Joshua 6: CAPTURING JERICHO
Jericho, we read was tightly shut up, secure behind its double walls and then atop a mound on which they were built. No one went in or came out of Jericho. It was strongly defended.
We are familiar with this story and the task before us today in this lesson is to draw from it the application for ourselves in the time and place we live in the 21st century. What walls do we face? What in our society is strongly defended?
Today we face a society and culture which has put up a wall: to evangelism; to the absolute truth of God’s Word; and to the sharing of the gospel. The Word of God and prayer has been removed from the public school, the work place, the government and for the most part- our society.
This is a story of what it takes to tear down those walls. It is a story of God’s people facing overwhelming odds and strong, defended walls, with closed, guarded gates to shut out those who would take full possession of what God has given to them.
Did you notice what was a pre-condition for preparing for battle? Circumcision with sharp flint knives. What is the Word of God compared to in Hebrews 4:12? “For the Word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Prepare for battle by girding your loins with the belt of truth- the first piece of the armor of God.
Here is what we observe as we look at this familiar story:
*God wants us to work. He has work for each of us. We are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God has ordained we are to walk in.
*God wants us to wait. He has commanded us to wait on the Lord, I say, wait on the Lord.
* God wants us to win. You cannot overcome without fighting; there is no crown without conquest.
Today, we want to pick our battles. We want to work occasionally. And let’s face it, none of us like to wait. We are when it comes to serving the Lord: an army of part time soldiers, and temp workers. Yet Peter said we are a ‘royal priesthood, a peculiar people.’
We know the story, but let us look at the simple elements and see these three fold actions God would have the army of Israel take along with the priests. The let’s see how this might apply to us today in the 21st century.
Here are God’s instructions: they are to march around the walls one time for six consecutive days. The daily procession is led by seven priests carrying trumpets in front of the ark. (Remember what the ark contains? The Stone Tablets, which contains God’s Word; Aaron’s Rod which budded; and manna.) The ark represents the presence of the Lord among His people.
On the seventh day, the army with the priests and the ark were to march around it seven times then blow the trumpets and the army shouts. The walls will come down, the Lord told Joshua and they did.
THE WORK: we are saved by grace through faith, alone. But not by a faith that is alone. James says faith without works is dead. James uses Abraham’s offering of his son Isaac on the altar as an example. James writes: “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (James 4) Read Hebrews 11 and you will see a verb of action attached to each subject of faith. By faith Noah built an ark; by faith Abraham went; by faith Abel offered; etc. Paul writes it is God who works in us to will and to act according to is good purpose; but the believer must work out your salvation with fear and trembling. (Phil. 2)
The army of Israel did not sit upon some grassy knoll having a picnic to watch God take down the walls of Jericho. Notice they worked every day. It was not just on Sunday or the Sabbath they worked for their Lord. It was every day of the week. Their work for the Lord during the six days was brought to a climax on the seventh day. We work for ourselves mostly during the six days of the week, then offer God a couple of hours on Sunday. Part time work will obtain nothing more than part time results. The work we see here in this story of Jericho consisted of a daily procession around the city.
What kind of work were they doing? They literally and physically carrying the Word of God all around the city. How will we win the city of Jackson? Is this even our ambition? If it is- it will be done by bearing the Word of God, being salt and light, giving our testimony, preaching the gospel and continuous prayer. Let’s paraphrase Acts 1:8 to see what work the Lord Jesus would have us to do: You will be my witnesses in Jackson, in Madison County, in Tennessee and to the ends of the earth. And what work are we to do? We are to make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And I will be with you always to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28) The Great Commission issued by Jesus to us His followers.
Most of us consider those duties to be done by the church staff. Notice there were priests who were marching with the people and who would blow their trumpets. But there was also the entire army of Israel marching with them. Going before them and after them. The work of the Lord cannot be done just by the preachers. Perhaps this is why Peter said we are a royal priesthood. We are all supposed to be serving the Lord.
Here is the bottom line: God would have us work His way. God would have us work daily. God would have us work in faith. And when we do- ‘by faith the walls of Jericho came down!”
The heart which has hardened itself in unbelief can only be broken by the power of the gospel. Like Paul, we must not be ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. And when the Word of God goes forth, it will not return void.
So let us begin the work with the walk of faith. From the very beginning in the story of Joshua, God emphasized what it was necessary to enter and take possession of the Promised Land. “ Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them- to the Israelites I will give you every place you set your feet.” (Joshua 1) Let us take possession of what God has given us. Let us take back what the enemy has stolen from us. Let us encompass the city with the Gospel. When we are doing God’s work, He will supply the strength so we can walk and not grow weary.
THE WAITING: Patience and endurance are needed in the Work of the Lord. We like to see instant results or else we are quick to quit a project or program which does not immediately produce the gain we anticipated. But sowing and reaping is a time consuming process. You can be sure among all those men marching around the city, there was complaining. How is this going to work? We need ladders to scale the walls. How long, Lord, must we wait? We all have known that feeling and emotion as we continually keep coming to the Lord asking for victory or for a particular difficult situation in our lives to be settled. A thorn to be removed. Is not the Lord’s answer to Paul’s request the answer to ours? His answer is twofold: my grace is sufficient for whatever wall you are facing in your life which seems insurmountable. In addition, my strength is made perfect in weakness. The Lord is saying who do you think allowed this wall or this thorn which so bothers you, which seems so impossible. I did, says the Lord. For I have a purpose and a reason for this situation and circumstances. Martha and Mary thought their situation, the death of their brother Lazarus who had been buried for four days, was a situation in which nothing could be done to remedy it. Jesus said” I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he may die, will live. And whoever lives and believes in me, shall never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11) Martha answered: Yes Lord I believe. We all know how that story ended. Yet waiting on the Lord to come and when He did not, Mary and Martha believed their situation was impossible for the Lord to do anything about. Do you believe nothing is impossible for the Lord?
We do not need any man-made programs, creative as they may be. God forbid that we should glory but in the Cross of Christ. Let us believe with whole hearts that Our Heavenly Father’s methods are best. Sometimes the soldier does not understand his role or why they are doing such and such; but he knows his duty is to obey his commander. And the commander of the army, the general in charge has information and intelligence about the enemy which the soldier does not have. His strategy for victory is based on the overall view of the battlefield. And who is the commander? It was the pre-incarnate Lord Himself who appeared to Joshua and identified himself as the Commander of the Army of the Lord. So our orders are to march- ‘onward Christian soldier, marching as to war. ‘
God always has His reasons for making us wait. It is for His own glory, we wait. We also know we wait while God works all things together for good for those of us who love Him are called according to His purpose. The waiting is for His glory and our good. Many wonder why God does not come already and we are told because He is not willing that any should perish but all come to repentance. Have you ever been so enthralled in a story you were reading you could not put the book down? Then when it was over- you wished it had been longer? God is the author and finisher of our faith. He takes as long as it takes, not one minute longer, not one page longer but just as long as it takes. Waiting patiently and staying busy doing good, doing what we have been told to do, until the Lord tells us what to do next. We do not wait idly, for an idle mind is the devil’s workshop. We wait and continue to do the work of the Lord, daily. Not just one day for a couple of hours.
WINNING. God would have us be overcomers. He would have His people win. In the 21st century we have become outnumbered. This is no surprise to the Lord. He foretold us, few would enter the strait gate and the narrow way. Many have entered the broad way, a way which seems right to them. They have built a wall to keep the gospel out of a society where men determine what is right or wrong based on what is right in their own eyes.
When we view the world through the lens of God’s Word, we see a society and culture which has built a wall of defense against the Word of God. Peter reminds us in 2 Peter 3: “First of all, you must understand that in the last days, scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is the coming he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation. But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word these present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, bring destruction of ungodly men.”
“But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promises, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish but all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire; and the earth will be laid bare.”
To scoff is to mock or ridicule. Jesus was mocked and ridiculed by his captors, those who mocked him as a king, who plucked his beard, spat in his face and crowned his head with thorns.
Ridicule is the favorite weapon of the intellectual. This is why Psalms 1 says, we will be blessed if we do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of the scornful or mockers. A godly man seeks godly counsel. Stands with believers who defend the truth. We must be able to give a reason for our hope with gentleness and respect. Scornful is an attitude which arises from arrogant sense of self esteem. The scornful scoff at those who believe what they do not believe. What we can see today is what can happen to Christians who begin to seek counsel from the ungodly. They will find themselves agreeing with the ungodly and then associating with them. We must be strong and courageous. And where does our strength come from? It comes for the Lord, from His word. And when we delight ourselves in his word and become doers of the word, we will yield fruit in due season.
Now a word about the number seven (7). Seven as a number represents completeness. There were seven priest with seven trumpets. The seven trumpets were ram’s horns. These were not musical instruments, per se, they were used as signals in both religious activities and war. Seven priests, seven trumpets and seven times around the wall on the seventh day
Just a brief history of the significance of this number reveals its importance. The first use of the number 7 is in Genesis 1. God spent six days creating everything in the heavens and the earth. God then rests on the seventh day. This is in fact our template to this day for a week observed by the whole world. Seven is associated with completeness or divine perfection from the very beginning.
Man was created on the sixth day. The number 6 is associated with mankind. If God’s number is 7, then man’s number 6 always falls short of seven. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The number 666 is the beast in Revelation. There are too many uses of the number 7 to list, for there are over 700. Naaman was told to wash seven times in the Jordan River which represented complete cleansing. There is the 70 weeks of prophecy in Daniel. There is 70 years of captivity for Israel in Babylonia. In Revelation we see the number 7 used over 50 times. Seven letters to the seven churches; seven golden lampstands; seven angels with seven trumpets, seven bowls of wrath, which represent God’s complete and perfect judgment of sinful mankind and earth.
And of course Revelation is the capstone of God’s Word to us. He tells us it is now complete and no one is to add to the Word of God nor take away from it. Seven is God communicating to us the idea of divine completeness, perfection and wholeness. (And this just happens to be brought to you today by a man who turned 70 this week!)
The first work we must perform is to believe. This what the crowd wanted to know of Jesus, ‘what must we do to work the works of God?” (John 6: 28)
And Jesus answered them and said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6:29) This is the first work a sinful person must perform-is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. And guess what, the Lord offers us the gift of faith so we may believe. But a gift must be received. This is the verdict, light has come into the world, but men preferred darkness because their deeds were evil. Today in the 21st century men call darkness- light and light- darkness. This why we must let our lights, the light which is us is the light of the world which is to shine into the darkness. It is here light is needed, not in our churches.
We have to go where they fish are if we are to be fishers of men. They are out in the deep. Jesus will instruct us to push out into the deep and cast our nets there. It made no sense to Peter who had fished all night and had already put his nets up. It made no sense, that he, a professional fisherman should listen to this man Jesus, who they had spent a little time with before, think he knew more than Peter about fishing. Peter told him we have fished all night and caught nothing. He probably gestured toward their nets which they had carefully put up for the day. Yet something about this Jesus impelled him to say, ‘nevertheless at your word, I will let down the net.” (Luke 5) What happened next by obeying the word of the One they would discover was the Son of God was a record catch. It required calling to John and his brother James to come help them. Peter recognized this man was something special. He said depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man.
These fishermen would give up everything and follow Him. They would turn the world upside down. How? By obeying the command of the Lord. He told them WORK they would perform. He told them to WAIT for the Spirit. And He told them they would be victorious, they would WIN.
“Faithful is he who calls you, who also will do it.” (I Thess. 5; 24) God assumes full responsibility for our needs for the success of His plans when we obey Him. Even if it does not make sense to us.
It requires work. It requires patience and the result will be victory. Victory in Jesus!
We must work daily. We must work God’s Way. We must work in faith.
We must wait patiently and do good.
We must recognize the battle is the Lord’s. He will provide the victory as we obediently follow the Commander of the Army of the Lord.
And the walls came tumbling down…..