The Perilous Consequences of Secret Sin

Bible Book: Joshua  7
Subject: Sin, Secret; Sin, Results
Series: The Peril of Secret Sin

This morning I’m bringing the second message in a two-sermon series on “The Peril of Secret Sin.” Last Sunday I dealt with “The Perilous Progression of Secret Sin,” and emphasized how one thing leads to another. We looked at the experience of Achan, an Israelite soldier. The Israelite army, led by Joshua, had conquered the stronghold of Jericho, but before they had even left the premises Achan spied some forbidden objects - an expensive Babylonish garment, some silver, and some gold. Those items, referred to as “accursed,” were absolutely off-limits. God had expressly commanded that Joshua and his soldiers were not to take them.

But in spite of what God had said, Achan continued to gaze longingly at those forbidden objects. He coveted them - and the word “covet” means “to desire that which is unlawful.” Then, his resistance having broken down, his unholy desire erupted into sinful action, and he stole the garment, the silver, and the gold. To make matters even worse, then, he hid those stolen items, hoping to get by with his crime.

Now, with that recap as an introduction, let’s move on. Having looked last Sunday at “The Perilous Progression of Secret Sin,” today I want to speak on “The Perilous Consequences of Secret Sin.”

I. Defeat


Let’s look at Joshua 7:4-5a: “So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down....”

At first Joshua was totally unaware of what Achan had done. But when he sent his troops against the little city of Ai, and that small heathen army completely routed the army of Israel, Joshua knew that something was dreadfully wrong. In his confusion and dismay, he fell on his face before God. The Lord said, “Joshua, the reason you failed to conquer Ai is that there is sin in the camp, and you’ll not have victory again until you root out that sin and deal with it.” So, Joshua launched an investigation and found that Achan was the guilty party. It was because of Achan’s sin that the Israelite army was defeated.

Sin always brings defeat in a person’s life. Oh, you might keep going through the motions, and you might continue to present an outward facade of victory, and you might keep on mouthing the right cliches - but the reality is that if you harbor secret sin you’ll be a defeated individual - meaning that you’ll fall woefully short of your God-given potential; you will miss out on life’s highest and best; you’ll be a shell of what God created you to be. Defeat is always one of the consequences of secret sin.

But not only did Achan, himself, fail, he also caused others to fail. Warren Wiersbe says, “Never underestimate the amount of damage one person can do outside the will of God.” Then he cites several examples - such as the man who was living a flagrantly immoral life in the church in Corinth, and contaminated the whole fellowship. He cites also the example of Jonah who boarded a ship in the process of running from God, and caused trouble for everybody on the ship.

Occasionally someone says, “Oh, I know I shouldn’t be doing this. I know it’s wrong, and I ought to quit - but at least I’m not hurting anyone but myself.” That is a lie from the depths of the bottomless pit. No one is a complete “lone ranger” in this world - although some may think they are. Regardless of your age or station in life, and regardless of how isolated you may think yourself to be, the fact is that you cast a shadow of influence. Some have a wider range of influence than others, but every last one of us impacts other people. Whoever you are, there are some folks who look up to you, and if you do the right thing they follow suit - but if you head down the wrong path, they do the same.

Romans 14:7 says, “For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.” What you do as a husband or wife affects your spouse. What you do as a parent affects your children. What you do as a professing Christian affects other members of your church. An infection in one part of the human body weakens the other parts, and so it is also with the body of Christ. As the late George Truett expressed it, “We are bound together in the bundle of life.”

II. Despair


How unusual to see Joshua in the state of mind that we find him in following Israel’s defeat by Ai. Look at the last part of verse 5 and verses 6-9:

...wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water. And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side of Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?

Apparently that sense of despair permeated the entire camp of Israel - Joshua, the elders, and the whole army.

There is such a thing as clinical depression, due to a chemical imbalance in the body, or for some other physiological cause, not related to any wrongdoing. There is also such a thing as being depressed because of some appalling disappointment in someone you love, or because of some other tragedy that has befallen us and broken our hearts. So, when someone is depressed you and I should never be judgmental toward that person. Their despair may not have anything to do directly with sin.

But on the other hand, despair sometimes is the result of sin - sometimes of secret sin, as in the case of Achan. The guilt, the erosion of self-esteem, the feeling of unworthiness, the fear of being found out - all of that works together to bring a person to the point of despair.

I know some people who, in spite of severe physical problems or other heartbreaking burdens, have a spirit of victory in spite of everything because they’re walking with God and living clean, above-board lives. But if you’re harboring secret sin in your heart, you’ll be miserable even if your circumstances are favorable.

III. Disclosure


Let’s look at verse 13: “Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow: for thus saith the Lord God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you.”

As we read earlier, the next day Joshua confronted Achan, and there was no way out, so Achan confessed. He told Joshua where he had hidden the stolen goods, and in verses 22-23 we read: “So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it. So they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the Lord.”

Of course God knew about it all the time, just as he knows about your sins and mine. Proverbs 15:3 says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.” Hebrews 4:13 says, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.”

Not only does God know about our secret sins, but sooner or later, one way or the other, those sins will cease to be secret - they will be disclosed. Numbers 32:2;3 declares, “ sure your sin will find you out.” Jesus said, in Luke 8:17, “For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid, that shall not be known and come abroad.”

Sometimes our sin finds us out in unexpected ways. I read about a man who had a little daughter, an only child. He loved that child with all his heart. She was the apple of his eye, the delight of his life. Often she would bound into his study where he was working and jump up in his lap, and she would laugh and hug her daddy, and he would laugh and hug her. Then she would go back to her play, and he to his work.

But one day as he sat in his study, he began brooding over the fact that a particular business associate had deeply offended him. The more he thought about it, the angrier he became. His anger grew like a cancer, and he began to plan how he might murder that associate. Just at that moment his little daughter came skipping into the room and started toward his lap, but she stopped suddenly - she was startled at what she saw on her daddy’s face. She didn’t understand it, but she knew that something was terribly wrong. His very countenance disclosed that there was something badly “out of kilter” in his heart.

When you and I harbor secret sin, one way or another it will be disclosed. People may not know the specifics, but they’ll be able to tell that something has gone fearfully awry in our lives. They’ll sense that something is not right.

But even if we should escape being found out in this life, disclosure is certain to come when we stand before God. Ecclesiastes 12:14 says, “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.”

IV. Destruction


We read about the solemn judgment pronounced against Achan and his family in verses 24-26:

And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.

People are often taken aback when they read that. “Why,” they ask, “was his entire family destroyed along with him?” The answer is that apparently they were in collusion with Achan. They conspired with him in hiding what he had done. “Preacher, what do you base that conclusion on?” I base it on Deuteronomy 24:16: “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” So, the members of his family were obviously just as guilty as Achan.

Someone says, “But that still seems like an inordinately harsh penalty.” Admittedly, there is considerable mystery as to why God punished their sin in that extreme way - but it helps to bear in mind two facts:

(1) Remember that Achan, because of his sin, was responsible for the death of 36 soldiers who were killed in the battle against Ai.

(2) And, there is a second thing to keep in mind - and I’m going to make what may be the ultimate understatement: God knows some things that you and I don’t know. There may have been some factors in this situation that aren’t recorded here. For instance, for all you and I know, Achan and his family may have been frequent offenders. God may have warned them time and time again, and may have been exceedingly longsuffering with them, but maybe it had finally reached the point that God said, “Enough.” The poet said, “There is a line by us unseen, That crosses every path, The hidden boundary between God’s patience and his wrath.” Perhaps Achan and his family had crossed that line.

While there is still a lot of mystery about the matter, remember that God is just. He never makes mistakes. He loves us, but sometimes for the sake of the larger, long-term good, he takes drastic measures. He is all-wise, and for reasons known to himself God concluded that in that particular point in history, in that specific instance, under those particular circumstances, such a drastic penalty was needed.

Obviously he doesn’t always take those extreme measures in dealing with our sins. But you can be certain that sin always brings destruction of one kind or another. Sometimes it destroy homes, or health. It often destroys relationships. And it most certainly will destroy one’s happiness, sense of self-worth, and influence.

At some point - perhaps in this life, but for certain in eternity - our sins will catch up with us. Proverbs 11:3 says, “...the perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.” Galatians 6:7 warns, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”

Secret sin, as well as open sin, is perilous. In the case of Achan and the Israelite army, it brought defeat, despair, disclosure, and destruction - and if you and I allow secret sin to remain in our lives, we will also experience disastrous consequences.


The late Dr. George Truett told about a family that he knew in his boyhood days. That family went through a terrible siege of malaria. One family member would seem to be getting well, then another would go down. The nausea, the weakness, the awful aching went on for months. Finally the old family doctor said, “There is some local cause. Let’s see what there is about this house that has caused all this trouble.” They went over the entire premises, and finally found that in the cellar under the house there was a pool of filthy, stagnant water that apparently had been standing for a long time. The old doctor said, “Let this cellar be completely cleaned out, be utterly renovated or this sickness will persist with increasing severity.” They did as the old doctor insisted, and eventually the scourge was ended, and they all recovered.

When the hidden sin was rooted out from amidst the army of Israel, they again prospered. When you and I root out the hidden sins in our lives, confess them, and through Christ ask for forgiveness, God can then bless us and give us victory.

If you’re not a Christian, our Lord stands ready to save you if you’ll meet his two non-negotiable conditions. The first condition for receiving God’s wonderful gift of eternal life is repentance. In Acts 17:30 we read, “ commandeth all men everywhere to repent.” The other condition is faith. Acts 16:31 says, “...Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved....” The faith of which the Bible speaks is a faith which involves a total surrender of yourself to the crucified, risen, living Christ - which surrender will result, then, in a daily walk that honors God. 1 John 1:7 says, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

If you’re already a Christian, but you’ve gotten off the track of God’s will, heed the words of Lamentations 3:40: “Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord.” Then you can claim the marvelous, encouraging promise of 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”