I read Joshua 7 this morning - the story of the sin of Achan. If that's not ringing a bell, let me summarize. The Israelites are getting ready to launch an attack on the city of Ai. Spies are sent out and come back saying, "No problem. Send a handful of men. That's all we need to defeat them." So the Israelites launch their attack and end up being chased back home with their tails between their legs. That is, all but 36 of them, who apparently didn't run fast enough. Joshua throws himself down before the Ark and demands to know why God allowed this defeat. Turns out that there's hidden sin in the camp. So God tells Joshua how He's going to reveal the culprit and through the process Achan, son of Carmi, is shown to be the culprit. It seems that he kept some illegal booty from a past victory. Achan is taken out, along with his children and possessions, and all are stoned and burned.
It's a hard story to swallow. I can't pretend to know the ways of God. But a couple things stood out to me that can definitely be applied to our own contemporary lives:
First of all, when I choose to reject His ways and walk out in my own wisdom, defeat is imminent. God tells us to do, and not do things, because He knows the dangers in this life. Just like I taught my babies never to touch a hot stove, God instructs us in the ways of the world because He loves us and wants us to be kept from harmful consequences. Besides that, God is holy and has the right to make the rules. If He says, "Do it," even when we don't get it, we'd best do it.
The second lesson I saw is that sin is never solitary. We fool ourselves into thinking that our own personal sin isn't hurting anyone. Lies. Lies. Lies. Even those secret sins that I play with in my mind, that no one (but God) knows about, affect others. How? Thinking always leads to action of some sort. Mentally grumbling about my husband shows up in my words and in my attitudes; towards him, towards others. Those 36 men who were slain by the Amorites didn't have a clue about Achan's hidden sin - but they paid the price for it.
Sin is serious business. If you want the victory, you've gotta play by the rules.