In Exodus 40:33 is recorded a started work that was finished: “And he reared up the court round about the tabernacle and the altar, and set up the hanging of the court gate. So Moses finished the work.”
In the Book of Exodus, we read of the children of Israel being led out of Egypt, out of slavery. We read about God’s Law of Liberty being given. The model of salvation was introduced, and then, in the last chapter of Exodus, the tabernacle was erected, and, it says, the work was finished.
Regarding this tabernacle that Moses finished, we are told: “Then a cloud covered the tent of the congregation, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” Exodus 40:34. When the work on the tabernacle was finished, God’s glory descended and the glory of God filled the tabernacle.
Today, another tabernacle is being built. Ephesians 2:19–22 describes the tabernacle that is being erected: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner [stone]; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” We are each one to be living stones put into place to finish this building. When the work of building this tabernacle is finished, the glory of God will be revealed again. Jesus will come with power and great glory.
I want to be a part of that great finished work, do you? In this study series, we have looked at different aspects of the finished work—the challenge, the method, the march, and the power of the finished work. In this article, we will consider the people who finish the work.
In the first chapters of the Book of Joshua, we read that the children of Israel now have their feet on the Promised Land. They have crossed the raging Jordan, through the power of God. They have marched in unity around Jericho, and, by God’s power being displayed, the walls of that city came down and a formidable first step in conquering Canaan was overcome. It seemed that things were going well. It looked like the children of Israel were going to begin with victory and keep on marching into complete and total victory.
But in Joshua 7, they experienced some reverses: “And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; [and] make not all the people to labour thither; for they [are but] few. So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai. And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them [from] before the gate [even] unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.” Verses 3–5.
They had just conquered the mighty, formidable fortress of Jericho, but when they come up to this small town with but few men, a seemingly easy victory, they were utterly defeated. Upon their defeat by this small city of Ai, the hearts of the children of Israel “became as water.” The courage they had obtained through their conquest of Jericho was totally drained away. But was it really Ai that defeated the children of Israel? No. Verse 1 says, “But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the Lord was kindled against the children of Israel.”
One Man’s Sin
Who really defeated the children of Israel? Achan! It was not Ai at all. Achan brought defeat to the children of Israel by taking “of the accursed thing”—by coveting that Babylonish garment, the silver, and the gold. The entire army of Israel was defeated because of one sin!
Thirty-six men died because of one man’s sin. The hearts of the entire army of Israel melted like water, because of one man’s sin. How serious was this? “Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put [it] even among their own stuff. Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, [but] turned [their] backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you.” Verses 11, 12.
The only solution to the problem was that the sin had to be destroyed. A million, perhaps more, people had not sinned in taking of the accursed thing. The majority had not been guilty, only one man. The Lord said, “Unless you destroy the accursed thing from among you, I will be with you no more.”
Joshua 7:12 is one of the most solemn verses in Scripture, I believe. To think that one man’s sin caused the defeat of the entire army of Israel and caused God to say, “Unless you deal with that one man’s sin, I will no longer be with you. Canaan will not be conquered; Jericho will be as far as you get, unless you destroy that one man’s sin.”
An Achanless Army
In order to finish the work and conquer Canaan, an Achanless army was needed. The same thing is needed now. Only an Achanless army will finish the work today. Are there Achans in our army? Are there Achans in our churches? Achan, one man of the children of Israel, in a church of over one million individuals, caused God’s blessing to be withdrawn.
Now, I dare say that none of us attend a church of over a million members. But one known sin—cherished and practiced—will defeat God’s blessing in our churches.
Cleanse the Camp
It has been very interesting but sad for me to note that many times when I have been involved with planning an evangelistic series, the devil succeeds in bringing some sin into some of the local church members, and it is necessary to deal with it. Doing so is not enjoyable or easy, but for God’s blessing to rest upon the outreach efforts, we have to deal with sin in the camp.
An interesting account is given of Dr. David Paulson, who was instrumental in securing the land for and establishing the sanitarium known as Hinsdale outside of Chicago, Illinois. Things were going well with the sanitarium; then their patient count began to decline until they were operating at only about half capacity. They could not pay the bills at half capacity. Dr. Paulson began to pray: “Lord, what needs to be done?” The Lord convicted him that there were staff members who were withholding their tithe. He arranged for a week of prayer during which the importance of paying tithe and of being consecrated to God’s service were presented. Within a week after that week of prayer, the sanitarium was over full capacity again. Within one week, confessions were made, and the sin was cleansed. Within one week they had to put beds in the halls to accommodate the overflow patients. God cannot bless when sin is allowed to continue. Are there Achans in our churches?
“There is much we will never know; but that which is revealed makes the church responsible and guilty unless they show a determined effort to eradicate the evil. Cleanse the camp, for there is an accursed thing in it.” Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, 427, 428.
“Everyone who has a knowledge of Jesus Christ—especially the elders of the church—must not carelessly allow the members to be irregular in conduct and thus let evil and sin strengthen in the church, thinking this is the way to show love for one another. God requires faithfulness in watchcare. You must take hold of God with one hand while with the other hand, in love, you lay hold upon the erring and the sinner and draw them to Jesus. Pray with them, weep with them, feel for their souls, love them, and never let go of them. This is the love Jesus has expressed for you. You must ever strive for unity and forbearance and love. Never draw apart, but press together, binding heart to heart and making supplications in the Spirit. Then the power of God will work in your midst and many souls will be brought to the truth through your influence.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 2, 127.
Are there Achans in our churches or in our families? Is there sin with which we have not dealt? Before Gideon could declare war against the idolatrous Midianites, he had to declare war against idolatry in his own home. God could not work through Gideon until the sin in his home had been cast out. (See Judges 6.)
Several months ago, we were in the Philippines holding an evangelistic series. Bible workers had been giving Bible studies, and one lady in particular had been a great help to them. She had encouraged many of the people in her neighborhood to take Bible studies and to attend the evangelistic seminar. She, personally, wanted to be baptized, and the Bible workers wanted very much for her to be baptized because she had been such a good worker and helper to them. We interviewed everyone individually for baptism, and as we talked with her, she did not display the expected commitment level. As we began asking her questions, the Lord directed us to questions that I had never before asked anyone else. Through these questions, we learned that she was keeping the Sabbath, but her 15-year-old daughter was supporting the family by working on the Sabbath. We turned to Exodus 20 in our Bibles, and we read the fourth commandment together. The fourth commandment is very specific about those in our sphere of influence and under our authority, and if we are allowing them to break the Sabbath, it is as though we were breaking it. We had to tell her that we would pray for her and ask that the Lord would help this situation to be resolved, that she might not only be able to keep the Sabbath but that she would not be a burden upon her daughter, causing her to break the Sabbath. It was a very difficult situation, but we cannot sanction sin in our families.
“Those who have too little courage to reprove wrong, or who through indolence or lack of interest make no earnest effort to purify the family or the church of God, are held accountable for the evil that may result from their neglect of duty. We are just as responsible for evils that we might have checked in others by exercise of parental or pastoral authority as if the acts had been our own.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 578. What a solemn statement! We need an Achanless army!
The work is going to be finished. We must pray and ask the Lord to help us to deal with any sin that comes to our knowledge in our churches and in our families. But we must do more than that; we must ask if there are any Achans in our hearts, because one sin, unrepented of, will cause God’s power to be withheld and cause us to be lost.
Ellen White wrote: “We cannot meet Christ in peace with one sin unrepented of, unconfessed, and unforsaken.” Review and Herald, March 17, 1891. “One sin unrepented of is enough to close the gates of heaven against you. It was because man could not be saved with one stain of sin upon him, that Jesus came to die on Calvary’s cross.” The Signs of the Times, March 17, 1890. Only one sin!
“Even one wrong trait of character, one sinful desire, persistently cherished, will eventually neutralize all the power of the gospel.” Steps to Christ, 34.
The work is going to be finished with power, but one sin will eventually neutralize all the power of the gospel. God’s power of the latter rain cannot be poured out upon an army with Achans in it. It cannot be poured out on an Achan heart.
It is easy for us to look on the outside. We see a new convert baptized who has perhaps quit smoking and working on the Sabbath. It is wonderful to see! There is no greater joy than to see one come to the Lord and accept His power into his or her life. But then it is easy for us to look on the outside.
We see health reform, dress reform, or Sabbath keeping. These things are easy to see on the outside. But we cannot see the inside as can God. We cannot see inner sins such as pride or selfishness. Could those sins of pride and selfishness cause God’s blessing to be withheld from us? Even if we are vegan vegetarians, if there is pride and selfishness in our hearts, there is still an Achan in our hearts. It is the heart at which God is looking.
The Pharisees continually had spies watching Jesus and the disciples in an attempt to catch them in some indiscretion, such as the incident when the disciples were going through a field and, as they walked along, they plucked some of the grain and began to eat it. (Mark 2:23.) Then the Pharisees accosted Jesus demanding, “Why are they eating with unwashed hands?” (Mark 7:5.) In other words, why are they transgressing the outward requirements? Ellen White wrote, “They [the Pharisees] were exact in outward ceremonies, diligent in washings, fastings, and long prayers, and ostentatious in almsgiving.” The Desire of Ages, 603.
Jesus replied, “It is what comes out of your heart that defiles a man. Because out of the heart proceeds evil thoughts and blasphemies and pride.” (Mark 7:20–22.).
Jesus is much more concerned with the heart, with the inside, than with the outside. Ellen White tells us that, “Whatever we are at heart will be revealed in character.” Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 2, 801. “If the heart is right, the actions will be right.” Our High Calling, 218. We need to ask for the heavenly magnifying glass to examine not just our outsides, but our hearts, our thoughts and feelings, and not just our thoughts and feelings, but even the motives. When we begin evaluating our thoughts, our feelings, and our motives, we start to realize how corrupt our hearts are.
Ask, Why did I say that? Why did I do that? Why did I use that expression? What was the motive behind that? All of these must be cleansed, because one sin, even if it is a secret sin about which no one knows or a sin of selfishness or pride, will eventually neutralize all the power of the gospel.
Do you want to neutralize that mighty power? The army that finishes the work is not just going to accept the challenge of looking the giants right in the face and marching forward in aggressive warfare. It is not just going to personally be doing all it can to spread the message; it is not just going to be marching in unity; it is not just going to be relying upon God’s power for success. The army that finishes the work is going to be an army with the Achans removed. If we cling to any cares, to any Achans in our hearts, we are not going to be in that army.
“I will also leave in the midst of thee an afflicted and poor people, and they shall trust in the name of the Lord. The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make [them] afraid.” Zephaniah 3:12, 13.
The army that finishes the work might look like an afflicted and poor people. It might just be a small remnant, but the source of their power is that there are no Achans in that remnant. They do no iniquity; they speak no lies; there is not even one deceitful tongue in their midst. The power of the gospel is not neutralized.
I want to be in that army that finishes the work. Do you want to be in that army? Ask the Lord to take every Achan from your heart.
Cody Francis is currently engaged in public evangelism for Mission Projects International. He also pastors the Remnant Church of Seventh-day Adventist Believers in Renton, Washington. He may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com.