Dangerous Decisions


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Dangerous Decisions

  1. 1. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 1 DANGEROUS DECISIONS Learning From The Mistakes Of Lot & Achan O ne of the great discoveries of life is to see how often we can CONTENTS do things we will never regret. Think about what would Defining Moments . . . . . 2 happen if a group of us got The Tragic Tale Of together and spent a day talking An Empty Lot . . . . . . . . . 3 about the best decisions we ever Achan’s made—and the worst. Fatal Attraction . . . . . . . 16 Such a conversation would Our Greatest Need . . . 31 not be far from stories of the Bible that show men and women at the crossroads of their lives. Those are the kinds of decisions Dan Schaeffer helps us to think through in this excerpt of his book Defining Moments: When Choices Matter Most. Mart De Haan Managing Editor: David Sper Cover Photo & Design:Terry Bidgood Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible®. Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. This booklet is based on a portion of Defining Moments:When Choices Matter Most by Dan Schaeffer, published by Discovery House Publishers, a member of the RBC Ministries family. © 2009 RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, Michigan Printed in USA
  2. 2. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 2 DEFINING testing ground for the MOMENTS heroic is the mundane. The only preparation for O ne morning you that one profound decision wake up, totally which can change a life, unaware that today or even a nation, is those you will make a decision hundreds of half-conscious, that will define your self-defining, seemingly life for years to come, insignificant decisions made perhaps forever. If you in private. Habit is the daily had known this moment battleground of character” was approaching, you (Reader’s Digest, June 1996). would have prepared Our character is the for it. But you didn’t. scene of great battles. Each of us will In the last analysis, it will experience moments nudge us in one direction that are far more important or another. Fortunately, we than all the others. In these can learn from those who moments we will say or do have gone before us. The something because such Bible is full of defining behavior has become moments, both good and second nature to us. But bad. Real people in real-life the consequences will be situations, just like us. drastically different. From their examples we can Senator Dan Coates learn how to prepare for our said, “Character cannot own defining moments. be summoned at the Are you ready? In the moment of crisis if it following pages you will has been squandered by meet two people from the years of compromise and Bible who weren’t ready for rationalization. The only their defining moment. And 2 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  3. 3. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 3 you will see the terrible creature; either into a tragedy that ensued. (For creature that is in harmony examples of people who with God, and with other were ready and made good creatures, and with itself, choices, see the book from or else into one that is in a which this excerpt was state of war and hatred with derived.) God, and with its fellow- Most of us embrace wise creatures, and with itself.” principles for living as well as habits that are unwise. THE TRAGIC These two are in constant conflict within us, each TALE OF AN vying for privileged status. EMPTY LOT T In that pivotal moment, we here’s a winding will choose between the mountain road leading two, and our lot will be up to the High Sierra irretrievably cast. Mountains on the way to In Mere Christianity Yosemite National Park. C. S. Lewis wrote, “Every The road passes through time you make a choice, you several small towns and an are turning the central part occasional home or small of you, the part of you that business. I recall that when chooses, into something a I first started making that little different from what it drive, I saw a large steak was before. And taking your house that had closed life as a whole, with all your recently. “For Sale” signs innumerable choices, all were everywhere, along your life long you are slowly with the name of the turning this central thing restaurant. The building either into a heavenly was still in good repair, creature or into a hellish nicely painted, and 3 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  4. 4. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 4 pleasant to look at. I look at the true-life story of wondered what restaurant a real empty Lot. His story would be there the next is found in Genesis 13, 14, time I came through. and 19. Lot was the nephew It has been 16 years, of Abram, whom the Lord and that building is still later called Abraham, the empty. The paint is old father of the Jewish race. and faded, the windows In those chapters we boarded up, the parking read about Lot’s defining lot overgrown with weeds. decision—the decision When this restaurant that mirrored his whole life first opened, it must have and set the tone for the bustled with activity: plates, rest of it. silverware, and glasses Both Abram and Lot clinking; wait-staff scurrying were wealthy men who to get food; music playing; resided in a foreign country. people talking, laughing, It was a land that belonged and socializing. I’ve often to the Canaanites and the wondered what caused it Perizzites. The area where to close its doors. Abram and Lot were living This restaurant had been could no longer support someone’s dream. But now two great herds of animals. the dream has died. The With no fences or borders building stands vacant and to determine where one’s lonely. No one goes there grazing rights began and except for the occasional another’s ended, the vagrant looking for shelter. herdsmen of the two It’s a sad picture. It’s also relatives began to fight. the tragic story of many So Abram stepped in and people’s lives. made a wise decision. In this section, we will There was enough room 4 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  5. 5. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 5 for both of them if they him to be, in several ways, went in different directions. an empty Lot. Abram was the patriarch Lot’s life can teach of the two, and the one to us four dangers to beware whom God had promised of when making defining- all this land (Gen. 12:6-7). moment decisions—four As the proper recipient of dangers that will keep you the entire region, Abram from becoming an empty could have chosen the land Lot yourself. The first he wanted and left the rest danger is: to Lot. But Abram showed The Danger Of his godliness by trusting Deceiving Yourself. God to keep His promise in From Lot’s tragic life we His own way. He graciously learn that there are no allowed Lot to choose harmless character flaws. which land he wanted. When we read Genesis Humanly speaking, it 13:10-13, it’s clear that self- wasn’t a hard decision for interest and greed drove Lot. The Jordan Valley was Lot’s decision. Although a lush green place, and Abram could rightfully Sodom and Gomorrah have chosen where he were beautiful and would live, he humbled desirable places to live. himself and allowed Lot Lot didn’t think twice. He to choose. Furthermore, saw the fertile land of the Abram initiated the plains and chose it. solution to the problem. While this decision Significantly, the Bible seemed shrewd for Lot, does call Lot a righteous it turned out badly. His man. In 2 Peter 2:6-8, shallow choice reflected his Peter reminds us that God true character and revealed “condemned the cities of 5 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  6. 6. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 6 Sodom and Gomorrah One of Lot’s flaws was to destruction by reducing that he struggled with greed them to ashes, having made and selfishness. He desired them an example to those the best of the land for who would live ungodly himself, and he was in a lives thereafter; and if He position to get it. Sodom rescued righteous Lot, and Gomorrah were oppressed by the sensual wealthy enclaves—places conduct of unprincipled of great riches because men (for by what he saw of the fertileness of the and heard that righteous region. People like to man, while living among live in beautiful places, them, felt his righteous soul and usually only the tormented day after day wealthiest can afford to. with their lawless deeds).” Lot’s greed is evident Lot was a righteous man in other passages as well. because he believed God, When we read that God sent expressed his faith in God, judgment upon Sodom and and did not approve of the Gomorrah, we gain valuable horrible sins of Sodom insight into Lot’s character. and Gomorrah. In 2 Peter, God had determined to however, it seems that Lot’s obliterate the towns for their righteousness is contrasted sin and unrepentance. Yet, not with Abram’s but with even though Lot knew this, that of the citizens of he didn’t want to leave. God Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s sent angels in the form of possible to appear to be men to protect Lot from the morally upstanding but judgment. But the men of have one or two tragic Sodom demanded that Lot character flaws that hand them over so they eventually surface. could rape them. That’s 6 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  7. 7. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 7 how perverse the people of still have a defective Sodom had become. character? Yes! Greed, In spite of this horrible desire, envy, and jealousy decadence, Lot still didn’t don’t go away just because want to leave. The angels you become a Christian. literally had to drag him and Sooner or later, God his family out of Sodom. makes us face those The scriptural account says, issues and brings them “But he hesitated. So the to our attention. It cost Lot men [angels] seized his everything he had before hand and the hand of his God got his attention. wife and the hands of his If not dealt with two daughters, for the properly, a single weak compassion of the Lord character trait can have a was upon him; and they negative effect on the rest brought him out, and put of our lives. In Lot’s life, him outside the city” greed and self-interest were (Gen. 19:16). present, even though he Hesitated! Why? The appeared to be a morally reason is simple. Everything upstanding individual. Lot had attained was about The heart of the to be destroyed—all his Christian is like a garden. wealth, his business When we are born again, contacts, his home, his God plants His fruit, the job, everything but his fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, very life. He still didn’t peace, patience, kindness, want to give it up. goodness, faithfulness, You may be thinking, gentleness, and self-control “But I thought he was a (Gal. 5:22-23). But at the righteous man?” Can a same time, Satan keeps person be a Christian and trying to replant his 7 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  8. 8. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 8 own garden in our heart. in order to grow, but a Character flaws are like spiritual “weed” will weeds—they grow fastest flourish with inattention. when they are ignored and What weed, or character become increasingly difficult flaw, are you ignoring? If to pull out. We need to deal you ignore it long enough, with such weeds when they one day that flaw will grow first appear, because by the so large it will be the only time we see the plants, the thing that people can see roots are already formed in you. All your good and growing. qualities will be hidden My wife Annette and I behind that one character planted a little garden. We flaw you have ignored. planted corn, pumpkins, You may be there right cantaloupe, watermelon, now. Caring people may beans, herbs, squash, and have already discussed this sunflowers. We planted flaw with you. They have all those on purpose; we seen how it has taken over wanted them to grow. We your life. When you try to watered them carefully and point out all your good cultivated them. But weeds qualities, they can’t seem popped up without any to see them. Your character attention whatsoever. flaw is now so blatant that They grew marvelously. it overshadows all your We had to pull the weeds other good qualities. If so, continually. We never you may be on your way to tended the weeds; the becoming an empty Lot. more we neglected them, Some Christians joke the better they grew. about their character flaws. The spiritual garden “That’s just who I am,” we want must be tended they will tell you with a 8 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  9. 9. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 9 grin. They seem to think The Danger Of a character flaw is just a Altering God’s Price personality trait. But the Tags. Genesis 13:10 tells Bible never treats them us, “Lot lifted up his eyes that way. and saw all the valley of I heard of a pastor who the Jordan, that it was was cursing in his sermons well watered everywhere— and criticizing people he this was before the Lord was angry with from the destroyed Sodom and pulpit. He got into a Gomorrah—like the garden fistfight with an elder from of the Lord, like the land of his church at a basketball Egypt as you go to Zoar.” game. When confronted Everything Lot could see with this sin, his excuse with his eyes looked good. was “Hey, that’s just me. He was smitten with the That’s my personality. It’s great lust spoken of in the way I am. It’s no big 1 John 2:16, “For all that is deal.” in the world, the lust of the He equated his activity flesh and the lust of the eyes with a personality trait that and the boastful pride of life, was supposedly beyond is not from the Father, but is his control. Shyness is a from the world.” personality trait. Being One commentator gregarious is a personality pointed out that the trait. But sin is sin! And Hebrew word for sin means sins are weeds that must “to miss the mark.” He then be pulled. Don’t deceive went on to say: “So a sinner yourself. There are no is one who is ever aiming at harmless character flaws. happiness and constantly There’s also a second missing his mark; because danger to consider: . . . he seeks for happiness 9 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  10. 10. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 10 where it can never be The result? His righteous found” (Adam Clark, soul was constantly The Bethany Parallel offended, oppressed, and Commentary: Old Testament, influenced by the sinful p.45). Lot didn’t look lifestyle around him. beyond what his eyes could In chapter 14, we’re told see. He knew that Sodom that enemies captured Lot, was an immoral town. Its and that Abram had to reputation was well-known. rescue him. He no doubt But it was an attractive lived a compromised place. While Lot never lifestyle in Sodom, one that adopted the religion of likely contributed to the low the people of Sodom moral standards of his and Gomorrah, nor their daughters (see Gen. 19:30- immoral practices, he was 38). Not only did he have smitten with their culture, to be rescued by angels, he their “stuff.” They were a also lost his wife, his sons- people who were looking for in-law, and his livelihood, happiness where it couldn’t and he barely escaped with be found, and Lot seemed his own life. Lot paid dearly to have the same weakness. for his poor choice. God places the price tags Recently, my wife and in life where they belong. I struck up a conversation He tells us what is valuable with a clerk in our local and what is worthless. Barnes & Noble bookstore. When God’s price tags don’t She seemed despondent seem to make sense to us, and mentioned that her we’re tempted to change house had recently burned them. Lot chose Sodom down. She sadly shared and Gomorrah, the capital how she had lost some cities of the “good life.” 75,000 baseball cards she 10 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  11. 11. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 11 had been collecting as part scores of people who are of a business venture. All unhappy in their jobs but the plaques and honors she are now trapped. The things had accumulated over the that bring them fulfillment years were also destroyed. don’t make them enough When I asked her if money, and they are too anyone was hurt, she attached to their lifestyle nonchalantly shook to make the necessary her head no, as if the changes. Work becomes question were ultimately a grind, and they grow unimportant. She obviously miserable. derived no comfort from it. I know men and women Her stuff, which was of great who married their spouses value to her, was destroyed primarily for their looks. in much the same way that This is what they valued Lot’s things were—by fire. most in a mate. But now— Bible commentator F. B. 5, 10, 15 years later—the Meyer wrote, “The world luster has worn off. is full of Lots—shallow, They wish they had impulsive, doomed to be married someone more revealed by their choice.” understanding, thoughtful, Have you exchanged and considerate—qualities price tags in your life? their spouses lack, which The things we value now cause them such pain. become the basis for All around them they see our most important and couples who are physically defining decisions. If we less attractive but are value money and prestige, fulfilled in marriage. we will chase a job that When we value all the brings us these things but status possessions of our little else. We all know world—bigger, more 11 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  12. 12. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 12 expensive homes, and more The Jordan Valley was expensive and newer cars— more beautiful than the we can find ourselves territory Lot left to Abram. sacrificing everything to get It was a desirable place them. Spending beyond our to live. Think of the Napa means, we end up in debt Valley in California, or and unable to enjoy the the South of France, very possessions we have where vines and orchards sacrificed so much to have. grow abundantly and the In these and many other countryside is picturesque. decisions like them, we can Second, there was find that our choices reveal wealth. Ample water and who we really are. pasture meant additional What do your choices grazing areas and increased reveal about what you flocks. More flocks meant value? We see this thought more wealth, because in the developed more fully in the ancient East, livestock had third danger: value, not currency. The Danger Of Third, Lot saw ease. Long-term Decisions It would be much easier Based On Temporary to make a living in Sodom Attractions. Lot’s and Gomorrah than where decision was based on Abram was going. When what he saw, what appealed the water is there, and the to him through his physical grass is in abundance, and senses. What did Lot see the fruit trees are already when he looked at the planted, you simply don’t beautiful Jordan Valley and have to work as hard. Sodom and Gomorrah? He Caring for the animals saw three things: beauty, is much easier. wealth, and ease. Beauty, wealth, and 12 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  13. 13. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 13 ease. Lot, like so many of woman named Della us, was sure that the things Britteon through a dating he now found so attractive service. He saw a young, would always be that way. quiet, eye-catching woman, People are sure their looks and evidently thought she and youth will last, their job would be everything his will be secure, their talent previous wife had not been. will always be in demand. He married her only So what happened? 4 months after his divorce. Let’s start with the beauty What he didn’t know, of Sodom and Gomorrah. however, was that Della It was utterly destroyed had been previously by a volcanic-like eruption, married three times never to be anything but and was not at all what a desolate plain. And she seemed. She was Lot’s great wealth? His dangerous! Each of her flocks were destroyed, his former husbands had business and his customers been lucky to escape their were gone, and he barely marriage with their lives. escaped with his life. And Della was vicious and what about the ease of his mean, and when rejected, life? With his livelihood and she acted violently. Less his home removed, Lot was than a year after marrying destined to live in a cave. this “beauty,” Dr. Sutorius Several years ago, there wanted a divorce. But he was a sensational story in never got the chance. Della the news about Della and killed him with a .38-caliber Darryl Sutorius. Darryl was revolver she had bought a heart surgeon who had only 2 days earlier. divorced his wife of 30 Are you making long- years and met a striking term decisions based on 13 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  14. 14. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 14 temporary attractions? That glance. It was a long look of is one of the quickest ways desire, a reluctance to leave to become an empty Lot. her home and possessions. Finally we come to the last She, like her husband, and greatest danger: was hesitating, lingering, The Danger because she didn’t really Of Assuming Your want to go. God had sent Decisions Won’t Affect angels to save them from Others. We infuse those destruction, and she didn’t around us with our values, want to leave Sodom. She especially those closest to had a severe case of the us. Let’s follow the results same greed that Lot had. of Lot’s decision on his Lot’s sons-in-law didn’t family. When they were take his warnings seriously escaping Sodom and and were destroyed. But Gomorrah’s judgment, what of his daughters? the angels warned them When Sodom and in Genesis 19:17, “Escape Gomorrah were annihilated, for your life! Do not look Lot took his daughters and behind you, and do not hid in a cave with them. stay anywhere in the valley; His daughters decided they escape to the mountains, wanted to have children, so or you will be swept away.” they got their father drunk But what happened to Lot’s and slept with him (Gen. wife? Genesis 19:26 says, 19:30-38). These incestuous “But his wife, from behind acts resulted in the Moabites him, looked back, and she and the Ammonites, two became a pillar of salt.” tribes who were a perpetual Don’t misunderstand. The thorn in the side of Hebrew word suggests this Abraham’s descendants. was not a casual backward This story shocks our 14 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  15. 15. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 15 sensibilities. Where call from an 11-year-old was their faith in God’s boy that rendered her provision? Where did speechless. He told her he Lot’s daughters learn to had a problem. He liked a debase themselves with certain girl at school, but such horribly immoral another one was “making decisions? Think about this: eyes” at him and letting him How much time had Lot’s know she liked him. Should daughters spent in the city he drop his present girlfriend Daddy picked to be their to chase the new one? home? With whom had they Dr. Laura asked the grown up, and from whom boy, “Well, how would had they been learning? you feel if your daddy Who was influencing them went off with some new day after day, night after lady every time one showed night? What lifestyle was interest?” “He did,” was his their culture bombarding matter-of-fact reply. Since them with continually? no loyalty and fidelity was How are our decisions modeled at home, what affecting our loved ones? could Dr. Laura say? Lot’s faith in God remained, Our values will affect— but his decisions had or infect—those we love. destroyed everything he A very enlightening project valued because he had might be to poll your invested his life in things spouse, children, and close of no value. friends, and ask them to Dr. Laura Schlessinger, share what they feel you a radio talk-show host, value most in life from related how she was once what they see in your life. at a loss for words during Warning: This is not a her call-in show. It was a project for the faint of heart. 15 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  16. 16. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 16 If you heed this advice, related to it, and ask your defining moment can God continually for be a wonderful one, a His power to overcome moment that will positively it. Don’t expect immediate affect your family and changes. Actions are the everyone else. Give your result of our heart’s own story a happy ending! desires—and the heart Don’t become an empty Lot. changes slowly. But start now, and don’t stop! Personal Reflection We all have character flaws, but it’s tempting to justify ACHAN’S FATAL them or joke about them, ATTRACTION T instead of dealing with here’s a sport that a them. The longer we wait few daring souls have to deal with these flaws, the begun to embrace worse they become and the called BASE, or extreme closer we are to becoming jumping. Its name is an empty Lot. Will your derived from the acronym most defining moment for buildings, antennas, be a result of an ignored spans, and earth. Instead character flaw? What might of jumping out of a plane you do to prevent it? Now and parachuting, these folks go do it—while there’s time! jump off tall buildings, high antennas, bridges, and Follow-through cliffs—tempting fate and Write down what you danger for the thrill of it. believe to be your greatest Because of its inherent character flaw. Determine danger, it’s banned in to make it a daily matter of most places. prayer. Look up Scriptures Jan Davis was one of 16 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  17. 17. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 17 five BASE jumpers prepared Like Jan Davis, each to challenge one such ban one of us has our own fatal in Yosemite National Park. attraction. While we may The group had climbed to not consider ours nearly the 3,200-foot peak of so dangerous, our fatal Yosemite’s El Capitan. attractions can ruin our Their jump was going to reputation, marriage, career, be a public protest to friendships, and dreams. demonstrate that the jumps Perhaps there’s no more could be made safely. vivid example in the Bible Davis was 60 years old of this danger than Achan. and a veteran of countless Achan’s story is found jumps made over 16 years. in Joshua 6. Israel had She was the fourth of crossed the Jordan River five jumpers, and used and marched around borrowed gear because Jericho for 7 days as God she didn’t want hers to had commanded them. The be confiscated by rangers story is familiar. Perhaps waiting to arrest her on the not quite as familiar are valley floor. As her friends God’s specific instructions. and family watched from Before the people were below, she jumped, but commanded to shout, her chute never opened. which would bring down She fell to her death. The the walls of Jericho, they newspaper headline of were reminded: her death read, “Chutist The city shall be under dies in ironic tragedy.” the ban, it and all that is BASE-jumping is inherently in it belongs to the Lord; dangerous. That is part of only Rahab the harlot its allure. But for Jan Davis and all who are with her it was a fatal attraction. in the house shall live, 17 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  18. 18. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 18 because she hid the have been an easy messengers whom we victory turned into an sent. But as for you, only inglorious defeat, and 36 keep yourselves from the men of Israel were killed. things under the ban, so Ai remained defiant and that you do not covet unconquered. Joshua 7:16- them and take some of 26 relates the dramatic way the things under the ban, that God exposed Achan’s and make the camp of sin to Israel, and his Israel accursed and bring resulting confession. trouble on it. But all From Achan’s example the silver and gold and we can discern seven articles of bronze and symptoms of a fatal iron are holy to the Lord; attraction that may be they shall go into the evident in our own lives. treasury of the Lord If ignored, they could lead (Josh. 6:17-19). to a defining moment not Achan was there, and unlike Achan’s—terrible, he heard the ban. But the shameful, and destructive. temptation proved too But if we can identify them, great for him, and he there’s great hope that we broke it. Unfortunately can disarm the ticking time for all of Israel, the divine bomb before it explodes in consequence of Achan’s our lives. sin was that God would no The first and most longer go before them and obvious symptom is: lead them to victory. A Fatal Attraction Unaware of what Never Lies Dormant. Achan had done, Israel A fatal attraction is nothing attacked a small outpost more than a secret sin or called Ai. What should sinful attitude or activity 18 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  19. 19. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 19 that we have allowed to Let no one say when he bloom. It is something we is tempted, “I am being find ourselves drawn to tempted by God”; for God that we know is dangerous cannot be tempted by and sinful, yet we have evil, and He Himself does convinced ourselves that not tempt anyone. But it’s safe for us. Perhaps each one is tempted when we’ve even cultivated this he is carried away and attraction in private. enticed by his own lust. How long had Achan Then when lust has struggled with this problem conceived, it gives birth of greed? This was not a to sin; and when sin is momentary character lapse accomplished, it brings for Achan, but the natural forth death (1:13-15). result of a fatal attraction he How graphically this is had nurtured. Unfortunately, revealed in Achan’s defining it was an attraction needing moment! But beyond only the right opportunity— James’ words there is, in a defining moment—to Achan’s own confession, prove his undoing. Achan’s the clear downward spiral fatal attraction was a glaring of temptation and sin: chink in his spiritual armor When I saw among the that he had ignored. His spoil a beautiful mantle desire for wealth had from Shinar and two hideously devolved into hundred shekels of silver greed of the first order. and a bar of gold fifty Achan’s motivations are shekels in weight, then I common to all of us. James coveted them and took exposed the process of them; and behold, they temptation in every human are concealed in the heart when he wrote: earth inside my tent 19 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  20. 20. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 20 with the silver underneath opportunity. At some it (Josh. 7:21). point, Satan will be given He saw, he coveted, permission to tempt us he took, he concealed. again, and the opportunity Before we leave this will be presented. scene, it’s good to remember Each of us has a that thousands of Hebrew sensitivity to different soldiers saw what Achan temptations. Some of us saw when they invaded are extremely susceptible to Jericho, but their own greed financial temptations, others had not degenerated to the to sexual temptations, while level of Achan’s. others are vulnerable to There is an enlightening temptations of fame or equation we can derive power. As you review the from Achan’s life: downward progression that A FATAL ATTRACTION + led Achan to ruin, can you OPPORTUNITY = SHAME, identify your own position DISGRACE, AND LOSS on the continuum? I saw. There is latent within all I coveted. I took. I hid. How of us a fatal attraction. We close to danger are you? can ignore it and assure Achan’s defining moment ourselves that we have it came when he first laid under control. Or we can eyes on the treasure he had fear it, terrified that it may discovered, because at that one day be our undoing. critical moment something We often mistake the happened that even he lack of opportunity with didn’t understand. An self-control. But as Achan unaddressed perverted shows, by God’s mercy passion had grown too we may never have been strong for him to control. exposed to the right Did it surprise even him? 20 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  21. 21. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 21 The movie Little Shop within us. They do not Of Horrors is the story of remain dormant. They will a small alien flower that demand attention, and we comes into the life of a must either deny them— young employee at a plant sending them back into the store. While the flower shadows—or feed them, looks strange to him at making them stronger still. first, he does his best to I saw. I coveted. I took. try to keep it alive. But I hid. One unaddressed evil despite his best efforts and passion in our lives is all it all conventional care, it takes. Remember, a fatal continues to die. It’s only attraction never lies when he accidentally cuts dormant. Second: his finger and a drop of A Fatal Attraction blood dribbles on the plant Deafens Us To God’s that it perks up. He is Work And Voice. shocked to discover that A quick review of the book it subsists on blood. of Joshua reminds us that Each day the young man Achan had been part of two pricks his finger and feeds tremendous miracles of God the ravenous plant. And within a short period of each day the strange plant time. First, he had walked grows bigger and stronger, across the Jordan River on demanding more and more dry ground as the water blood. It finally grows to fill was miraculously held back the whole shop and even in a heap. Second, he had commits murder to fulfill its witnessed an amazing unquenchable desire. miracle when the walls This is an apt picture of Jericho came tumbling of what happens to down. unaddressed passions Just before this miracle, 21 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  22. 22. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 22 Joshua had told everyone When we embrace a sinful not to touch anything that passion and allow it to grow was under the ban. So strong in our lives, one of Achan knew exactly what its first debilitating attacks he was doing when he took is on our spiritual focus. the loot. He showed no To reach any goal— concern that God was even an evil one—takes active in Israel, ignoring concentration and focus. the miracles performed We work, think, and right before his eyes. strategize to reach what Additionally, Joshua 5 we want most. When that indicates that Achan must happens, we lose sight of have been one of the men everything else. It’s who had been circumcised. inevitable. Circumcision was a sign Achan’s greed was all of the Hebrews’ covenant he focused on in the end. relationship with God. He had stopped listening to Had Achan forgotten the God and appreciating His implications of this so mighty works because all soon? How can a man his senses were trained witness such miracles on one thing—greed. An of God and then let his unaddressed passion will greed run amok? Didn’t slowly but surely deaden he believe God would see us to God’s work and His what he was doing? Word in our life. We will Achan’s story highlights begin to tune out God’s the devastating effect of an voice because it will present unaddressed sinful passion. an unwanted obstacle to Our desire to listen to God’s our sin. And we don’t want Word wanes. We lose our our sin challenged; we want appreciation for His works. it fulfilled. 22 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  23. 23. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 23 This is why Paul warned of behavior. A slow the young pastor Timothy, exchange of passions, “The love of money is a developed over time, causes root of all sorts of evil, people to lose interest in and some by longing for God’s work and voice. It it have wandered away often happens slowly, so from the faith and pierced confident of their spiritual themselves with many convictions that they fail to griefs” (1 Tim. 6:10). We address the danger properly. can insert any number of Gradually they become passions in that verse and oblivious to the danger. And the result would be the then, in what appears to be same. The love of power, just a moment, they fall. fame, and lust are also One evening I was roots of all sorts of evil. watching a documentary As Paul noted, some of about strange creatures. us wander away from the The episode dealt with a faith. It’s a slow defection predatory fish that had rather than an abrupt the extraordinary ability departure. We don’t just to burrow into the ocean turn our backs on God floor, becoming completely one day; it takes time for a camouflaged. While this sinful desire to develop the odd fish was too slow to level of intensity that will catch the smaller fish on cause us to ignore the which its diet depended, scriptural wisdom we’ve God had given it a long adhered to for years. worm-shaped appendage After years of counseling on the top of its head that people who have been could wiggle freely. When caught in various sins, I the fish lay on the ocean have noticed a clear pattern floor wiggling that 23 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  24. 24. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 24 appendage, it looked just which I commanded them. like a real worm dancing And they have even taken about. The unsuspecting some of the things under the prey would swim by, ban and have both stolen become tantalized by the and deceived. Moreover, wormlike appendage, and they have also put them prepare to devour it. But in among their own things” a split second, the predator (Josh. 7:11). How frequently would rise up and swallow do we traffic in one sin, and the smaller fish. soon begin to “change Nature reminds us that lanes” to avoid detection. this kind of thing happens When we embrace one sin, every day. The Bible it becomes necessary to reminds us that it happens resort to another. Not only to people as well. Like the did Achan steal, but he had little fish being tantalized to deceive everyone into by the wormlike appendage, thinking he hadn’t. we become oblivious to the “Sins are like circles danger because we have in the water when a stone stopped listening to God’s is thrown into it; one warnings. But the danger produces another,” wrote doesn’t end there. A third Phillip Henry. “When anger symptom is that: was in Cain’s heart, murder A Fatal Attraction was not far off.” Stimulates The Growth When someone becomes Of Other Sins Within involved in scandal, drugs, Us. Listen to God’s alcohol, or any kind of assessment of Achan’s immoral activity, how often activity. “Israel has does lying and deception sinned, and they have also enter the picture? Deception transgressed My covenant becomes necessary to hide 24 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  25. 25. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 25 the first sin already and self-preservation had committed. For example, been cultivated in his life, to when President Clinton was the exclusion of compassion accused of immorality with and conscience. Monica Lewinsky, what was The great aircraft carriers his immediate reaction? He of World War II were vital lied to try to cover up his war weapons. They were sin. But before we throw always escorted by other too many stones, is he so ships to protect them. In different from the rest of us? the same way, our fatal Who among us has not lied attraction requires other to cover up another sin? Did sinful “escorts” to keep not King David try to cover itself safe. up his sin with Bathsheba? We must not deceive One fatal attraction ourselves. One nurtured stimulates the growth sin waters other seeds of of other sins within us. sin that have fallen into Did Achan exhibit any the fertile ground of our concern for the 36 men who wavering faith, and they died? (Josh. 7:5). Did he will quickly bloom. The care for their families, or for idea that we can isolate his responsibility in their a particular sin in our deaths? The answer must lives and restrain it from be no, because the lot spreading elsewhere is a would have taken quite myth. The weeds of sin will some time to fall to him, always spread. Fourth: and he had ample time A Fatal Attraction to come clean (vv.14-18). Blinds Us To So why didn’t he care? Encroaching Danger. He didn’t care because the Achan’s response to the seeds of self-centeredness process of the lot in Joshua 25 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  26. 26. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 26 7:14-18 is a fascinating Israel in every way, but study in human nature. Achan’s sinful passion Achan clearly understood blinded him to it. It’s how the lot worked, but at conceivable that he simply each draw of the lot, as it didn’t believe he would get drew nearer and nearer caught. If he had an inkling him, he adamantly refused he might, he was too greedy to confess. Achan never to risk losing his treasure came forward, which leads unless he was forced to. me to believe he didn’t Remember that he now think he was actually going had in his possession the to be caught. This shouldn’t thing he wanted most in surprise us. He had already life, the thing he had risked demonstrated that he was everything to get. Maybe he deaf to God’s work and even hoped the lot would voice. implicate someone else. The Hebrews used the A fatal attraction blinds lot to determine God’s will. us to encroaching danger. The lot may have been Achan obviously had the stones marked with either will to sin; he lacked only black or white paint, or as the opportunity. But it’s others have suggested, they doubtful he recognized may have been pieces of his own weakness, for marked pottery. Why the that would require lot? Because “the lot is cast wisdom. Achan had into the lap, but its every sacrificed wisdom on the decision is from the Lord” altar of greed years earlier. (Prov. 16:33). The Illinois Department There were mountains of Natural Resources of evidence that God was reports that more than carefully watching over 17,000 deer die each year 26 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  27. 27. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 27 after being struck by covenant with God. They motorists. According to the had willingly agreed to be state wildlife director, the His people, to be faithful peak season for road kills is and obedient to Him. It was in late fall. Why? Because a unique arrangement. God in November, the bucks are looked at them as part of a in rut. He tells us, “They’re unit. Each one’s sin affected concentrating almost the whole. They had exclusively on reproductive entered this agreement activities, and are a lot less willingly and freely, and wary than they normally God had taken it seriously. would be.” Those words are When we read that his so instructive: “a lot less family was killed with him, wary than they normally we are further prompted to would be.” shout, “No fair!” The law But we are not islands. said, after all, “Fathers shall And the activities we not be put to death for their become involved in, for sons, nor shall sons be put good or evil, start ripples to death for their fathers; that touch all those around everyone shall be put to us. Tragically, our fatal death for his own sin” (Dt. attraction will not affect 24:16). Since this was part only us. Fifth: of the law, which Joshua A Fatal Attraction knew thoroughly, it seems Infects And Destroys to indicate that Achan’s Those Nearest Us. We family was complicit in sense a twinge of injustice his scheme. when we see all Israel It would have been punished for one man’s difficult for Achan to dig sin, but we must remember a hole in his tent, deposit that they had all entered a several large objects, and 27 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  28. 28. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 28 then cover them up armies who would gain without his family courage from Ai’s victory knowing. Apparently, they over Israel. God’s protection were part of the conspiracy had been removed from to remain silent. Here we them. An entire nation was see another tragic outcome now in great danger. Why? of refusing to address a Because one man refused to fatal attraction—it infects address a sinful passion in those around us. his life. It destroyed not The values of parents are only his own life and learned by their children. family, but also 36 others. Achan’s newfound wealth When we lose control couldn’t help but make life of our lives, our friends and better for everyone involved, loved ones are often injured could it? Is it possible to in the crash. Achan was not believe that Achan’s greed the last person to lose far was not noticed by his more than gold when his family? His own covetous life careened madly out passions were being of control. Far more than conveyed daily to his just our own family and own children. reputation are at stake. Before we dismiss Sixth, we also know that: the offense as petty theft, A Fatal Attraction remember that as a result of Shames God And His Achan’s sin, as many as 36 People. God’s assessment daddies didn’t come home of the situation was clear and 36 families lost sons, and unequivocal: “He has fathers, and husbands. committed a disgraceful An entire army was thing in Israel” (Josh. 7:15). demoralized and in danger Not only was Israel of being attacked by other disgraced by Achan’s 28 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  29. 29. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 29 action, God was shamed by As we approach our it as well. Achan never even own defining moments, we considered the shame his need to ask ourselves an action would bring. Perhaps important question. Is there this is the most tragic of all something in our life that, if the characteristics of Achan not addressed and brought and all those who are in the to light, could bring shame grip of a fatal attraction—he to our family, our church, didn’t care. His sinful desire and our God? There may was far more important to be an even more important him than God’s reputation. question: Does the thought Years ago, one of the that our life could shame large churches in our area God and His church even was rocked by a public bother us very much? If it scandal. A former president doesn’t, we may be further of a large parachurch along in our fatal attraction organization, who was an than we think. elder in the church and a The seventh and most Sunday school teacher, was serious of all the symptoms accused of molesting young of a fatal attraction is: girls at his home. The A Fatal Attraction disgrace was intense. Steals From God What is worse is that What Belongs To this same man had been Him. Achan never saw the accused of similar activity seriousness of the sin he 20 years earlier, but nothing was harboring in his heart, had been done about it. but Joshua did. Remember His fatal attraction had God’s instructions? “The remained buried until it city shall be under the finally bloomed and could ban, it and all that is in it no longer be hidden. belongs to the Lord” (Josh. 29 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  30. 30. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 30 6:17). Now look again at relationships, talents, Joshua 7:23. “They took family, position, and them from inside the tent finances—but they are His. and brought them to Joshua When we court any sinful and to all the sons of Israel, passion within us, we are and they poured them out secretly conspiring to take before the Lord.” Why did more than God has allotted they pour Achan’s treasures to us. To conspire to take out before the Lord? what God has not given Because they were not is to steal from Him. Achan’s, or Israel’s, or Could a fatal attraction Joshua’s—they were God’s! in your life be a plan to Every one of us, steal from God? It’s difficult regardless of whether we in our consumer-conscious, consider ourselves poor or materialistic society to rich, will want something believe that God may not we don’t or can’t have. The want us to have what Bible reminds us that this someone else has, but it’s is an essential part of our true. If we can accept this fallen nature. “Sheol truth, it can be one of the and Abaddon are never most freeing things we’ve satisfied, nor are the ever learned—relieving us eyes of man ever satisfied” of the drive to accumulate (Prov. 27:20). We may want and compare with everyone someone else’s popularity, else. If we can’t accept this income, possessions, truth, it may be the last spouse, reputation, job, warning we are given. authority, girlfriend, or A secret sin, a fatal boyfriend. God, from His attraction, can be the heavenly treasury, gives to determinative factor in each of us precious gifts of a tragic defining-moment 30 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  31. 31. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 31 decision—unless we bomb or waiting for the realize it and address explosion. Which is it? it beforehand. I saw. I coveted. I took. Follow-through I hid. This was a defining Confess to God your secret moment tragically caught fatal attraction and your on divine film for eternity. feelings of powerlessness to Will we address our own overcome it. Be honest. Ask fatal attraction before it’s Him to strengthen you to too late? Achan let the resist this temptation and to process go too far. We can send His servants to you to still stop it. We must—and help you overcome it before the sooner the better. May it’s too late. Actively seek our legacy read: I saw. out a pastor, or a wise and I was tempted. I resisted. godly mentor or counselor, I escaped. to help you defuse your bomb before it explodes. Personal Reflection Is there an attraction in your life that is growing OUR GREATEST so strong that, if given the NEED T right opportunity, you might he most defining indulge it? Ask yourself how moment in anyone’s this decision would affect life is the decision your loved ones and the to surrender to God by reputation of Jesus Christ. accepting Christ as personal A fatal attraction is a Savior. God’s Word, the ticking time bomb that Bible, tells us that our must be defused, or it will greatest need is not simply eventually explode. You are guidance in life; it’s a either actively defusing the relationship with God. We 31 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  32. 32. HP093 Lot & Achan.pp 5/18/09 2:10 PM Page 32 can have this relationship Him. If you do that, you will through Jesus Christ alone, become a child of the living resulting in peace with our God and an heir of eternal heavenly Father and the gift life. As a suggestion, pray of eternal life with Him. something like this: Lord, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. The Bible tells I believe that He came us that our and died to pay the penalty for the sins I greatest need have committed. I ask is not simply You to forgive me, and to guidance in life, give me the gift of eternal life You promised. Come it’s a relationship into my life, and cause with God. me to be born again. Amen. If you’ve never taken this h This booklet is excerpted from step of faith, remember that Defining Moments: When Choices Matter Most by Dan Schaeffer, which faith is not something you is published by Discovery House wait for like a letter in the Publishers, a member of the RBC mail. Rather, faith is Ministries family. Dan is the pastor of Shoreline Community Church in something you step out on, Santa Barbara, California. He is also like a bridge over a raging an award-winning writer whose river. Jesus Christ paid the articles have appeared in Reader’s Digest and A Third Serving of Chicken penalty for our sins by dying Soup for the Soul. on the cross. After 3 days, Dan has also written other books He rose from the dead and for DHP, including In Search of the Real Spirit of Christmas,When Faith and is now preparing a place for Decisions Collide, and A Better Country: those who put their faith in Preparing for Heaven. 32 © 2009 RBC Ministries
  33. 33. More than 200 differentbooklets available FREE CATALOG! Visit us on the Web or write for your copy of the Discovery Series Resource catalog today.www.discoveryseries.org/catalogUSA: PO Box 2222, Grand Rapids, MI 49501-2222Canada: Box 1622, Windsor, ON N9A 6Z7