By Melissa McLaughlin

What do we fear?

When was the last time you were afraid? I mean really afraid?

  • Maybe the hurricane-force winds bearing down on your home.
  • Maybe lightning striking so close that it pierced your soul and rocked the earth.
  • Maybe twisted words spoken behind your back. Words that left in their wake unmendable cracks in your relationships.
  • Maybe the loss of your health, your job, your ministry, your marriage, your hope.
  • Maybe the violence, deception and destruction that threaten to divide your community or nation.

But was it ever your own sin? Did you ever fear the consequences of your own sin?

Can we hide our sin?

Have you ever tried to bluff someone about your actions? Perhaps as a child you tried to tell your mother that you didn’t take the cookie from the jar before dinner, but somehow she knew. Perhaps it was the telltale crumbs clinging to the corners of our sheepish smiles?

We may successfully bluff others, but we cannot bluff God.

The Creator of the universe, the Creator of every cell in our bodies, knows our ways. Sometimes, more than we do.

Psalm 139:1-3 – O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.

Secret Sins and Catastrophic Consequences

Here’s a Biblical account of a person who thought no one could see his sin. Not even God.

The story follows an incredibly powerful period of history among God’s people, the Israelites. They had been delivered from slavery in Egypt through a series of breathtaking miracles, ending with the LORD parting the Red Sea so Moses could lead His people across on dry land. While in the wilderness there, the LORD provided manna from heaven for them to eat and water from a rock. He led them with a visible cloud by day and fire by night. Day after day they discovered the LORD made a way when there was no other way.

After Moses’ death, Joshua was anointed the leader and once again, the LORD stopped the flooding, flowing Jordan River, so the people could cross over on dry land as they headed toward the promised land.

The Battle of Jericho

The story picks up here as the people faced their first enemy, the city of Jericho. Stunningly, the LORD Himself brought down the walls of Jericho with a march, a trumpet blast and a shout. The Israelites never laid a finger on the walls.

However, in preparation for the victory, the LORD directed the people NOT to keep any of the spoils of the battle. Everything was to be devoted to the LORD, either destroyed so they would not worship it or placed in the LORD’s treasury. (Joshua 6:16-19)

Further, in Joshua 6:18, God clearly warned of the consequences for this sin: But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it.

Secret Sins are not So Secret

Regrettably, one man named Achan, secretly smuggled some of the devoted items to keep for himself after the walls of Jericho fell. (Joshua 7:1)

Grievously, Achan outright disobeyed the command of God and thought nothing of the warning spoken by God.

Despite God’s clear instructions. Despite God’s ominous warnings. Still, Achan chose to take things that did not belong to Him, but belonged to God.

  • Did Achan think God didn’t mean what He said?
  • Did Achan believe God’s Word was not true?
  • Did Achan really think God didn’t see?
  • Did Achan believe he could bluff God?

All too soon Achan’s choices were laid bare.

Casualties at the Battle of Ai

Immediately following the battle of Jericho, the Israelites set forth to capture the tiny city of Ai, but were unexpectedly defeated and suffered the loss of 36 of their men. Joshua 7:2-9

Joshua was beside himself. He tore his clothes and together with elders of the Israelites, dropped to the ground in utter despair for the remainder of the day. Joshua sought the LORD to ask why He allowed this to happen.

God’s response was straightforward and strong. Joshua 7:11Israel 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.

Though hidden to others, God saw the sin. And Achan’s disbelief, disobedience, arrogance and greed impacted the whole nation.

The Far-Reaching Depths of Sin

This sin went deeper than the greed and theft visible on the surface level. When we look below the surface, the sin is vast and profound. God gave a clear directive concerning the handling of objects they found in Jericho. In addition, God issued a firm warning if anyone disobeyed.

  • Did Achan think God didn’t mean what He said?
  • Did Achan believe God’s Word was not true?
  • Did Achan really think God didn’t see?
  • Did Achan believe he could bluff God?

Imagine for a moment… Achan had witnessed spectacular miracles in the wilderness, a supernatural crossing of the Jordan River and a divine move of God to bring down the walls of Jericho.

  • Didn’t Achan observe God’s power?
  • Didn’t Achan see that God fulfilled every promise and His Word is true?
  • Didn’t Achan experience God’s protection and provision?
  • Did Achan feel he somehow deserved more than his fellow Israelites?
  • Did Achan feel he deserved what was being offered to the LORD?
  • Did Achan believe he could keep this sin hidden from God?

These questions help us consider Achan’s motives more fully and better understand God’s response. As always, we must remember, God looks upon the heart, so His judgments are true. (1 Samuel 16:7)

What was God’s response?

God upheld His truth and His Word AND at the same time, God extended mercy.

God announced, through Joshua, that the next morning the Israelites would be called forward and the LORD would single out the one who had committed this sin. First they would be called forward as a nation, then as tribes, then as clans, then as households until one man was named. One by one by one. Then that man shall be put to death, he and all he has, for his crime against God. Joshua 7:12-15

My first thought was this seemed a harsh punishment. However, as I reflected on the timeline of the miraculous events that had occurred just a day or two prior at the city of Jericho, it really is staggering for Achan to have chosen this flagrant rebellion against God, having fresh in his mind the magnitude of God’s power and the truth of His Word.

God Offers Mercy

Yet even at this juncture, as God spelled out the consequences for this sin, He was operating in overflowing mercy. God stated that one man, and all he had, would be found guilty. God declared the sorting out would begin in the morning.

Right then and there, all evening, all through the night and before the people gathered in the morning, Achan had repeated opportunities to come clean.

God gave Achan every opportunity to step forward in honesty to confess his crime and turn to God in repentance and humility.

  • Yet Achan dug his heels in and held his ground.
  • Yet Achan remained silent.
  • Even as God issued a final warning and provided ample time for confession, Achan clung to his sin instead.
  • Achan risked hurting his family in order to remain in his sin.
  • Achan may have bluffed his comrades, but he did not bluff God.

What happened next?

Joshua gathered the nation of Israel in the morning, as promised. The innocent people were ruled out, just as God said by nation, tribes, clans, households and finally it came down to one man, Achan.

When Achan was singled out, only then did he confess his sin. This was not a voluntary confession. He was pressed into a corner and it was only a matter of time until they searched his tent. Achan admitted that the stolen items were hidden in the earth inside his tent. Joshua and the people of Israel brought Achan and his household to the Valley of Achor, which means Valley of Trouble. There he and his household were put to death, they were burned and stoned. Joshua 7:16-26

Though this story is hard for our modern-day ears to accept, the fact is that no one can enter into God’s promised land of heaven, unless sin has been dealt with.

This quote by Handley Moule seems fitting, “All heresy begins with an inadequate view of sin.”

I mighty humbly add to that, “Resistance to confess sin and turn from sin begins with an inadequate view of God.”

This story captures our age-old dilemma.

God is God and we are not.

God is holy and we are not.

We cannot bluff God. He sees every sin, both external and internal. He is perfect and pure and we cannot enter heaven without dealing with our sin. Yet, thankfully, God is also merciful. How magnificent! He is everything we long for in truth AND He is everything we need in mercy. He is our incredible God of absolute truth and compassionate mercy!

1 John 1:19 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Our story is forever marked by the holiness and mercy of God.

Our pages are forever rewritten by Jesus.

Our final chapter is sealed in Jesus.

Not because God turns a blind eye or pretends He doesn’t see our sins. But because Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on the cross and then extended mercy to all who repent, believe and confess Him as LORD.

One reader contacted me and wondered at the family suffering from the sins of the father. Initially, I wondered at this, as well. However, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God looks upon the heart and God judges justly. Additionally, God is merciful. He has demonstrated His mercy in both the Old and New Testaments. He is a God of mercy. We saw in the Sons of Korah, the Lord spared the sons, despite their fathers’ sins.

Furthermore, I believe if the stolen booty was hidden in the earth, inside the tent… the whole family knew. This is not explicitly stated in the text, but is a reasonable inference.

Therefore, given the easily seen location of the stolen items for family members, combined with truths we know about God’s character, I can rest my limited and quick-to-judge-God mindset to rest.

Jesus is Our Door of Hope

In the Valley of Trouble, Jesus is our door of hope. Against a backdrop of bad choices and sinful habits, stands One who is blameless and pure. One who is God Himself, who absorbed our sin, received our just punishment and then pronounced us “free” in the courtrooms of heaven. We are saved by grace through faith in Jesus’ victory on the cross.

The Lord helped me see connections between the Biblical references to the Valley of Achor (Valley of Trouble). I was fascinated by the way God used what appeared to be a dreadful Biblical story to make clear the reality of our sin and the hope of Christ.

Incredibly, this troubling passage points directly to Christ, as the prophet Hosea speaks of the Valley of Trouble that will be redeemed through a door of hope. This prophetic passage foretells the coming of our Savior as a Bridegroom to redeem His bride, the church. No matter what Valley of Trouble we may be facing today, Jesus is our door of hope!

Hosea 2:14-16, 20-23 – “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. “And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered by name no more.

I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the Lord. “And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’”

Isaiah 65:10 – And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie down in, for my people that have sought me.

John 10:9-10 – I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

Matthew 10:28 – And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

John 3:16-19 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.

Additional Sources and Resources:

I have long struggled to grasp passages like this one in Joshua 7. This sermon by Rico Tice is Biblical, moving and meaningful and helped me understand the deeper concepts that I shared in this article. I strongly encourage anyone who is able to listen to this powerful message: What is Hidden Under Your Tent? By Rico Tice on Truth For Life

Who were the Sons of Korah in the Bible? By Melissa McLaughlin

Is the Fear of the Lord a Good Thing? By Melissa McLaughlin

A Door of Hope in Trouble Valley by David Murray

A Door of Hope in the Valley of Trouble By Jill Briscoe at

Quote by Handley Moule, (23 December 1841 – 8 May 1920) an evangelical Anglican theologian, writer, poet, and Bishop of Durham, a diocese in England, from 1901–1920.