Joshua Message #17 by Ed Miller
I want to thank all of you for praying for us. We were in North Carolina and had wonderful fellowship. I don’t put a lot of stock in the results because God’s people are kind and no one comes up and says, “Boy, I hated that.” I got nervous one time when I saw the parable of the sower because the seed fell on rocky ground and it says, “And they received it with joy.” But then later it was shallow and it withered away. So, how they receive it, I don’t put a lot of stock in that. We’ll trust the Lord for His eternal work but thank you for praying and there seemed to be wonderful reception and folks were hungry. I was really glad my Lillian could go with me and that made it real good. We took a couple of days to get there and a couple of days to get back. It was in Sparta, N.C.. It was up in the mountains and was very beautiful. They took us for a little tour in the mountains. To see God’s creation and realize that it’s under a curse, what will it be when the curse is lifted? Anyway, thank you all for praying.
As we come to study God’s word, I remind you that there is a principle of Bible study that is absolutely indispensable, and that is total reliance on the Lord Jesus, on the Holy Spirit who lives in your heart. He’s the Bible teacher and nobody else is. Only God can reveal God and we need to trust Him. I want to give you a verse before we pray together from John 14:2. It’s not the whole verse. It’s just a little phrase out of the verse and our Lord Jesus said, “If it were not so, I would have told you.” To me that tells me His heart, that He wants us to know everything and if it’s not true He would tell us. So, how much more if it is true, He will tell us. If He is that concerned that if it weren’t so, He would tell us, He has much on His heart that He wants to tell us.
With that in mind let’s pray together and commit our time to Him. Our Father, we do rejoice this morning that You have given us the Holy Spirit that lives in our heart and that it is His pleasure and desire and actually His passion to point our heart and eyes to the Lord Jesus. We thank You, Lord, that we can trust You for that. I ask also that You would deliver Your people from anything I might say that is not from You. Lord, our hearts our filled with praise and thank You so much for being with Lenny as he gave his testimony and the wonderful provision that you made for Brother Paul. Lord, we just give you thanks. You are so good. Now we wait upon You and ask You to open Your word again and show us the Lord Jesus in a living way. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
We’re in the book of Joshua and a little too deep to give a big review. We’re in lesson #17. If you’ve just come in and haven’t had lessons 1-16, don’t feel like you’ll be lost because we don’t preach doctrine (I hope it’s good doctrine) but we preach Christ and because it’s a Person, you can walk in at any time and walk out at any time and expect a blessing. Every lesson will stand on its own two feet. As we come again now, we are in chapters 7&8 of Joshua, the loss and subsequent victory at Ai.
Last time we were together I made a suggestion as to why God’s treatment of Achan was so severe and so intense. Joshua 7:24, “Joshua and all Israel with him took Achan, the son of Zerah, the silver, the mantel, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him and brought them up to the Valley of Achor and Joshua said, ‘Why have you troubled us? The Lord will trouble you this day.’ And all Israel stoned them with stones and burned them with fire. And after they had stoned them with stones, they raised over him a great heap of stones that stands to this day. The Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore, the name of that place has been called, ‘The Valley of Achor’ to this day.”
Why was God so severe? The answer is because He was doing something new. Every time God does something new and lays a foundation, at the beginning of any work of any new thing, there are two things that follow all through the scripture. It’s a time of unusual miracles and it’s a time of unusual severity. The new thing is that He is introducing His people to a life of abiding in Christ, pictured by abiding in the land. The land was a picture of Christ. As they entered the land, they enter Christ. As they dispossess the enemy, they possess Christ. As they begin to learn their portion, they learn their portion in Christ. As they settle down and live off the land and in the land, it’s all a picture of how we abide in Christ, the Life of milk and honey.
God did the same thing when He was building a nation. Remember getting God’s people out of Egypt by power and blood? The severity and the plagues that were there and the golden calf and how the tribe of Levi killed three thousand brothers and sisters and neighbors in one day because God was laying a foundation. When He instituted the prophetic office, it was a time of miracles and unusual severity. Nine hundred and fifty prophets were thrown off a cliff and killed. In the days of Elisha when they said, “Go up bald hear,” it wasn’t the bald head part but the “go up”, they were mocking. They were saying, “Elisha is gone and he went up. We don’t want you, so you go up, too. Go up, you bald head.”
Then you remember two she-bears came out of the woods and killed forty two people, because God was laying a foundation for the prophetic office. We saw it in the New Testament when God was laying the foundation for the church, it was exactly the same thing. But when Ananias and Saphira lied about full surrender, they were immediately slain. It’s a time of miracles and a time of severity. Someday the Lord Jesus is going to come back and set up a kingdom. That will be a time of wonderful miracles but it’s preceded by a great tribulation, a time of unusual severity.
In Joshua God is doing something new and He’s laying a foundation and every foundation you know has to be square and it has to be level and it has to be plumb. God is laying a foundation. For us, 1 Corinthians 3:11, “No man can lay a foundation other than the one that is laid, which is Christ Jesus.” When God does something new in a nation, when He does something new in a ministry, when He does something new in a family, when He does something new in a church, when He does something new in your life, you can expect that the foundation will be sure. You can trust Him for miracles but also know that He is going to lay a good foundation and He’ll be very tough with you and me.
When we left off last time we were in the part, talking about the loss and subsequent victory at Ai and we were talking about the loss. We’ll continue that this morning. Achan had a very low view of God. You remember that he absolutely disregarded God’s authority. He disobeyed the lord. Joshua 6:18, “As for you, God says, ‘Keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet them and take some of the things under the ban and make the camp of Israel a curse and bring trouble on it. But all the silver and the gold and the articles of bronze and iron, they are holy to the Lord. They shall go into treasury of the Lord.”
Then we read in verse 20, “Achan answered Joshua and said, ‘Truly I’ve sinned against the Lord, the God of Israel. This is what I did. When I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantel from Shinar, two hundred shekels of silver, a bar of gold, fifty shekels in weight, I coveted them and took them. Behold, they are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.” He had no respect and no vision of God’s authority and he certainly had no vision of God’s omniscience. You see that it chapter 17:21, “I coveted them and I took them. They are concealed in the earth inside my tent with the silver underneath it.” Concealed? When God is looking? You can’t hide anything from the Lord. He sees everything. But Achan just had a low view of God and he thought he could hide something from the Lord.
He also had a low view of His ownership. It was impossible when Jesus was on earth to steal anything. Why was it impossible for Jesus to steal anything? Some people ask if was right for Him to demand that donkey? “Go down the street. There is a donkey tied to a tree. Untie it and bring it to me.” Why couldn’t he steal that donkey? The answer is because He owned it. You can’t steal something which is yours. Psalm 24:1, “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains; the world and all who dwell in it.” Psalm 89:11, “The heavens are Yours and the earth also is Yours, the world and all it contains. You founded them.” At best we’re stewards. We’re not owners. At best we’re stewards but even then Achan wasn’t a steward. He was a thief. We’re stewards of what God gives us. God didn’t give him that. He just went a took it. He has a low view of the Lord and a low view of His authority and His omniscience and His Lordship and certainly he didn’t think anything about God’s justice but he sure found out about that, didn’t he?
The last thing I pointed out was the warning that comes from the fact that Achan was from the tribe of Judah. Chapter 7:18, “He brought his household here, man by man; Achan, son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah was taken.” I call attention to this to keep you from thinking that somehow if we’re connected to Judah, the Messianic tribe, we’re safe. I told you last time about a friend of mine who was so glad that their child went to Bible School instead of some secular school but how broken her heart was when that child got pregnant at Bible School. Don’t trust the tribe of Judah, the Messianic tribe. Just being from a certain family or going to a certain church or being associated with a certain ministry or Bible School or seminary or identifying with a certain group or some missionary family or something like that, there’s not one drop of safety apart from safety in the Lord. That’s our only safety.
Psalm 121:1&2, “I’ll lift up my eyes to the mountains. From where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.” We and our families are only safe in the hands of Jesus. May God help us to remember that. I like in that connection 2 Timothy 1:12, “For this reason I suffer these things. I’m not ashamed. I know whom I have believed and I’m convinced that He’s able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.” There is no security in the tribe of Judah; only in the Christ that comes from the tribe of Judah. That much for review.
What I’d like to do this morning is to return to our broad and comprehensive look. As we go through these Bible stories I’d like to follow it all the way to where God takes it. I’ve only focused so far on the loss. We didn’t yet look at the victory at Ai. Even this morning we won’t be looking at that. Joshua 7:5, “The men of Ai struck down about thirty six of their men and pursued them from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them down on the descent, so the hearts of the people melted and became as water.” As far as the record goes, that loss of thirty six men was the only casualties in a seven year war that Israel had. According to another passage, it says that they fought thirty one different kings with their armies in that seven year war. It’s an amazing thing that only thirty six people died. It’s a great illustration and I hope an encouragement, that when we lose a battle, that doesn’t mean we’ve lost the war. Sometimes God uses those very battles, as we’ll see and turns it into our hope for victory.
To get to our new material I want to review once more the cause of defeat. The reason I say that is because when you read the records you might have a surface look and say, “This is the cause; it was unbelief and it was covetousness,” or something like that. No, there is only one cause. We don’t want to chop weeds off at the surface. We want to get right to the root. The cause of the defeat is expressed in chapter 7:12, “Therefore the sons of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, for they’ve become a curse. I will not be with you anymore.” That’s a terrible sentence, “I will not be with you anymore.” That’s why they lost. The Angel of the Lord that had appeared at the beginning of the battle of Jericho with a sword drawn in His hand has put the sword back in its sheath. It’s a terrible thing when God stops fighting for you. One of the things that makes it so terrible is that now you are on your own. Good luck with that! Now I’m on my own. They lost because the battle depended on the Lord and He stopped fighting. I’ll return to that in another connection but just to emphasize it, when the Lord stops fighting for you, I promise, you are dead meat. It’s all over.
Deuteronomy 32:30, “How could one chase a thousand and two put ten thousand to flight unless their rock had sold them. The Lord had given them up.” That’s the only way you can lose. It’s when God withdraws His presence and stops fighting for you. Every step of my life, the Angel of the Lord with the sword drawn in His hand is fighting for me. If He stops fighting for me and He’s not with me, my downfall is guaranteed and so is yours. It’s because the war depended 100% on God and He was the victor and He was the warrior, that’s why the offense was in terms of the spoils.
Chapter 6:18, “As for you, keep yourself from the things under the ban, that you do not covet them. Take some of the things under the ban and make the camp of Israel a curse and bring trouble on it; the silver, the gold, the articles of bronze, the iron are holy to the Lord and they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.” Why did God give this command, “Don’t touch the spoils?” It’s only in the first battle because later He said, “Take some of the spoils.” By the time you are at the end of the war, He wants to share everything with you. It’s because of the principle of the spoils which is this, “The spoils belong to the victor.” That’s the principle. The spoils belong to the one who has the victory.
God won the battle at Jericho. I know we sing that Joshua ‘fit the battle but he didn’t ‘fit it, God ‘fit it. God fought the battle at Jericho. Therefore, all of the spoils had to go to Him. The spoils belong to the victor. Don’t touch the spoils. Don’t take credit and glory for what God has done. It’s not your glory and it’s not my glory. The victory must go to the victor.
Usually when we think of the defeat at Ai we think about Achan because he is the one that messed up. Joshua 7:20&21, you see that Achan is the one that sinned and it’s true that he transgressed God’s glory and took the spoils. And you know he is judged severely for it. But as I reminded you last time, it wasn’t only Achan that sinned. Joshua 7:1, “The sons of Israel acted unfaithfully regarding the things under the ban.” Look at chapter 7:11, “Israel had sinned and they have also transgressed My covenant I commanded them. They have taken some of the things under the ban and have both stolen and deceived. Moreover, they’ve put them among their own things.” Some would say that at least Achan hid them under the tent and buried them. But some of the sons of Israel took it and just displayed it on the shelf. They just hid them among their own things.
We don’t know 100% sure if Israel did the same thing Achan did or if God is saying that they covered up and they knew what he did or even perhaps they are associated with the one who did it and his sin brought trouble. All that is not important but the point is that the Holy Spirit says in this defeat of Ai, “I want you to look at Achan and I also want you to look at Israel because they both sinned against the ban but in different ways.” I want to show you the different ways and then I’ll show you after that where we are heading.
How did Israel claim a victory that belonged to the Lord? I believe it’s in chapter 7:2-4, “Joshua sent men to Jericho to Ai which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, ‘Go spy out the land.’ So, the men went up and spied out Ai. They returned to Joshua and said to him, ‘Do not let all the people go up; only about two or three thousand men need to go up to Ai. Do not make all the people toil up there. They are few.’ So, about three thousand men from the people went up there but they fled from the men of Ai.”
I believe Israel sinned the sin of self-confidence. In other words, they said, “I need God for Jericho. Boy, those walls are big and thick. I can’t handle Jericho but Ai is a little thing. I can handle the little thing. God for the big things but then I’ll take care of the little thing. Ai they said was a little problem and, “We can handle it.” So, by saying, “We can handle it,” they relegated the Lord to the bench, “We don’t need You this inning. We have it covered.” Israel sinned by thinking they could handle Ai. They wanted to be victors. They didn’t want the Lord to be the victor. “This is a cake walk. This is easy. There is only a few of them.” You take His victory when you fight the big battles; many think that. “This disease; I’ve got to give that to Him. My kids I have to give to Him.” “I lost my keys. I can handle that. I got something in my shoe. I can handle that. I have a little disagreement with my wife. I can handle that.” Brothers and sisters, no you can’t. You can’t handle the big things, losing your keys or losing your life partner. You need the grace of the Lord. They sinned by saying, “I’ll fight and therefore the victory is mine.”
How did Achan sin? He didn’t have the sin of self-confidence. He didn’t try to fight in his own strength. He let God fight but then he took credit. He stole the spoils, the spoils that belonged to the victor. God did the fighting and Achan took the credit. When I push God aside and say that I can handle it, I’ve sinned the sin that Israel sinned. When I let God do it and then take credit for it, I sin the sin that Achan sinned. Either way, God says, “I won’t be with you anymore. You are on your own.” And God stops fighting. If God stops fighting we’re left to the tragedy and loss that results from our own lack of ability.
I want to pick up again the offense of Israel and the offense of Achan but this time I want to carry it as far as God has carried it. I want to carry it all the way through which will take you out of the book of Joshua and into other books. I’ve repeated this truth over and over again and I’ll never tire of repeating it, and I’m going into the grave reminding God’s people, “All things are redemptive. Everything that comes into your life and my life and our life as a church is all redemptive.” By that I mean that God always has His heart beating for redemption. Everything that takes place He’ll turn around and make it in some way redemptive either for you or for somebody else or both of those things. Because He is not only love but He’s love and He’s wisdom. If He were only love we wouldn’t expect wars and troubles and deformities and all of that. But because He’s wise, as well, He is able to take some things He hates and turn it around and bring Himself glory.
I want to take Israel and Achan who both sinned the same sin but not the same way. They both stole glory from God but they did it in slightly different ways; one by trying to do what only God can do and then one for taking credit for what only God can do. Both of those were redemptive and that’s what I’d like for us to look at.
Consider with me again that sin of self-confidence in chapter 7:3&4, you can glance at it, the attitude was, “We can handle this. They are few.” The tragic reality that comes from that, one of the first out workings of saying that I can handle this myself is in chapter 7:12, the intelligence that God is not with you anymore. When He revealed that truth, they were reduced to fears and tears. Notice verse 5, “The men of Ai struck down about thirty six of their men and pursued them from the gate as far as Sher-barim and struck them down on the descent so that the hearts of the people melted and became as water.” When the book of Joshua opens, Rahab informed God’s people that the hearts of the enemy were demoralized like water. Joshua 2:9, “She said to the men, ‘I know the Lord has given you the land. The terror of you has fallen on us and the inhabitants of the land have melted away before you.’” That used to be how the enemy felt but now they’ve got courage and God’s people are the ones that are weeping.
Joshua 2:11, “When we heard it, our hearts melted; no courage remained in any man any longer because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” So, the response was fear and then Joshua 7:6, “Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until evening, both he and the elders of Israel, they put dust on their head.” It’s both a sad and terrifying thing to discover, “I am not with you anymore.” They just wept and fell on their faces before God and they showed that act of humility and covered themselves with dust.
The full realization of that same truth, we step out of Joshua into Judges 2:3, “Therefore, I said that I will not drive them out before you.” It’s the same thing; “I’m not with you anymore. You are on your own. They will become as thorns in your sides. Their gods will be a snare to you. And when the Angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the sons of Israel the people lifted up their voices and wept and they named that place Bochim and there they sacrificed to the Lord.” The sin of self-confidence always leads to tears and always leads to the Valley of Bochim.
Judges 2:4&5, “When the Angel of the Lord spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept and they named that place Bochim.” In the margin of my NAS for the word “Bochim” it says “weepers, people who cry”, a valley of weeping. Everytime I try to live in the flesh, whether it’s a big battle or little battle or I think it’s a little battle, I’m going to discover that I’m on my own and it’s not going to turn out right and I’m going to end up weeping.
I’ll tell you from my experience, for whatever my testimony amounts to, I’ve shed gallons of tears as a Christian and almost every time it was because I tried to handle things by myself. I tried to figure things out and I tried to maneuver and manipulate. I don’t want to bore you by spelling out how many times things have blown up in my face because of self-confidence, because the Lord wasn’t with me. I set up programs in the flesh and they just blew up. I pried doors open that God never wanted opened and I went through that. I tell you, I ended up in tears and in the Valley of Bochim, a lot of weeping.
I made decisions for my ministry and boy did I mess up that little church, honestly. It breaks my heart now. I made decisions that hurt my family. I made decisions that hurt my life and my testimony. Lillian’s parents were very generous to us and my brilliant investments didn’t do that well, with their great gifts. So many tears. I thought I had some good ideas, “I can handle it.” But I didn’t depend on Him and I didn’t even consult Him. And by not depending and consulting on the Lord I ended up in the Valley of Bochim.
Just as self-confidence leads to the Valley of Tears and Weeping, Achan’s sin leads to a different valley. The sin of stealing God’s glory and touching the spoils that belong to the victor, Joshua 6:18, “Keep yourselves from the things under the ban, so that you do not covet them and take some of things under the ban and make the camp of Israel a curse and bring trouble on it”. Please notice that word “trouble” because it’s going to come up again. After Achan was gradually and systematically exposed after his sin was made public, he heard the sentence in verse 25, “Joshua said, ‘Why have you troubled,’” there’s that word again, “’The Lord will trouble you this day.’” There’s that word again. “And all Israel stoned them with stones.”
What is the valley? Look at verse 24, “Joshua and all Israel took Achan, son of Zerah, the silver, the mantel, the bar of gold, his sons, his daughters, his oxen, his donkeys, his sheep, his tent and all that belonged to him and the brought him to the Valley of Achor.” Achor in the margin; trouble, the Valley of Trouble. I’m embarrassed as I sit before you to think of all the trouble I caused by trying to take glory from the Lord. The Lord did it and I knew He did it but I wanted to take glory.
In chapter 3 of John they came to John and said, “I’ve got bad news for you, John the Baptist. Jesus is getting more popular than you are and He’s making more disciples than you are making.” Then John explained, “I am not the groom. I’m the best man and the best man has a rule; hands off the bride. The bride belongs to the groom.” Listen to John 3:29&30, “He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom who stands and hears him rejoices greatly, because of the bridegroom’s voice. This joy of mine has been made full. He must increase and I must decrease.”
In my early ministry it wasn’t that way. I couldn’t keep my hands off the bride. My joy was not seeing a Christian fall in love with Jesus. See, that’s the joy of the best man; the joy of them coming together. I wanted my own kingdom and I wanted to be a leader and I wanted to be somebody. I wanted people to listen to me and follow me. I didn’t have “hands off the bride”. I tried to have a following and I was jealous if one of my little sheep would go somewhere else. I was jealous and I tried to be somebody. I was taking credit for things that others said and I knew that God had given me certain insight and people would come and say, “Oh, that was so good.” Man is a strange creature; pat him on the back and his head swells up. It’s a weird thing.
I also did what Achan did. I took the spoils and I claimed a victory that was my own and I tried to have my own kingdom. Verse 26, “They raised over him a great heap of stones that stands to this day and the Lord turned from the fierceness of His anger. Therefore, the name of that place is called the Valley of Achor,” the Valley of Trouble, “to this day.” There is a Valley of tears for those who are self-confident and a valley of trouble for those who take credit for what the Lord has done.
I told you that I wanted to follow through and show you how God turned that around and made it redemptive. God can transform that Valley of Tears into something quite wonderful and He can transform that Valley of Trouble into something quite wonderful. And God doesn’t leave you alone. He spells it out and He tells you how it’s redemptive.
Let’s take Israel first and I’ll ask you to look at the verses of Psalm 84:5-7, “How blessed is the man whose strength is in you,” over against whose strength is in yourself, you are not trusting yourself, “whose strength is in You and whose hearts are the highways to Zion. Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring; the early rain also covers it with blessings. They go from strength to strength. Every one of them appears before God in Zion.” Verse 5, “How blessed is the man whose strength is in You and whose heart are the highways to Zion.” Psalm 84:6, “Passing through the valley of Baca,” once again there is a marginal note “weepers” or “weeping”. Bochim is the same word except that it’s plural. Valley is Baca, the singular, the valley of weeping. It’s the same valley but notice what He does. This is the redemptive part. 6&7, “Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring. The early rain also covers it with blessings. They go from strength to strength. Every one of them appears before God in Zion.” What was the valley of tears, by God’s redemption, has now become a valley of springs where you can be refreshed. It’s the same valley. The valley of Baca, the valley of Bochim, the valley of tears is not one spring but it’s many springs.
Do you see what God is promising here? That experience that you went through. That defeat that you went through that brought you to tears can become redemptive and someone else can look at your testimony and experience and for them it can be a refreshing spring. That’s what God does. Those tears, by His redemptive power, have become refreshing springs. There are pilgrims on their way to Zion and we are all pilgrims passing through and we’re strangers here and sometimes as pilgrims we need to be refreshed along the way. So, as a pilgrim I step into your life and into your experience and you warn me “don’t do that; it will bring you to tears.”
I’ll tell you, I thought I was trusting the Lord and I was trusting myself and I said, “Thank you for sharing that. You have saved me tears and now I have been refreshed from your testimony and from your life.” So, God lets your experience of defeat be turned into victory when somebody else comes and what broke your heart and brought you into the valley of Bochim is now the valley of strength for others to drink.
I tell you my story. I’ve never met anybody more screwed up than I was. Lillian and I were bouncing off the walls and we didn’t know what was up or down. God has been so faithful in our lives. I look back and regret, wishing that I didn’t do that. But now that I look at my life I know it was all redemptive and I don’t regret it quite as much anymore. I share my mess-ups with some of God’s people. I’ve heard people say, “I thought you were some kind of spiritual hotshot and some kind of monopoly on the Lord.” When they find out that we’re human and we’re flesh and we’re all the same and then I tell them about my Bochim, they drink from that, they are springs of fresh water. That is redemptive. That’s why I say that I can’t leave the Valley of Bochim in the book of Joshua because of Psalm 84 and other passages like it. What you have gone through in terms of self-confidence, God can turn around use as springs.
Exodus 15:27, “They came to Elim where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date palms and they camped there besides the water.” God can take your Bochim and turn it to Elim. That’s exactly what He wants to do. That’s what I mean by “redemptive”.
That was the valley of tears. The valley of trouble is also redemptive and this is not so much the consequences of your decision. This is more into the chastening of the Lord. God is not only not fighting with you but now He is disciplining you and He’s chastening you with this trouble. You saw how Achan was chastened. The valley of Achor, the valley of trouble is God’s heavy hand. Listen to Hebrews 12:5-6 and believe it with all your heart, “Have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons? My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord nor faint when you are reproved by Him. For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines and scourges every son whom He receives.” A sure as you are a child of God and He loves you, you will be disciplined and you will be scourged. That’s the evidence.
Achan’s story is real to me because some of you know the early part of my testimony. I lived a terrible lie for about seven years and the lie grew larger and larger through the years and I tried to hide it under my tent. I didn’t want to be exposed. Like I said, I was trying to build up a kingdom. I wanted people to like me and hear me and ask me to come and preach and so on. I know I didn’t believe what Achan believed. He believed that God wouldn’t notice. I didn’t believe that. I knew God would notice. So, I made a deal with the Lord. I know He knew and I said to Him, “If you will not let me be exposed for the hypocrite I am I promise You I’ll be the best servant you ever had.” So, I tried to work it off. I got involved in every ministry and I was with prisoners and I was in nursing homes and I did open air preaching and I spoke to old people and to young people and I had every kind of ministry and wearing myself out serving the Lord, just to keep that thing hidden. But like Achan, gradually I was being exposed. The lie got bigger and it didn’t balance and I had to add more facts that weren’t facts, and on and on it went until finally God did with me what he did with Achan. He brought it all out and I was exposed and I had to stand up a Columbia Bible College and confess before a thousand of my peers what a hypocrite I was.
I was in the valley of trouble and because I had a little kingdom at that time, how disappointed they were when they saw the real Ed Miller and how much trouble I caused. I caused trouble in my little fellowship and I caused trouble in my family. I considered because Lillian married a lie, the most spiritual thing I could do was to set her free. It was just trouble, a valley of trouble. My whole life was burned up. Every Christian had a stone in their hand after they discovered who I was.
My training, my testimony, my life was destroyed. 1965 I was in the valley of Achor but it’s redemptive. How is it redemptive? Let me give you, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story. The prophets pick up the redemptive side of the valley of trouble. Let me set it up with the story of Hosea, the prophet. He had a wife, very much like Achan. Her name was Gomer and she didn’t give God glory for anything and she was trouble with a capital “T”. She was very unfaithful to her husband and broke his heart. In fact, the whole book of Hosea, the message of the book is the “broken hearted lover of your soul” because he reflects how God feels when we are unfaithful.
A summary of her story is in chapter 2 and I have only chosen little expressions from these verses. Chapter 2:8, “She does not know that it was I who gave the grain, the new wine, and the oil…” She didn’t give God credit. She didn’t know that it was from Him. Hosea 2:9, “Therefore, I’ll take back My grain, my new wine, my wool, my flax…” He’s going to take it back. He’s claiming the spoils that belong to Him. Hosea 2:10, “I’ll uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers. No one will rescue her out of My hand.” Like Achan, God is going to gradually reveal and expose and uncover her lewdness. That’s what He did for me in 1965. Hosea 2:11, “I’ll put an end to all her gaiety, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths and all her festal assemblies.” It’s an end to her joy. All of that took place for Achan and it took place for Gomer and in my life it took place for me.
Verse 12, “I will destroy her vines and fig trees, of which she said, ‘these are my wages which my lovers have given me.’” “I take credit. This belongs to me.” It’s all loss. Achan saw the valley of trouble was losing everything. God takes everything that she has and everything that he had and gradually exposed her lewdness. Hosea 2:13, “’I’ll punish her for the days of the Baals when she used to offer sacrifices to them and adorn herself with earings and jewelry and follow her lovers, so that she forgot Me,’ declares the Lord.” This is the divine woodshed. This is chastening.
Where is redemption? Verse 14, “Therefore, behold, I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, speak kindly to her. I will give her vineyards from there and the valley of Achor,” has a door – that’s amazing, “as a door of hope and she’ll sing there as in the days of her youth, as in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.” When God takes the valley of Achor, the valley of trouble, and turns it into a door of hope, it’s like getting saved all over again. You don’t get saved again but it brings you back to when you were first delivered. He restores the joy of your salvation. This is an amazing thing that the valley of trouble can become a door of hope.
Once again, as I look back, I say, “I wish that never happened. Those were the seven worst years of my life.” How God’s people have been helped because I went through those seven years. I just can’t stop praising God enough. I was gradually exposed for the hypocrite that I was. My lewdness was made present to all. I had to write letters to Moody Bible Institute and every place that I had lied and it was a terrible time but now, though I brought trouble to my family and trouble to my ministry and trouble to my own life and I hated to look back, now I discover that God had lured me into the wilderness (I didn’t know that) to be kind to me and He let me crash and He let me hit the bottom. I had to go into that valley of trouble. The self-confidence brought me to the valley of tears and then this stealing glory from God brought me finally to this valley of trouble.
I told you that after the defeat of Ai, Israel never lost another man. In a seven year war fighting thirty one different armies, how they were profited by that defeat and God said, “I’ll turn that into the door of hope.” So, the valley of tears becomes a valley of springs and the valley of Achor, the valley of trouble, becomes a door of hope. But, we’re not through. Redemption is even greater than that. Isaiah picks it up. Isaiah 65:10, “Sharon will be a pasture for flocks and the valley of Achor a resting place for herds, for my people who seek Me.” A valley of trouble? A door of hope. A valley of trouble? A resting place. Isn’t it amazing! That’s what I mean when I say that everything is redemptive. Don’t despise it or regret it when God brings you to tears. It’s not only for you. It’s for someone down the road and maybe years away. Don’t despise it or regret it when God lets you crash because that becomes a door of hope for somebody else, so that they don’t have to go through that. Praise God for the valley of tears and praise God for the valley of trouble because it becomes a valley of springs and a door of hope and a resting place.
I was going to take you a little further but I think we’ll stop there. Let’s pray that as we continue our look at this, that God will be our teacher. It’s all about Him. By the way, let me make sure you got my testimony straight now. I don’t want a following and I don’t want a flock. My joy, and you don’t know how much, is to see you and Jesus in an intimate relationship. That’s my life and that’s all I live for. I want to see you and Him get together. Let’s pray.
Father, thank You for Your word and thank You for the truth that everything is redemptive and how You are so wise to turn things around. Thank You, Lord, for bringing us into the valley of tears and then transforming it into a valley of springs. Thank You for the valley of trouble, then transforming it into a door of hope and a resting place. Lord, we adore You and we worship You. Make these things real in our lives and hearts. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.