Scripture Reading: Joshua 7:1-26
Teaching Lesson: Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 99
It’s easy to say, “Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain.” It’s better to live it out. Today we have heard the story of a man named Achan from Joshua 7. In this text we can see a dramatic depiction of the positive side of the Third Commandment which says, “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” A more literal translation says, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who takes his name in vain.” To “live by the Spirit” is to bring glory to God’s Holy Name. We do this by living faithfully for God in the Kingdom of God. All of us who are baptized into the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, carry with us this Holy Name of God into every area of life. God’s Holy Name is to be used with reverence and awe so that God’s people may confess him, pray to him, and praise him in everything they
do and say.
What sin has Achan committed?
What happens to the Israelites because of his sin?
What does Joshua say to Achan in verse 19?
How is this a positive application of the Third Commandment?
Throughout the Bible, God’s name is spoken with reverence and awe. In the Psalms we hear the words, “I will praise your name forever and ever!” Taking God’s name in vain, that is using it flippantly without reverence or thought, is a serious affront to the Lord. In Leviticus 22:32-33 the Lord says to his people, “Do not profane my holy name. I must be acknowledged as holy by the Israelites. I am the LORD, who makes you holy and who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD.” When we hear these words in light of the full gospel of Jesus Christ, we know the Third Commandment now applies to the name of Jesus. Philippians 2:9-10 says, “Therefore God exalted him (Jesus) to the highest place and gave him the name that is above very name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
What is the Holy Name revealed to Moses at the Burning Bush in Exodus 3:13?
How is this name translated in our versions of the Bible?
When Joshua confronts Achan in verse 19 he says, “Give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel and give him the praise.” In other words: Tell the truth! In this text Joshua swears an oath using the Name of God. This is a proper use of the Lord’s name. In verses 20-21 Achan confesses his sin against “the LORD, the God of Israel”. This too is a proper use of the Lord’s Name. His sin is a transgression against the covenant Lord. God says “they have taken some of the devoted
things.” The “devoted things” belong to the Lord and in this case, it means the city of Jericho and everything in it. Everything was to be “devoted to the Lord” for his glory. We should understand that Achan is not so much guilty of taking “things” as he is of robbing the Lord of his “glory”. Glory belongs to the God who is the great “I Am” Sin’s consequences are severe in Joshua 7 and the ending should leave us a bit uncomfortable. Achan is punished by stoning which, incidentally, Leviticus 24 says is the punishment for those who misuse God’s Name. It’s very harsh. Joshua 7:26 finishes saying, “Then the LORD relented from his fierce anger.” Is the Name of the Lord glorified in the punishment of the wicked? Is the Law just a means by which we know our sin and the punishment that must follow sin? Not if we remember that the Law is built upon a foundation of grace. Not if we remember that our relationship with God is rooted in grace. We need to hear something more than the conclusion in Joshua 7. The Gospel must be bigger and it is! We need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Joshua 7 and it comes through one small word at the end of verse 12, “I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.” The word is “unless”. Unless there is redemption there is no life. Unless someone pays the penalty for our sin, we have no hope.
Where do we find grace and hope?
In the fullness of time, the One who was chosen for destruction, the One who was to die the death we deserved, came to us and he is our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the final sacrifice to pay the penalty of all our sins. He is our grace and our hope! In Jesus Christ the Third Commandment is not only kept – its positive fulfillment is made known. God’s Holy Name is glorified in Jesus Christ. All of us who are baptized in the Name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit carry with us this Name into every area of life. Let’s live up to our family Name!