The Ripple Effect

Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of the LORD, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. And Joshua said, ‘Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? If only we had been content to stay on the other side of the Jordan! Pardon your servant, Lord. What can I say, now that Israel has been routed by its enemies? The Canaanites and the other people of the country will hear about this and they will surround us and wipe out our name from the earth. What then will you do for your own great name?’ The Lord said to Joshua, ‘Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. They have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen, they have lied, they have put them with their own possessions. That is why the Israelites cannot stand against their enemies; they turn their backs and run because they have been made liable to destruction. I will not be with you anymore unless you destroy whatever among you is devoted to destruction.’”—Joshua 7:6-12 (NIV)

When a rock drops into a body of water, what happens after the rocks sinks? Look closely and you will see ripples extend from where the rock hit, eventually creating an immense circle. The rock may be out of sight, but the effects are still visible. 

Similarly, when sin occurs within a family or a church, the negative effects spread beyond the one committing the sin. Just as a rock—big or small—creates ripples, so it is with sin. Even things we think are self-contained extend to those in our circle. 

Achan’s sin and the defeat at Ai give a spiritual perspective of the effects of sin. Despite instructions to consecrate to God all the spoils of Jericho, Achan chose to keep some items for himself. This angered God, causing the death of thirty-six Israelite men, along with Achan and his family (Joshua 7:25). 

What can we learn from this picture of devastating loss? 

First, a wise person knows there is no such thing as secret sin. We see multiple warnings in Scripture that “your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23). Proverbs 10:9 (NIV) states, “Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” In 2 Kings we see Elisha’s servant’s extortion was revealed (6:15-27), and in the Book of Acts, Ananias and Sapphira were unable to conceal their sin (Acts 5:1-11). 

Second, we never sin solely to ourselves. When we choose to rebel against God, the consequences not only affect us but members of our family and the church body. Even when we sin by omission, other members are neglected and the work of the Church is not accomplished.

However, we also see that confessed sin brings restoration. Chapter 7 of Joshua reveals the dangers of secret sin, but chapter 8 reveals a renewed fellowship with God once the sin was confessed. John assures us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9 NIV). 

Joshua cried out over the defeat at Ai. He was mourning the loss of God’s presence and blessing, and he pleaded with God for direction. The Lord’s response was an encouraging, “Rise up!” That command was coupled with a means to repair the brokenness that had occurred, turning sinful ripples into a mighty victory.  

DIG: Read Joshua 7:6-12. How does God respond to one man’s sin and one man’s crying out? 

DISCOVER: Do a self-check for occasions of sin in your life. It might be disobedience, unforgiveness, selfishness, or anger. Can you see how your wrongdoing has affected others?

DO: Confess your sin(s) to the Lord and ask for Him to restore any brokenness and strengthen you to resist temptation

About the Author

Lisa Supp

Lisa Supp lives in Utah and has served within the CCFL Web and Prayer Ministry since 2011. She also volunteers as an editor on the CCFL Prayer Wall and is a writer on the Communications Team. Retired from teaching, Lisa and her husband Ron volunteer at their local Calvary Chapel and share a passion for Scripture, apologetics, and education.