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Topic: Whispers (01/26/04)
TITLE: What Are You Doing?
By Violet Nesdoly
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(A fictional retelling of Joshua 6 & 7)
The air was thick with smoke and alive with screams. Achan, dashed from door to door on the Jericho street where he’d been assigned to make sure no one escaped. Finally he got to the last house.
The silence inside told him it was already empty. He paused for a moment anyway, to rest, and breathe the clean air. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, he made out a polished table, golden goblets and bowls, a shrine with gold figures - all beautiful things. And this must burn? He shook his head as he looked around the room.
Then he caught sight of the robe. It lay before the shrine. He walked over and picked up the heavy garment. It had dark figures woven into panels of rich crimson, purple, ochre and olive. It was the kind of robe that beduins from Shinar traded for many oxen. This one was gorgeous!
Then a glitter caught his eye. The robe had been hiding silver and gold. He scooped up a handful of coins.
“Achan, what are you doing?” The whisper stopped him short.
He recalled the words Joshua had spoken that morning: “As for you, watch yourselves in the city under holy curse. Be careful that you don’t covet anything in it and take something that’s cursed, endangering the camp of Israel with the curse and making trouble for everyone. All silver and gold, all vessels of bronze and iron are holy to God. Put them in God’s treasury.”*
He would have to leave these things.
But still he caressed the coins. And then it came to him. He would take the silver and gold - for God.
He scooped the coins and the gold bar into the robe (he had to carry them in something), folded it into a bundle, strapped it around his waist and shifted it out of sight under his own cloak. Then he rejoined the fighting.
It was dark when the army returned to camp. Achan’s heart pounded as he neared the tabernacle and saw the heap of collected loot. Now he would have to give up his treasures.
But he couldn’t, he suddenly realized. For if he undid his bundle, he would be caught with the Shinar robe. As he turned and walked away from the tabernacle, again he heard, “Achan, what are you doing?”
“I have no choice,” he muttered under his breath and continued walking toward his tent.
He hid his bundle under his cloak that night, and the next day when everyone was away, buried it under his tent floor. There would be opportunity later, when everyone had booty, to wear the robe and spend the money.
The campaign against Ai came a few days later. It was small town and not well fortified so Joshua sent out only 3000 men. Achan didn’t go.
Midday a runner came and spoke earnestly to Joshua. Quickly word spread. The army of Ai had routed their men. In an instant the mood of the camp changed from elation to gloom. Women wailed. Joshua, distraught, tore his clothes and lay on the ground before God. For the first time since Jericho, Achan felt a stab of fear. Surely the army’s trouble wasn’t because of the few things he’d taken!
Near nightfall Joshua called an assembly and addressed everyone. “There are cursed things in the camp. Tomorrow the cursed thing will be found and dealt with.”*
Achan felt his world begin to spin. It must be his treasure! Again he heard, “Achan, what are you doing?”
What could he do? If he came clear, he knew the punishment would be harsh. Or perhaps he had already been found out. That would be worse. If he hadn’t, he bargained, he would confess.
He rushed back to his tent, expecting to see the ground dug up. But relief! All was as he had left it. On second thought, confession was probably too radical. His things were well hidden. He wouldn't be intimidated by Joshua's threats.
Next morning, the whole nation assembled and marched, tribe by tribe before Joshua. Achan’s tribe Judah, was chosen. When members of the Judah tribe paraded in front of Joshua, Achan’s clan, the Zerahites were picked. From that clan, the Zabdi family was singled out. As trembling Achan took his place with his relatives and began the slow trek to where Joshua stood, the voice whispered again: “Achan, what have you done?” This time he had no reply.
* Quoted from The Message - The Bible in Conteporary Language Copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson
Copyright © 2004 by Violet Nesdoly