"Neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed thing from among you." Joshua 7:12

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Do you know what happened in the Valley of Achor? It's a sad story in the Bible. The Israelites had just made it to God's promised land. They had just won a glorious victory at Jericho. They were fearless against their enemies ... until they went to battle the people of Ai. The Israelites were so confident that they were going to easily defeat Ai, they decided not to send their whole army, but only about three thousand men. But, when the Israelites reached Ai, they fled from before their enemies because God was not with them any more.

What happened? I thought God would never leave His people. I thought God was going to subdue kingdoms for His people. What the Israelites didn't know was that there was sin in the camp.

There was this man, Achan, of the Tribe of Judah, who had seen a beautiful Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold. Not only did he see these spoils of war after defeating Jericho, but it says that he "coveted" them (Joshua 7:21). But, the sin didn't stop there. He entertained that sin and allowed it to grow. He not only coveted these "accursed" items, but he took them. But, he was savvy enough not to parade these items to all his Israelite friends. He took them and buried them under the earth in the middle of his tent. He knew what he did wasn't right. But, you have to wonder how much enjoyment he found in those beautiful items buried in dirt, always fearful that someone might find out. What a life, huh? Sort of like sin today, it looks like it will be fun, but, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).

But, because of this one man's sin, Israel fell before the people of Ai, the city that they were supposed to easily defeat. After the embarrassing defeat, Joshua and the elders fell upon their faces and sought Yahweh all day (how often do we today prostrate ourselves before God all day until we hear from Him?). And Yahweh said, "Wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. ... thou canst not stand before thine enemies until ye take away the accursed thing from among you." (Joshua 7:10-11, 13)

You should read the whole story in chapter 7 of Joshua. One by one, the tribes and families of Israel were brought before the Lord. Achan did not confess his sin until he was pinpointed by God. Then, he finally confessed what he had done. Unfortunately, it was too late. By the commandment of God, Achan, his whole family and everything he owned was stoned and burned by the Israelites in the Valley of Achor. The very saddest element of sin is that it usually doesn't just hurt the sinner. In Achan's case, he hurt all the Israelites and destroyed his whole family and himself.

This seems very gruesome to us today. In the days of Moses and Joshua, the people were living under commandments and judgement. Today, because of our Lord Yeshua, we are living under the grace of God. We don't face punishments of that sort. But, these stories are still important examples for the church today. "Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come." (1 Corinthians 10:11)

How does this affect us today? Are we going to steal some gold, silver or fancy duds? Probably not. But, we can bury sins deep in our hearts, sins that no one else can see. Those of us who are savvy Christians, we know how to act amongst our brethren. We know when to smile, when to clap our hands; we know how to raise our arms in praise, talk in tongues; we know how to act in front of the pastor. We can do everything that's expected of us and look like perfect Christians on the outside and have sin buried deep in our hearts, where we think no one can see it. But, God sees it. God knows it's there. And you will not be able to get true victory in your life until you "take away the accursed thing from among you."

What happens is we first see that accursed thing that looks all so beautiful. Then, we start to entertain thoughts about it. Wouldn't it be nice ... then, covetousness enters into our hearts. We get to wanting that thing so badly it consumes us. Next thing we know, we try it. But, we can't tell anyone at church; they'd be shocked. So, we hide it. Can't really even enjoy it because we're trying to balance between a phony Christian facade and the pleasures of sin. "No man can serve two masters." (Matthew 6:24) Whoever commits sin, is the servant of sin (John 8:34). So, you have to make up your mind, do you want to serve God or sin?

The sad thing is, you can stop your entire church from victory because of your hidden sin. You can destroy your family because of hidden sin. It doesn't matter how well you think you've hidden it in the recesses of your heart, God sees it.

Whatever it takes, we have to get rid of any sin in our camp. Do you realize that God cannot, by His word, answer your prayer if you regard sin in your heart?

"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me" Psalm 66:18

That means you're looking at it, you're entertaining the thought of sin in your heart. You may not have carried through yet, but you're thinking about it; you're regarding it.

Yeshua said it even stronger, "If you look on a woman to lust after her, you've already committed adultery with her in your heart." (Matthew 5:28) The Lord is specifically talking about adultery, but it can be any sin. Whatever the sin is, it originates in the heart. It doesn't matter how well we can hide it from everyone else, it's there. Maybe you never even act upon it in the flesh, but if it's in your heart, it will rob you of victory in God.

The bottom line is that it has to be expelled from the heart. Yeshua said, "If your right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell." (Matthew 5:29) In other words, whatever it is, we've got to do whatever it takes to get rid of it.

Remember, God is always here to help you in all your needs. "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil" is built into the Lord's prayer. God will not let you be tempted above what you are able to handle; he will always make a way for you to escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). He will help you overcome if you will be honest with him, confess it and ask for His help to purge it from your life. The Lord ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25). He is always a very present help in the time of need. When we are being tempted is a very needy time. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1)

You know, Psalms is not only a book of praise and worship, but some of the most beautiful, heartfelt prayers may be found in Psalms. If you want to learn how to pray, hang out with David (and other psalmists) in Psalms. That man prayed.

Here are a few examples of how he asked God to cleanse him from the heart out. By the way, one of the most beautiful psalms of David in which he asks God to cleanse him (after he committed murder and adultery) is the entire Psalm 51. Read the whole psalm, but here are a few select verses.

"Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest." Psalm 51:2-4

"Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom. Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. " Psalm 51:6-7

"Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee." Psalm 51:10-13

"Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults. Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Yahweh, my strength, and my redeemer." Psalm 19:12-14

"I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Yahweh; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah." Psalm 32:5

How do I know about the Valley of Achor? Because I've been there. I know God can give you the victory over whatever it is that needs to be purged from your heart. Believe me, whatever it is, is not worth losing eternal life for. If it's not the will of God, it will only mess up your life anyhow. You don't have my word on that, you have God's. It's for our own best interest (not to mention, those around us) to get rid of the accursed thing no matter how well hidden it may be.

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