Last week we were looking at the story of Joshua leading Israel into the Promised Land and coming face to face with the commander of the army of the LORD. Joshua kind of freaked out and asked, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” The commander of the army of the LORD responded by saying, “No.”
We talked about the fact that asking the wrong questions can often lead us to the wrong answers, and that the right question was not “Are you for us or for our adversaries”, but rather, ““What does my lord say to his servant?”
Now we are going to pick up in the sixth chapter of the book of Joshua, in which God instructs them to march around the city walls in a rather peculiar fashion. This is what the LORD tells Joshua to do:
You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. 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. 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.”Joshua 6:3–5, ESV
This is crazy.
You’ve probably heard this story before. I have known about this story for most of my life. Joshua obeys these crazy-sounding instructions, and sure enough, the walls of Jericho come crumbling down. Israel is victorious, and they continuing marching forward into the Promised Land.
A Jericho resident by the name of Rahab escaped the destruction of Jericho because she encountered a couple of spies from Israel and chose to hide them rather than expose them. She chose to side with God rather than with the inhabitants of Jericho. Her faithfulness was rewarded. The last thing that we hear about her in this chapter is that she lived with Israel following the destruction of Jericho. She didn’t just flee the wrath that was coming for the city, but she actually chose to join God in what He was doing.
Though there is some debate around the subject, it seems that this is the same Rahab who would end up being the great-great-grandmother of King David, landing her in the lineage of Jesus. There is no debate over the fact that Rahab is listed in the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11.
So this whole thing got me thinking… I’ve always thought about the story of Jericho as being a story about God’s power and Joshua’s obedience. I mean, God gives this seemingly crazy command to march around the city once per day for six days and then seven times on the seventh day. And when Joshua obeys and follows that command, the walls come down.
This is clearly an example of God’s power to bring about His plans, and not a textbook teaching on how to destroy a city in just seven days.
I don’t believe for a moment that it was the walking that brought down the walls.
I also can’t help but feel like there would have been other, more practically effective ways to test Joshua’s obedience.
So… what was the walking around the city walls thing really about?
What if the story of Jericho is not nearly as much about God’s power as it is about His grace?
What if the walking around the city was not nearly as much about Joshua’s obedience as it was about Jericho’s opportunity for repentance?
The LORD is patient with us, not wanting anyone to perish, but wanting everyone to come to repentance.
Could it be that God was sending His people around the city every day for six days, and then seven times on the seventh day, hoping that the inhabitants of Jericho would see this as an opportunity to turn from the path of destruction they were currently on, like Rahab was, and to join God is what He was doing, like Rahab did?
I think so.
Yes, the story of Jericho is certainly a story about God’s power and Joshua’s obedience. But I believe it is also a story about God’s grace, and His desire to redeem and restore.
Now let us fast forward to today… Where is the LORD sending us to today? Where does He want to show His power today? Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the gospel. He told us to make disciples.
God is sending us out today, as Ambassadors for Christ. He wants us to march out into our communities, families, and workplaces in obedience, just like Joshua did. He doesn’t want to bring about destruction. He wants to bring about redemption. And He is sending us, as ministers of reconciliation, to find the Rahabs of the world, and to proclaim that there is a God who loves them, who died for them, and who offers them eternal life.