Joshua 6 gives us heartburn. The fact that God commanded Israel to destroy the city and inhabitants of Jericho doesn’t fit our concept of a loving, merciful God.
We like the fact that Jesus is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). But we struggle with Jesus’ statement, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). We like the statement given to the shepherds at Jesus’ birth, “Peace on earth, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). We stumble over Paul’s instruction to “Put on the whole armor of God” (Ephesians 6:11). We are comfortable with the command to “love one another” (John 13:34). We are uncomfortable with the command to “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you” (Colossians 3:5).
We wrestle with the fact that peace only comes through struggle. Israel could only enjoy peace in the Promised Land after they won the battle to conquer that land. The conquering of Jericho demonstrates that if we want to experience victory, we must center our lives on God, namely, that we must believe his promises and obey his commands. We have to trust God by faith and follow his instructions. Only then can we be victorious.
God promised the victory (Joshua 6:1-5). Having heard what God did at the Red Sea, Jordan River, and other places, the people of Canaan were already intimidated. They closed up the city of Jericho as tight as a drum.
In 5:13-15, Joshua encountered the commander of the army of the Lord. This warrior was none other than God himself. He guaranteed the victory and gave Joshua specific commands as how to bring it about. Rather than follow a clever, military tactic, the strategy was the Lord’s. They were to proceed around the city once a day. First came the soldiers, then seven priests carrying seven rams’ horns or shofars, then came the Ark of the Covenant, and finally the rearguard. The Ark, signifying the presence of God, was in the center, dominating everything.
During the first six days, they were to proceed around the city once a day. The only noise permitted was the playing of the trumpets. On the seventh day they were to maintain silence until Joshua gave the command to SHOUT! on the seventh pass. Only then would the walls collapse and city would be attacked in every quarter at the same time.
Seven is the number of completion or perfection – seven priests, seven trumpets, seven days of marching, seven times around the city on the seventh day. If Israel obeyed God’s instructions, he would accomplish a complete victory.
Silver trumpets were used by the priests to announce marches and calls to battle. The ram’s horn, or shofar, was used primarily for celebrations or to proclaim God’s presence. On this march, the priests didn’t use the silver trumpets because they were not declaring war on Jericho. Instead, they used the ram’s horn to celebrate God’s triumph in the new land.
Victory comes when we center our lives on God and believe his promises (6-16, 20). Joshua shared the Lord’s plan with the priests and the people. It was important that the Ark be in its proper place, for it signified that the people were centered and dependent on God’s presence for victory.
When we accept God’s plan, we invite God’s presence, and that guarantees victory. We discover the formula for success in their actions. Faith + Patience = Victory. They demonstrated faith by trusting God’s plan, as outrageous and strange as it appeared. They needed patience as they paraded silently day after day. On the seventh day, God kept his promise and delivered the city in their hands.
It is through faith and patience that God’s people inherit what he has promised. God is never in a hurry. He knows what he is doing, and his timing is never off.
Victory comes when we obey God’s instructions (17-19, 21-27). God gave Israel four specific commands. (A) They were to devote the entire city to God (17-19). This follows the principle of worshipping God with the firstfruits. (B) They were to rescue Rahab and her family (22-25). They were to keep their promise to Rahab for protecting the spies (ch.2). (C) They were to destroy every living thing (21). (D) They were to burn the city (24). In destroying the city of Jericho, God was removing a cancer from the land and protecting Israel from future temptation (Deuteronomy 20:16-18).
While we might struggle with how Jericho’s destruction fits with our concept of a merciful God, we have to understand that God had been incredibly patient. In Genesis 15:16, God promised Abraham that he would bring judgment when the evil of the land was complete. From Abraham to Joseph is a period of 100-200 years. From Joseph to Moses is another 400 years. From the Exodus to the crossing of the Jordan River is 40 years. From the crossing of the Jordan River to the conquering of Jericho is 17 days. Do the math and you discover that God has given Jericho and Canaan over 500+ years to repent! He has been incredibly patient.
God will not tolerate any compromise with sin in the lives of his people. He will not share my life if there are rival gods in my heart. He will not permit me to compromise with the enemy.
To fully enjoy the victory God provides, we must center our lives on God, believe his promises, and obey his commands.
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on October 28, 2018. It is part of a series of messages on the book of Joshua. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.