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We come today to one of the most dramatic stories in the Bible. It contains one of the greatest miracles in the Bible, the story of the fall of Jericho.
This story is FAMOUS. Most Christians know this story about the Jews walking around the city six times and then shouting on the last day. Every child in church knows it.
This story is SUPERNATURAL. The walls did not fall forwards. They did not fall backwards. They fell flat. They sank into the ground. After they fell, the soldiers went right into the city (Joshua 6:20). They did not fall because of a military attack. It was completely supernatural.
This story is UNIQUE. It has never been repeated. God did this only once, even though the Israelites faced other walled cities.
This story is also CONTROVERSIAL. It is also a disturbing chapter to some people today. It is one of the most violent stories in the Bible.
One of the most terrifying verses in the chapter is Joshua 6:20. They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys. (NIV)
People were put to death by the edge of the sword. We do not tell that part to kids in Sunday School. We just tell them about the marching and the walls coming down. Israelites don’t just conquer the city. They kill everyone in it and all of the animals. Critics would say that they do not just dispossessing the land but executing the inhabitants and commit mass murder and animal abuse. Are they right?
Today Jericho is in the West Bank. It is a Palestinian city. It has an Arabic name today (Riha). There are two specific warnings about Jericho in this chapter. The first warning is not to take any spoils in the city. Joshua 6:18. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them.
This is the first city in the land that they are conquering. Any gold or silver or brass or iron that is there is given unto the Lord. It goes into the Lord’s treasury. Jericho was the “first fruits” of Canaan, and it was be entirely dedicated to the Lord, was to be put into His treasury (Joshua 6:24). This is background to what will happen in the next chapter.
The second warning is to the man who rebuilds the walls of the city. Joshua said, “Cursed before the Lord is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: “At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates.” (Joshua 6:26 NIV). It was fulfilled five hundred years later in I Kings 16:34.
Applications for Today
What are the applications for us today from this chapter? Are we are to do what Joshua did? Are we to kill people with the edge of the sword like Joshua did? Are we to engage in a holy war, like the Muslims do, and kill people? Are we to encourage religious wars against infidels? How are we to apply this chapter as Christians?
No. We are not involved in a physical battle. We are involved in a spiritual battle. Paul says in Ephesians that we do NOT battle against flesh and blood. Joshua did. We don’t. We battle “spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12). He also said that “The weapons of our warfare are not the weapons of the world” (II Corinthians 10:4 Berean Study Bible). We are not a battle, but it is not a physical battle. Our weapons are not physical or military weapons. They are spiritual weapons.
What is the lesson for us today? There are powerful applications from this chapter for Christians today. We will look at four applications today from this chapter.
1. God judges sin and it is a terrifying experience
One thing that stands out in this chapter is the absolute terror of divine judgment. Jericho was an extremely wicked city. It was a wicked city for years, hundreds of years and Jericho got worse as time went on. It did not get better, it got worse. It got more idolatrous. It got more violent. It got more immoral. It got more perverted. It got more depraved.
These were not sweet, innocent people in Jericho. The Canaanites were involved in the occult. They were involved in religious prostitution. They were involved in child sacrifice. They killed their own children in child sacrifice. Killing babies was part of their religion. It was part of their worship.
Four hundred years earlier, God wiped out the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah of the map because they were so wicked. They were so bad that God sent some angels to the city and the people there tried to rape them. God told Abraham, “I am going to give you the Promise Land but not right now because the iniquity of the Amorites is not quite full” (cf. Genesis 15:16).
He promised Abraham and his descendants the Promise Land. He could have given him the Promise Land right away, even though there were people living in it at the time. God owns the whole earth, but he did not do that. He said, “The people living there are wicked, but I am going to wait until there wickedness is so bad and then I will give it to them.”
In Joshua’s day, the wickedness had reached its full measure. The city was around in Abraham’s day. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, but it was not as bad then as it was in Joshua’s day. Four hundred years later, the city was so bad that it came under the judgment of a holy God for their sins. God’s wrath fell on the city of Jericho. This was not genocide. It was judgment. What’s the difference?
It’s wrong for me to kill someone in cold blood, even if I am doing it for God. One of the Ten Commandments prohibits that but it is not murder for God to take a life. He can take any life at any time. He created life and can take it at any time. It is not genocide. He is the Creator. He owns all of us. We are His creation. God also can authorize people to act in his behalf. He authorizes the state to execute murderers.
The action in Joshua 6 was divinely sanctioned. God commanded Israel to destroy the Canaanites. This was done by divine command and it was not done because of racial reasons. The Jews were used to execute God’s judgment on idolaters.
Joshua 6:17 says in the KJV “The city shall be accursed.” The NKJV reads, “The city shall be doomed by the LORD to destruction”. The Christian Standard Bible reads, “But the city and everything in it are set apart to the LORD for destruction.” The city was under a curse (herem). God was going to wipe it out. After the city was destroyed, it was burned (Joshua 6:24), which has been confirmed by archaeology.
If you are not saved, you will one day experience what this city experienced and worse. We are all born under a curse, the curse of sin. If we don’t get saved, we will also experience the wrath of a holy God. The Bible says, “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” It is absolutely terrifying. It is terrifying to have God open a book and find your name not in the book and for you to be cast into the lake of fire. Fire will be involved in this judgment as well. Preachers like to always be positive but a judgment worse than Jericho is coming to the world.
If Joshua 6 seems a little harsh, we need to remember two things. One, God did not judge Jericho immediately. He gave the city time to repent. He gave the city four hundred years to repent. They thought they were fine. Several hundred years went by and nothing happened.
People think that since God has not judged the world since Noah’s day that judgment is not coming, and they are safe but he is just giving people time to repent. God is patient with sinners. There is amazing patience in this judgment. There is also amazing grace in this judgement. That brings us to the second thing here.
Everyone in the city was not killed. One family was spared. Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho–and she lives among the Israelites to this day. (Joshua 6:25 NIV)
This chapter shows not only AMAZING JUDGMENT, it shows AMAZING GRACE. God showed mercy and grace to one Canaanite and she was not even moral. She was a prostitute. God still judges sin today, but He also gives incredible grace to people who deserve judgment. Rahab was not the best person in town. God saved the worst of the worst. He still does that today.
The one house spared was the one with the red rope in it, but they did not need the rope to see the house. When all of the walls fell down, there was only one house left. Rahab’s house would have been easy to spot.
2. God calls us to walk by faith and not by sight
God told Joshua in the first chapter how to be successful. He gave him the key to success and the key was OBEDIENCE. He told him to mediate on his Word and do what it says completely. He said don’t deviate at all from what it says. Don’t go to the right or to the left. If he did that, he would be successful. God says the same thing to us today.
Between the Jews and Jericho was a big wall. The way to get through the wall was not to go over it with a ladder or to dig under or to try to somehow break the wall but simply to walk around it for six days.
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!” (Joshua 6:10 NIV).
This battle plan involved three things: First, it involved marching. This was a silent march. We have had silent marches in our day. They are more like political protests. This is more like a prayer walk.
Second, it involved blowing trumpets. Seven priests blew seven trumpets for seven days. Trumpets were used in worship and in war. This was the shofar. Third, it involved shouting. That is a strange battle plan – march, make music and shout.
Thousands of armed men circled the city. They made a lot of noise (blew the shofar) and went home for six straight days. On the seventh day, they shouted. It made absolutely no sense from a military or strategic standpoint. It not only made no sense, it sounded completely foolish. No city in history has ever been conquered this way. It sounded ridiculous.
There is no connection between walking around walls and the walls falling down. You are just going in circles and not making any progress. You can walk around them a thousand times and they will not fall down but the Commander told Joshua what to do. Joshua told the people and they did it.
They didn’t argue or complain. They didn’t try to propose a better plan. They just obeyed. They walked around the walls for six days and walked around them seven times on the last day and they did it quietly until the very end. When they did it His way, not one Israelite died. They were promised success. God said, “Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” (Joshua 6:2 NIV).
God says to them, “You are going to take the city. The city is going to fall. It will be yours” (Joshua 6:2, 16) but they had to follow God’s instructions to get the victory. Why were they successful? They had a word from God. They had a promise of victory. They did not attempt this battle without a promise. They had a word from God.
They believed the word. They obeyed the word and they obeyed it exactly. They did not deviate in any way. They did it God’s way and they were successful. If we want to be successful, completely successful, we have to do the same thing.
Now God does not call us today to pick up the sword, and kill someone because they are an unbeliever. We do not have a specific commission to do that today. That is not the churches’ role, but we are to walk to faith and not by sight like they did. We are to be obedient to what God commands us to do. If we do, we will be successful in everything we do and God will be with us. Notice how the chapter ends. It ends with the words, “So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land” (Joshua 6:27 NIV).
3. If you follow God, you are going to encounter walls
Many think if you follow Jesus, you will not have any problems. You will just live the Spirit-filled life. The Jews faced all kinds of obstacles. Some of those obstacles were their fault but many of them were not. They faced slavery in Egypt for four hundred years. They were finally let free and armies attacking them behind them. They had nowhere to go. They had the Egyptian armies behind them and Red Sea in front of them.
They faced many other obstacles. They endured forty years in the wilderness. Sometimes they had trouble finding water. When they finally were ready to conquer Canaan, the Jordan River was flooded. Even when they entered the very Promise Land, the place of blessing (milk and honey), the place God had given them, the place where their possessions were, they encountered trouble. They encountered opposition.
They had several problems when they came to Jericho. First, the city was set on a hill. That is harder to attack. Second, the gates were locked. The city was on lock-down. Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. (6:1 NIV).
Third, this city had walls. It was a walled-city. Jericho had high walls. It had thick walls. One was six feet thick and one was twelve feet thick. It had strong walls. These walls were made of stone and there were not one but two of them. One was twenty feet tall and one was thirty feet tall.
These walls were intimidating. It was not just a city. It was a fortress. It was a small city but it was a fortified city. In fact, it was a double fortified city and the city was set on a hill. The city was an impregnable fortress.
God made them a promise that the city was given into their hands, but they saw the walls. They saw them every day. Would they believe God or the walls? Would they walk by faith or by sight? It would be very easy after day four or five to give and say, “This is not working” but they didn’t give up, even when their circumstances had not changed. They continued to believe, in spite of their circumstances.
What is the lesson for us today? Walls are real. We can’t pretend that walls do not exist. Some of them are tall walls. They seem impossible. Some situations seem completely overwhelming and hopeless (health problem, addiction, financial problem). God made the Jews walk around these tall walls for six consecutive days and face their problem. They had to look at them each day.
They realized that they couldn’t solve these problems on their own. The walls are too high. The obstacle is too great. Only the Lord can give us the victory. ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty. (Zechariah 4:6 NIV). Paul says, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 15:57 NIV).
How was God was involved in this miracle? The head of the army was God. God led the whole operation. Joshua is not lead them into battle. God is. The divine captain led the assault. The human commander just follows the divine commander. Jesus gave Joshua the battle plan. The Joshua’s Plan was just God’s Plan and the Ark was part of the march. The priests were in the front and in the back. Soldiers were in the front and in the back. The Ark was in the middle of the march.
This golden box, this religious artifact, was in the middle. It symbolized the presence of God. God was going with them. They were not going on their own. We do not have any religious artifacts today (except perhaps the Shroud of Turin), but we do have the promise of Jesus that He is with us to the end of the age. He will never leave or forsake us.
God is the one who brings the walls down. The Jews did not bring them down by their own efforts. The wall did not come down by their own power. Joshua did not swing a hammer. God brought it down. It took the power of God to perform this miracle. That is what we need in our lives, God working. With God, what it totally impossible, becomes possible.
He does not always bring them down instantly. Sometimes He does but not always. Even here, they did not come down immediately. It took a week. If you do the math, they walked around the city thirteen times. Normally, the Jews rested on the seventh day but in this case, they worked seven times as hard on the seventh day. They were not supposed to travel on the Sabbath but on this day, they traveled as much as all of the other days combined.
4. Great things can be accomplished by faith
The Bible teaches that faith is important. We are saved by faith. The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6), not just difficult but IMPOSSIBLE but faith is not only important, it is powerful. Jesus said that faith is so powerful that it can actually move mountains.
Hebrews 11 demonstrates to us the power of faith. It shows all of the things that happened by faith. One of the things that was accomplished by faith is that the walls came down. They collapsed. Without faith, there would have been no miracle. This shows the power of faith. The walls of Jericho fell, not by FORCE, but by FAITH!
Hebrews 11:30 says, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days” (NIV).
The fall of Jericho was an act of God but it was also an act of faith. The fall of Jericho was an act of God, but it was also AN ACT OF FAITH. God brought down the walls of Jericho but He brought them down THROUGH FAITH.
When the trumpets sounded, the army SHOUTED, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a LOUD SHOUT, the wall collapsed. (Joshua 6:20 NIV)
Why were they shouting? They were told to shout. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city! (Joshua 6:16 NIV)
Now this is interesting. The walls did NOT fall down until they shouted. By shouting they testified to their faith in the promises of God, as John Wesley put it. The trumpets were blown each day and the walls did not fall down but on the last day after they circled the city seven times, the people shouted and the walls came down. Before they shouted, the walls were as hard as ever but once they shouted, the walls began to crumble and collapsed.
They did not give a quiet shout but a loud shout and they did NOT shout after the walls fells down. They shouted BEFORE the walls fell down. It was the shout of faith. Obviously, if they did not believe that they were going to get the city, there would be no point in shouting.
This was NOT blind faith. It was NOT a presumptive faith, believing what you want to believe. That is not faith but presumption. What type of faith was it?
1) It was a BIBLICAL FAITH (based on the word of God and the promises of God).
2) It was a BOLD FAITH (because it was not based on circumstances).
3) It was a UNIFIED FAITH (the whole nation had this faith).
4) It was a VOCAL FAITH (expressed audibly on the last day).
5) It was an OBEDIENT FAITH (did what God asked them to do).
6) It was a CONFIDENT FAITH (loud shout, a victory shout).
7) It was a POWERFUL FAITH (a miracle-working, mountain-moving faith, caused the walls to fall down).
8) It was a PUBLIC FAITH (out in the open marching)