In about 125 words, the story of Achan (from the book of Joshua, chapter 7) goes something like this:
After 40 years in the desert, God’s people finally enter the promised land. Joshua, their leader, is the man. The bible says that God “is with him,” and so the Israelites conquer Jericho and are feeling pretty good about their new, non-desert life.
In enters this guy, Achan, who secretely violates the holy curse by plundering some stuff God forbid him to take.
Meanwhile, Joshua sends 3,000 men to defeat another city (Ai) which was supposed to be an easy victory. BUT because of Achan’s disobedience the entire army of 3,000 men die in a military disaster.
Joshua is beside himself. He’s confused and ashamed. God tells him this defeat happened because of Achan’s sin and so Achan and his entire family are stoned and then burned in what becomes known as the Valley of Achor, a.k.a. Trouble Valley.
So here’s what I’m in the midst of experiencing and struggling with: why do 3,000 people have to die because of Achan’s disobedience? Was that magnitude of a loss to the Israelite community really necessary? Shouldn’t his own family’s death be enough to pay for Achan’s individual sin?
So many people suffering the consequences of one man’s actions and lack of foresight is a hard reality for me to grasp. And this kind of collateral damage isn’t a biblical anomaly. And it’s certainly not a life anomaly.
I don’t think there is a straightforward answer; not one that we’ll get or understand in this life. But what is even crazier about this story is that God uses the Valley of Achor, Trouble Valley as it’s called, as a symbol for his redemptive work in the world.
In Isaiah (ch. 65) God talks about turning the Valley of Achor into a resting place and then in Hosea (ch. 2) he promises to make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. This is the same phrasing that Jesus uses in John (ch. 10) when he says he is the gate/door, the only place where people can enter into real life.
SUMMARY- God takes the hard reality of Achan’s sin, 3,000 deaths and the murder of a family, and turns it into a beautiful picture of his saving grace and redemptive purposes within the greater narrative of our Story.
It’s hope and promise that comes through suffering and pain. It’s confusing. It’s scary. It’s hard for me to grasp. Yet it’s something I desperately want to believe in. And it’s a reality (a tension!) that I trust is holding my life and our world together in this very moment.
We need only to enter through the gate…