Secrecy and Abuse: Hiding From God is Never a Good Idea
Joshua 7:1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.
After their defeat at Ai in which 36 of their own men were killed, Israel was bewildered. They had just enjoyed a great victory at Jericho and the town of Ai should have been a breeze to conquer. It wasn’t. As Joshua pleads to the Lord, he hears the reason for it all:
Joshua 7:11-12 Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. (12) 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.
Achan had done it. After being exposed by a divine lottery drawing, he fessed up:
Joshua 7:20-21 And Achan answered Joshua, “Truly I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and this is what I did: (21) when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath.”
As I studied this passage, I don’t think I stretched the application of this Scripture as it struck me that this business of hiding evil that is among us is the very thing we do when we intentionally refuse to deal with sin either in our own lives or in the life of our church body. We all know by now that the common way of dealing with abuse (and, unfortunately, with all kinds of sin) in our churches is to do what Achan did. We bury it. Sin in a sense is “devoted” (corban) to the Lord. The proper handling of sin is to take it in open confession and genuine repentance to Jesus Christ. And where there is unrepentant sin, we do the same so that the Achans can be exposed and if necessary, expelled. But so often this is not what happens. The sin is buried and lies supposedly concealed among us, right in the very floor of our tent. God sees it. God knows. And we wonder why we cannot stand before our enemies.
Christ holds us all accountable when sin is tolerated and hidden in His church:
Revelation 2:14 But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.
Revelation 2:20 But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols.
Notice carefully - “I have this against you.” Against the entire church. It was the same in regard to Achan’s sin. “But the people of Israel broke faith…therefore they cannot stand before their enemies.” Wait a minute! I thought Achan is the one who stole the tapestry, the gold, and the silver? Yes, he was. But God holds His entire church responsible. One man’s sin is not entirely his own sin. Our sin affects others in a big way.
And so, here we are in regard to this whole issue of widespread domestic violence and sexual abuse hiding in our pews. Hiding in plain sight, really. The thing is being buried. Victims are being discounted and the evil being done to them is being minimized and dismissed. Scripture is being twisted to justify our refusal to dig up what is hidden and effect justice. Can we really be surprised then that the Lord’s blessing is not upon us today?
Victory at Ai eventually came, but only after Achan’s stolen and hidden evil was rooted out in the sight of all Israel. It is long past time that we got out our own shovels and began to dig. What evils are buried right at this moment in the living room of some supposed eminent “saint” among us? Victims will tell us, if we will listen to them.
Hiding from God is never a good idea. In fact, it is always a very bad idea and nothing good ever comes from it.