Stick to God’s Plan

| Joshua 6:1-20

The Point:  Leaders keep doing what God tells them to do. 

Fall of Jericho:  Joshua 6:1-20.

[1]  Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. [2]  And the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. [3]  You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. [4]  Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. [5]  And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him." [6]  So 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." [7]  And he said to the people, "Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the LORD." [8]  And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the LORD went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the LORD following them. [9]  The armed men were walking before the priests who were blowing the trumpets, and the rear guard was walking after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. [10]  But Joshua commanded the people, "You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout." [11]  So he caused the ark of the LORD to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp. [12]  Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. [13]  And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the LORD, while the trumpets blew continually. [14]  And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days. [15]  On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. [16]  And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, "Shout, for the LORD has given you the city. [17]  And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. [18]  But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. [19]  But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD." [20]  So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.   [ESV]

 

“Palestine is a hilly country, and the major passage through it is a connecting road that runs from south to north through the highest portions of the land. Joshua’s strategy was to drive westward from the Jordan Valley to that high road, thus dividing the country. Then, when the enemy forces were divided, they would first destroy the opposition to the south and then the opposition to the north. This is the outline of the campaign described in Joshua 6-11. Before the country could be divided, a wedge had to be driven from the Jordan River valley to the mountains. The first obstacle was the walled fortress of Jericho. Jericho was a military fortress build to defend the eastern approach to the high country. It could not be bypassed; to bypass Jericho would mean leaving a large military force at one’s rear. But, on the other hand, conquering Jericho was a dismaying challenge. Jericho’s walls were high, its position advantageous. What was Joshua to do with an obstacle of these proportions? Fortunately, Joshua did not have to come up with his own battle plan. His commander-in-chief was the Lord God who laid out the battle plan for Joshua in 6:2-5. From a human point of view, nothing could have been more useless, in spite of the obvious necessity of attacking this outpost. High walls do not fall to the noise of tramping feet. Cities are not won by trumpets. Yet this is precisely what happened. The story tells how the people followed the commands of the Lord. Each day for six days they walked in silence around the watching city, and on the seventh day they repeated this apparently futile exercise seven times. No one spoke. The only noise was the sound of the rams’ horns blown by the priests. Then, on the seventh circuit on the seventh day, when the city was entirely surrounded by the Jewish armies, Joshua commanded the people, Shout, for the Lord has given you the city [16]. The people did shout! It was the time to shout! As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city [20]. Jericho was destroyed in accordance with God’s command to Joshua. Only Rahab and her family were spared because of her having saved the two spies.

The Path to Victory. It is important to recognize all the preparation that had taken place in the lives of the Israelite army before the shout of victory. Some of that preparation had started forty years earlier in the preparation of Joshua and Caleb and the soldiers that had been trained in the wilderness. More preparation had taken place after the Jordan River had been crossed. There was a reinstitution of the covenantal rite of circumcision and a new observance of the Passover. The hearts of the people had to be right before there could be a full outpouring of God’s blessing. But the preparation did not stop there. In fact, it continued right up to the very moment of the shout. Everything before that moment was preparation of the hearts of the people. The story stresses three steps. (1) Silence. The first step in the preparation of the people for this climactic week was the command to keep silent. They were to be utterly quiet as they encircled the doomed city. Their lips were not to speak a word. The text says, Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout” [10]. This must have been a difficult thing for the people to do. For one thing, there were several million people, and it is hard to imagine any large group of people moving anywhere without an increasingly noisy hum, then roar of voices. There were soldiers to get in line, children to keep track of, a route to be pointed out and taken. How this could be accomplished in silence I do not know, but this is what the people did. Moreover, the people would have had difficulty ignoring the taunts of the encircled citizens of Jericho. On the first day the Canaanites would probably have been quiet too, watching to see what the encircling armies would do. It would have been bizarre: a silent attacking force watched by silent defenders. But silence would hardly have lasted beyond the second day. By then, the defenders would have begun to mock the Jewish soldiers. Under such circumstances, it would have been difficult for the Jewish people to have kept silent. What do you think the Israelites were thinking about? I suspect they must have been thinking that there was no possibility of conquering Jericho unless God delivered it to them. Jericho’s walls were high. The gates were shut. Each circling of the walls would have helped them realize that if there was to be a victory, it would have to be given to them by God. Silence before God; this is a lesson we all need to learn. (2) Obedience. The second step in the preparation of the people for the conquest of Jericho was obedience. Obedience is an essential part of true faith, which is why the actions of the people are cited in Hebrews as a demonstration of faith. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days [Heb. 11:30]. What is it that most honors God and which God most delights to honor? Is it eloquent profession of faith? No. Many have called Jesus “Lord, Lord” but have later fallen away and ceased to serve Him. Is it the exercise of great natural abilities or talents? No. There are many who have had great abilities but have squandered them on worthless ends, like the prodigal who squandered his father’s money. Is it attractive appearance or personality? No. Saul stood head and shoulders above his countrymen, a great physical specimen, but he finished his course badly. The true answer to the question is found in Samuel’s words to Saul after he had sinned by failing to destroy the Amalekites completely, which God had told him to do. Saul pleaded that he had almost entirely destroyed them and that he had spared what he did spare only to make sacrifices. But Samuel declared, Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams [1 Sam. 15:22]. That is the answer. The thing that most honors God and that God most delights to honor is obedience. Even Jesus was honored and given a name above every name because He was obedient: obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross [Phil. 2:8]. (3) Obedience to the very end. The third step in the preparation of the Jewish people for victory was obedience to the very end. This is involved in the previous point, of course, because obedience that is not total is not real obedience; it is disobedience, as the story of Saul’s failure to destroy the Amalekites shows. It is only necessary to highlight this as a separate point because of our frequent failure to continue on this path. The conquest of Jericho emphasizes this achievement by the Jewish invaders. Careful reading of the story shows that Joshua did not tell the people how many times they were going to be required to circle the city or precisely what was going to happen at the end of their seven days’ marching. The people were given their instructions one day at a time, and at the end of their assignment for that day, having encircled the walls, they were directed back to their camp. And nothing happened! They had obeyed Joshua, who had been obeying God. They had encircled the walls. But when they returned to camp, the walls were still standing, no one had surrendered, and the Jewish armies seemed to be no closer to the final conquest of Canaan than they had been the day before. So it was after the second day … and the third … and the fourth … and the fifth … and the sixth …. So it also was after six tours around the walls on day seven. We need to learn the lesson the Jewish armies learned before Jericho. Not only is there no substitute for obedience to God, there is no substitute for obedience in all particulars – to the very end. And when God does not act as quickly as we think he should or in precisely the way we are convinced he should act, we are still not justified in pulling back or adopting an alternative procedure. It was only when the people had obeyed God faithfully that victory came and the walls tumbled.

Demolishing Strongholds. I close with two applications. First, if you are a Christian, you are a soldier in God’s army and are engaged in a war where many enemy strongholds need to be conquered. We see them everywhere. There are fortresses of evil in our land, in the church, and, we must confess, in ourselves. They are surrounded by high walls. The gates are sealed. They are manned by strong and experienced defenders. What are we to do against such ancient outposts of God’s and our enemy? The answer is that we are to assault them in the way God has told us to wage warfare: by prayer, and by the Word of God. When we look at evils’ forces we may think the ancient weapons of the church are inadequate, and we may be greatly tempted to abandon them and use the world’s tools. This is a mistake. We need to listen to God and obey faithfully to the very end. When we do, then in God’s own time, the walls of Satan’s strongholds will tumble. The apostle Paul wrote, the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds [2 Cor. 10:4]. Second, if you are not a Christian – if you are still in arms against the Lord Jesus Christ, the rightful ruler of this world and all in it – you must remember that the victory won by the Jews at Jericho, followed by the destruction of the entire city, is a picture of what will surely come to you in the day of God’s judgment. You have shut your heart against God. You have manned the battlements of your life, and although you are trembling, you refuse to repent of your sin and turn to God for His cleansing. What folly! How can you hope to stand against the only sovereign God of this universe? If you do not come to terms with God now, if you continue to hold out, you will perish in the final judgment, and your doom will be just. The Bible says, Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him [Ps. 2:12]. Rahab did that. The Bible says that the Jewish armies burned the city with fire, and everything in it …. But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive [6:24-25]. Her position was neither better nor worse than yours, and she was saved. Why should her experience not be yours? Why should you too not escape wrath through faith in the God of Israel?”  [Boice, chapter 6: Time to Shout]. 

Questions for Discussion:

1.         Why was the destruction of Jericho essential for the Israelites conquering the promise land? What would have happened if the people bypassed Jericho because it appeared unconquerable?

2.         Describe how God instructed Joshua to conquer Jericho. Why was it essential to the plan that the hearts of the people be prepared beforehand? What are the three necessary steps for success which Boice mentions? Think about how these three steps are important for your own spiritual battles.

3.         What are the two applications that Boice makes from this passage? If you are a believer, think about how you can apply the first one in your life. If you are not a believer, give serious thought to the second application and how it describes what awaits you at the final judgment.

References:

Joshua: An Expositional Commentary, James Boice, Baker (Kindle eBook).

The Book of Joshua, Marten Woudstra, Eerdmans.

Joshua, David Howard, Jr., NAC, B & H Publishing.