Bible Studies
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Wednesday, 17 November 2004
There exists a definite biblical connection between national sin and natural disaster, war, and pestilence. Throughout history God brought the nation of Israel back from apostasy and idolatry through calamity and reversal. The same connection exists today, although we don't always know it. When our nation commits grievous sin, calamity often results, as in war or natural disaster.

by Jim Jordal

So the Lord said to Joshua: "Get up! Why do you lie thus upon your face? 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. 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. 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."

Joshua 7:10-13 (NKJV)

The connection between sin and national calamity is one we modern Christians seldom make. But in this example Joshua did so as he realized under direction from God that Israel’s fearfulness to stand before her enemies was related to economic sin within her midst.

Modern Christians tend to ridicule anyone voicing the politically incorrect belief that natural, political, social, or economic disaster results from anything but random acts of nature or pure chance. But this disdain is not at all consistent with scores of scriptural accounts attributing disaster in Israel to God’s anger at apostasy, idolatry, and other national sin.

In this account Israel, fresh from her miraculous conquest of the powerful walled city of Jericho, is commanded by God to "abstain from the accursed things" (Joshua 6:18-19). The people were to totally destroy Jericho and all its inhabitants except for the harlot Rahab and her family, who shielded the Israeli spies on an earlier occasion. God also commanded that they not take for themselves any booty of gold, silver, or bronze and iron artifacts since this treasure belonged to the Lord.

Shortly after that victory Joshua ordered spies to infiltrate the nearby city of Ai. The spies returned with the report that since there were few inhabitants, Joshua would not need his entire force to complete the conquest. Joshua then sent 3,000 fighting men to attack the city, but the enemy routed the attackers and 36 Israelite warriors were slain.

Here is where Joshua exhibited his wisdom, courage, and knowledge of God’s will. He could have attributed the small loss of only 36 men (about 1 percent of his attacking force) to bad luck, enemy fortitude, or any other unfortunate event. Instead, he prostrated himself before God seeking the cause of what he knew was an avoidable disaster.

God replied by ordering Joshua to "Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? Israel has sinned…for they have taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived….Neither will I be with you unless you destroy the accursed thing from among you."

So in this case there was a direct cause and effect connection between national sin and military reversal. But is this principle still in effect today? Does God still allow calamity in response to national sin? Could there possibly be a connection between America’s flagrant sin and our military difficulties in Iraq?

If you believe that Christians, and by implication their nations, are Israelites by adoption as Galatians 3 clearly states, and if you understand what the apostle Paul meant when he said in Romans 15:4 and I Corinthians 10:11 that everything in Bible history happened for our learning; then you might just begin to grasp a glimmer of this possibility.

But back to our story of Achan and his sin in taking the accursed thing. When selected by lot—a process often used in Israel and understood to be controlled by God—Achan was selected and confessed that in his avarice he had taken and hidden under his tent a beautiful Babylonish garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing 50 shekels.

So why did God consider this a grievous sin sufficient that Achan and his family should pay with their lives? Wasn’t God being vindictive and hateful by ordering Achan, his family, and all his possessions destroyed? And isn’t this bloody account something New Testament Christians could just as well ignore?

Regarding what modern Christians would perhaps call an extreme punishment, far beyond the significance of the act, let us consider that very likely Achan and his extended family colluded in the theft. By doing so, they placed themselves under ban, thereby deserving the same consequences meted out to Jericho. They were in direct rebellion against God’s explicit command, always a serious matter.

Another factor making the matter more serious than we might think was the attempt by Achan to subvert the God-ordained values of Israel against idolatry and ostentation. Achan’s act was subversive of these values since it attempted to place greed, deceit, and wealth on a pedestal above the values of charity, altruism, and obedience that God had ordained for His people. And finally, this act was sinful in that it threatened to set a precedent whereby artifacts, and by implication, values, of a foreign people would become established in Israel.

Israel was brought up short in its sin by the Lord, but it took the wisdom and courage of Joshua to make the connection between national sin and military disaster.. Would to God we had some leaders today able to do the same.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1978, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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