There is a common thought among people that God’s commands are burdensome. Therefore we act the way we like quite often clearly going against the command of God.
Then we use mainly two reasons to justify our actions: The first reason is that what we do is of little consequence and the second is that we wanted to obey God in the way we thought best.
Both these attitudes are sin. The first thought is wrong because every sin, small or big, has consequences. And often the consequences affect more people than you can imagine. The second thought is wrong because the Bible tells us that substituting our ideas in the place of God’s command is totally unacceptable to God.
The Bible gives us two incidents in which the commands of God were disobeyed for the above said two reasons. In both the instances the sin was exposed. And the result was destruction and loss.
Example 1: Achan (Joshua 6,7)
God had commanded Joshua and the Israelites to take the city of Jericho. They were given specific instructions as to how to march around the city for seven days. On the seventh day they had to march around the city seven times.
After the march on the seventh day, as they were about to shout when the priests sounded the trumpet, Joshua told the people to keep away from the devoted things. These were the articles of gold, silver, iron and bronze which were sacred to the Lord and had to go into His treasury.
Joshua told the people that everything in the city was devoted to the Lord. That meant that every living being was to be destroyed and every other thing destroyed completely except for the articles mentioned above.
But Joshua asked the people to spare Rahab the prostitute and all her family because she had helped the Israelites to spy out the land. Joshua further warned the people that if they took any of the devoted things they would bring destruction on themselves and also make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it.
After this warning the trumpets sounded and the people shouted. The city fell. And the Israelites got a major victory. But later when the Israelites tried to attack Ai, a city with a few people, they defeated the Israelites killing thirty-six of them. The people lost courage. Joshua fell facedown on the ground.
But God asked him to get up. He told Joshua that Israel had sinned by taking some of the devoted things. God also said that because of this they have been made liable to destruction and that He would not be with Israel unless they destroyed whatever among them was devoted to destruction.
The next day, according to the Lord’s command, the person who had stolen the devoted things was found out. He was Achan of the tribe of Judah. He had coveted and taken a beautiful babylonian robe, some silver and a wedge of gold and hidden them under his tent.
Then they took all these, and Achan with his entire family and livestock, his tent and all that he had to the valley of Achor. There they stoned them and burned them. Only then did the anger of the Lord subside. Then the Israelites had victory in war.
We find here a pattern emerge. First, God gives a specific command about devoted things; things that need to be destroyed and things that need to be given to God’s treasury. Then we find disobedience on the part of Achan. He stole the devoted things and sinned by violating God’s command.
The consequence was that Israelites lost the battle against Ai. Again we find that as the cause for defeat was sought out the sin was exposed. And Achan found out that his sin brought loss in life and property to his entire household. So we find here the pattern of Command » Disobedience » Sin Exposed » Loss.
Example 2: Saul (1 Samuel 15)
God gave Saul the king of Israel an important message through Prophet Samuel. The importance of the message was obvious because Samuel prefaced his message by saying: “I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord” (1 Samuel 15:1 NIV).
He added that God wanted Saul to attack the Amalekites to punish them for waylaying the people of Israel when they had come out of Egypt. The command was to totally destroy everything that belonged to them.
Here also, we find Saul sparing the Kenites who lived among the Amalekites. He asked them to leave the Amalekites so that he would not destroy them along with the Amalekites. The reason was that the Kenites had shown kindness to the Israelites when they had come out of Egypt.
Then Saul attacked the Amalekites. He destroyed all the people but took their king Agag alive. They also spared the best of all livestock. The weak ones they destroyed but everything that was good they spared. But what Saul had done had grieved the Lord.
And God spoke to Samuel saying that Saul had turned away from Him by not carrying out His commands. And Samuel was troubled and cried out to the Lord all that night.
The next day he went to Saul who had in turn erected a monument in his own honor. When Samuel asked about the bleating of sheep and the lowing of cattle, Saul replied that the best of them had been spared to sacrifice to the Lord. But Samuel reminded him that God had sent him to totally destroy the Amalekites. Instead he had pounced on the plunder to do evil in the eyes of the Lord.
Saul objected to this. He said that he had indeed obeyed the Lord. He had destroyed every Amalekite but only brought back alive Agag their king. And he said that the soldiers had taken the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord.
To this statement Samuel replied by stating that the Lord delighted in obedience much more than in sacrifices and burnt offerings. He added that obedience is better than sacrifice.
Saul admitted to Samuel that he had sinned by giving in to the desires of his soldiers. And he wanted Samuel to go back with him to worship God. Samuel refused by saying that he will not go with Saul because God had rejected him as king because he had rejected the word of the Lord.
As Samuel turned to leave Saul took hold of his robe and it tore. Then Samuel told Saul that God had thus torn the kingdom of Israel from his hand and given it to one better than him.
We find here a similar pattern emerge. First, God gives an absolute command to totally destroy the Amalekites. Then we find disobedience on the part of Saul. He sinned by violating God’s command by sparing Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle.
Even though there was an apparent victory over the Amalekites God had taken note of the sin. And God exposed to Samuel the sin of Saul even before Samuel had visited Saul.
The result of this disobedience of God’s command was that God tore away Saul’s kingdom away from his hand. Saul had chosen to worship God through sacrifice. But here it was rejected because it was disobedience to God’s specific command. And what he thought was best became sin. This sin was then exposed which resulted in the loss of his kingdom. So we find here the pattern of Command » Disobedience » Sin Exposed » Loss.
God’s commands are to be obeyed. And when these commands are disobeyed it becomes sin. Achan thought that no one might know when he coveted and stole the devoted things. Therefore to cover up his sin he hid them.
Saul thought he was serving God best by sparing the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord. So he paraded them. Yet both of their actions were disobedience and therefore sin.
What we should learn is that even small disobedience has great consequences. We cannot steal from what belongs to God and remain guiltless. The hidden sin will be exposed and it will make us liable to destruction.
Also substituting our own ideas in place of God’s command will also have dire consequences. Whatever God commands us to destroy has to be totally destroyed. Sparing them or parading them for even the best reasons will result in loss.
Sin that comes in the form of stealing and hiding or sin that comes in the form of good intentions; both will be exposed. Both kinds of action end in loss.