satan's, will confess, "God, you're right."

A loving God has spelled out in Scripture "There is a judgment, how it works and when it starts to give us ample opportunity to respond with repentance.

But there is only one problem: I know by nature that I have an Achan head. I want to cover my sins. I don't want to face them. My guess is that you have an Achan head, too. You want to cover your sins. You don't want to be challenged to grow in grace. You just want to rest and relax and let Christ carry you mindlessly to heaven. But God comes and He brings conviction to your heart and He torments you and gives you no rest until you come to the cross and lay the burden down and repent and walk away a new creature in that thing because He loves us.

I'm so glad the Holy Spirit nags us. Like a good parent, who nags their children. Sometimes we, like children don't like it, but God nags because He doesn't want to destroy the sinner with the sin. He nags because He loves. He convicts because He loves. Let's praise God that He has warned us, that He has given us the powers and provisions we need for repentance and for a new life. Let us renounce that which would be dangerous to His kingdom and dangerous to our well being. Let us run with perseverance the race set before us. And praise God for His marvelous grace to both save us and warn us so that we don't have to be destroyed with the devoted things.

We serve a marvelous God who has marvelous grace. Let's take the good news of the judgment and respond to His grace.



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