15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times. 16 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the Lord hath given you the city…
20 So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. (Joshua 6:15-16, 20)
Life is full of circumstances that are bigger than we are. Each of us could probably point out a “wall of Jericho” that we have faced or even are facing right now. It could be a disease, like cancer or diabetes. Maybe it’s a problem in your marriage or at work. Whatever it is, to you it looks like the wall of Jericho.
The reason that God included the account of Jericho in the Bible is not that it seemed pretty exciting and people would enjoy reading it. It’s because it teaches us about faith in overwhelming circumstances. It teaches how faith and obedience will lead to victory.
I want to be careful to say that the victory may not be what you anticipate. Some have misused this text to say that you need to by faith claim victory over your wall of Jericho and God will knock it down. You should not say, “Cancer, I claim the victory over you,” and expect to be declared free of cancer by your befuddled doctor.
For each of our Jericho wall circumstances, the Lord is the one with the battle plan and the Lord has his own idea of what victory looks like…and it may not be the same as yours. His victory, in the long run, however, will be the best for you.
With that in mind, let’s turn to the account of Jericho and see how we can be encouraged to have faith even when the walls of Jericho loom large above us. First, we must remember that…
THE LORD’S VICTORY IS ALREADY WON (6:1-5)
Joshua 6:1 Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.
In those days, a city was taken by either some sort of siege machine, like a ramp, to get the attackers into the city or by starving the inhabitants until they needed to come out of the city.
The first required special war machines, the second could require weeks or months before a city gave in—and Jericho was ready for a long siege. They had huge grain bins carved out underneath the city. In fact, grain from these bins has been recovered in modern times (Schaeffer, 2:231).
The point of this first verse is just to show the difficulty facing the Israelites at Jericho. These were people who had just spent the last four decades wandering in the wilderness. Except for a few skirmishes here and there, they had no battle experience, no understanding of how to really take a city. Imagine being given a task that you barely knew anything about how to accomplish!
But thankfully, the Lord had already won the victory for them—
Joshua 6:2 And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.
Do you see that? The battle was already won—the Lord said so: “I have given into thine hand Jericho.” The only thing left for the Israelites to do is walk by faith and reach out and take the gift the Lord was offering. Just like today, our salvation is a gift that we receive by faith.
And the Israelites would have to walk by faith because, in verses 3-5, God tells Joshua the battle plan for conquering Jericho and it’s a doozy! But first…
Are there areas of our life where the Lord has already won the victory for us?
Like I said earlier, sometimes the victory the Lord has in mind is different from the one we have in mind. But the Bible does tell us about a victory that will surpass every other victory in our life. It’s the victory over sin and Satan and death and Hell.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:55–57)
This is a victory that you can claim. Have you, by faith, claimed this victory? You can only do so by placing your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to save you. Then, no matter what happens to you in this life…in the last battle of death (the only battle that really matters), you will have the victory.
THE LORD’S VICTORY IS CLAIMED BY FAITH (6:6-16, 20)
In Hebrews, in the Hall of Faith of chapter eleven, we read: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days” (Hebrews 11:30).
To show that they had to win this battle by faith, the Lord gave Israel some strange battle orders. Orders that would require faith to be carried out. Joshua listened to the Lord and then he went and told the people what they were to do.
Joshua 6:6 And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said unto them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD.
First, he addresses the priests. They represent the God of Israel, so they are most important, not the military, as you might expect.
Joshua 6:7 And he said unto the people, Pass on, and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the LORD.
Joshua 6:8 And it came to pass, when Joshua had spoken unto the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns passed on before the LORD, and blew with the trumpets: and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them.
The number “seven,” representing perfection, comes up several times in the story of Jericho. Besides “seven priests” and “seven trumpets,” we’ve also seen that they were to do this over the course of seven days and on the “seventh day” they were to march “seven times” around Jericho. The perfect number “seven” emphasizes the perfection of God’s plan.
Joshua 6:9 And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rereward [rear guard] came after the ark, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets.
So you have armed men, followed by seven priests with trumpets, then the ark of the covenant and then more armed men. The ark is very important in this chapter (it’s mentioned 10 times) because it represents the presence of the Lord in the midst of his people. This isn’t their victory to win. It’s the Lord’s victory—the Israelites are just along for the ride!
So far we have seen: the priests of God, the perfect plan of God, and the presence of God. What are the people of God supposed to do?
Joshua 6:10 And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout.
The Israelites who were involved in the battle of Jericho (most of the two million or so Israelites, like the women and children, were probably back at base camp) were to be silent. Why did they need to be quiet? Again, it has to do with the Lord showing his people who is in charge of the victory.
It takes faith to be silent before God when the battles around you make you want to scream. It takes faith to walk, not looking at what seems most logical to you, but according to what God tells you to do. Remember: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
The next several verses describe the Israelites obeying in faith the plan given to them by God. For six days, they marched around the city once, and then went back to their camp and waited for the next day. For six days, they spent probably less than an hour silently marching. Then it was back to camp, passing the time playing the games that soldiers play when they are bored. But finally…
Joshua 6:15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times. Joshua 6:16 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city.
Down in verse 20, we see the result of their faithful obedience.
Joshua 6:20 So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.
Because the Israelites had faith in the Lord’s perfect but unusual plan and had evidenced their faith with obedience, they saw the victory!
But the victory could only be claimed by faith. If they had decided that God’s battle plan looked too foolish, too embarrassing (what would people think of them marching around the walls and doing nothing?), would they have succeeded any other way? No! it was impossible for them to do it themselves.
The walls of Jericho remind me of how impossible it is to save ourselves. The Bible is insistent on this fact:
8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9)
Why does God make it impossible for us to save ourselves? Because if we could save ourselves, we would fill Heaven with our selfish boasting instead of our faithful praise to the God who loved us and saved us. Folks, that’s why God has us walk by faith and not by sight. He wants us to praise him, not ourselves. So, whatever battle you face, remember, God wants you to face it by believing in him and not in yourself.
THE LORD’S JUDGMENT IS FAIR AND PATIENT (6:17-19, 21, 24, 26)
When the Israelites took the city, what happened to it and its inhabitants?
Joshua 6:21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.
Joshua 6:24 And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.
This is one of the areas of the Bible where unbelievers get really upset—how could God order his people to do such a violent thing? They don’t like the idea of God’s judgment. Let’s take a moment to answer the question: why was it right for all the people of Jericho to be killed? Two reasons:
(1) The Canaanites were incredibly wicked people. Here’s one wicked thing: they sacrificed their infants in fire (I think abortion today is a valid comparison).
This is also a reminder to us that all people are sinners, and as sinners, we all deserve death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). That is a simple biblical truth that we must all come to terms with. An unbeliever is someone who has not taken the first step of admitting that they are a sinner in need of a Savior.
(2) The Canaanites had been given the opportunity to repent. God had been patient with them from the time of Abraham to Moses—400 years.
16 But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again [from Egypt]: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full. (Genesis 15:16)
God’s justice is patient. He gave Jericho and the other Canaanites plenty of time—hundreds of years—to repent. But they did not. Modern people also have been given the opportunity to repent…
9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night… (2 Peter 3:9–10a)
And in 2 Thessalonians, Paul says that at the end of time…
…when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, 8 In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel [i.e., by not believing it] of our Lord Jesus Christ: 9 Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; (2 Thessalonians 1:7–9)
No one in America can say that they didn’t have the opportunity to turn to Christ. There are churches everywhere. Bibles are easy to buy, even in places like Walmart. The television, radio, and internet are crammed full of Bible teaching. Yes, there is good and bad teaching out there, but my point is: everyone has the opportunity to sit down and study the Word of God.
We have been warned. God has been patient. Now, will you repent and believe? Or will you continue down the path that leads to judgment?
How are we saved?
THE LORD’S SALVATION IS BY GRACE THROUGH FAITH (6:22-23, 25)
All the inhabitants of Jericho were killed. Except for one family. The harlot Rahab had helped the Israelites earlier when she hid the men sent to spy out the city.
Joshua 6:22 But Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot’s house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her.
Joshua 6:23 And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel [because they were temporarily unclean].
Joshua 6:25 And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
In Joshua 2, we are told that Rahab’s house was on or in the wall of Jericho. It’s no coincidence that the wall is what God knocked down. It shows that even in the midst of judgment, God can save. Apparently that specific section of wall remained standing.
I imagine that they peered out the windows as the Israelite army stormed up into the city. They may have watched as God’s judgment rained down all around them. Then, with fires burning all around and bodies strewn all over, the two spies approached the window from which they were let out previously. Perhaps again a rope was dropped, and this time Rahab and her family were let down to safety.
Why were Rahab and her family saved? Because they protected Israelite spies. But why did they do that? Back in Joshua 2, listen to what Rahab said to the Israelite spies:
9 And she said unto the men, I know that the Lord hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed. 11 And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for the Lord your God, he is God in heaven above, and in earth beneath. (Joshua 2:9–11)
Rahab and her family were saved by faith, a picture of salvation for all of us to see. They became part of God’s people. Rahab would leave her sorted past behind and marry a man named Salmon. She would have a son, Boaz, who would marry Ruth and have a son named Obed who would have a son named Jessie who would have a son named David (Matthew 1:5).
Thus, Rahab the harlot, saved by God’s grace and her faith, would find a place forever in Heaven (and in the genealogy of the Savior, Jesus Christ).
You can also find a place in Heaven, and even a place in Christ, by putting your faith in Christ today. Then the victory over sin and death and Hell will be yours. You will be saved.
9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. (Romans 10:9)
NOTES AND WORKS CITED
Schaeffer, Francis A. The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview. Westchester, IL: Crossway Books, 1982.