The Valley of Causing Sorrow
A painful lesson for ancient Israel that we should never forget

One of the most painful stories in the Bible is about Achan in Joshua 7. Achan committed a frightful sin and caused hideous suffering in Israel. It is a story that should be taught today to all the world. If we could learn this lesson, it would prevent massive pain.

“And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day” (Joshua 7:26). Because of the bloodcurdling events in that area, God named it the “Valley of Achor.” It was a huge valley. The word Achor means “causing sorrow” (see the Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon).

Joshua erected a “heap of stones” as a memorial for all the people of Israel. He wanted this lesson to remain in their memory. As children grew up, they would ask questions about the heap of stones and the valley named “causing sorrow.” Then someone would explain the story in the seventh chapter of Joshua.

Broken Faith

Here is the story. “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” (Joshua 7:1). “Committed a trespass” is rendered “broke faith” in the Revised Standard translation. That expression is from the Hebrew word maal, which means treachery. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23). When we stop walking by faith, we stop walking with God.

This was a calculated sin that “broke faith” with God. When this happens, God no longer fights our battles for us. Today, that means we begin to lose our fight with Satan, ourselves, and the world. It is no small sin.

Israel was about to fight what seemed to be an easy battle. “And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east side of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai. 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. And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads” (Joshua 7:2-6). God was having them fight for the Promised Land. They always won their battles, unless they “broke faith.”

Cause and Effect

Joshua and the elders were deeply depressed. “And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord God, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name? And the Lord said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? 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” (Joshua 7:7-11).

Joshua was trying to blame God. God told him to get up off his knees because Israel had sinned!

There is a giant lesson here. When we stop winning our battles, sin is the cause! This lesson was for ancient Israel but applies even more today. If you break faith, you will begin to lose your spiritual battles. That is happening to the Laodicean churches right now. There is cause and effect.True education revolves around learning cause and effect!

God tells the Laodiceans, as He told Joshua, the people have sinned! That is the cause of their problems. Unfortunately, they have not learned the lesson as Joshua did. But they must, if they are ever to start winning their battles again.

“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” (verse 12). God makes it very clear. Either we get rid of the sin, or He won’t be with us anymore. That has happened to the Laodiceans.

Joshua 7 is not talking about the sins we all have to battle daily. He is talking about a blatant, calculated turn away from God, motivated by lust or some other character flaw.

Hear and Fear

“Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow: for thus saith the Lord God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you. In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which the Lord taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the Lord shall take shall come by households; and the household which the Lord shall take shall come man by man. And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the Lord, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel” (Joshua 7:13-15). God was establishing a new nation. He wanted to demonstrate to all what makes or breaks nations. He wanted the people to “hear and fear.”

Today, the nations of Israel should punish severely for gross sins like the one Achan committed. But we don’t, and our societies are falling apart! When will we ever learn that breaking God’s commandments destroys nations?

When God was leading Israel, it had very little crime.

But of course, the main lesson is spiritual, and it is for God’s Church.

“So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken: And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken: And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken. And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me. And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it. So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it. And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the Lord. And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the Lord shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones” (verses 16-25).

Coveting is a great sin—it breaks the Tenth Commandment. God had all Israel stone Achan! Everybody had to see the ghastly horror of how God punishes for sin! Then they burned “them.” Joshua apparently had the whole family burned, because they knew of the sin and kept quiet. The burning was a type of Gehenna fire, portraying the final death from which there is no resurrection (Revelation 20:14-15).

That is how God deals with carnal nations. If evil isn’t stopped, it destroys the whole nation. Better to destroy a few people than have the whole nation fall!

Of course God doesn’t deal with His spiritual Church the same way. But sin is still far more serious spiritually. If we don’t repent of breaking God’s law, we will burn in Gehenna fire and die for all eternity!

A Memorial of Sin

Let’s look at verse 26 of Joshua 7 again: “And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So the Lord turned from the fierceness of his anger. Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.”

God wants us to make a memorial like this today when we sin. He wants us to do something to etch it into our memory.

The world has paid little attention to God. In fact, this whole world has become a valley of “causing sorrow.” There is cause and effect. This world is about to be blown apart with nuclear bombs! Man’s sins have caused this nightmare. Now man is about to destroy himself. Only God can guide and save us. When man learns this lesson, we can remove the sign “Valley of Achor.”

There is actually hope in the bad news. If man reads the sign carefully, he will see how to get out of this deadly valley.

That will happen. “And I will give her her vineyards from thence, and the valley of Achor for a door of hope: and she shall sing there, as in the days of her youth, and as in the day when she came up out of the land of Egypt” (Hosea 2:15). The valley of Achor is to become “a door of hope.” Once we learn how we are causing our sorrows, there is a “door of hope.” This world and the Laodiceans have some painful lessons to learn before that happens.

What wonderful news lies ahead in the World Tomorrow.

“And Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, and the valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie down in, for my people that have sought me” (Isaiah 65:10). Then Israel will seek God. The valley of Achor will be a valley of peace. May God speed that glorious day!

From the Archives: Royal Vision, March-April 2010