Glorifying God in the Confession of Sin

By Jaime Sherman

I had an “ah-ha” moment in the past week concerning my prayer life, and it came from an unlikely section in the book of Joshua. But I really shouldn’t have been surprised, for…

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man (or woman) of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

II Timothy 3:16-17

After Israel claimed its incredible victory over Jericho, we read…

So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land. But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.

Joshua 6:27-7:1

As Joshua sent a band of soldiers into the first “normal” battle after Jericho was miraculously defeated, we see no hint in the text that he was aware of God’s anger or of Achan’s choice. Joshua had to trust that the people he led had chosen to keep themselves from the spoils of war, so they would “not covet them and take some of the things under the ban, and make the camp of Israel accursed and bring trouble on it” (Joshua 6:18).

The message was clear, and yet, Achan did what he thought was best, or what made sense to him. Three thousand fighting men of Israel marched against the people of Ai, whose hearts had melted as the walls of Jericho crumbled, but instead of victory, the Israelites returned to their camp defeated and mourning the deaths of 36 of their own. The loss didn’t make sense. Joshua tore his clothes and fell face to the ground before the ark of the Lord until evening. He and the elders of Israel sprinkled dust on their heads as a sign of utter grief, and Joshua cried out, “Why? Why, God, did you allow this to happen?”

God told Joshua to stop groveling and to start leading. He called for the people to cleanse themselves from sin before they faced selection by lot to find the guilty party. The next day the answer to Joshua’s howls of “Why, God?” was found inside the tent of Achan.

In the interaction between Joshua and Achan, we see the intertwining of adoration, thanksgiving and confession before the Lord, which provided my “ah-ha” moment about prayer.

Joshua said, “My son, I implore you, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give praise to Him; and tell me now what you have done. Do not hide it from me.” 

Achan replied, “Truly, I have sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel, and this is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted them and took them; and behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.”

Joshua 7:19-21

Depending on the translation, Joshua commanded Achan to honor (NIV), to confess (NKJV, NASB, CSB), or to praise (ESV) the Lord by being specific about his sin, by bringing it into the open and acknowledging what God wanted for him instead of what he chose. The original Hebrew word for confession is todah and means thanksgiving. It comes from the root yadah, which means to throw or to cast, to give thanks, to confess, to praise.

When asked to explain his actions, Achen didn’t try to hide the forbidden spoils of war any longer. He stepped forward and acknowledged his sin of disobeying the Lord’s command. He testified that the pleasure of sin — of following his selfish desires — was a lie. Coveting, taking, and hiding did not give him what he wanted. He couldn’t enjoy the spoils because he felt the need to hide them in his tent, and his plan for good resulted in a nation accursed and in great trouble. Achan gave glory to God by showing that, yes, God’s way was better. The nation would soon see the blessing of following God’s plan, for in the next battle, God allowed Israel to take and to enjoy all the goods they wanted (Joshua 8:2).

I am grateful for this “ah-ha” from Joshua 7. When I combine praise with confession, I am acknowledging that the Lover of my Soul wants nothing but the best for me. When I sin, I fall short of God’s plan and miss out on the blessings He has planned for me. This realization leads me to express profound gratitude for being rescued from my sin, and in that thanksgiving mixed with adoration, I find an incredible antidote for the selfish leanings of my heart. I ask Him to keep me humble and soft to His ways, calling out, “Your will be done in my life even if Your best plan is not what I think I need or want right now. In the powerful name of my Savior, Amen.”

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