How an ‘INDIVIDUAL’s SIN’ affects a whole CONGREGATION? But the children of Israel committed a trespass regarding the accursed things, for Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed things; so the anger of the Lord burned against the children of Israel. So the Lord said to Joshua: "Get up! Why do you lie thus on your face? Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them." (Josh 7:1, 10-11)
If Rahab the Amorite prostitute found mercy and grace from God in the midst of judgment (6:25), the story of Achan is a reminder of the holiness of God which we can never take for granted (24:19; Num. 17:11–13). This is the first instance of disobedience in the Promised Land, and this incident and its lesson for Israel are recalled at a later time (22:18–20). Although the offense was committed by one man, we see that the entire country of Israel is involved and affected adversely (v. 11; 22:18).
We know that Joshua had specifically told the Israelites not to take anything from Jericho for it was cursed: "And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it" (Josh 6:18). However, a man named Achan took some of the plunder that belonged to the Lord (6:19) and kept it for himself (7:1). This set in motion a series of disasters that affected not only him but also the whole community. Achan alone had defied the ban, but his disobedience is seen as that of the whole nation because of God’s principle of corporate solidarity. No person sins alone!
God had not forsaken Israel; the people had forsaken God. Achan’s trespass, which was a treacherous violation, compromised the holiness of the entire nation of Israel. As a covenant nation, Israel functioned under the twin mandates of corporate solidarity (Deut. 6:18) and individual responsibility (Deut. 24:16). Accordingly, Israel had committed a trespass (v. 11) in Achan’s sin. The incident was serious because such transgression compromised the holiness of God (Deut. 9:26–29).
Let us understand that we never sin alone, and sin ultimately brings defeat in our lives and in the lives of those around us. God sees His people as one just as the sin of Achan was the sin of the whole nation and caused the death of 36 innocent soldiers. Likewise, our individual sin affects the holiness of our entire congregation since together we are the corporate body of Christ (see 1 Cor. 12:12–27).
Our Lord Jesus Christ has promised that where two or three are gathered together in His name, He is there in the midst of them (Matt 18:20). However, individual sin will seriously deter Jesus from working among and through His people! Let us be careful that we are never the stumbling block (like Achan) that prevents the people of God to rise up in victory as a corporate body of Christ.