Think of a time when you have tried to do something in your own strength rather than with God’s help. How did it go?
6 Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.
2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March round the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Make seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march round the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, make the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.’
6 So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, ‘Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and make seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.’ 7 And he ordered the army, ‘Advance! March round the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord.’
8 When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forwards, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. 9 The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. 10 But Joshua had commanded the army, ‘Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!’ 11 So he had the ark of the Lord carried round the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there.
Jericho was shut up and secure against its enemies (v 1). The shutting of the city also represents the Canaanites’ closing themselves up against the living God. They had seen God’s miracles which had allowed his people to cross the river (5:1), but they were closed against God. Verse 2 is the key to this passage. How do you think these words would have encouraged Joshua? What part do you think his earlier encounter (5:13–15) might have played?
The Lord’s instructions to Joshua must have seemed unusual – after all, he had prepared the Israelite army for battle (4:13). These directions must have seemed an odd way of approaching a battle. But if verse 2 was key to winning Jericho (‘I have delivered’), then Joshua’s obedience to God’s instructions was also vital. He went on to follow these to the letter (vs 6–10). Everyone had their own job – the priests, the warriors and the people. Read verses 6–10 again and picture the procession in your imagination. Verse 11 shows that the focal point of the procession was the Ark of the Covenant. This was the vital sign of God’s presence with his people.
Pray that, like Joshua, you will learn to rely on the Lord’s strength in all that you do, rather than trying to do things in your own strength.
Deeper Bible study
‘I urge you … in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.’1
The commander of the Lord’s army appeared to Joshua2 and now continues his instruction to him. Is this war strategy or worship? God has already delivered the city into Joshua’s hands (v 2). Joshua has no idea what is going on behind Jericho’s gates, yet God commands him to ‘see’. Joshua needs to see within, past the task ahead to the Almighty who has promised to give him everywhere he sets his foot.3 Walking in faith means obeying and trusting instructions which may seem abstract. Prior to the Exodus, the repeated reason why Pharaoh needs to let the people go is simply ‘so that they may worship’.4 Here at Jericho we see an army ready to follow God into battle, but accompanied by priests, trumpets and a mighty shout; this is a sacred procession. Faith must be accompanied by actions: they are commanded to raise a shout of triumph prior to victory; the military is prepared to fight for Joshua and the people’s inheritance.
We are not called to passivity, to wait for God to empty the city so we can claim our victory, but rather to walk with confidence into God’s will. Parading around a city and then stopping must have invited questions, and the concept of shouting the walls down seems anything but logical – let alone spiritual. Faith, however, takes us to places we have never been before. The Israelites have faith in God – and also in Joshua. God-honouring worship and spiritual warfare are close companions, for they bring down strongholds, restoring God-given ground. God is both our strength and our defence.5 Therefore, our stand is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, authorities and spiritual powers of the world and the forces of evil in the heavenly realms.6
Lord, enable us to be worshippers who follow you and your commandments, regardless of the personal cost. Lord, increase our faith and trust, today.
Bible in a year
Read the Bible in a year: Exodus 39,40; Matthew 4
Pray for Scripture Union
Development worker Neil Jackson is hoping to work with some churches in the north of England to run some pancake events later in the month. Pray that he will be able to help churches make the most of these opportunities.