I turn into a self-righteous hypocrite when I study the Old Testament. Don’t these people get it? God is holy! They go for a while in their obedience, and then they get soft in their wealth and military victories and start coloring outside the lines of God’s commands. Morons!
Oh wait. I have idols in my own life. I tell God what I’m going to do and not do. And while I’m pretty sure my church will not gather around me and stone me for disobedience, when I stray, I willingly participate in my own lukewarmed-ness. My own draining of the power of God that can move a mountain. I want Holy fire! And it doesn’t come when I make my heart full of my self. Then, what do I need to do with my heart?
Submit. Ahhhh. As a woman, it brings to mind a picture of a man abusing his power, of a bugzapper God out to get anyone who would ever dare have an original thought. Please God, if I give You my heart, if I hand over my dreams, will I turn into a Jesus robot?
So, do we have to obey God’s commands, give Him our complete heart? Go ask Achan. Joshua 7:1-26. He’s a guy who wrestles with things most people wrestle with, but went on to pay an awful price. Joshua 7:1 explains that Achan defied God by taking some property during battles. What would a little bit of that pagan person’s stuff really do? What’s the harm? Well, evidently a lot.
Two things that come to mind as I lean into this disconcerting passage are:
1: Our disobedience doesn’t just affect us. Joshua 7:4-5 “So about three thousand went up; but they were routed by the men of Ai, who killed about thirty-six of them. They chased the Israelites from the city gate as far as the stone quarries and struck them down on the slopes. At this the hearts of the people melted in fear and became like water.” The Israelites were used to winning battles, but they were defeated by underdogs. Achan’s choosing to stray from God affected all of Israel. God puts us in relationship with other believers and non-believers for a reason. He wants to bless us and grow His Kingdom. The fertile ground of a trusting heart is the best place to grow faith. A faith that is contagious to others. What do we and others miss out on because we have cafeteria-style belief?
2: God’s love and holiness are intertwined. Joshua 7:10-12 “The LORD said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions.” God’s holiness was violated and there was a consequence. And what was stolen? “Devoted things” among them most likely pagan idols of worship—things that God knew would pollute His people and lead them far away from the abundant life. Out of God’s big love for us, He gives us commands. It is our own limited thinking that labels God’s holiness as oppressive. He is both perfect love and perfect holiness. Focusing on one without the other leads to a foggy understanding of God.
God is not a Hallmark Card. Neither is He a Bugzapper. If He was either, the cross wouldn’t have happened. God’s blessing flows into hearts that follow Him and don’t justify sin. We confess sin like Joshua, and accept God’s forgiveness, moving forward obediently with a heart submitted to God..