Liberalism is rife in Christendom, and toleration and loose discipline are the order of the day. With this state of things in mind some remarks upon the Scriptural figure of leaven and its bearing upon Assembly discipline will not go amiss. As always, the test will be whether we are going to heed what God has said in His Word, or whether we prefer to follow our opinions and feelings.
When Paul first wrote to the Corinthian saints he brought against them a serious charge: “It is universally reported [that there is] fornication among you, and such fornication as [is] not even among the nations, so that one should have his father’s wife” (1 Cor. 5: 1). The Corinthians, however, were strangely indifferent to the presence of open immorality in their midst, and were puffed up with pride and self–satisfaction instead of being humbled and ashamed. As the apostle says, “ye have not rather mourned, in order that he that has done this deed might be taken away out of the midst of you” (v2). “Your boasting [is] not good” he continues, “Do ye not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (v6).
Paul draws his analogy of leaven from the practice instituted for God’s earthly people with regard to the Passover and the feast of unleavened bread. The Israelites were instructed to exercise the most scrupulous care during the period of the feast to free themselves and their houses from all trace of leaven. Not a particle was to be seen within their borders (see Ex. 12: 15; 13: 7; Deut. 16: 4). To mark its importance in the eye of God, anyone who ate anything leavened during the week of prohibition was to be “cut off from the assembly of Israel” (Ex. 12: 19).
Similarly, the Assembly of God is responsible to keep itself free from the leavening influence of “malice and wickedness” (1 Cor. 5: 8). Clearly, this high standard of holiness cannot be maintained if any “leaven” is allowed in the company––for even a fragment of leaven will permeate the whole and is defiling to the whole. Likening the immorality in the assembly at Corinth to leaven and its effects, the apostle imposes their duty upon them: “Do ye not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, according as ye are unleavened. For also our Passover, Christ, has been sacrificed; so that let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with leaven of malice and wickedness, but with unleavened [bread] of sincerity and truth” (vs 6–8).
It will be observed that there are two clearly defined sections in this passage, the division being marked by the change from the second personal pronoun (“ye”) to the first (“our”). The former (v7) is addressed to the saints at Corinth with regard to their immediate duty, the latter (end of v7 and v8), is a general exhortation applicable to all Christians everywhere and at all times. Corinth must purge out the leaven, and all of us must keep the unleavened character proper to the feast in both our individual and collective relationships.
In the first part of this passage then, the Jewish practice of eliminating all leaven from their borders at Passover time is applied by figurative analogy to the case of incest harboured at Corinth. In so doing, the apostle sets before the assembly four distinct but closely connected statements about leaven in order to awaken the dulled consciences of the saints:
• Their defilement as a company through the presence of leaven: “Do ye not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?”
• Their responsibility to get rid of the leaven: “Purge out the old leaven”.
• The result to them when freed from it: “that ye may be a new lump”.
• The contrast between their defiled state and their normal unleavened character: “according as ye are unleavened”.
Let us consider each of these points a little further. In the first place, Paul reminds them of what is common knowledge, even apart from the Scriptures: “Do ye not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” The nature of leaven is such that when a small particle of it is added to a mass of pure dough, its special character is invariably imparted to the whole lump. This diffusive action of leaven is automatic, and requires no human aid. Silently and imperceptibly, the subtle influence is exercised until the secret process of pervasion and amalgamation is completed, and the final result is visible.
In Scriptural usage, leaven always represents evil, and especially evil in its insidious defiling character rather than its violent aspect. Sin may act either by subtlety or by force––corruption and violence being the two great classes of sin (see Gen. 6: 11). Of the two, corruption is more easily concealed than violence, and is, therefore, accurately represented by leaven––leaven acting to corrupt that which, apart from its presence, is perfectly good and wholesome. Corinth was taught that even the presence of a little evil exerted a polluting influence upon the whole assembly.
Accordingly, the Corinthians were next directed to “Purge out the old leaven” (1 Cor. 5: 7). In order that an unleavened character might be maintained for the whole lump they were to cleanse themselves by removing the old leaven. Later in the chapter Paul says in non–figurative language that they must “Remove the wicked person from amongst yourselves” (v13). From this we deduce that the sinning individual is the one figuratively described in v7 as “old leaven”. In traditional baking, “leaven” usually consisted of a piece of leavened dough set aside to be used when another batch of loaves should be required. This practice of using sour dough for the production of leavened bread explains the meaning of “old” as applied to leaven in the text. What was “old” had appeared at Corinth among what was new and of God. The sin of the incestuous person was connected with what was of the “old man which corrupts itself according to the deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4: 22), and which for the believer was “crucified” (Rom. 6: 6) with Christ. The fallen man had “forgotten the purging of his former sins” (2 Pet. 1: 9). Therefore he was to be removed from their midst in case the deadly poison of his unhallowed deeds should spread itself throughout the whole assembly. He was the “old leaven”.
Furthermore, the apostle made clear the immediate object of the act of discipline he was prescribing––it was in order that “ye may be a new lump” (1 Cor. 5: 7). By the expulsion of the evildoer the assembly would correct its compromised condition. The wicked person being removed, it would become collectively what it was not at the time the apostle wrote. The “whole lump” (v6) was to be converted into a “new lump” (v7)––that is, one no longer defiled but newly purged. The presence of the old leaven had defiled them corporately, but their normal, pure unleavened character would be restored by its removal.
Finally, Paul presented to the Corinthian assembly the great reason why they should exercise this drastic discipline. Their practical state ought to be consistent with the standing given them through grace. As to the latter they were “sanctified in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1: 2)––“unleavened”––and because of that the apostle can say “Purge out the old leaven ... according as ye are unleavened” (v7). He uses what God has made them in Christ as a lever upon their consciences to make them bring their practical condition into line with their status before God as “called saints” (1: 2). How inconsistent and unholy to be “the temple of God” (3: 17) and yet allow fragrant evil amongst themselves!
From the fact that Paul describes the Corinthians as “unleavened” (v7) some have drawn the false inference that the assembly was not defiled because the saints themselves were not guilty of the sin committed. This wrong conclusion can only be made through ignoring the earlier part of the same sentence: “Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump”. Only when they had excommunicated the wicked man could they then be described as a new lump. As long as the old leaven was present, they stood in need of purging or cleansing. Thus though not individually guilty of the same crime, they were corporately defiled by its unjudged presence.
Having sought to ascertain the general line of the apostle’s argument, it is time to consider the special bearing upon it of the words “a little leaven leavens the whole lump”. It is held by some that the meaning of the sentence is that a little leaven, if allowed to remain, will eventually leaven the whole lump. Thus they argue that when Paul wrote, Corinth was not considered actually defiled by the presence of the fornicator. The leaven had not had time to work. Such a conclusion is subversive of the very truth upon which the apostolic injunction is made. The saints are exhorted to purge themselves by putting away the wicked man. They needed cleansing. What is the meaning of their becoming a new lump by purging out the old leaven if its existence among them had not in any way affected their practical purity as a lump? By still associating with the fornicator the assembly had become contaminated and the saints must now clear themselves (as indeed they subsequently did––see 2 Cor. 7: 11).
It is of course true that if the assembly failed to heed the apostle’s directions their impure spiritual condition would only get worse, it being the nature of leaven to continue to work until it assimilates the entire mass to itself. However, the worst had not yet come and so the apostle refrains from describing the Corinthian assembly as a leavened lump. We shall be wise if we also avoid doing the same and thus be kept from going beyond Scripture. Nonetheless Corinth was tainted and was required to cleanse away the leaven of evil that affected the whole assembly. The saints were not to wait until the morals of all those composing the assembly were utterly debased before removing the unclean person. His presence had already defiled them corporately. In other words, an infectious disease is regarded and described as such in its earliest stages, as well as when it is fully developed in the patient. If a single case of plague occurs on a ship, all aboard are treated as possible carriers of the disease, and placed in quarantine. By maritime law it is a punishable offence for any person to come ashore until the ship is granted a clean bill of health by the proper authority. The single case of plague leavens the whole ship’s company, even though all but one are apparently free of the disease. Is the assembly to be less concerned about the spreading of spiritual disease than governments about physical disease?
The confusion around exactly when an assembly is viewed as leavened probably arose through a failure to observe that the statement “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” is in the form of an aphorism, and merely expresses the character of leaven in a general way. Leavening the entire mass is said to be the effect of leaven without stating whether that effect is present, or future, or both, and whether the effect is partial or complete. There are other sentences in Scripture similar in construction: “evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15: 33); “the tongue ... the defiler of the whole body” (James 3: 6); “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1: 7). These statements teach that the ‘corrupting’, the ‘defiling’, and the ‘cleansing’, are true now and always of, respectively “evil communications”, “the tongue”, and “the blood of Jesus Christ”. Even in ordinary talk we say ‘A little sugar sweetens the whole cup’ meaning that sugar when added imparts its own flavour to the whole cup without taking into account in the statement whether the sugar has or has not had time to be dissolved and be thoroughly mingled with the contents. A person asking for a cup of sweetened tea is satisfied that his request has been granted if the sugar has been added––the stirring is a separate affair.
Thus leaven leavens the lump, and the assembly is defiled by the presence of open and unjudged sin in the individual. In the OT example written for our learning, the army of Israel was defeated at Ai because one man had transgressed the word of the Lord. Jehovah said “Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them, and they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also” (Josh. 7: 11) even though the spoils of Jericho were only found in the tent of Achan. He was the little leaven leavening the whole camp. The degree to which leaven may have spread in an assembly is evidently not a point relevant to the matter on which the apostle delivers his judgement in 1 Cor 5. The fact that leaven was there at all was the ground of the apostle’s exhortation. Under the law, both the man with the leprous spot and the man full of leprosy were regarded as unclean and to be excluded from the camp of Israel (see Lev. 13: 45–46). Similarly, it is the mere presence of leaven in the assembly that is the point.
In the epistle to the Galatians we also find the words “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Gal. 5: 9), although in this instance the figure of leaven has reference to the evil doctrine introduced into the assemblies (Gal. 1: 6, 7). Elsewhere the Lord warned His disciples to beware of the leaven of the doctrine of the Pharisees and the Sadducees (Matt. 16: 6, 11, 12), and it is noteworthy that His warning immediately preceded the announcement of the founding of His Assembly. The Lord knew what corruption would be brought about among the saints by men who would arise “speaking perverted things” (Acts 20: 30) and teaching “contrary to the doctrine” (Rom. 16: 17) they had learned . Elsewhere, corrupt doctrine is said to “spread as a gangrene” (2 Tim. 2: 17) debilitating and defiling, if not eventually destroying, all with whom it comes into contact.
By these two Scriptures in 1 Cor 5 and Gal 5 we are taught that corruption of morals and corruption of the truth are both to be regarded as defiling of the whole assembly––not just those in the assembly who are personally guilty. If the assembly will not cleanse itself by excommunicating the evildoer the individual saint must act for the honour of the Lord by separating himself from the assembly. In this connection, it is significant that ekkathairo, the Greek word for intensive and thorough cleansing occurs only in 1 Cor. 5: 7 and 2 Tim. 2: 21. The former is an act enjoined upon the assembly, the latter an act enjoined upon the individual. In the former the assembly is to “Purge out the old leaven”, in the latter the individual saint is to have “purified” himself from the vessels to dishonour. Christendom tolerates sin, the man of God will not bear association with it.
The Holy, the True
How sad is the scattering that has come in amongst the Lord’s people! Look around and see the multitude of companies that claim His name––some oblivious of each other, others openly antagonistic, and many more who are happy to cooperate with each other but not to unite. What heart that is true to the Lord could remain unaffected? So what is the remedy? Shall we spread the Lord’s Supper, free from all sectarian names and terms of communion, and fling our doors wide open and invite all that truly love the Lord to come together? Some have done this, ‘for after all’, they say, ‘is it not true that we, as believers, are all one body?’ Is this then the way that we too should proceed?
I answer, ‘Tell them by all means that the Lord has a welcome for all His own’, but do not forget that it is “the holy, the true” (Rev.3: 7) who welcomes, and that He cannot give up His nature. There is a serious question that needs addressing and it is this: Why has the Church been scattered? Is it merely her misfortune and not her fault? Has it not been on account of her sin? Take the guidance of the seven epistles in the book of Revelation and trace the descent from the loss of first love in Ephesus to the toleration of the woman Jezebel in Thyatira, and on through dead Sardis to the present time. Is it not clear that throughout her history the Church has failed again and again, and if that is the case, can we just ignore the past and begin again as if nothing had happened? Is that a holy and upright way to proceed?
Suppose your invitation to ‘all Christians’ was accepted, and that in the place in which you make your announcement you are really able to assemble all the members of Christ at His Supper––bring them together with their conflicting views, their various states of soul, their entanglements with the world and their evil associations. How far do you suppose that the Lord’s Supper would answer to the character implied in its being the supper of the Lord? How much would He be honoured in your thus coming together? With the causes of the scattering not searched out and judged, what would your gathering be but a defiance of the holy discipline by which the Church was scattered? Can you really believe that visible unity is so dear to Christ that He could wish it without true cleansing and at the cost of sacrificing truth?
Notice what the Lord commends in Philadelphia: “Thou hast a little power, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name…Because thou hast kept the word of my patience” (Rev. 3: 8, 10). We ought to pay attention to these “my”s. They show that the true Philadelphian clings to Christ Himself. His work is to obey the Lord, hold fast to His Word, and, in a Christ-rejecting world, be ready and waiting for Him. The work of gathering may, so to speak, look after itself if this be done. We are to be united by the centre, not by the circumference.
Philadelphia means ‘brotherly love’. Now brotherly love is a precious thing when it really is what it professes to be, but see where the apostle Peter in his exhortation puts it: “in your faith have also virtue, in virtue knowledge, in knowledge temperance, in temperance endurance, in endurance godliness, in godliness brotherly love” (2 Pet. 1: 5–7). Now if this be the order, (and it is the order he gives), how many things are needed to precede the proper development of brotherly love! No doubt all these things are present in the Christian in some sense at the beginning, just as petals, stamens and other parts of the flower are wrapped up in the bud before it opens. Nonetheless there is a relation of these parts of the flower to one another shown in the order of appearance, and that is what is important here too. No ‘brotherly love’ is true except as all these things are found in it.
Thus every call to unity may not be a godly call to unity. Certainly it is the will of God that His people should be together––but not at the cost of holiness and truth. If we gather together it must be to Christ, and how can we gather to Him if holiness and truth are let slip? Fellowship with each other must be based on fellowship with Him––He who is ‘the holy, the true’. With this in mind we shall guard with more carefulness, not with less, the entrance into fellowship. We ought not to look for hindrances to being united with one another, but we must not overlook them either. Hearts must be searched, consciences hearkened to, and errors acknowledged and dealt with. The cause of scattering must be dealt with before the blessings of walking together be enjoyed. The Scriptural rule for times of declension is to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2: 22). That is the standard and anything less is not a gathering to Christ.
Dealing with an Infection
Many years ago there was a serious outbreak of smallpox and some children came to a school from a house that was reported to be infected. Remarkably, in view of the contagious nature of the disease, the school staff refused to examine whether there was any smallpox in the house from which these children came, maintaining that as long as the smallpox was not in their school, then they had nothing to do with it being in other places. Indeed it was later laid down as a matter of policy that it did not matter if children came from a house where cases of smallpox were known to exist––so long as the children who came were themselves free of the symptoms. If that were the case, then they would be gladly received.
The result of all this was that a good many parents refused to let their children attend the school. They felt that it would be utterly unsafe for the health of the school to allow any children to come from infected houses (or indeed for any of these children to be visited in their homes). Without question these parents acted in the best interests of their children, yet this did not stop their action being severely criticised. Many said it was stupid and narrow–minded to stay away from such a school.
A young man heard this story, and could hardly believe that any school would allow such a state of affairs. He thus wrote a letter of enquiry to one of the principle persons at the school, and to his surprise received a distinct answer in the affirmative. Yes, it was quite true, their principle of admission at the school was that if a child came from a place where smallpox was known to be, then, providing he was personally free from the disorder, he would be received. Though he actually lived in the house where the infection was, and would thus go back and forth between the smallpox and the school, he would still be admitted.
Now to which sort of school would you prefer to send your child? A school that, for the sake of the children, refused any connection whatsoever with smallpox, or the strange establishment just described? No right–minded parent would allow his child to go to such a school. Yet many feel it perfectly acceptable to go on with Christian companies that, in effect, practice the same policy of reception! For smallpox read doctrinal error––and which is the more deadly disease? You may call it what you like, but it is not narrow–mindedness to refuse those who will not break their links with the promoters of soul–destroying error. Nor is it wide–heartedness to admit such. Indeed what such a course of action reveals is a lack of heart––a lack of heart for God, His truth and His people.
Privilege and Responsibility
The sixth and seventh chapters of Joshua give us a very striking and impressive record of the double effect of God’s presence with His people. In chapter six, we are taught that the divine presence ensured victory over the power of the enemy. In chapter seven we learn that the same divine presence demanded judgment upon the evil in the midst of the congregation. The ruins of Jericho demonstrate the one; the great heap of stones in the valley of Achor attest the other.
Now these two things must never be separated. The self-same presence that secures victory demands holiness! If we are to walk with God, or rather, if He is to walk with us, we must judge and put away everything inconsistent with His holy presence. He cannot sanction unjudged evil in His people. “Let us serve God acceptably with reverence and fear. For also our God [is] a consuming fire” (Heb. 12: 28, 29). “For the time of having the judgement begin from the house of God [is come]” (1 Pet. 4: 17). God must have His people like Himself. If He, in infinite grace, links His name and His glory with us, it is incumbent on us to examine all our habits and ways, lest we bring any reproach on that great name.
This great truth holds good at all times. We see it in the ruins of Jericho. We read it in the valley of Achor. What was it that caused the walls of Jericho to fall down flat at the sound of the blast-trumpets and the shout of the people? The presence of Jehovah. It was because they carried the Ark in which God dwelt, that a city shut up and barred before them was overrun and burned with fire. Nor need it be only Jericho, for the whole land of Canaan was incapable of any resistance to that invincible presence. What then means the humiliating defeat before the insignificant city of Ai? How is it that the armies of Israel, so recently triumphant at Jericho, have to flee before a mere handful of men at Ai? How sorrowful is the answer! Let us be solemnly warned by it, for the Holy Spirit has taken the pains to record it for our learning. Woe to the one who turns a deaf ear to the warning voice!
“But the children of Israel committed unfaithfulness in that which had been brought under the curse: 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 Jehovah was kindled against” - whom? Achan merely? Or his household, or his family, or his tribe? No! But against “the children of Israel” (Josh. 7: 1). The whole assembly was involved in the evil. How was this? The divine presence imparted a unity to the whole assembly - it bound them together in such a way as to involve all in the sin of the one.
It was one assembly, and hence it was impossible for anyone to take independent ground. The sin of each was the sin of all, because God was in their midst, and He could not countenance unjudged evil. The whole congregation was involved, and had to clear itself of the evil before Jehovah could lead it on to victory. Had He allowed them to triumph at Ai, it would mean that He could give the sanction of His presence to an “accursed thing”. Such would be blasphemy against His holy name.
The defeat at Ai left Joshua perplexed and distressed: “When the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear [of it], they will surround us, and cut off our name from the earth. And what wilt thou do unto thy great name?” (7: 9). He did not realise that it was the very glory of that “great name” which necessitated the defeat at Ai, just as it had achieved the victory at Jericho. For there were other elements in that glory besides power: there was holiness, and that holiness rendered it impossible for God to lend the sanction of His presence where there was unjudged evil. How could there be victory with an accursed thing in the camp? Impossible! Israel must judge the evil, or Jehovah must judge Israel. To have given them a victory at Ai would have been a dishonour to the Holy name of the God that dwelt with them.
“And Jehovah said to Joshua, Rise up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? Israel hath sinned” - not merely Achan - “and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them and they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and thy have put it among their stuff. And the children of Israel shall not be able to stand before their enemies: they shall turn their backs before their enemies, for they have made themselves accursed. I will no more be with you, except ye destroy the accursed thing from your midst” (7: 10-12).
This is most solemn. The whole congregation is held responsible for the evil: “a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5: 6). Unbelief may inquire how all could be involved in the sin of one, but the Word of God settles the question - “Israel hath sinned”, “they have also transgressed”, “they have even taken of the accursed thing”, “they have put it among their stuff”. The assembly was one; one in privilege, one in responsibility. As such, the sin of one was the sin of all, and all were called upon to clear themselves by putting away the accursed thing from among them. There was not a single member of that huge congregation who was not affected by Achan’s sin.
We must never forget that in the history of God’s ways with His people, privilege and responsibility are intimately bound up together. Who would deny that Israel were one in privilege, one in the enjoyment of the glory and strength which the divine presence secured, one in the splendid triumph at Jericho? Why then, seek to question their oneness in responsibility - their oneness in respect to the evil in their midst and all its humbling consequences? The self-same power that had levelled the walls of Jericho, detected and revealed the sin of Achan. It was the double effect of the same blessed presence, and Israel was called to share in the one as well as in the other.
On the one hand who could rightly measure the high privilege of having Jehovah dwelling in Israel’s midst? By day and by night, there He was to guide and guard, and to shield and shelter them. With God in their midst they had nothing whatever to fear - they were invulnerable and invincible. On the other hand mark the corresponding and connected responsibility. See how both are indissolubly bound up together: “For Jehovah thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; and thy camp shall be holy, that he see nothing unseemly with thee, and turn away from thee” (Deut. 23: 14). Precious privilege! Solemn responsibility! Had Jehovah deigned to come down into their midst, and walk with them, and tabernacle among them? Had He, in infinite grace, condescended to be their travelling companion? Was He there for the need of every hour? Yes, blessed be His name! If so, then what did His presence demand? We have seen something of what His presence secured; but what did it demand? HOLINESS.
“Our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12: 29). How could God sanction evil in the ways of His people? If He was about to execute judgment upon the seven nations of Canaan, could He possibly be indifferent to sin in His people? Impossible! His word is “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore will I visit upon you all your iniquities” (Amos 3: 2). The very fact of His taking them into relationship with Himself is the ground of His dealing with them in holy discipline.
Let us now turn to contemplate the solemn scene in the valley of Achor, remembering that “For as many things as have been written before have been written for our instruction” (Rom. 15: 4).
Joshua’s address to Achan is solemn, weighty and powerful: “My son, give, I pray thee, glory to Jehovah the God of Israel, and make confession to him: tell me now what thou hast done, keep it not back from me” (7: 19). Here is the all-important matter. “Give glory to Jehovah the God of Israel”. All hinges upon this. The Lord’s glory is the one perfect standard by which all is to be judged, the perfect gauge by which everything is to be measured. The one great question for the people of God in all ages is this: What is suited to the glory of God?
It is not a question of what is suitable to us, or what we can tolerate or agree with. This is a very minor consideration indeed. What we have to think of is the glory of God. We have to ask ourselves in reference to everything that comes before us, “Does this befit the glory of God?” If not, then let us fling it aside.
Achan did not consider for that glory, hence the appalling scene in the Valley of Achor, the record of which is enough to strike terror into the stoutest heart: “And Joshua sent messengers, and they ran to 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 to Joshua and to all the children of Israel, and laid them out before Jehovah. Then Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the mantle, and the bar 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 up into the valley of Achor. And Joshua said, How hast thou troubled us! Jehovah will trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones; and they burned them with fire, and stoned them with stones. And they raised over him a great heap of stones, [which is there] to this day. And Jehovah turned from the fierceness of his anger. Therefore the name of that place was called, The Valley of Achor, to this day” (7: 22-26).
How deeply solemn is all this! What a warning note it sounds in our ears! Let us not attempt, under the false influence of one-sided notions of grace, to turn aside the edge of such a passage of Scripture. May we ponder with solemn hearts that awful monument in the Valley of Achor, and with earnest attention read its lesson. What is that lesson? It is this: “holiness becometh thy house, O Jehovah, for ever” (Ps. 93: 5)
If Jehovah is present to give Israel victory over their enemies, then He is also present to discipline them. If Israel are to partake of the triumphs that the divine presence brings, then Israel are obliged to remove from amongst themselves what is not in accord with that self-same divine presence. Privilege and responsibility go together! Mark that fact; ponder it. It is not a question of opinion; it is God’s truth.