The story of the battle of Jericho is one of the more familiar stories of the Old Testament. The site believed to be Biblical Jericho has been studied intensely by archaeologists over the years. Two archaeologists have been very prominent in the study of Jericho. These archaeologists disagree on how old the ruins are, but they do agree that the walls of the city did come down. They agree that the ruin of the city seemed to have come suddenly.
The story of Jericho fascinates us because of the unique details of the story. But it is also valuable because we all face walls of opposition in our lives,
- Walls of failed communication
- Walls of personal opposition
- Walls that stand between us and opportunity
- Walls of prejudice
- Walls of Hurt
This morning as we examine this Biblical account we will make some observations that can help us address the walls in our own lives.
Let me acknowledge that the story of the destruction of Jericho raises some ethical problems related to the command to wipe out all the inhabitants of the land. We won’t address those issues in this message, but I will attempt to address them next week.
Let’s understand the setting. The Israelites were camped outside of the city of Jericho. Jericho was an important city strategically because by taking Jericho, the Israelites can effectively divide the nation in half and fight a Northern campaign and a Southern campaign.
The people of Jericho knew the Israelites were coming. We are told that “Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.” (v.1). The inhabitants of the land prepared for battle. Jericho occupied an area of around ten acres. The city was encircled by a wall (probably a double wall) that was anywhere from 12-45 feet high and possibly 40 feet thick. The walls were so thick that some people (like Rahab) were able to have their home in the wall itself.
Joshua apparently was given a plan of attack from the Captain of the Heavenly Host (who we met in chapter 5). It is safe to say that the plan was unusual.
GOD’S WAYS ARE NOT OUR WAYS
There were five different ways that people would commonly attack a walled city.
- Go over the wall with ladders
- Dig a tunnel underneath the wall
- Smash a Hole in the wall with a battering ram
- Put a siege on the city and starve them out
- Deception such as the Trojan Horse
These are the ways of men. When we have a problem we rely on ingenuity, strategy and instinct. God however, had a different plan. His plan was for Israel’s soldiers (a very sizeable group) to march around the city of Jericho following the Ark and seven priests who were to blow seven trumpets led the Ark. The people were to say nothing during the entire journey around the city! When they finished walking around the city — they went back to camp! They did the same thing for six straight days. On the seventh day they were to march around the city seven times. At the completion of the seventh lap they were to blow the horn and all the people would shout!
Imagine being the people inside Jericho. It’s possible the people tried to shoot arrows at the Israelites but I am sure they stayed far enough away from the wall so there was no real threat. Perhaps the people inside Jericho were poised to fight the first day. By the sixth they perhaps watched only with passing interest. I suspect they hurled insults at the Israelites. Yet the people kept marching.
Imagine being part of the military brain trust of Israel. Joshua gathers them all together and says, “O.K. here’s the plan from the Lord.” When Joshua laid out the plan they certainly must have wondered if Joshua had been drinking! Their instinct said it was a dumb plan. As they walked around the city they might very well have felt foolish. They may have felt frustration as they heard the abuse of the people of Jericho.
Some historians suggest that the march around Jericho was really a diversion. They suggest that what was really taking place was that while the Israelites marched around the city (getting the attention of everyone) The “Special Forces” men of Israel climbed into Jericho by the rope that was hanging from Rahab’s window. On the seventh day, the shout of the people was the signal to attack. The Special Forces men caught the people by surprise, opened the gate, and victory was gained. They believe the phrase saying the “walls fell down” was figurative; it meant the city became open to attack.
I don’t buy this explanation. The whole point of the strategy was to show that the victory was gained by the Lord and not the wisdom of men. There are always people who look for some kind of alternate explanation for the work of God. They are uncomfortable with anything supernatural.
God’s ways are not our ways. God told Noah to build a boat. He told Abraham to sacrifice his son. He put Joseph into a position of influence by giving him dreams! During the time of the Judges, God told Gideon he needed a smaller army. He defeated the Philistines using a boy with a slingshot. He chose the church’s chief antagonist (Paul) to be its chief theologian. This is the same God who chose to take the form of man to give his life for sinful mankind. Paul said, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.” (1 Corinthians 1:25) God’s ways may seem foolish, but God knows what He is doing.
As we face the walls of opposition in our life some of God’s strategies seem just as foolish to our instincts,
- Love those who hate you
- Forgive those who have wronged you
- Save sexual intimacy for marriage
- Do not seek revenge; leave justice to God
- Give God a tenth of your income
- Trust God (rather than your schemes) to provide for your needs
- Rejoice in every circumstance
Each of these things sounds just as foolish to some people as a military strategy of walking around a city and shouting. It sounds ridiculous but it is the correct prescription.
OBEDIENCE IS THE TRUEST EXPRESSION OF WORSHIP
Joshua bowed in respect and worship before the commander of the Lord’s army. It is one thing to bow before the commander; it is another thing to honor him with your obedience.
It is true for all of us. We can sing songs for an hour. We can cry out of love for the Lord. We can learn great truths and write them down in our notebooks. However, the real test of the heart is how we live our lives. The truest act of worship is our obedience in the way we live our lives. It is one thing to say we honor the Lord but it is another to do what He tells us to do
- When it results in ridicule from other
- When it goes against our instincts
- When it conflicts with our desires
- When it means a delay in the resolution of the issue
In these times we show our true feelings toward the Lord. Do we truly love Him and honor him or is it just words? Do we trust His Word more than our instincts?
It’s much like a marriage. You can make all kinds of promises while dressed in fancy clothes. However, the real test of love is how we treat each other in the daily encounters of life. The true test of love is how we respond to each other when we are frustrated, tired, and have a difference of opinion.
A common mistake we make in life is assuming that if we don’t understand why something is being done, then it is “irrational” or doesn’t make sense. In other words, we might assume that because we don’t know why the Israelites were to walk around Jericho, then there must not be a good reason for walking around Jericho. However, God may have been doing a number of different things:
- He may have been siphoning the courage from the people of Jericho
- He may have been teaching Israel about patience and trust
- He may have been teaching them self-discipline by having them walk in silence
- He may have been teaching them about trust or a hundred other things
- He may have been getting the Israelites psychologically ready for battle
We are not called to obey God because “it makes sense to us”. We are to obey God because He is God and we trust Him. Every time we do something just because God “said so” we are acting in faith. We worship and honor God when we,
- Tell the truth even though a lie would make us look better
- Give sacrificially to the Lord even though we would rather spend our time and money on other things
- Keep our dating relationship pure even though our desires tell us to give in and our friends are calling us prudes.
- Forgive even though we don’t think the other person has learned anything.
- Lend a hand to someone who we don’t know and who can never pay us back
- Pray for our enemies
- Stand up for our faith in a potentially hostile environment
VICTORY COMES FROM THE LORD
The primary message of the story is the fact that victory comes from the Lord. God is sufficient to bring about what He promises. This whole event was set up in such a way that the people would know that the victory belonged to the Lord. The people marched before the Lord but He was the one who destroyed the city!
Life is best when we let God do His work. We must remember that God can do in ten minutes what we might spend ten years trying to accomplish! This is a hard lesson for us. We talk about faith, but in that time of crisis we have a tendency to trust our heart and our instincts rather than His Word. We feel WE have to do something. I see this tendency in me and I suspect you see it in you. It would seem that deep down, we either believe that we know better than He does, we think that God cannot do what He has said (in other words we don’t trust Him), or we are just too impatient.
Don’t misunderstand. The message is not, “simply kick back in your recliner and let God get rid of all your problems!” The Israelites didn’t just sit in camp and wait for God to knock down the walls. They had responsibilities. Their job was to obey His commands. Practically this means,
- The person looking for a job must continue to knock on doors and patiently wait for God to open the right door.
- The person in financial difficulties must cut out unnecessary expenses and work hard to pay their creditors. They must become good stewards (managers) of what they already have and wait for God to provide what they need.
- The person with a troubled marriage should go to counseling, read books on marriage and work at those problem areas of communication and other compatibility issues. Then they trust God to restore the love in their marriage.
- The person who is looking for a mate must date only those who share their commitment to Christ and who will abide by the Biblical principles of purity before marriage. They must trust that God will lead them to the right person.
- The person who is ill should pray for healing; talk to their Doctor; take their medicine and then trust that God will make them well.
- The person in ministry has the job of faithfully teaching the truth and loving the people. It is God’s job to bring results.
Our job is to do what He tells us to do. His job is to bring the results.
Do you see how different this is from the way we work? Think about the church. If some church suddenly begins to grow, we immediately try to copy what that church is doing. We adopt their style. We implement their program. We try to duplicate their experience. Sometimes we even bring in their Pastor. Why? It’s because of our assumptions. We assume first, that a church or ministry that is growing is obviously healthier or more blessed by God than a church that is not growing. That is not necessarily true. We could bring in circus animals and the church might grow numerically. We could give out free gifts and more people would come. We could put in recliners and have beverage service and the church would grow. Numerical growth and spiritual health are not necessarily the same thing. Second, we assume that growth is caused by something the church has done rather than what the Lord is doing. We seem to think that there is some “magic formula” we need to find. No! We need to trust God!
Even when it comes to our witness we need remember that it is God who changes human hearts, it is the Holy Spirit who brings people to the point of faith. We can’t “make a person believe” by our methods or technique. We have a responsibility to share our faith by our words, show our faith by our love and compassion, and we have a responsibility to invite people to put their trust in Jesus. It’s is God’s responsibility to truly “save” a person. We don’t “get someone saved”. God does that. Our responsibility is to faithfully proclaim the truth.
Let’s apply these truths with three questions. Is there a “Jericho” that you face in your life? Is there some wall that seems to stand as an imposing obstacle before you?
- A family situation that just keeps getting worse
- A nagging addiction
- An unforgiving spirit
- An illness that doesn’t seem to get any better
- A person who “pushes your buttons”
- A job that is a constant source of frustration
- A physical frame that is keeping you from doing what you want to do
- A circumstance that feels out of control.
- A financial need that is beyond your reach
Here’s a second question: Have you looked at the Bible to see what God says about your situation? Have you asked friends to point you in the direction of God’s Word? Have you committed the issue to God in prayer? Have you even considered that God may have a plan?
Here is the third question: Are you willing to follow God’s prescription? Are you willing to do what He says and then trust that He will bring the victory? Are you willing to do these things day after day even when it feels like you aren’t getting anywhere? Are you willing to keep walking in faith even though it feels like you aren’t accomplishing anything? Are you willing to trust His judgment rather than your own?
These are the key issues in overcoming the walls in our own lives. At the beginning of Israel’s conquest of Canaan they were learning a very important lesson that we also need to learn: God can be trusted. He knows what He is doing, even if it feels like He has you walking in circles.