The Valley of Calamity

Title: The Valley of Calamity

Bible Book: Joshua 1 : 1-26

Author: Michael A. Guido

Subject: Sin; Money, Love of



There is a phosphorescent spider in South Africa that charms and deceives its prey with dazzling flashes of light. Attracted by the flashes, the moth keeps coming closer and closer until it is destroyed.

What a picture of temptation and its terribleness. Achan was dazzled by a beautiful robe from Babylon, some silver and some gold. Achan wanted them so much that he took them and hid them, even thought the Lord had commanded to destroy everything except that which was preserved for the Lord's treasury. His sin brought about the defeat of the Israeli army, his death and the execution of his family.

Don't play with sin. If you would play with something dangerous reach into the furnace and play with fire, or reach into the forest and play with a rattlesnake, or reach into the heavens and play with forked lightning, but don't play with sin!

I. The Peril

The Lord called Joshua to be the new leader of Israel, saying that he would be a successful leader of His people; and that they would conquer all the land He had promised them if they would be

obedient to His word.

They came to the Jordan River. As soon as their feet touched the water the river stopped flowing as though held back by a dam, and they passed over on dry ground. They came to Jericho. It was a stronghold, and they had the mightiest of warriors. They marched around it once a day for six days. On the seventh day they circled the city seven times and then blew their trumpets. Suddenly the wall crumpled and they captured it.

The Lord said, "Don't take any loot, for everything is to be destroyed. If it isn't, disaster will fall upon the entire nation of Israel.""But," says Joshua 7:1, "the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan...took of the accursed things; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel.

"Did you get that? One man sinned, and disaster fell upon the nation! Let one person who is a member of your church sin, and the whole church will suffer. For it is written in 1 Corinthians 12:26, "If one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members are honored with it."

It's interesting to note that the name Achan means "trouble". Just think of the trouble that Achan brought to the Israelis! Can it be that you are an Achan to your church?

But let's leave Achan and his disobedience and think of Joshua and his daring. He didn't rest upon his oars. More cities were to be conquered and he was determined to strike when the iron was hot. So he sent some of his men to spy on the city of Ai. They were brave in their reconnoitering but bad in their recommendation. They said, "Do not let all the people go up...for the people of Ai are few." Few? Actually there were 12,000 in Ai. Quite a "few". So Joshua sent about 3,000 men and they were soundly defeated. About 36 of the soldiers were killed and many others died while being chased by the men of Ai.

What despair! The Israeli soldiers were paralyzed with fear and the hearts of the civilians melted and became like water.

Defeat need not happen, and despair need not lay hold upon a child of God. When defeat and despair are experienced it is good to search for the reasons. By so doing we will see why God's people fail today.

A. Pride

The first reason was their pride. Because they had captured Jericho, one of the largest cities, they felt they could capture Ai, one of the smallest. They based their argument on the supposition that they captured Jericho. For all they had done was to walk around the walls and shout. But it wasn't their strolling and shouting that captured Jericho. It was the power of God released through their obedience.

B. Prayerlessness

The second reason for their failure was their prayerlessness. In planning the battle for Ai, Joshua turned to his spies, not the Savior; he looked to man, not to the Lord. Have you noticed how the Bible opens? It says, "In the beginning God..." What a beginning! As with the word of God, so with our ways - begin everything with God; every action, every battle, every choice, every day, every plan, every thing with God!

II. The Prayer

The soldiers were scattered, the civilians were chicken-hearted, but Joshua didn't condemn them or criticize them. No, the Bible says, "he tore his clothes, and fell to the earth on his face." The tearing of his clothes and the falling to the earth on his face was a sign of affliction and humility. When the Lord afflicts us and humbles us we ought to afflict and humble ourselves. Where did he do this? "Before the ark of the Lord," that is, the presence of the Lord. And with whom did he do this? The "elders", that is, the responsible heads of the nation. Had Joshua begun the battle for Ai in humility, he wouldn't have been humiliated. Had he started n the presence of God he wouldn't have ended in the presence of grief.

Think of Jonah. The Lord told him to go to Ninevah. Did he obey? No, he disobeyed. He went to Tarshish. Did he get there? Oh, no. God flung a terrific wind over the sea, causing a great storm. You are never safe when you are sinning. The storm is ready to strike you, and the sea to swallow you. The sailors threw Jonah overboard and God arranged for a great fish to swallow him. Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights. "Then Jonah prayed." When? After he had suffered. When are you going to pray?

Joshua prayed after the defeat and the despair. He cried out to the Lord. "What shall I say when Israel turns its back before its enemies? For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and surround us, and cut off your name from the earth. Then what will You do for Your great name?"The Lord's name is at stake in your life. You honor His name or your dishonor His name. You lift it or you lower it. You make others love His name or loathe it. Because of you the world will desire the Lord Jesus or despise Him. They will receive Him or reject Him. What are you doing to His name?

Joshua prayed, but the Lord stopped him by saying, "Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? Israel has sinned." Prayer is good in its place. But this wasn't the time for prayer. It was the time for penitence. For the Bible says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.

"Don't think for a moment that the Lord was displeased with his humility and his prayer. He doesn't despise a broken and contrite heart. Nevertheless, though He washes white our sins He doesn't whitewash them. Sin must be confessed before it can be cancelled. There must be repentance before there can be removal. Up to now Joshua didn't know about Achan's sin - the cause for the disastrous defeat.

"Israel has sinned," said the Lord to Joshua, "and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff."The Lord, by revealing this sin to Joshua, shows us that His word is true, for it is written in Psalm 25:14, "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him, and He will show them His covenant." If you love the Lord, and you long to honor Him - whether it be a believer or a body of believers - the Lord will reveal to you why He is holding back His blessings upon your work. The Lord was making it clear that He hadn't failed or forsaken His people.

His people had failed Him. When we ask and there is no answer, when we preach and there is no power, when we strive and there is no success, we need to pray as did the defeated disciples when they asked, "What's wrong with us?"

III. The Probing

The Lord said to Joshua, "Get up, sanctify the people, and say, 'Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, for thus says the Lord: There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing among you.'"The word "sanctify" simply means "to set apart".

Never will I forget the first night I stayed at a hotel. The rates were $5.00 and up. I paid five dollars and I was up all night. Right across from my room was a glass container. In it were tools. Underneath were the words "For Fire Only." These tools weren't to be used for anything else. They were "sanctified" that is, they were set apart for fire only.

When you receive the Lord Jesus you became a child of God, and you were sanctified, set apart from sin for the Lord. He wants to think through your mind, love through your heart, speak through your lips, and touch through your hands. He wants you to be holy, that is wholly His. When you are wholly His you will really be holy.

So the Lord said to Joshua, "Sanctify yourselves." How? One evening Mrs. Guido and I were invited to a home for dinner. The boy came running to the dining room saying, "I'm ready for dinner. I washed myself." "But look at the dirt on your hands and arms," said his mother. "Did you use any soap?" "No ma'am," he answered, "just water." She said, "Go back son, and use soap with the water." He used the soap, the cleansing agent, and returned saying, "Look, mom! I really cleansed myself." He did it by using the means that were provided.The provision for our sanctification or cleansing is the Word of God brought home to our hearts by the Spirit of God. I led a dance band before my conversion. I wondered, "Must I quit playing for the dance, the night club, and the vaudeville shows?" Late one night I read in the Bible, "You are not your own. You are bought with a price." For the first time in my life I saw I belonged to the Lord. So I prayed, "Lord, do You want Your hands to play for the dance, the night clubs, the vaudeville shows?" He answered, "Not My hands." Then I prayed, "Lord Jesus, I give myself to Thee cheerfully and completely." And I turned from the world to the Lord. Wouldn't you like to "sanctify yourself" and give yourself wholly to Him?

The Lord commanded Joshua to bring the tribes before Him, and He would point out the tribe, the family and the man guilty of the sin. Achan was found to be the guilty one. This is startling. Achan was of the royal tribe of Judah. He knew better, he knew more than others, he was in a more favored position that others. He was schooled in all these things, yet he sinned more grievously than others. So the greater the schooling, the greater the suffering!

What a warning this should be to you who have been more highly favored than others in the word and work of God! Greater will be your responsibility, and your retribution. You may wonder why the devil singled out Achan and tempted him so fiercely. He knew Achan could do greater damage than others. Judas Iscariot is a dramatic illustration of this. He walked and talked with the Lord Jesus. He prayed and preached with Him. What a priceless privilege was his! He, too, was warned. The Lord Jesus gave him every opportunity to get right and to do right. But like some of you, he chose sin, not the Savior, and he died outlawed from the Lord. Whatever you do, don't live as he lived, and don't die as he died.

IV. The Punishment

Sin is a great detective. It is written, "Be sure your sin will find you out." It found out Achan. The Bible says, "Joshua said to Achan, 'My son, I beg you, give glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession to Him, and tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.'"He said, "I have sinned against the Lord." Judas, you remember, said the same thing. But they merely recounted their sin; they didn't repent of their sin. Remember that admitting your sin is no substitute for quitting your sins. When you really and truly confess your sins and not only admit each one, but you abhor and abandon each one.

Achan continued, "When I saw...a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold...I coveted them and took them." So many sins enter through the eye gate. It would do us good to heed the song the boys and girls sing, "Be careful little eyes what you see." Long ago Job said, "I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust upon a girl." Don't let any part of your bodies become tools for wickedness, to be used for sinning.

Achan continued, "I saw...I coveted." And he knew the Lord had commanded, "You shall not covet." "Covetousness is never satisfied till its mouth is filled with earth." There is only one way to stop covetousness. That is to want the Lord so much that you can't be bothered with any other wants.

Achan went on to say, "I saw...I coveted...I took... and they are hidden." He should have known better. Whatever man covers, the Lord always uncovers. Furthermore, the Bible says, "He who covers His sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy." How does man cover his sins? By denying them, excusing them, and making light of them. Can it be that you are trying to cover your sins? It won't work. A thing is never rightly settled, until it is settled rightly. And how is this settled rightly? By confessing your sins to the Lord. His blood is the only permanent covering for your sins.

Joshua sent men to search for the loot. They found it and brought it all to Joshua. Joshua and all the Israelites took Achan, the loot, and his family, and everything he had, and brought them to the valley of Achor. Joshua asked, "Why have you trouble us? The Lord will trouble you this day." You always reap what you sow, don't you? "So all the people stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire.

"Who says crime pays? Fortune magazine reports that the average burglar earns $50.00 and hour. But the wages drop to 33 cents an hour when they are divided by the average prison sentence convicted burglars receive.

Does crime pay? Ask Judas. He sold the Savior for silver. Did he gain by it? No, no person gains who give us God. He lost his silver, his life, and his soul."But," you may ask, "why was Achan's family executed?" Each one in his family was involved in this sin. Everything he owned was involved, even to the ten he lived in.

You see family involvement in the story of Ananias and Sapphira. According the 5th chapter of the book of Acts they sold some property, and brought only part of the money, claiming it was the full price. Peter said to Ananias, "Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?" On hearing these words, he fell to the floor, dead. Three hours later, his wife came in. Peter asked, "Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?" "Yes." Instantly she fell to the floor, dead. How true are the words of Job 5:3, "Those who turn from God may be successful for the moment, but then comes sudden disaster."It is tragic but true, the Lord couldn't bless the church in the days of Ananias and Sapphira until they were removed, and He couldn't bless the Israelis in the days of Achan until he and his family were removed. Look into your life, Christian. Is there some sin in your life that is keeping the Lord from blessing your church? Before the Lord must deal with you as He did with those of yesteryears, go into His presence, give up your sin and give in to the Savior.


There is an old painting in the National Gallery in Washington D.C. by Bosch that intrigued me. A man is on his deathbed. On one side of the bed is an angel. The angel is trying to persuade the man to look to the Lord Jesus. The devil is on the other side of the bed. In his hands is a bag of money. He is tempting man with money.

Just as that man had a decision to make, so have you. Which will it be - the Savior or sin, God or gold? My friend, I beg you will all my heart, give up everything for Jesus, but don't give Jesus up for anything.


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