Friday, February 4, 2011

Hall of Faith Series - The Walls of Jericho

Once again it is Friday, and once again we are continuing our tour through the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11.  Today we are talking about the nation of Israel and the fall of Jericho.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days.  Hebrews 11:30 NKJV
Today our study is in Joshua.
And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, "Are You for us or for our adversaries?" So He said, "No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, "What does my Lord say to His servant?"  Joshua 5:13-14 NKJV
We are starting back a few verses because I think that this represents a valuable lesson.  Joshua sees a Man with a drawn sword ahead of him and asks what would seem to be a logical question "Are you for us or against us."  They were outside Jericho whom they were about to be at war with, so the question makes perfect sense.  The answer is quite amazing.  The Man says "No." Then identifies Himself as the Commander of the Army of the Lord.  Joshua fell on his face and worshiped this mysterious man.  Who is this man?  None other than Jesus Christ.  This Man never corrected Joshua's worship of Him, which would have happened if that were a mere angel.  No this was Jesus Christ and he was there to lead His people into their conquest of the promised land.  The lesson here is in the answer.  Joshua asked if he was for or against them and he was answered "No."  That may not seem like an answer, but it is.  The problem was that Joshua asked the wrong question.  God is for God so the real question is whether we are for Him or against Him.  If we are for Him, God is for us.  If we are against Him, God is against us.  Once Joshua realized Whom he was talking to, he immediately corrected his attitude and fell and worshiped.  He now asked the correct question "What does my Lord say to his servant."  May we have that same attitude towards God.  It should never be about claiming or demanding things from God but falling on our knees before Him and asking Him what He wants for us and from us. 
Then the Commander of the LORD's army said to Joshua, "Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy." And Joshua did so.  Joshua 5:15 NKJV
And just like with Moses, Joshua was commanded to take off his sandals.  Now that the Lord is in place to lead His people, they were ready to proceed with the conquest.
Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. And the LORD said to Joshua: "See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor.  Joshua 6:1-2 NKJV
Jericho was preparing for war.  The fortified their giant walls and closed the gates.  Israel stood outside what would have been massive walls.  They did not have planes, bombs, rockets, or anything like that during these times.  Normally they would have laid siege to try to starve the city into surrender.  In this case, God tells Joshua that the city was given into their hands. The victory was there for the taking.
"You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him."  Joshua 6:4-5 NKJV
The only people more surprised than the Israelites with this battle plan were probably those of Jericho when they saw it in action.  They were not going to rush the wall and charge through their defenses.  They were not going to sit back and watch God rain fire and brimstone upon the city.  No, they were gong to march around the city once a day for six days and then on the seventh day they would march around seven times followed by a blowing of the ram's horn.  We will see that not only do they march around, but they do so quietly.  They do not even taunt or feign battle cries.  They just walk.  It was kind of a crazy plan.  Just marching around a fortified city left them vulnerable to the city's defenses.  It was a strange plan in man's eyes, it was a silly plan in the eyes of a military man, but it was the best plan because it was God's plan.
Then Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, "Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the LORD." And he said to the people, "Proceed, and march around the city, and let him who is armed advance before the ark of the LORD." So it was, when Joshua had spoken to the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams' horns before the LORD advanced and blew the trumpets, and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them. The armed men went before the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard came after the ark, while the priests continued blowing the trumpets. Now Joshua had commanded the people, saying, "You shall not shout or make any noise with your voice, nor shall a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I say to you, 'Shout!' Then you shall shout." So he had the ark of the LORD circle the city, going around it once. Then they came into the camp and lodged in the camp. And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. Then seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually and blew with the trumpets. And the armed men went before them. But the rear guard came after the ark of the LORD, while the priests continued blowing the trumpets. And the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. So they did six days. But it came to pass on the seventh day that they rose early, about the dawning of the day, and marched around the city seven times in the same manner. On that day only they marched around the city seven times.  Joshua 6:6-15 NKJV
What we just read was faith in action.  Despite how unorthodox the plan seemed to be, the people had faith in what God had said and so despite what it may have looked like to the world, or even to the ones they were about to conquer, they obeyed.  I wonder what the people of Jericho thought watching the Israelites march quietly around their city once a day for six days.  I wonder if they suspected things were different on the seventh day when they began to walk around a second time.  Perhaps they were confused, perhaps they were scared, perhaps they were even amused.  I am sure they had no idea as to what was about to happen.  Judgment is about to come suddenly and dramatically upon that city. 
And the seventh time it happened, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people: "Shout, for the LORD has given you the city! Now the city shall be doomed by the LORD to destruction, it and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. And you, by all means abstain from the accursed things, lest you become accursed when you take of the accursed things, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are consecrated to the LORD; they shall come into the treasury of the LORD."  Joshua 6:16-19 NKJV
And finally we have the call to arms.  The time of marching in circles is over and the time to see the Lord's power is at hand.  Joshua charges the men to save Rahab (who we will discuss next week) and to abstain from warns them regarding taken accursed things (a warning we learn later they do not heed), and to confiscate all the precious metal for the treasury of the Lord. 
So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword. But Joshua had said to the two men who had spied out the country, "Go into the harlot's house, and from there bring out the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her." And the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had. So they brought out all her relatives and left them outside the camp of Israel. But they burned the city and all that was in it with fire. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.  And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father's household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.  Joshua 6:20-25 NKJV
Judgment came swift and hard.  No one save Rahab and her household were spared.  No animals were spared.  The entire city and all who resided it in were wiped from the face of the earth.  There is no escape from God's judgment.  You can not hide from it, flee from it, fight it, or argue your way out of it.  When God is ready to pronounce judgment, there is nothing to do but await the fate that is to become you. 
Then Joshua charged them at that time, saying, "Cursed be the man before the LORD who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates." So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout all the country.  Joshua 6:26-27 NKJV
Not only is God's judgment complete, but it is permanent. 

So what lessons of faith can we learn from today's post?  First we must be for God.  When we approach the Lord we often already have our ideas and plans in our mind and just want God to bless what we are going to do anyway.  We often ask as Joshua asked "Are you for us or against us."  What a wrong heart we have when we do that!  We should abandon any ideas or plans that we have and bow before our Lord and ask Him what He wants of us.  Do you think that Joshua when thinking about the military campaign he was about to embark on was thinking about marching around the city once a day?  Of course he was not.  He approached the Lord first as a soldier preparing for war in asking Him whether He was for him or against him, but once he realized just Who he was speaking to, his attitude completely changed.  He went from asking God if he was for him to submitting himself to God.  He went from an attitude of seeing if God would bless his plans to submitting to what God would have him to do.   We have no idea what God wants us to do until we ask of Him.  His thoughts are not our thoughts nor are His ways our ways.  What makes sense to us may be tragically wrong from from His perspective.  What may seem insane to us may be the absolute perfect thing to do according to Him.  We must abandon any idea of having wisdom of our own and completely submit ourselves to the Lord's direction in all areas of our lives. 

The next part of the lesson is that once you get that plan from God, you must act on it.  God gave them the victory. God knocked down the walls.  God made it so it was a military route of a fortified city.  But the Israelites had to dress for battle, they had to do the killing, they had to march around the city.  They may have done it in the strength of the Lord, but they had work to do.  We are saved by faith not by works, but faith always leads to works.  Those works are our obedience to the Lord's direction for our lives no matter where that may take us.  The Israelites followed a bizarre plan from any man's perspective, but out of faith they followed in obedience to the Lord and in the end had a complete victory of their enemy.  It was not about what the rest of the world perceived them as, it was about submitting themselves under the authority of the One who created the world.  We must do the same, we must be obedient to God's plan for our lives.  We see other times where the Israelites acted in their own wisdom, which always resulted in negative consequences.  We must act on God's plan and only on God's plan.  We must care more about how we submit the will of the Creator over the perception of His creation. 

We have a choice in life.  We can either follow our own wisdom and lead ourselves to failure or we can submit ourselves to the Lord and to His wisdom and be led to victory. 
And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15 NKJV

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