By Russ Ramsey
One time I visited California, and a local friend there drove me past orchards covered in oranges, ripe and ready for harvest. He told me the farmers would not be harvesting that year’s crop from those orchards because the market was so saturated with produce that year, that if they were to sell their entire yield, it actually hurt the farmers financially. So, the government ordered those orchards heavy under the weight of perfect California oranges to remain untouched. My friend said if anyone got caught picking them, they would have to pay a ridiculously steep fine.
I think about that when I read about Achan standing before all that plunder—all those valuable resources that the Lord determined were set apart for destruction. Instead of following the LORD’s command to be consecrated (Joshua 7:13), the temptation got the best of Achan, and he took a little of what he figured no one would miss.
But the Lord knew. Can you imagine the winnowing, when the Lord set Joshua about the business of finding the person who stole the spoils of war? Can you imagine Achan’s slow realization that he was going to be found out, and how dead to rights he must have felt when he was?
This is a hard passage because the Lord’s justice is swift and grim. But God’s people were called to obey, and they knew He was to be the object of their desire. Achan disobeyed this, and the place where he and his family died as a result was turned into a monument—the Valley of Achor—to remind the people of the Lord’s anger toward sin. Imagine living near that monument. Imagine being a child, seeing it and hearing the story. Is there any hope for sinful people in the presence of a holy God?
Later, in the book of Hosea, the Lord tells His prophet that He is going to turn that valley commemorating the wrath of His holy judgment into a gateway to hope where wayward, foolish, rebellious, adulterous, and hard-hearted people will find acceptance and grace. The place where the Lord poured out His wrath toward sin would become a place where God’s people would find confidence in their standing before Him.
How could this happen? The holy anger toward sin the Lord showed to Achan’s family would be poured out on His own Son, once and for all, so that His wrath would be satisfied forever. The Lord did not reconcile us by lowering His perfect standard of holiness. He satisfied it through a substitute—one who would live a perfect life in our place, die a sinner’s death in our place, and defeat the power of the grave, which held no claim on Him, giving us life in His name.
To understand the glory of the work of Christ on our behalf, we should not look past stories like this which show God’s holy wrath on display. We should look deep into them because here we see what Christ redeems us from. God never lowered His standards. Instead, He raised us up to them in Christ.