Memorials are designed to remind future generations of great leaders and victorious conquests. As Stephen reminds us in this message, just as memorials are an important way to commemorate military victories, they can also be a great reminder of spiritual victories.
from the tape. . .
(Joshua 5 & 6)
In our last discussion, we followed the Israelites triumphantly through the Jordan River and we see them now as 2 million strong standing on the eastern side just prior of reaching Jericho. I imagine their heads are swimming with excitement and their chests heaving, their hearts are swelling with the great joy that they have just experienced faith in God. And they had seemed God work in a miraculous way.
But then you would think it would be at this moment that they would just attack Jericho but God does something unusual. Rather strange militarily, because and all-out offensive be perfect in its timing.
But instead, God says in affect, I want you to wait and stop right here because there are several experiences that I want to lead you through to prepare you. Because, as we will learn, God is far more interested in doing a work in them than He is in doing work through them. So if you will join us in Joshua 5, the study notes in the worship folder will be helpful as well.
Let’s take a look at those three experiences as quickly as we head toward the conquest of Jericho.
1st. The experience is of the rite of circumcision Joshua 5:1-9, gives us the details, evidently in rebellion the parents who had wandered in the land or the wilderness for 40 years had said in effect God, if you had abandoned us that you won’t allow us to go into the promised land, than we will abandon you, we will not follow that token of that covenant relationship that is circumcision. So evidently, that did not circumcised all the boys borne while they wandered in the wilderness which is another act of disobedience. So Joshua 5:8 tells us that it came about when they had finished circumcising all the nation, that they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed.
You need to understand how God turns everything upside down. They are poise, the Jericho ites are paralyzed and God says, I want you to circumcise every man in the nation. And then wait until healing takes place.
Thus militarily, incapacitating the entire nation. Not a very wise military move, but God is more interested in his covenant relationship with the warrior than he is in winning a war.
The next would be 2nd. The experience of the observance of Passover. Joshua 5:10. They observed the Passover on the last part on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho. This is really something. This obviously going back and remembering their exodus out of Egypt, they would kill the lamb they would eat, and there were several other observances related to the Passover. But could you imagine the enemies sending out spies from Jericho to find out what was happening. I am sure they are terrified. They are expecting an attack and despised come back a report. Well, they are all eating. They are celebrating this feast. It looks like it is one huge dinner on the grounds. They must be Baptist those Israelites. They don’t look like they are ready to attack. It seems strange. And it was. But God wanted them to remember his power in Egypt before they were going to utilize His power at Jericho.
Then the 3rd. The experience of the cessation of manna. Joshua 5:11-12. The bible says, the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, that it fallen from heaven for now over 40 years, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year. In others words, they were not to expect a miracle from Heaven when there was food on earth available. There is the tension between what God will do and what men do. And men are expected to feed themselves in the land of Canaan.
In verse 13 and following. Tells us that Joshua goes to survey the scene, and this we could call I guess the 4th experience. But it goes to look at the city of Jericho and he takes a good long hard look.
Now, for our own benefit, lets step back into time and take a look at what he must had seen as he swept his gaze over Canaan. This was a land we know historically of cities states, I used to wonder why by attacking one city and conquering it that did not cause others to topple. But, I learned in my study that they were city states. That is that each city had its own king. It was ineffective its own independent kingdom.
So the Israelites would have to conquer every single city. Now the power in the land, the nominal overlord was none other than Egypt. We know from archeology and history that the ruler during its time of Joshua, as best we can guess it was Amenhotep III. Kind of a long name, we will call him Junior if you will allow me. We know from the Tel ellamarna letters that Jr. did not really care what happened way over in his foreign holdings. One of them is Canaan.
We also know from those fragments that the people played with this man to give relief from an invading army, a la the Israelites. But he did not care. So he never really helped which allows us to know then that the Israelites had Canaan at their feet and they could conquer without any threat whether it matter or not of a world power. That world power being Egypt. That’s the good news, the bad news is that Joshua is standing there observing secretly Jericho. A city from archeological digs that would tell us the walls were perhaps as high as 40 feet. And their warriors were skilled and trained. And who was the Israelites? There this rag tag multitude of ex-slaves who had just come out of the wilderness wanderings. They did not have catapults, did not have moving towers, did not have battering rams, they had some swords. Let count them here. They had some slings, some spears, but they would be like pea shooters before this impregnable city called Jericho which was the doorway to the land of Canaan.
No doubt Joshua standing there looking at this wall, probably had the main question on his mind being, Lord . . . how? It is at this time that Joshua would tell us verse 13 that he was visited by an unique military leader to say the least. Look at that with me, Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us for or for our adversaries?” verse 14. And he said, “No, not a very good answer I would think, rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my Lord to say to his servant?”
Now had this been a mere angel, Joshua’s worship would had been rebuked. Just as any man or angel from time immoral, he would not had allowed worship. Theologians would call this a theophany, an expression of God in some tangible visible site or perhaps a Christophany I think it would be that for it is a image of Jesus Christ taking the form here of this warrior with a sword in his hand. Prior to his coming, a Christophany would be a form he took.
So here is perhaps, Christ himself, the pre incarnated Christ visiting Joshua saying, I am the captain of the host of the Lord. Now I think his instructions to Joshua are basically threefold.
Number 1 if you are keeping up with the notes. This is not Joshua’s war - it was Gods.
The host of heaven did not refer to the people camped at Gilgal waiting with their little their swords and slings. It referred to the host of heavenly angels that surround the throne of God from time immoral who wait his bidding. And they act. He snaps his fingers or whispers a command. And they move. The Old Testament gives us a number of illustrations. The servants of the Elisha saw the host of the Lord when he was trapped by the Syria armies. Jesus Christ in fact was referred to the legion of angels, 12 of them, meaning there are 72 ,000 angels that could come to my rescue if I but whispered the command.
God is telling Joshua it won’t be your pea shooters, it will be the power of the host of heaven who will overcome Jericho.
There are times when we have read or heard stories of when the hosts of heaven came to the benefit of men they are very rare, but one of those that I have read and enjoyed is the one of John Paton who with his wife more than a century ago, went to the New Heberdres Island they at that time were inhabited by Cannibals, headhunters. They felt compelled of God to go to that particular region of the world, and they disembark from their ship that had sailed them there, they rode their boat to shore and they camped for their very first night on the seashore.
That night nothing happened. They prayed that God would protect them and then they bedded down. The next morning they began their missionary work. Several months went by, they learned the language, they met some of the natives. A year or two after hard-work, they began winning some of these to Jesus Christ. Eventually the chief came to know him as well. And it was in the course of their conversation, that John finally asked them, We were expecting an attack. Whey didn’t one come? And the chief chuckled and said according to the biographical accounts, he said, we did come, I and some of my warriors were slipped down to the edge to the beach and we were going to attack your camp and kill you and eat you. But he said, when we reached the sands and started toward your pot, your tent, that flaming soldier appeared and they surrounded your tent and each had a sword drawn in their hand and we were treated. Joshua if you are going to attack this massif city that would kill you easily. It is going to take some of that host to be able to win the victory.
I think that is the first lesson.
The 2nd lesson will be this, God was not on Joshua’s side . . . Joshua was to be on God’s side. Look at the last part of verse 13 again. Joshua asked this warrior. . .”Are you on our side or on theirs. . .?” And he replied, “No” you could render that “neither”.
What a tremendous truth that really needs to be marshaled today. We have this tendency to take God and put Him on our side. We plan our things, we have our programs, and then we step back and say, God, we now call upon your holy lightning, you ignite that to life. Are you on our side? Have you ever notice this tension especially in sporting events? Especially in church softball, that is the best. You have two teams, one of them praise Lord, We want you to just help us now to have a good game. Translated we want to win. The other team Lord, help us and we want to have a good game too for your glory. Which means Boy it would be great if you would let us win. Join our team. Innocent. But in life not so innocent.
God is not so interested in getting on our team, He wants us on His. He wants us on His side. He is not partisan. He is sovereign.
Verse 15, look at it again, The captain of the Lord hosts says to Joshua, Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” I think we can insert a 3rd lesson in those notes. That is this: The land of battle is in God’s perspective “holy ground.” I look that because we tend to think of church as holy ground. Our prayer closet as holy ground. And God says, Joshua, at the very place where you do battle that is holy ground. You translate that into the 20th century, a life in the spiritual warfare, spiritual battle and that corporate office room is holy ground. That shop it may be the kitchen where you face the ordinary daily battles of life. God in His perspective says, That is holy ground.
Now chapter 6:1 tells us in a few words how hopeless the situation is from men’s perspective. Look at it with me Now Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel; no one went out and now one came in.” I love this very next phrase. 2. And the Lord said to Joshua, See, I have given Jericho into your hand, if I had been Joshua I think I would had said I do not think I can see, I need more information, so God give it to him. 3. And you shall march around the city, your plan of attack Joshua, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. 4. Also, 7 priests shall carry 7 trumpets of ram’s horns before the ark; then on the 7th day you shall march around the city 7 times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets; 5. And it shall be that when they make a long blast (that is at the end of 7 of it 7th circle) with the rams’ horn, and when you hear the sound of that blast or trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people will go up every man straight ahead.
What is the plan of attack? Circle the city once for 6 days, on the 7th day circle it 7 times and 7 priests all the time are blowing on 7 trumpets, 7 a number in the Old Testament of completeness and wholeness.
What a lesson! In fact there is several of them. First of all, let me suggest:
a lesson on humility. Here is Joshua, his first military campaign. He just met with the commander. And he comes back and to tell his host, Here is how we are going to do his fight. How is it Joshua? Are we going to walk around the city. Okay, then what? We are going to walk around it again and then on the 7th uh 7 times for the Israelites, very humiliating. Can you imagine being part of the crew walking around the city wall. Just imagine, I know it did not happen, and it is church and we are not supposed to use our imagination, just imagine you are having a conversation with the Ammonite, up there on the wall. If it took place, maybe it goes something like this: What are you doing down there? We are overthrowing your city. How’s that? Well we are walking around it, once today. You are frightening me. And so on.
Have God ever set the contributions of God aside so He could get all the glory. It was here and now. So the land was holy ground where they would battle and the first lesson they would learn on that holy ground is that of humility.
I think the second lesson would be in obedience obviously. It appears now from the text, reading it and re-reading it again. It seems the Israelites were given just one command at time. In other words, they were told on day 1 to get up and walk around the city. We know from the digs that it would take about 30 minutes. And then they were to back to camp. And that was all they were told. Only Joshua knew the outcome. Day number 2 comes along and they get up and okay what’s next. They walk around the city again. And they go back to camp. They were given just enough information for that next day. What makes it worst is the end of the day they would go back to camp and the walls were still standing. They hadn’t fallen. And now perhaps the Amorites are lining the walls jarring and chiding them. What a lesson in perservance and patience and obedience. I don’t understand this. It doesn’t sound like much of a battle attack to me, but I will walk around this wall. Want me to do it again. Well I will do it again. Again? Again, again.
And on the 7th day, do it 7 times, 7 times? Okay, 7 times. Add another dimension to that if you think that is bad enough. Look at chapter 6:10, But Joshua commanded the people, saying, now while you are walking around here, “You shall not shout nor let your voice be heard, nor let a word proceed out of your mouth, until the time I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout!
It’s one thing to obey the will of God when you understand it and remain silence, but it is another thing entirely to not have any idea why and be silence. The only noise would be the sound of the ram’s horn. That is the only eerie sound circling.
Now let me explain what could be an obscured significance. And that is in the ram’s horn. The only time they pull them out of the cases was on the jubilee year. In fact that word could be translated Jubilee horn. Or the sabbatical year (every 7 years), the priest would pull out those horns and they would blank through them and then signify to listen to this. It signified the present of God. Now you get the full picture.
People are walking around in silence. And as they walk the priests are blowing on the horns and the eerie sound is signifying to every Israelites heart that God is presence in here. This is God’s battle. It is His power.
I think God is pressing on the Israelites’ heart to power of silence trust. And that simple truth that is so profound and difficult to live, for God says to them and to us, Be still and know that I am God.
I think there is another lesson here, we will call it the lesson on spiritual warfare. We have applied it already, but those Israelites had 13 long looks at this impregnable city. 13 hard looks at this 40 foot high wall. Perhaps by then they had founded the stones. Perhaps it took 13 times for them to recognize that they could not do it. We do not know. But I would suggest that the greatest difficulty in your life and mine is getting to the place where we recognize or we are prepared to admit that the whole thing is to big for us. That spiritual victory is a impossibility without the power of God. We cannot and we don’t come to the place where that little catchy phrase says, you come to the end of your rope and you tie a knot on it and you hang on. Oh no. You come to the end of it and let go. And then watch God. So perhaps today, you stand in front of your Jericho. The walls that never seems to crumble. And you are talking as loudly as you can. Perhaps you are kicking at the wall. Perhaps you are arguing with the wall. Maybe the wall of pride, and maybe the wall of materialism, maybe be that Jericho of sensuality, and there you stand debating and kicking and maybe cowarding before it.
You do everything but admit, Lord, I am absolutely helpless before this wall. And then to just be quiet! It is hard to be silence. Let’s try it for 30 seconds. 30 seconds now.
Seemed like a long didn’t it. . . perhaps we have been complaining that God isn’t speaking, but the truth is we haven’t been listening.
Perhaps one of our biggest problems is making so much noise that God’s still small voice is drowned out. Let me ask this church a question? If for some reason God’s Spirit and power and presence left this church, how long would it be before we realized it? How long would it take to volunteer army to recognize that their duty had turned into lifeless meaningless acts? How long would it take the musicians to recognize that even though every note was hit perfectly it was spiritually flat? How long would it take the teachers to recognize that the truth that there teaching is without clarity and without passion? Le me rephrase the question. If God’s power left this church, what would cease operating? And what would continue on?
How about your own personal walk? In the daily routine of affairs. If God’s presence and power left, how long in your day would it take you to recognize that He had gone?
Some of the saddest words in all of the Old Testament relates to Samson, the mighty man once filled with the spirit of God when the scripture say, That the spirit of God left him and he knew it not.
Perhaps one of the reasons we don’t recognize that He is not there in power, is because we are so busy kicking and complaining and fighting it, and hitting it and banging on it. When he has totally different battle plan. If we would only give Him time to speak. Let me draw our study thus far in Joshua’s little book in two applications.
1. When your voice is silent and God works in you, there’s no question who receives the benefit.
When we work and we speak and we move and the walls do not fall down, we say, maybe I’ll walk a little faster behind this wall. Or maybe I will talk a little louder. It is our nature and we must abandon it to help God out. Our help if anything is submission to His plan. And when we are silence and God works in it, it is all the benefit to know Him in silence and then to shout to make Him known. That has always been the pattern of spiritual warfare and victory.
And then it leads me to the second one,
2. When your strength is broken and God works through you, there’s no question who receives the credit.
Who fought the battle of Jericho? Who’s power was on display at Jericho? Who made the walls come crumbling down at Jericho? Joshua, the Israelites? God. And there were absolutely no question, it was undeniable in the life of every Israelite that it was the work and the hand of God.
We have this terrible tendency to obscure God’s glory. We have this terrible of habit stealing His praise. Sometimes He just has to wipe away all of our contributions so we could learn like Paul who said that our power does not come from men but it come from God.
Look at chapter 6:16. And it came about at the seventh time, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people, Shout, for the Lord has given you the city. . .skip to verse 20. So the people shouted, and priests blew the trumpets; and it came about, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, that the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city. And they all learned as God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah, I am the Lord the God of heaven is there anything to hard for me?
God did a work in them first. Through silence. Then God did a work through them. With a shout. Perhaps a reason the walls are not falling is because He still wants to a work in us. In silence.
On the back of your study notes are the words to a chorus. I want you to listen to a gal sing a solo through and then we will join in singing it twice.
Stand with me. Allow the words and its meaning to flow over your soul. To get the meaning and message of this super chorus.
To bless your heart, O God is my desire,
To let You touch my life, and set my heart afire.
To see your hand above in all that comes my way,
To learn to hear your voice each moment of the day.
Father, we pray that you teach us to be still to know that you are God. Will you teach us to learn to hear your voice in the normal everyday occurrences and events of life. Whatever Jericho each individual is struggling against, may we together learn the battle is not ours that victory comes from you, if only we would be still and learn to know you and then upon your command to shout. Watch the walls of the city to fall down flat, may it be in Your name. Amen.