My First 5 devotion this morning started with the words "God is holy AND HE REQUIRES His people to be holy." Then the title was Decency Matters. The reading was Deuteronomy 23, and the featured verse was verse 14. The New International Version reads "For the LORD your God moves about in your camp to protect you and to deliver your enemies to you. Your camp must be holy so that he will not see among you anything indecent and turn away from you."
Upon reading those words, I was immediately transported back in time. Back to one of the first youth conferences that My Prince and I ever attended with our youth group as youth pastor and wife. It may have been the very first youth conference we ever attended. At this youth conference, the evangelist who spoke was a huge black man, and I don't mean "overweight" huge, I mean he was "built" huge. He was great!
His text was from Joshua chapter 7. The Israelites had, with God's help, just won a major victory at Jericho. So in the beginning of chapter 7, we are given information that Joshua the leader did not know yet, and that was that one of the Israelite men had taken spoils for himself from the battle at Jericho. Joshua sent out scouts to check out the city of Ai, as their next conquest. They come back and tell Joshua that they didn't even all need to go, because it was a small city. So about 3,000 Israelite men go to do the job. And in this "nothing" of a battle, compared the battle they had just won at Jericho, the Israelite men fled from the men of Ai, and 36 Israelite men lost their lives. Joshua was beside himself. He tore his clothes, threw dust on his head, fell on his face before the ark of the covenant, and bemoans to God that everyone will hear that they have fled from the battle, and what that will do to God's name.
God told Joshua to get up, and then He tells him what we as Bible readers already know. That there is sin in the camp, and that is why they did not have the victory. They go on to divide everyone up by tribes, and God points out a specific tribe. Then families, and God points out a specific family. Then households, and God points out the household of Achan.
Achan. Achan thought that he was being very smooth. He thought he had gotten away with his sin, and that no one knew about what he had done. And he was right. No one knew. No one that is, except God. God knew. And God was the only one that mattered. And just like God had told them in Deuteronomy, He was not with them, because there was sin in their camp. One man. One man's sin. That is all it took for God to withhold his blessings on the whole nation of Israel. And when it was pointed out that Achan was the one that had brought sin into the camp, then he and his family were stoned and then burned. They took sin seriously, because God takes sin seriously.
The evangelist then turned the story to ask those of us listening if we were the Achan who had sin in our lives that was keeping God's blessings from our "camp". Our "camp" being, our homes, our families, our youth groups, our churches, our jobs. He used props to make it more memorable (and obviously it worked, because that was probably 20 years ago, and I still remember it vividly). He had a tent set up on the stage (because Achan hid the things he was not supposed to have in his tent). He would go into the tent and come out with each prop. He used an empty can of soda, with a paper wrapped around it labeled alcohol, and he talked about drinking. He used a magazine with a fake cover on it labeled XXX and he talked about pornography. He (this big, hulking black man) put on a large clip-on earring and pranced around, and talked about guys who want to be "girly". He used a telephone, and talked about gossip. He had a large console television set, and he pulled a sledge hammer out from behind it, and he smashed the screen right there on the stage, and talked about the trash that we allow into our lives through the television. I don't remember if he had a radio or not, but he could have. If he were preaching the same sermon today, he could use a computer, a smartphone, a tablet.
The question he posed to us back then, is something that has been, in different ways, on my heart lately. I just taught a quick overview of Leviticus to my 5th graders, and they learned that the theme of Leviticus is holiness. I also recently did an in-depth study of Leviticus with my Wednesday night group, and what stood out over and over again is that God is holy, and he expects holiness from His people.
And what has also been on my heart lately, is that we as a society, and even as Christians, do not take sin seriously. Just turn on your television and flip through a few channels. Imagine God is sitting beside you on the couch while you do (because he is). Scroll through your newsfeed and take note of the things that are making the news these days. Look at what people are posting on social media. We have lost our fear of a holy God. A holy God who tells us, "Be ye holy; for I am holy." (1Peter 1:15-16)
I think it would do us all well to revisit the story of Achan. And to do some soul searching about the sin that we have been letting slide in our lives. To realize that God takes sin very seriously. And because He takes sin seriously, we should take sin seriously, also. Not in a "holier than thou" kind of way, but in a "I know that sin grieves my God, and I don't want to grieve Him" kind of way. Not only that, but because we want His blessings on our "camp". We should try to avoid anything that would make him "turn away" from us. I pray that God opens my eyes to any sin in my own life, and that I would be willing to repent and turn from anything that He brings to light as unpleasing to Him. I pray this for my children, that they would, in a world that takes sin lightly, learn to take sin very seriously. I pray the same for you. I pray that we are able to rid our "camps" of sin, so that He will pour out His blessings on us, and His name will be glorified.