We are not alone, we are all connected to other human beings. The Hebrew word for iniquity is often used to designate guilt by association. As part of any group, we are then responsible for the group. If we are in the group, we suffer consequences of group actions, beliefs and declarations. We join some groups voluntarily but also involuntarily. All of us are born into an ethnic group involuntarily but we may choose to be naturalized in another country voluntarily. Many of us have joined a political party when we registered to vote but few would understand the danger of such affiliations. All associations have a price to pay, whether voluntary or involuntary. This we call horizontal iniquities of association.
The Israelites had two types of iniquities, vertical and horizontal. The first type was a result of their common ancestry. The sins of their fathers and the effects of those sins were still evident in their lives. So they did not only confess their own sins but also the sins of their fathers. The second type was result of association with other Israelites as a people or nation. Whatever happened with the whole people was also affect the individual. There are two instances in today reading that reflect horizontal iniquities.
The first one was the sin of worshipping Baal of Peor. Although many had since dismissed that incident but Joshua reminded them that the iniquity was still on them. Up to that very day, this horizontal iniquity was still operative in the community of Israel. The iniquity had not been totally cleansed. The second horizontal iniquity was the sin of Achan. When he was unfaithful, he caused a defeat of the whole community. People lost their lives because of him although he was not killed in the defeat.
This is horizontal iniquity, when some, or even one person commits sin against God, others would also suffer and bear the guilt. This idea is diametrically opposed to the idea of individualism of today. If we neglect this aspect of our lives, we might get into trouble without knowing the reason. As part of any group, we are to know what the group is doing and going. If the group commits any sin, you need to repent on their behalf. If you are a member of a church, you should not criticize the church but to bear any sin together with the others. A self-righteous attitude would not negate group sin.
Pause now to think of any horizontal associations that you are in. Pray for these groups and associations as if you are praying for yourself. If you do not agree with the philosophy of any of them, and if you do not want to have a part in their sin, get out before it is too late. May the Holy Spirit speak to you now.
Ps 57:1-6 Josh 21:1-22:20 Luke 20:1-26 Prov 13:15-16