On Achan, Canaan, Hardened Hearts And Salvation
Posted by Job on October 28, 2008
Decided to start reading the book of Joshua recently to revisit an Old Testament theophany, more specifically the appearance of the pre – incarnate Jesus Christ (Christophany) to Joshua before the battle of Jericho as mentioned in Joshua 5:13 – 6:5. Of course, the fascinating narrative of Joshua is hard to put down once you have begun it, and before long I was well into stories of battlefield conquest. Two things made no sense to me.
1. Achan. First off, this fellow tries to make off with 200 pieces of silver (ten times the amount that Joseph was sold for … further Judas Iscariot was paid 30 pieces of silver and the price of the land in Zechariah 11 was 30 pieces, so we are talking about a substantial sum of money) and enough gold to make 50 pieces (where silver is now trading at $15 per ounce, gold is now $750 per ounce, so his 50 pieces of gold was actually worth 250 pieces of silver)? As if Israel had some sort of underground black market economy or some way of laundering money so everyone wouldn’t have known where he got all that gold and silver from. And what was this fellow going to do with a BABYLONIAN suit? Like he would have been able to prance around ISRAEL wearing a suit from BABYLON as if he was Joseph wearing the coat of many colors made by Jacob? By the way, I am certain that the writers of Joshua did not include the fact that the clothing was Babylonian or that Achan called it “goodly” as mere detail. Instead, I believe the fact that Achan even wanted something from the place that represents not only sin and wickedness but creation’s brazen willful defiance against the authority and rule of God was recorded to demonstrate Achan’s spiritual condition, which was so bad that Achan not only saw and desired things that he was not to have (lust of the eyes), but committed a high handed sin against God by taking something that he had no practical way of benefitting from (unless he was going to prance around in his Babylonian clothes in his tent or spend maybe one or two gold and silver coins a year to keep from being found out). Achan reminds me of James 1:14-15 which reads “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” So again, I am certain that Achan saw and desired something from Babylon, the place where all men came together to build a tower as a symbol of human pride and power that rejects and sets itself against God, because that was where his sinful heart always was.
2. The issue of hearts brings us to the Canaanites. The Bible makes it clear that everyone had heard the path of genocidal destruction that Israel was making, and that they knew that the reason was not Israel’s military might (please recall God’s refusing allow Israel to own chariots, which should be a lesson to politically conservative Christians who all but worship the military industrial complex and would rather see tax revenue go to yet another aircraft carrier or nuclear submarine than to roads, bridges, levees etc.) but rather YHWH fighting on their behalf, making them unbeatable. So … why didn’t they petition the Israelites for peace as the Gibeonites did? Or better yet … WHY DIDN’T THEY JUST LEAVE? Being a war refugee beats being dead. Now maybe if you are a king, noble, or someone else of great power, wealth and esteem the perhaps you would prefer death to living as a landless powerless wanderer. (Then again, the elites could have taken their riches with them and used it to buy a life of relative comfort somewhere else maybe?) But what of the poor, who already had nothing and hence had nothing to lose? Why did they consent to certain death as being grist for Israel’s war machine?
Well the answer is given in Joshua 11:20 – “For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.” You might recognize that term as being applied to pharaoh in Exodus 7:2-4 “Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land. And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and multiply my signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh shall not hearken unto you, that I may lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth mine armies, and my people the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great judgments.” So it would seem that the problem of the Canaanites was the same as that of Achan the covetor of Babylonian clothes that he could never wear in public: a desperately wicked heart.
So it was God’s will that these people be destroyed. Why? Read Romans 1:18-32. They were wicked people who rejected the righteousness of God to instead practice idolatry and all the evil that goes with it. As a result, God’s judgment was against the people of Canaan. As Romans 1:18-32 states, the Canaanites had been given over to reprobate minds to do things that are not convenient. As a matter of fact, the idolatrous practices of the Canaanites were probably the very thing that caused the corruption of not only individual minds but entire cultures to the point where they were unable or unwilling to act out of regard for their own safety or that of their family. It is not unlike how in our modern world a man, knowing full well the scourge of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, will regularly indulge in homosexual acts and intravenous drug abuse in his one life and then take those life and health destroying viruses and pathogens to his wife and family in another. Indeed, there does exist a huge Achan subculture in the here and now.
Now there is a point of contact between Achan’s family and the Canaanites. It seems unusual, as where the Canaanites were idolators, Achan was not only a child of Israel that came out of the wilderness (meaning that all of the Israelis that had been conditioned by not only Egyptian slavery but their exposure to their system of false gods) but of the very same tribe of Judah that Jesus Christ was born of (yes both Mary and Joseph were of Judah, please note that Mary’s geneaology is given in Luke 3). This is not a coincidence but serves as a warning lesson to the church.
So just as Achan’s genetic, tribal, national, physical etc. membership in Israel did not prevent him from having a Babylonian heart, being raised in a Christian nation, culture, or family or even a member of a church does not make one born again in Christ Jesus and truly a member of Israel. Achan despite his heritage, upbringing, and affiliation was no better off than the Canaanites. The Canaanites, for their part, was no worse off than Achan despite their idolatry and being born outside of God’s covenant people. Achan and the Canaanites had the same issue – a hardened heart – and hence received the same reward.
Another point of contact: those who were to some degree innocent. Consider first Achan’s family … his wife, children, servants, etc. and stoned and burned them to death. Those people did not participate in Achan’s crime. They may not have even known of it! Yet they perished as well with the patriarch of their family. Why? The modern western mindset with its individualism and feminism hates this notion, but the man is the covenant representative of his household before his nation and his God just as a king is the covenant represenative between a nation and God. If the covenant representative does well before God (be it the father or the king), then those under the covenant (be they nations or households) are blessed. If the covenant representative does ill, then those under it are punished. The same with Achan was true of the Canaanites. You had many women and children, including newborn infants, that had no role in the decision to defy God by remaining in the land to face the armies of His covenant people. They were not the kings who chose not to beg for peace or the fathers who chose not to take their families and flee. So how is this fair?
Well let us consider what constitutes a “hardened” heart. From what the Bible teaches us, it is no great mystery. All of humanity save Adam, Eve, and Jesus Christ were born with them as a consequence of the fall. (Adam and Eve for their part received such hearts afterwards). Now it is true that the Canaanites and pharoah had a specific hardening that related to a course of action that they took or refused to take. That is why it is fair to say, in a manner of speaking, that God hardened their hearts as scripture does. But let it be known that all mankind is born with a hardened heart in ultimate terms with reference to our relationship with God. So just as the ultimate inevitable result of the unusually hardened hearts of pharoah and Canaan were death, the result of all other hardened hearts is the lake of fire.
The similarity between the unusual hardening and the normal hardening is again in the case of Achan. God did not harden the heart of this child of Judah for the purposes of judging Achan and his family. No, Achan instead acted out of the consequences of his own sinful heart and fallen nature. Also, consider Saul. God did not harden the heart of Saul to judge the man that He had raised over Israel, let alone Saul’s sons including righteous Jonathan. First, the sins that caused Saul to lose his kingdom were done before God allowed the evil spirit to trouble Saul. Second, the sins that caused the death of Saul and his remaining sons – his consulting the necromancer witch of Endor and his persecuting the Gibeonites who had entered into a treaty with Israel – were completely unrelated to the vexation of the evil spirit but instead were caused by Saul’s own desire for power and popularity.
Please recall that when God chose Saul’s replacement, David, He said of David that this David was a man after God’s own heart. It is very accurate to argue from silence that Saul was not, and Saul’s own works verify this matter. In short, Saul was Achan, and he received Achan’s reward, which was the same as the reward of the people whose hearts God DID NOT particularly harden. In other words, sinners have a hardened heart already, and it is God’s prerogative to harden their hearts more still in order to use such reprobates to accomplish His will. So why did God choose a man that was not after His own heart not only to rule Israel, but according to the words of Samuel would have established His kingdom through Saul’s line? Well, Israel asked God for a king, not a preacher. As a matter of fact, they rejected the religious leadership of Samuel and judges. So perhaps God was attempting to see if a secular ruler would be His servant in civil matters, a wise conscientious basically obedient covenant ruler. Please recall that even pagan kings like Egypt’s pharoah and Medo – Persia’s King Darius fit this description. There is evidence that even Nebuchadnezzar and Artaxerxes did so when they elevated Daniel and Mordecai to be their second in command as did Egypt with Joseph.
So God did not pick Saul to be king because of Saul’s righteousness. It may be that God picked Saul because He felt that the rebellious children of Israel would respect him because of his stature and physical prowess. Perhaps the way Saul looked, his coming the way they expected a king to and his winning victories on the battlefield, would have spurred Israel to obedience. (After all, Israel later rejected King Jesus Christ because He came poor and humble riding on a donkey and rejected conquest with the sword.) But that required Saul himself to be obedient, and Saul failed in this task even with God’s hand behind him and Samuel to be his human advisor. So God demonstrated that even with all of those advantages given to Saul, someone with a hardened heart would not do in terms of playing a major role in the redemption of His elect.
God’s righteousness required someone that lacked a hardened heart to accomplish His purposes, including to start the royal line that Jesus Christ would be born into. It appears that when God uses hardened hearts, it is without the hard hearted person having any idea of what he is doing. As a matter of fact, the hard hearted person often seems to consider himself to be trying to accomplish the very opposite of what God intends! Examples run from the pharoah who was unknowingly participating in the judgment of his own nation to the Jewish religious leaders who thought that they were being rid of Jesus Christ and His movement by delivering Him to the Romans. Of them Jesus Christ said “Forgive them Father for they know not what they do!” But in order to be a willing knowing servant and participant in God’s purposes and plans, a heart hardened with original sin will not do. Not an Achan heart. Not a Saul heart. Certainly not a pharoah or Canaanite heart. Instead, one’s heart of stone must be removed and be replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19, Ezekiel 36:26, Ezekiel 44:7, 2 Corinthians 3:3). Common grace will not do. Saving grace is absolutely required.
But how does a heart of stone become a heart of flesh? The answer: only if God changes it. God Himself must do it. Man cannot do it. Because of his sinful state, man is utterly unable to help his condition. Only God can change hardened hearts into flesh. Consider the case of Judas Iscariot. This Judas Iscariot was an apostle who personally knew and served with Jesus Christ. He was called by Jesus Christ and did many great works in His Name. Yet what was said about Judas Iscariot by Jesus Christ? It would have been better for him had he never been born! So God who foreknew us elected some of us and predestined some of us to salvation. In the case of this Judas Iscariot, the die was cast. Being an Israelite did not help him. Being not only a follower but an apostle of Jesus Christ did not save him. Even repenting of his sin of betraying Jesus Christ, declaring His innocence before the sinful Pharisees did not save him. This Judas Iscariot was simply not among the elect, so it was never in his fate for his heart to be transformed from one of stone to one of flesh, from an Achan heart to a Peter heart. Indeed, the Bible records that Satan himself entered Judas Iscariot when it was time for him to perform the most vile abomination. So yes, like pharoah and the Canaanites, Judas Iscariot was especially hardened. Judas Iscariot was chosen by God, yes. But as he was not among the truly elect, his calling was to do the greatest act of evil, to betray the Son of God, which God used to work the greatest good. God’s providence in using the placement of a specific sinner? Yes. Special saving grace? By all means no.
And further there was this Pontius Pilate. Pilate was able to fairly judge Jesus Christ and bear witness before His accusers and the world that Jesus Christ was innocent. In this matter, common grace by installing a leader willing and able to declare the innocence of Jesus Christ was sufficient to do God’s Will in the matter. A hardened heart sufficed. But to actually prevent Jesus Christ from going to the cross, an act of true righteousness in the dark spiritual climate that he was immersed in, to heed the warnings of his own wife? No, that would have taken a man with a heart of flesh given by special saving grace empowered by the Holy Spirit. But it was not God’s will that Jesus Christ be spared the cross, so a fellow with a sufficient measure of common grace was placed in civil magistrate authority over Jesus Christ to perform some righteousness but ultimately do evil, as Jesus Christ Himself stated “you would have no power over me were it not given to you from above.” Did Pilate regard “given to you from above” as meaning his being appointed by Caesar or raised up by God?
Again, go back to Judas Iscariot. Jesus Christ said that this person’s fate would have been better had he never been born. So how then could such a person have had a free will decision to accept Jesus Christ as His Savior and Lord, as Simon Peter did even upon denying Jesus Christ three times? The hardened heart cannot save itself. No, the hardened heart needs God to intervene to save it. And once God intervenes to save the hardened heart, God cannot be mocked. He cannot be opposed. He cannot be turned down. After all, if the hardened heart that becomes softened rejects the gospel of Jesus Christ, was it ever softened? No! Only hardened hearts are able to reject the righteousness of God. Only softened hearts are able to accept the righteousness of God. A heart that God has not softened cannot accept His righteousness, a heart that God has softened cannot reject it. It is not so much that God compels the person whose heart has been softened to accept Him. Why? Because why would God have to? What possible reason that a person with a softened heart have for rejecting God? Claiming otherwise is the very same as claiming that a person with a hardened heart does not REALLY have one. If both a person with a hardened heart and a softened heart can choose to reject God, then what difference is there between a hardened one and a softened one? Claiming that a person with a softened heart can reject God rejects the doctrine of original sin.
A heart that God has softened cannot behave after the same manner that a heart that God has not softened. Hearts hardened by sin and hearts softened by grace cannot react the same way towards God. Otherwise, the grace of God, which is the power of God, the will of God, the purpose of God etc. would have no effect. If man could overpower God by rejecting His grace with a mere decision, then it makes God no God at all; a God incapable of calling creation into being out of nothing (ex nihilo) with the spoken word, and certainly incapable of ruling and governing creation. And naturally, such a God would be unable to destroy, preserve, reward, punish, etc. His creation as He sees fit.
This brings us back to the difficult issue mentioned earlier of infants. What about the little children, newborn babes, that God had Israel to put to the sword. Jebusite, Hivite, Hittite, Amorite, Edomite, Ammonite etc. babies that were ripped from their mother’s arm and made their last anguished cry after having their tiny hearts split in half by a sword or spear. You might say that only an evil God would command His elect people to do such a thing. Well that is looking at things at how they exist in the natural and not in the spiritual. You, looking at temporal physical things, see a human baby. God, for the purposes of eternity, only sees a spirit of man. God knows whether the spirit of man associated with the human baby has been elected and predestined to salvation or not. So whether the human life of this spirit of man ends at 100 hours or 100 years, its eternal fate has been predetermined by God, who knows whether this child has the heart of Judas Iscariot or the heart of Peter. The heart of Saul or the heart of David. The heart of Achan or the heart of Joshua. The heart of Cain or the heart of Abel.
Again, we know this from scripture: Abijah the child of Jeroboam in 1 Kings 14. Verse 13: “And all Israel shall mourn for him, and bury him: for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him there is found some good thing toward the LORD God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.” (Despite the wickedness of Jeroboam, he did obviously love and care about his son. Again, common grace, not saving grace.) Abijah was given by God at a tender age a heart of flesh, and though he died at a tender age he was given the good reward of those chosen by God. Now if Abijah had a heart of stone, what profit would there have been in living 930 years as did Adam? As he possessed a heart of flesh, what did he lose by dying at a tender age when he will reign for an eternity with Jesus Christ?
So the only issue is that whether you have a hardened heart, or whether God has chosen to give you a heart of flesh. If God calls the hard hearted person, his only duty, his inevitable duty, is to respond. I encourage the reader to respond right now if he has not already. Please follow The Three Step Salvation Plan.