Just How Important are Your Actions?
- 2008 17 Nov
Have you ever wondered if your actions matter at all or if anything you do amounts to a change in the world’s history? For that matter, your own history?
One Important Paragraph
In the book of Joshua, in its 6th chapter, and between the 17th and 19th verses, we find the names of two important people:
- Rahab, and
Joshua was about to lead the people of Israel into their very first battle toward conquering the Promised Land. They had traveled far and for a very long time. The generation who had witnessed Moses’ deliverance of the Hebrew slaves from Egypt, who had crossed the Red Sea on dry land, who had witnessed the presence of God as He spoke with Moses, and who had wandered in the desert for nearly thirty years, arguing and complaining, crying and moaning, had died. A new generation had been circumcised and had tasted the joy of the Passover celebration (Joshua 5). It was now time to do what they’d come to do.
Joshua 2 tells us that the actions of the advancing Hebrews would come as no surprise to the residents of Jericho.
Joshua had sent two spies into the fortified city; they entered into the house of a prostitute, Rahab. Rahab, in an act of bravery and honesty, hid the spies from the king’s men sent to bring them out (no doubt for killing). Such an act on Rahab’s part held two possible consequences:
- Death (if caught), or
- Life (if taken into the protective order of the spies).
Rahab laid her bets on the second. She lied to the king’s men, deceiving them as to where the spies had ventured off to, and then, when they had gone, gave the spies some pretty valuable information.
"I know that the Lord has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. (Joshua 2: 9b-11)
Then she asked the spies to promise that when they returned to conquer Jericho, they would spare the lives of her and her family. The men swore an oath (Our lives for your lives!) to do just that.
Later, when the Hebrew army prepared to take victorious possession of the city, Joshua said, “The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent.” (Joshua 6: 17)
So, what happened? Jericho fell. Literally. The walls collapsed, the Hebrews charged in, and—as in accordance to God’s orders—they destroyed every living thing… except Rahab and her family.
If this sounds harsh to you—and just so unlike the loving God you serve—remember that while the Hebrews might not have necessarily been violent by nature, they had been led by one baby boy who’d escaped the brutal killing of all Hebrew boys when their predecessors were slaves in Egypt. That one ... that one who got away … hidden in the reeds of the Nile by his sister and raised in the palace by Pharaoh’s daughter… returned forty years after his flight from Egypt, only to orchestrate the release of all his kin and then to lead a homeless people for the next four decades toward the promise of freedom and land.
He was only one but, with God, he was a powerful one.
Rahab was only one, too. Because of her actions, she saved the lives of her family and “all who belonged to her” (6:25). And, we know that she went on to marry a Hebrew man named Salmon, gave birth to a son named Boaz, who married a girl named Ruth, who had a son named Obed, who had a grandson named David, who became a great king and ancestor of the Great King, Jesus (ironically, named Yeshua, or Joshua).
Look again at the paragraph of verses in Joshua 6. After ordering that Rahab and her family be saved, Joshua states, “But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it.” (6:18)
In the South, where I grew up, we have a way of speaking to “you.” If we say, “all y’all” we mean “every one of all of you who happen to be here or to whom we are speaking of.” If we say “y’all” we mean “just you.”
“Why don’t all y’all come over to my house for snacks?” means everyone within earshot and perhaps even a few people you might pick up along the way. (Southerners are known for their hospitality!)
“Why don’t y’all come over to my house for snacks?” means the person speaking is asking the person being spoken to, to come over for snacks.
Pretty easy to understand, no?
When Joshua was speaking to the Hebrew warriors—those fighting men—he was not speaking to the group as a whole, he was speaking to each man individually. Each man was to guard himself from the temptation of taking anything of value from the city.
These words aptly apply to us today. 2 Corinthians 6:17 says, "Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you." Ephesians 5:11 says, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” James 1:27 says, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. And, 1 John 5:21 says, “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”
You will … Joshua says. You. Will.
Ecclesiastes 9:18 says, Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.” One sinner, Solomon (we believe) wrote. One.
Within the next few paragraphs of Joshua’s book, we read of Achan’s sin. What was it? He took those things that should be devoted to God for himself. The interesting thing about his sin is this: Joshua 7:1 says, “But the Israelites acted unfaithfully in regard to the devoted things; Achan son of Carmi, the son of Zimri, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah took some of them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel.”
In the battle against Ai, thirty-six men lost their lives.
Though this was the act of one man, the entire nation of Israel was held accountable. In the end, Achan and his family, along with his cattle, donkeys, and sheep and those things he should not have taken were killed and/or burned.
Perhaps in your way of thinking the punishment was pretty severe. But this is a lesson in one unchangeable truth about our God: He is serious about His children following His law and commandments. He is serious about our setting ourselves apart from anything which would hinder us from everything He has in store for us, most especially His love for us and His desire that we should intimately know Him.
The Choice is Ours
Rahab made a choice and saved not only herself but her whole family. She is counted among the Hall of Faith in Hebrew 11. She is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1. James wrote in his epistle that she was considered righteous.
But Achan’s choice cost him his life and the lives of his family, his livestock, and thirty-six soldiers.
And you? When you hear God’s voice—whether through prayer, by the reading of His Word, or from the wisdom of those God has sent to minister to you—do you listen and make the wise choices of God or do you touch and take those things forbidden you? Those things that, in the end, will be rendered useless except to separate you from God?
Just how powerful is “one?” Just how much can “one” do, in the life of himself or in the lives of others? I’d say, “Pretty powerful!” The choice is all up to… you.
Eva Marie Everson is the coauthor of Reflections of God’s Holy Land: A Personal Journey Through Israel (Thomas Nelson/Nelson Bibles). She is an award-winning author and speaker. To book Eva Marie for your next speaking event, contact The Nashville Speakers Bureau.