The Walls of Jericho
Our world opposes God.
The theory of evolution attempts to explain our existence apart from God. Science cannot explain many things, and our world is okay with that as long as the explanation does not involve God. This is true when we try to explain consciousness, our thoughts and whether we have a soul. This is true when we try to understand what life is. It is glaringly obvious when we try to discuss origins and how to teach origins in our public schools.
This is not new. Thousands of years ago, the Psalmist wrote:
1Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans? 2The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one. (Psalm 2:1-2)[i]
What happens in the public arena also happens in our private lives. There are people and situations that oppose the knowledge of God in our lives. There are attitudes and habits within us that oppose the knowledge of God in our lives. 2 Corinthians 10:5 speaks of this battle saying, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (ESV) There are arguments and opinions raised against the knowledge of God. These arguments and opinions exist within our hearts even as believers.
Today we are going to consider how we are to face and overcome these arguments and opinions using the walls of Jericho as a metaphor for the battle that must happen.
The Israelites crossed the Jordan River to take possession of a land promised by God to their ancestor Abraham. The inhabitants of this Promised Land were not willing to give it up. The first thing the Israelites faced when they crossed the Jordan River was the walled city of Jericho. Jericho represented all the opposition they would face. This was to be a decisive battle. Defeat would mean annihilation for the Israelites. Jericho had strong impenetrable walls. As we look at how God led the Israelites to overcome Jericho’s defenses, we will learn how to overcome the obstacles to the knowledge of God in our own lives.
Joshua 6:1 says:
1Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go out or in.
“The gates of Jericho were tightly shut.”
The city was ready for a siege. It had a secure supply of water, which still exists to this day. Joshua 3:15 tells us it was the harvest season so we can assume they had a ready supply of food. Archaeological research has borne this out.[ii] Grain, which normally would have been used by the conquerors, is found in abundance by modern archaeologists. This picture is some of the grain stored in jars that was left behind when the Israelites burned Jericho.
The gates were shut tight and they were set to last years against the Israelites. The walls were massive. Here is an artist’s conception of how the wall was built.
The wall was secure. People lived in the area between the inner and outer wall with little fear of any attacker being able to get past the outer wall.
To be sure, Joshua’s army far outnumbered the residents of Jericho. However, their defenses were solid. Success was critical for Joshua. There were no secure homes or places to fall back to for the Israelites. Their options were victory or annihilation.
This is true for us today. The defiance of the world is represented by the tightly shut gates. Our beliefs and confession of Jesus Christ as Lord are foolishness to the world. However, our lives are the issue. We choose to live in the camp of God with Israel rather than behind the seemingly secure walls of Jericho.
As Joshua approaches this fortress, He sees a man standing in the way with a sword. Joshua 5:13-14 says:
13When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”
14“Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.”
Chapter 6 of Joshua and the conquest of Jericho rest upon this foundation. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.”
God is our Lord.
Many, many years after Joshua, there was a governor of the land of Judah named Zerubbabel who was charged with rebuilding the temple of God. It was an impossible task. At that time, God said to Zerubbabel, “It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.” (Zechariah 4:6)
This is the meaning of the man that Joshua met in the way.
Joshua naturally wanted to know if this was friend or foe. More accurately put, he said, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” (ESV)[v]
The answer he got was “Neither.”
This is the first lesson we must learn about our walls. The battle is not ours it is the Lord’s. He is our Lord. This means He is our master. Therefore, we must bow to Him. Joshua did this quite literally. Joshua 5:14-15 says:
14“Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.”
At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?”
15The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told.
Joshua puts himself at the Lord’s disposal. “I am at your command.” What do you want your servant to do?”
The first command Joshua received was to take off his sandals. He was instructed to show proper reverence to God.
Please follow me here, because I am going to make a jump. However, it is connected. When I think of showing proper reverence to God, the first thing I realize is that God does not want us to conquer all walls and barriers.
Jesus could have called ten thousand angels so that He would not die on the cross, but it was God’s will for Him to suffer.
Paul prayed 3 times for his thorn in the flesh to be removed, but God said no. It was God’s will for him to suffer the weakness Paul called a thorn.
We have goals. When our goals are blocked, we get angry. We get frustrated. When our goals are blocked, we can even go nuclear in hopes of clearing out the wall that is before us. However, just because it is my goal does not mean it is God’s goal. If even the Son of God had to pray, “Not my will but Thine be done,” how much more do I need to pray the same way?
We must bow to our Lord. We must stop trying to recruit God for our side. He is the Lord. He is the master. Some obstacles, walls or barriers are there because He has put them there. We must learn the difference.
As Joshua took off his sandals and worshiped, he was then ready to face the tightly closed gates of Jericho. He knew God wanted him to take Jericho.
God gave Joshua specific instructions. Joshua 6:3-4 say: (Slide 10)
3You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. 4Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns.
With 2 million people, each person could carry a stone and stacking it up against the wall build a siege ramp. If they built ladders, they could simply overwhelm the city with numbers
Here is a picture of the ruins of ancient Jericho. (Slide 11)
If archaeologists are accurate, there would have been several thousand people in Jericho at the time. While the walls were impressive, two million people should have been enough to figure out a way to get over the walls.
However, their orders were clear, “March around the town.” This is the second lesson we learn. God is our Lord. We must bow before Him and then second we must wait upon God.
Wait upon God.
They did not sit in their tents to wait upon God. They engaged in the pointless activity of walking around the city.
How do we wait upon God?
I use the word wait because of Isaiah 40:31 that says: (Slide 12)
But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. (KJV)
The idea in the passage is to look eagerly for a thing. This waiting implies anticipation and expectancy. While it implies trust, it does not imply passivity. The Israelites took action. Theirs was action taken in obedience. It made no sense, but it was obedience.
This requires faith. Hebrews 11:6 teaches us that without faith it is impossible to please God and that He rewards those that seek Him.
When we face walls in our lives we must first seek the Lord, and we must obey the Lord. Some of the things we are told to do may seem pointless like walking around a wall. And, some things may seem trivial.
God says not to lie, but do we tolerate little untruths in our lives?
God says not to have even a hint of immorality among us, but do we allow our eyes to look at a woman to lust after her?
God says to forgive others, but do we harbor resentment?
A struggle with a lack of faith or with doubt might be more about obedience than about the believability of the gospel. The skeptic’s argument against Christianity may be more about morality and questions of integrity than about the truth of God’s existence.
Decisions are more about the heart than the brain. In other words, decisions are emotional. This is why God addresses the heart and the desires. Waiting on the Lord, means setting our hearts on things above. If Israel had not had their hearts set on God, they could have stormed the city, looted it and gone on, but at what cost?
The walls in our lives can be overcome by first recognizing that God is our Lord, bowing to Him, waiting on Him and then speaking for Him.
Joshua 6:15-16 says:
15On the seventh day the Israelites got up at dawn and marched around the town as they had done before. But this time they went around the town seven times. 16The seventh time around, as the priests sounded the long blast on their horns, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the town!
The final day in the conquest of Jericho started with a long march. They walked around the city 7 times. Then they shouted. This was the shout of victory. It announced to the inhabitants of Jericho that their time was up. It announced to the world that God was conqueror.
Romans 10:17 tells us “faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ.” (ESV) In Colossians 1:28 Paul says, “So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us.”
The battle is not joined until words are spoken. Romans 10:10 says, “For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.” The mouth speaks out of what fills the heart and our mouths are an important part of the battle. With the words of our mouth, we commit ourselves to the Lord and His way. I do not think there is any magic in this. It only follows from God being Lord. We bow to Him. We wait on Him. If we wait expectantly for Him, it follows that we will have His word in our hearts. When the time comes, we will know what words to speak. Eventually, every knee will have to bow to the confession that Jesus Christ is Lord. Whether we speak to ourselves or to our neighbors, we must speak the truth of God’s word.
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[v] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.