Sunday, February 15, 2009

Matt's Messages "By Faith the Walls of Jericho Fell"

“By Faith the Walls of Jericho Fell”

Possessing the Promises: The Book of Joshua
February 15, 2009
Joshua 6:1-27

This is our fifth message in the book of Joshua. And I was gone last week, so let’s review and catch up:

In chapter 1, the LORD told Joshua to be strong and courageous. The 40 years of discipline for the nation of Israel were over, and it is now time to take possession of the Promised Land. And while that might sound daunting, Joshua was not be daunted. He was to be strong and courageous.

In chapter 2, General Joshua sent out two spies to reconnoiter the land and to get a read on their enemies. In the process, they were rescued by Rahab and promised to rescue her and her family when the time came. They brought word back to Joshua that Canaan is scared to death of Israel and Israel’s God.

In chapters 3 and 4, Israel crossed the Jordan River–on dry ground! They followed the Ark of the Covenant, symbolizing the holy presence of the LORD Himself going ahead of them–they followed the Ark into the Jordan River. The River runs away from the presence of the LORD! It runs 18 miles back upstream and stops there in a heap–waiting for the people to cross.

All the people cross, and they pull up 12 big stones from the middle of river to stack up in their camp at Gilgal as a reminder, a symbol, a covenant sign of God’s holiness, faithfulness, and power.

And then in chapter 5, on the Canaan-side of the Jordan river, the people of promise inside the Promised Land, they don’t go on the attack–instead they perform covenant rituals, renewal rituals: the first circumcision in 40 years, [I think] the first Passover in 40 years, the divine provision of manna ends, and they eat their first meals from the produce of the Promised Land.

And Joshua met the Commander of the Lord’s Army, and the place where they met, just before Jericho, was holy ground.

That’s what we’ve seen so far. Pretty exciting, really.

But this is the chapter the whole book is famous for!

This is the story that every Sunday School Student has ever heard.

And we’ve just heard a great rendition of “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho,” this chapter immortalized in that song.

“And the walls came a’tumblin’ down.”

Let me ask you a question:

How did Joshua fight the battle of Jericho?

It was a battle like no other. But how did Joshua fight it?

The New Testament tells us in two words: “By faith.”

Joshua (and all of the Israelites) fought the battle of Jericho by faith.

Hebrews chapter 11, verse 30 is the only New Testament reference to this battle, and it says this very simply: “By Faith the Walls of Jericho Fell.”

So, if we’re going to see anything this morning, as we read this story, we’re going to see faith. And I want to note at least five things about faith that we can apply to our own lives even today.

Now, like I’ve said many times: You and I know how this story ends. We’ve already heard about it in the song, we’ve heard this story many times, it’s even in the name of the message today. But, as much as it is possible, try to pretend that you are living in verse 1 right now, not verse 20. Try to pretend that you are right there, right then, and you don’t how it’s all going to turn out. Okay?

Joshua chapter 6, verse 1.

“Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.”

That’s a great first line to an adventure story, isn’t it?

There’s so much detail packed into that sentence.

Jericho, was a great walled city, one of the most ancient of the ancient world. And it was lay in the middle of Canaan. So for Israel to conquer Canaan and take possession as God had told them to, they had to go through Jericho first. And then it would be: divide and conquer.

But they have to conquer Jericho first.

And that would be a problem, wouldn’t it?

Big city. Tightly shut up.

They’re afraid of the Israelites, for sure, but they are secure within the walls of their city. “No one went out and no one came in.”

What is going to be the battle plan?

Battering Rams?

Those would be the things that you and I would think of.

But the Lord has His own plan. And it’s nothing like what you and I would ever think of! V.2

“Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.’”

Now, that’s a plan that you and I would have never thought of!

This is not “battle as usual,” is it?!

This is different. This is uncommon, extraordinary.

And it


Notice how God sees this battle. It’s already...what?

It’s already done, in God’s eyes.

Look at promise of verse 2.

“Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.’”

It’s a done deal as far as the LORD is concerned. I’ve have done it! Jericho is yours. The king and his army are already defeated.

Is that what Joshua sees?

Not with his physical eyes.

But faith sees with spiritual eyes.

Faith takes God at His word and believes His promises.

Do you believe God’s promises?

Do you even know what they are?

This book is full of precious promises for you and me.

The Bible calls them “great and precious promises” that give us “everything we need for life and godliness.”

Our job is to learn these promises and put our faith in them.

Whatever trial or temptation that you are going through right now has a corresponding set of Bible promises that will see you through it if you believe them.

But it takes faith.

Faith means believing God’s promises.

And then...acting on them.


If you truly believe, then you’ll do what He says to do.

Let’s look more closely at what Joshua was told to do. V.3

“March around the city once with all the armed men. [Got that? One time.] Do this for six days [Six Days]. Have seven priests [Seven Priests] carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark [What Ark is that? Noah’s Ark? No, the Ark of the Covenant. What does that symbolize? The very presence of God!]. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times [Seven and Seven], with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.’”

Okay? Got a picture in your head of the instructions?

If you were Joshua, would you do it?

These are pretty strange instructions.

Of course, they come from the God who just dried up the Jordan River at flood-time!

Joshua does obey. V.6

“So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, ‘Take up the ark of the covenant of the LORD and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.’ And he ordered the people, ‘Advance! March around the city, with the armed guard going ahead of the ark of the LORD.’ When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the LORD went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the LORD's covenant followed them. 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. But Joshua had commanded the people, ‘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!’ So he had the ark of the LORD carried around the city, circling it once. Then the people returned to camp and spent the night there.”

What a sight this must have been!

The nation of Israel marching, marching, marching–one time around the whole city.

Trumpets blowing.

But no voices.

Joshua said, “not even a word.”

Marching, marching, marching. Trumpets. No voices.

How many times around? Just once and then back to camp.

The people obeyed.

Why were they doing this?

Well, there’s a lot we could say–maybe it was a form of psychological warfare–but at least one thing we have to say is that they were doing it because God said so.

Faith means obeying God’s commands.

It means trusting God’s promises–and if you really trust God’s promises, you’ll obey His commands.

Obedience is the true fruit of faith.

Is obedience always easy?

No. It isn’t. In fact, it’s often the hardest thing about life.

Especially because other people don’t often appreciate our obedience to God’s commands.


Think about what the people of Jericho must have thought about the Israelites.

The first day, they were scared. Here comes Israel. Trumpets. Marching. Silence.

But the second day? V.12

“Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, 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. So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days.”

Now, I don’t know. The Bible doesn’t say. Maybe the citizens of Jericho got progressively more scared.

But in my mind’s eye, I see them begin to taunt the Israelites. I see them start to laugh at them and laugh at their seemingly strange behavior.

“There is no warfare here! It’s just a parade! If that’s all they’re going to do, we can outlast them! We can start throwing things at them from in here. Is this their worst? Bring it on!”

Faith means looking foolish sometimes in the eyes of others. Even, sometimes, in our eyes.

God’s ways are not our ways. And so when we do things God’s way, we often look out of touch.

Are you struggling with obedience to God right now because of what someone else might think of you?

At school? Are the Christ-followers the cool kids who everybody wants to be like?

Is it cool to share your faith with other people?

Is it cool to try live out your faith at school?

How about at work? What will people think if you start to [fill in the blank]?

How about in your extended family?

What if people start to think you’re a “Jesus Freak?”

“It’s okay to go to church, just don’t get all radical on me, okay?”

Sometimes, faith means looking foolish.

Are you trusting God?

Are you obeying Him? Even when the world says, even when you friends say, even when there is a little voice in you that says, “That’s dumb. That’s not the way to do it!” V.14 “They did this for six days.”

And then came the seventh day. I’m not sure, but this might be the Sabbath day, in fact. V.15

“On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times.”

Marching, marching, marching. Trumpets, trumpets, trumpets. Silence. Silence. Silence.

1-2-3-4-5-6-7 times around. Something’s different. Something’s going to happen! V.16

“The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, ‘Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! 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. 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. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the LORD and must go into his treasury.’” [We’ll see more about this next week.] v.20

“When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.”


The walls came a’tumblin’ down!

The army marched right in and took the city. There is no record of any resistance or any casualties on Israel’s side.

“When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.”

Let me ask you another question:

Who really fought the battle of Jericho?

Did Joshua do something really amazing here?

He exercised faith.
That’s what he was supposed to do.

And he went in with his sword and helped capture the city.

But is this battle Joshua’s?

V.16. Why were they supposed to shout?

“Shout! For the LORD has given you the city!”

The LORD fought the battle of Jericho! And the walls came tumblin’ down.


Now, that doesn’t mean that you won’t have to do some fighting yourself.

Faith, as we’ve seen, is a very active thing.

But, the decisive battles of our lives are won by the Lord Jesus, not fought by ourselves.

Faith means expecting (depending upon!) God to fight for you.

Isn’t it awesome that our God is a warrior?

He fights for His people?

Whatever situation that I find myself in–life is a battle!

But I’m not fighting alone. In fact, my fight isn’t the most important fight. It’s not the decisive fight.

God does that. And my job is simply to trust Him.

I want to say this to you right now–straight.

God is fighting for you.
God is fighting for you.

He has already, at the Cross, struck the decisive blow.

But even now, He is fighting for you.

In Ephesians 6, where it tells us to put on the full armor of God?

It means God’s own armor. Not just the armor that God supplies, but God’s own armor. The armor He wears: Salvation, Truth, Peace, Gospel. Righteousness. The Sword of the Spirit.

The LORD is a warrior. And He fights for you.

“Shout! For the LORD has given you the city.”

Trust Him.

Did you put together the picture of what Israel was supposed to do?

I think it’s one great big worship service.

Marching in parade, the worship band with the trumpets up front, everyone else listening and being silent before the Lord, following the Lord, priests everywhere, priests leading.

And then a triumphant shout!

I think worship was their warfare. They were worshiping in thanksgiving in advance for what the LORD was going to do for them.

Faith means worshipfully expecting God to fight for you.

And here’s the thing to be the most thankful for:


Because that’s what we see here in verses 21-27. God’s righteous wrath against sin. V.21.

“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. [This is according to the LORD’s commands–read about them in Deuteronomy chapter 20.] Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, ‘Go into the prostitute's house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.’ So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel. Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the LORD's house.”

“But 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. At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: ‘Cursed before the LORD is the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: ‘At the cost of his firstborn son will he lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest will he set up its gates.’ So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.”

The first battle was a complete success because (v.27) the LORD was with Joshua–just as He had promised. In fact, the LORD did the hard work.

But they had work, too. They had to kill everyone and everything in the city.

And then burn it. It became like a burnt offering.

God had said that this condemnation, this justice, this wrath of His was coming. He’d been saying it for over 400 years.

And now, for this generation, the Canaanites were to receive the punishment that they deserved.

It’s a punishment that we all deserve, but God, in his patience and mercy, often withholds for a long time.

Here, in His wisdom, He decided that their time was up. It was time for judgment and righteous wrath.

This is a picture for us, right now, of Hell. The coming horrors of Hell.

God’s righteous wrath meted out on deserving sinners.

But someone was rescued, wasn’t she? And her family, too.

Who was it?

Rahab. And what did she have that the other people of Jericho didn’t?


She believed in the one true living God–the God of Israel!
And her faith saved her.

And it’s the same today.

Faith means being spared from God’s righteous wrath.

Today, we are spared through trusting in God’s One and Only Son.

We are rescued by putting our faith in Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the Cross for us.

Amazing, ironically, paradoxically, He took on the punishment that we deserve.

He was destroyed like an inhabitant of Jericho–so that we wouldn’t have to be.

And He invites you and me to turn from our sins and trust in Him.

Faith means being spared from God’s righteous wrath–because His righteous wrath has been absorbed by the sinless Son of God in our place.

Do you have faith in Jesus?

Are you trusting in what He did on the Cross to save you?

If so, rejoice! Because He fought for you and won the victory at the Cross!

He died to win. And we know He won because He came back to life!


Are you trusting in what He did on the Cross to save you?

If not, you are invited to turn and trust Him now.

Faith is the victory. It’s the way to escape the wrath to come.

What happened to the citizens of Jericho was just a foretaste of what God has prepared for those who have rebelled against Him.

But what happened to Rahab was just a foretaste, as well, of what God has prepared for those who will trust in Him.

Trust Jesus. Trust Him.

That’s faith.

“By faith the walls of Jericho fell.”

And faith is the victory that overcomes the world.