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Thursday, November 3, 2022

Achan - A Scary BUT Necessary Story

In teaching children, there are many difficult narratives in the Bible.

There are many difficult narratives for adults in the Bible.

The story of Achan, this past Sunday's 1st - 5th grade Bible lesson (, is one of those stories.
It is one of the upcoming Bible Club lessons I will be teaching at a public school and would very much appreciate your prayers.
As a ministry leader, teacher, and a parent, I wanted to share a part of a good book entitled Show Them Jesus.
The author writes specifically about this story.
A few years ago I was teaching a large group of elementary kids from the book of Joshua. I taught how God brought his people through the Jordan River and toppled the walls of Jericho. From there, the curriculum I was using skipped a chapter—the story of Achan.  
Achan was an Israelite soldier. He spurned a direct command from God by taking some of the plunder of Jericho for himself. His sin was uncovered when God caused the Israelites to be routed in a subsequent battle. To reveal whose sin was responsible, God used a dread-filled process of picking first the tribe, then the clan, then the family at fault. The members of the guilty family came forward one by one, and God picked Achan. So the people stoned Achan, along with his wife, children, and livestock. Then they set them on fire and heaped stones on their charred bodies. Only after that did God turn from his anger.  
Well now, it’s easy to see why that story gets skipped. 
What should I do? I don’t like picking through the Bible for just the cheery parts, but my group of kids was fairly young. I was worried that the lesson might be too scary. I finally decided I could teach about Achan—if I made sure that the good news of Jesus was my theme.  
One of my helpers that day was also the mom of a student. Just before class, she asked what the lesson was, and when I told her she became worried. Her daughter got nightmares, she explained. Tense stories often brought them on. I got a sick feeling. Surely I’d been stupid to think I could teach such a lesson to little kids. But there was no time to change it, so I taught about Achan. Dead soldiers. Selection process. Stoning. Fire. The whole ugly scene.  
As I taught this, the concerned mom looked even more worried. So did some of the kids, who were particularly bothered that the other soldiers, family members, and animals got killed too. What had they done to deserve that? It was a good question, so I had the whole group gather around me as I sat on the floor with them.  
“Yes, many were killed,” I told them, “but that’s what we should learn from this.” I read to them the Bible’s own commentary on the incident: “Didn’t the LORD’s anger come on the whole community of Israel? And Achan wasn’t the only one who died because of his sin” (Joshua 22:20, NIrV).  
“You see,” I said, “just one man sinned, but many died. That’s the lesson.”
The kids gave me confused looks. It wasn’t the sort of lesson anyone was expecting. I had their attention and pressed on.  
“What if you sin? Or I sin? Does God punish us like he did Achan? Does anyone else get punished too? Or has God made a way to punish sin that has a better ending than this story has?”  
The kids weren’t sure. Several knew that God wouldn’t be holy if he didn’t punish sin. They also knew that God forgives. They weren’t certain how it all fit together.  
“The idea that a person might die for someone else’s sin is very important,” I said. “In our story, one man sinned but many died. But what if later in the Bible we found one man—just one man—who never sinned in his whole life, but still got punished? If that man never sinned but still died, then many could live.”  
They knew I was talking about Jesus.  
I went on to tell how Jesus lived the sin-free life each of us don’t. I told how out of all the tribes and clans and families of the world, only Jesus is not guilty—so God picked him. To die. To take our place. God selected Jesus to take the punishment we deserve so we don’t have to stand sinful and quaking, waiting for judgment like Achan did.  
“Your sin is very bad,” I told the kids. “It can hurt many people. But God loves you so much that he sent his Son, Jesus, to become a man and die for your sin. Jesus was hurt most of all.  
“I wasn’t sure I should tell you this story because I thought it might be too scary. It’s about the scariest thing ever—getting punished by God. But when you know the whole story, it isn’t scary. If you belong to Jesus, he took your punishment and God becomes your Father. So I hope you won’t be scared. You don’t have to be scared of anything. Jesus makes the scariest thing of all go away.” 
I knew I’d done okay once it was over because the worried mom thanked me. She loved the story. The real surprise, though, came a few weeks later. The mom came up to me with a huge grin and told me her daughter’s nightmares had stopped. The girl insisted it was because she knew that, due to Jesus, she didn’t have to be scared anymore.  
Well, that’s the kind of result a teacher very rarely hears of, and my first reaction was skepticism. Could a little lesson about Jesus really cure such a problem? The nightmares would probably come back in time. But months went by and the mom remained delighted.  
I finally came to see that I was the one who lacked faith in the power of the good news. In spite of teaching it, I never expected it to work so wonderfully. It was all due to Jesus, of course, who lived the story I had the privilege of repeating. There’s no story like it. I should have expected such results. 
When the account of Achan is taught at all, it’s usually with the moral point that stealing is wrong. Okay, but that girl needed to hear the larger biblical point: that sin destroys life with God. Then she needed the biggest point of all—the theme of the whole Bible: that wherever sin destroys, Jesus heals.  
That girl learned about Jesus and believed. She also discovered that belief in Jesus is life-changing, that he truly is better than anything else.
Klumpenhower, Jack. Show Them Jesus: Teaching the Gospel to Kids (Kindle Locations 181-232). New Growth Press. Kindle Edition

HERE is a review of the book.

Here is the BIG IDEA of the story that children and adults need to know.  

Sin has consequences - BIG CONSEQUENCES.  
From an eternal perspective - - 
If you have not repented of your sin and put your trust in Jesus Christ, you will suffer eternal judgment for your sin - Hell.
If you have repented of your sin and put your trust in Jesus, he has taken that punishment for your sin upon himself and you are saved.

From a temporary perspective - -
The consequences of your sin have an impact on you and others.

From both perspectives, sin - coveting, stealing, deceiving, or any other -  is a serious problem.

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