Enjoy this devotional from FlourishWriters student Teresa McNelly
When I was about four years old, my mom and I were “nursery sitting” for my aunt and uncle at their plant nursery in Florida. Needing some snacks, gas, or whatever, we took a quick trip to a nearby gas station.
When I walked into the 7-Eleven that day, I sauntered over to the candy aisle and gazed longingly at the many shelves of ooey, gooey goodness. Knowing my mom would tell me no if I asked for anything, I made what seemed the logical choice to me—to steal some candy.
As soon as we returned to our trailer, I hid my loot under my pillow. I don’t remember exactly what I stole. (Probably some candy cigarettes … because smoking cigarettes is cool if you’re a young gangster thief like me, right?)
And I don’t remember exactly how my mom found out but find out she did. She rooted out the candy and marched my formerly happy hiney back to that gas station.
She made me apologize to the store manager for stealing the candy, give back the candy I had left, and pay for the candy I had eaten. I never stole anything from a store again.
The story of the Israelites recorded in the book of Joshua has a storyline far too like my childhood thievery.
The people of Israel had just witnessed the walls of Jericho falling by their shouts. The Lord had given the people of Israel specific instructions NOT to take any of the devoted things, such as silver, gold, bronze, or iron. These items were to go into the treasury of the Lord.
The people of Israel had been warned what would happen if they disobeyed:
But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise, you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. (Joshua 6:18 NIV)
Numerous times before, the Israelites had witnessed these truths: obedience equals God’s hand of victory and protection; disobedience equals God’s hand removed. You would think at some point they would get it, but Chapter 7 opens with this:
But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things, Achan … took some of them. So, the Lord’s anger burned against Israel. (Joshua 7:1 NIV 1984)
Uh, oh. Achan’s choice to take something God had forbidden resulted in Israel’s defeat by Ai.
But the Israelite leader Joshua had no knowledge of Achan’s wrongdoing. When Israel lost, he wondered what in the world went wrong.
“God, why would You tell us to move forward against Ai only to have us lose?” Joshua asked in his confusion.
“Because there’s a fox in the henhouse that needs to be rooted out.” (My paraphrasing, of course).
So, tribe by tribe, family by family, man by man, Joshua confronts the people of Israel—until it comes down to Achan. The thief folded under the pressure:
It is true! I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I have done: When I saw in the plunder a beautiful robe from Babylonia, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekels, I coveted them and took them. They are hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath. (Joshua 7:20-21 NIV)
The result of his disobedience wasn’t just Israel’s initial defeat against Ai. Achan lost all he had taken—the silver, the robe, the gold wedge. And he lost all he had owned beforehand—his cattle, donkeys and sheep, his tent, and, catch this, his sons and daughters and his own life! (Joshua 7:24)
And for what? A Babylonian robe and some silver and gold? The trade-off for temporary, unfulfilling treasures was steep.
My childhood story of “The Youngster Who Robs a 7-Eleven” isn’t so different. I took. I stole. I lied. I hid.
While my young attempts at thug life and pilfering didn’t result in me and my family getting stoned, burned to death, and buried in the hot summer sand of Florida, it still had consequences: the wrath of my momma.
If I’m honest, I have many more stories just like this. Some were small acts of disobedience deemed insignificant by my standards. Some were huge and hidden for many years—only to be brought out into the open by an enemy bent on causing the most destruction.
Big or small, the things we take, steal, lie about and hide all have consequences. It happens in our churches, marriages, families, relationships, businesses … everywhere.
We justify our choices by saying, “It’s just a Babylonian robe and a little silver and gold. It’s not like I took that much or anything. There’s plenty more.”
And just like Achan, one choice of disobedience results in so much loss.
In his case, one person going against the rules, one person trying to hide his sin brought defeat to an entire nation.
The story hasn’t changed. The disobedient choices of one person in a church, a marriage, a family, a relationship, or a business can lead to loss, brokenness, and defeat, too.
The last part of Joshua 7:13 says, “You cannot stand against your enemies until you remove it.” (NIV)
So, get rid of “it.”
Your candy cigarettes and Babylonian robes. Your silver, gold, and any other article of disobedience against the Lord. Only then will you be able to stand against your enemy.
Lord, please convict me of hidden sin and selfish choices that are not in line with being obedient to You. Bring to light those things I try to keep in darkness because of guilt and shame. Help me to honor You by owning my selfish and poor choices and turning from them to walk in the way You have laid out for me. Please don’t let my disobedience usher in the destruction of the ones I hold dear to me. Instead, strengthen me to obey you.
Teresa McNelly is a former art teacher who resides in the breathtaking hills of East Tennessee. She enjoys the finer things in life: Rice Krispy treats on her birthday; finding heart rocks; drawing; painting; laughing at corny memes and hilarious hashtags; eating healthy until a bag of gummy bears ends up in her hands; and being outside in whatever form it takes (hiking, climbing on rocks, splashing in creeks, kayaking, etc.). Writing has been her latest creative adventure with the Lord. You can find her blog at https://heartrocksandhashtags.com.