Think of a time when the Lord asked you to do something that seemed really unlikely. How did you feel about that? What helped you to do it?
12 Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forwards, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets kept sounding. 14 So on the second day they marched round the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days.
15 On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched round the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. 16 The seventh time round, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, ‘Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! 17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. 18 But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. 19 All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.’
The crux of the battle comes on the seventh day (vs 16,17). Think of a large sporting event to get an idea of how 40,000 people shouting and horns blowing would have sounded. It must have been an intimidating noise. To the last day Joshua remained clear that it was the Lord fighting for them (v 16).
The threat of destruction portrayed in verses 17 and 18 may cause us discomfort. The saving of Rahab and her family (v 17) provides a clue for handling that. Of all the people in Jericho she was the only one open to the Lord and his people. Everyone else in Jericho knew about the miracles God did to bring his people into the Promised Land. They could have followed Rahab’s example and turned to the Lord. It seems, then, as if this is a picture of God’s judgement: those who turn to him will be saved. Those who choose to close themselves up against him will not.
In the midst of the battle God’s people were called to holiness, purity and dedication to God. Look at verses 18 and 19 to see how they were to achieve that.
Pray that, when God asks you in the future to do something that seems unlikely, maybe causes you to feel weak and afraid, he will give you strength to do it.
Deeper Bible study
‘Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’1
This passage goes some way in exploring the concept of destruction in God’s name, as this campaign is about more than occupation. The account of Jericho is, ‘we believe, historical narrative as well as theological presentation’2 – ‘history remembered through liturgy’.3 The Lord has given the people the land to occupy, but the city is to be destroyed – for it and its occupants are ‘devoted things’ (v 18). Anything or anyone who threatened to defile the faith or praxis of the Israelites before God was considered herem (banned from use or contact). As such, a city like Jericho, which had rejected God, had become herem and must be heremised – destroyed.4 However, this is not only applied to others, for even Israel could not stand against its enemies while it possessed devoted things.
Joshua asked the Lord which side he stood for,5 but God’s inability to be unjust determines his actions regardless. God would not tolerate idolatry from Israel as he had from Jericho. This is a constant theme in Scripture: the rejection of sin and all things which come between our relationship with God. As God’s community and his disciples, are we prone to downgrade the cost of sin and pain we cause when we allow other things in our life to become ‘devoted things’? God calls us to holiness and enables us to be holy, because he is holy. Christ’s sacrifice once for all enables us to lose the stain of sin and become his devoted people. That said, we need to respond accordingly, for grace does not allow for a casual disregard towards the importance of faithfully following God’s commandments. The damage to our relationship when we wander away has the potential to be as devastating for us as it was for the wandering Israelites.
I belong to the Lord and know the lengths he will go to for those devoted to him. My value to him ensures he will never leave or forsake me.
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Leviticus 1–3; Matthew 5
Pray for Scripture Union
Thank God for all the volunteers who make our work possible. The northern event leaders’ conference takes place this weekend. Pray that this will be a time of inspiration and encouragement and that leaders will be better equipped to lead their teams this year.