Do you truly love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength?
Or has something taken God’s place in your heart?
You’re constantly bombarded with the ‘grass is greener’ mentality, coming at you from all directions. And, if you’re not careful, you buy into it.
You think that new holiday will fix your weary heart.
You think that new dress will help you look more acceptable.
You think that new home will boost your social status.
So you spend more and more and more, without ever finding the satisfaction that you crave.
Holidays and dresses and houses aren’t sinful in and of themselves. So what’s the problem?
The same as always: your heart.
IDOLATRY’S ROOT AND FRUIT
There’s a deep-rooted focus in your heart, and whatever it is directed at will become a consuming idol that must be obtained.
It will drive you to covet things, even though you’ve been commanded not to:
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbor. (Exodus 20:17)
Basically, it boils down to this: Greed.
Which, as Colossians 3:5 tells us, “amounts to idolatry”.
A covetous heart is one of idolatry. It wants what it doesn’t have, yet when it gets it, is never satisfied with what it has. It wants more. And more. And more…
The end results? Sin. Grief. Despair. A fractured relationship with God. Wasted time, effort and opportunities. Regret.
Oh, those somehow seem like the very last things that the object of your desire could ever bring. But just as Eve felt shame after tasting the fruit in the garden of Eden (see Genesis 3:7-8), so it is with getting what you’ve been coveting. That which once appeared so sweet and desirable quickly reveals its bitterness and repulsiveness (see Proverbs 11:6).
One person who discovered this was Achan. We read of him in Joshua 7 (though his tragic legacy is mentioned once again in Joshua 22).
In Joshua 6, Jericho fell to Joshua, who said to the people:
…Shout! For the Lord has given you the city. The city shall be under the ban, it and all that is in it belongs to the Lord; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in the house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. But as for you, only keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet them and take some of the things under the ban, and make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it. But all the silver and gold and articles of bronze and iron are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord. (Joshua 7:16-19)
The word ‘covet’ used in verse 18 translates literally as “devote”.
The people were not to devote themselves to those things which were ‘under the ban,’ so that the camp of Israel would not be accursed because of their idolatry.
But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban, for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban, therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel. (Joshua 7:1)
Not all desire is coveting, and therefore, not all desire is wrong. It’s okay to earnestly desire things that are pleasing to God.
To covet is to desire, for selfish motives, those things which you do not have, or are not permitted to have.
Achan desires what he’s not permitted to have.
The spoil of Jericho has been banned from the camp of Israel. The precious metal items are to be given to the Lord – a living illustration that only God is worthy to receive riches and honor and blessing (see Revelation 5:12).
But soon the truth of Numbers 32:23 is revealed:
…be sure your sin will find you out.
Joshua sets out to conquest Ai, but Israel is defeated and “the hearts of the people melted and became as water” (Joshua 7:5). Bewildered, Joshua cries out to God, asking why He brought them there only to be defeated (see Joshua 7:6-9).
The Lord replies that Israel “has sinned” and that “they have even taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they have also put them among their own things…they have become accursed.” (see Joshua 7:10-12)
Then, Joshua hears these chilling words from the Lord:
…I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy the things under the ban from your midst.
Joshua is then instructed to gather the tribes in the morning and to stone and burn the person who is found guilty (along with everyone and everything belonging to him) because he has “transgressed the covenant of the Lord” and has “committed a disgraceful thing” (see Joshua 7:13-15).
The next morning, Achan is revealed as the disgraceful transgressor:
“Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, I implore you, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him; and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me.”
So Achan answered Joshua and said, “Truly, I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.” (Joshua 7:19-21)
Have you ever noticed how sin has a domino effect?
Achan “coveted them”, breaking the 10th commandment, then he “took them”, breaking the 8th commandment (see Exodus 20:15). Then, he hid them in his tent.
Isn’t it true that when you have something that is innocent and permitted, there is no need to hide it, yet when you possess something that is forbidden, hiding it is standard practice?
You can see this as far back as the Garden when Adam and Eve tried to hide from the Lord after sinning against Him in their own idolatry and theft. (see Genesis 3:8-10).
As a result of Achan’s idolatry, theft and deception, “the silver, the mantle, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him” were “stoned with stones” and “burned with fire” – along with Achan himself. (see Joshua 7:24-26).
WHAT’S YOUR IDOL?
What about you? Are there idols hidden in your camp, concealed under your tent?
The account of Achan clearly demonstrates the danger of idolatry – how it can make you sin and how fatal that sin can be.
Jeremiah 17:9 warns that “the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick”.
As a result of this default tendency to sin, idols are embraced, whether through ignorance or intention.
You shall have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:3)
Oh, the idols may not be made of gold or silver like Achan’s were, but anything that takes the place of the Lord in your life is an idol.
Your idol may be your husband, your child, your parent, your career, your mentor, your money – or your pursuit of any of these.
Whose will are you seeking to do in your life – yours, or God’s? Is there something you do or have that doesn’t honor God that you refuse to give up? Is there something you desperately want or feel that you need to have in order to be happy, healthy, wealthy or more accepted?
Things that are not sinful in and of themselves can end up becoming idols when you allow your heart to greedily desire what you don’t think you have enough of, or what you don’t have at all.
The idolatrous heart is one that whispers, “More… more… more…”
UNEARTHING THE HIDDEN OBJECTS
Is there something that has taken the Lord’s place in your heart?
Is there an idol in your camp?
I urge you to examine yourself today (see 2 Corinthians 13:5) and repent of any idolatry that comes to light as you do so. Then, kneel before “the throne of grace” so that you may “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (see Hebrews 4:16).
And if you need prayer, I’d be glad to approach the throne for and with you. Just visit this page to send your request.
>>> LIVING IT OUT >>>
PRAY: Confess your coveting to the Lord. Repent for placing people or objects higher in your heart than you’ve placed Him. And ask Him to help you love Him fully with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.
STUDY: Joshua 7. Reflect on Achan’s desire, motives, actions and consequences, and whether or not there are idols in your own heart that you need to deal with.
REMEMBER: God is the living God. All ‘gods’ and idols are worthless. He alone is worthy of praise, honor, and devotion. In Him, you have all that you could ever need (see 2 Peter 1:3). In Him, you have redemption, forgiveness, and hope (see Colossians 1:14; 1 Peter 1:3-4).
→ Could your blog or work-from-home business be an idol? Click to read: Christian Blogger, Are You Making This Huge Mistake?