Joshua 6: First Conquest
November 7, 2010 Series: Joshua: Lord's Army
Topic: Old Testament Passage: Joshua 6:1–6:27
Intro – Battles Begin
Turn to Joshua chapter 6. The next seven chapters present some of the most controversial material in the Bible, beginning with the Battle of Jericho. The Battle of Jericho is one of the strangest and most familiar in stories in the Bible. Even know many of us know the basic details, through what we sang in Sunday school as kids, it’s unlikely we’ve really spent time on some of the difficulties of chapter 6. Wait, wait, wait, aren’t we just talking about: “Joshua fought the Battle of Jericho and the walls came a tumbling down?” What is so hard about that? I am talking about after the walls fell down, the SEVENTH LOST VERSE, when God commands that the entire city of Jericho be destroyed including men, women, children, and animals. We typically don’t sing that verse.
Those hostile to God and Christians love passages like this, because they use them to make Chrstians squirm and rally non-Christians to their “Religion is to blame for every terrible thing that has ever happened in the world team.” A Google search of Joshua 6 will bring up hundreds of websites, blogs, and articles that demonized God, Christians, and the Bible: How can anyone with half a brain, or heart, worship such an unloving God?” Truth be told, this is EXACTLY what many of us do when we encounter something we don’t like about how God has revealed himself. If we don’t say it with our lips, we say it in our hearts. Instead of worshiping God, we worship our emotions, our thoughts, and our experiences. What’s worse, when challenged, we apologize for God, Christians, and the Bible and then attempt to remake God into man’s image, in hopes of presenting a more attractive God.
This is a difficult text, but I’m more fearful of God than I am of people’s reactions to Him. I’m not here to convince people that God is worthy to be worshipped, but to worship Him through proclaiming His Word. I’m not here to defend God, just to declare who He is and what He has done. So, I’m not going to try and shape God into your little box—God is bigger than that. At the heart of it is the truth that we must accept God as he has revealed himself or we won't follow Him in the way he demands. In other words, it is about God being God and not remaking him into a more palpable image that doesn't kill anyone, that loves everyone the same, or allows me to follow how I want.
Verses 1-14 Foolish Plan Foolish People
Last week, right before the battle, the commander of the Army reminds Joshua that he is not alone; he is not in charge; and that God is not in his team, Joshua is on His. This is God’s War, not Joshua’s. Obedient Joshua doesn’t question, argue, or complain, he humbles himself, worships, and obeys—he remains strong and courageous. And as God command, attacks the fortress of Jericho.
Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. 2 And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. 4 Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” 6 So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord.” 7 And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the Lord.”
8 And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them. 9 The armed men were walking before the priests who were blowing the trumpets, and the rear guard was walking after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. 10 But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.” 11 So he caused the ark of the Lord to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp. 12 Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. 14 And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days.
The Madness of God’s Method
[GRAPHICS] In terms of 1400 BC, the city of Jericho was big city, a strategically fortress located in the middle of Promised Land. Taking this city would drive a wedge between northern and southern parts of the land. The city was surrounded by a series of walls. The outer wall built on top of a retaining wall. Some estimate this over 40 feet tall. The city was built on a pile of earth that extended upward from there to the inner-wall which was probably another 20ft high. The city is locked up tight, full of warriors, and supplies. They have probably been preparing since the spies left. Joshua is given very strange but very specific instructions about how to take the city. They are to circle the city once for six days. The formation is led by the Armed Soldiers…7-piece band (blowing rams horns continually)…Ark carried by Levites…Rear guard. The city is approximately 7 acres in area, with a perimeter of just under half a mile. It is likely that Israel’s men completely encircled the city so that when the walls fell, they all walked swarmed in. On the seventh day, this same procession would walk around the city seven times and then, having been silent for a week, will yell at the walls.
The Faith Required to March
These instructions have no historical precedence, no clear rationality, and no military credibility. It is completely different than anything they have ever done, contrary to any method of any successful army then or now. The only reason to believe that it will work is that it is God’s Word. There are many trials I have found myself in that did not make sense or feel good. And it is in those times that have often been tempted to stop marching, to stop believing that God really cares. The truth is, sometimes all we have is Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. So Joshua commands the men, fully armed, to march around the city and, in doing so, they give us a picture of a follower of Jesus looks like:
- 1. A FOOLISH FAITH: Jesus principles are not the world’s principles. Walking with God looks different than walking with the world. Success is different, Suffering is different, Purpose and Hope are different—and they are ALL foolish. That is why most people do not follow Jesus. It doesn’t take much faith to follow God when what he asks is culturally popular or accepted. Faith is required when following when Gods’ commands defy everything we think, feel, or know. Jesus was rejected as a fool so that I can be accepted as a son.
- A COURAGEOUS FAITH: Following Jesus has its risks, some will lose their life, others their reputation. The Israelites risked being killed and insulted by the enemy. It’s easy to fight, easy to run, but it hard to follow God. It doesn’t take courage to do whatever I want. It takes courage to trust God with everything, to suffer for Him, especially when everyone around me, even the whispers in my own mind, tells me I can’t or I shouldn’t. Jesus willingly went to the cross so I can suffer courageously.
- A SILENT FAITH: God commands that the Israelites remain silent as they march until the end of the 7th day. The only sound is to be the continual blowing of horns. Horns played an important role in Israel, in essence, they signified the presence and provision of God. Sometimes when we follow Jesus, we do so reluctantly. We fill the air with so much complaint and grumbling, we may as well not be marching at all. In terms of faith, silence allows us to hear God’s horn, to be reminded that trials we are walking in are not a sign of God’s absence, but his presence. Jesus remained silent, trusting God as he was unjustly beaten, mocked, spit upon, and killed so that I too can trust God when I am unloved.
- A PATIENT FAITH: Finally, they were commanded to do this seven times. It seems like God makes a big point to talk about the number seven in Scripture. We have Seven Priests, Seven days, Seven times on the Seventh day. In the Hebrew, seven is from a root world that means, to be full or satisfied, have enough of. It first appears in Genesis where God rests after creating the world, signifying fullness or completeness. Nothing could be added to it or taken from it without marring it; it could not be done BETTER in any different way. God’s timing is perfect, though it is often tempting to stop following on day 5. Jesus lived for 33 years, was tempted for 40 days, ministered for three years, remained in a tomb three days, patiently following God’s perfect plan to the glory of God that I might also trust in His perfect plan for me.
This kind of faith is hard. The sin in us works against a faith like this: 1) we avoid looking the fool at all costs, 2) We only take risks that are safe, 3) We never stop talking, complaining, whining, even as we follow. 4) We give up too easily and too soon because we want results on our time table.
Verses 15-21 –7th day of Destruction
Ok. I’ll follow God, I’ll play the fool, I’ll be uncomfortable and patient even shut my mouth as I follow…as long as the walls fall down. But will you follow Him after they fall? Marching around the fortress was the easy part—God did all the fighting! But the fight isn’t over, it’s just beginning. Will you follow Him when you have to fight? And will you fight for total devotion to God? 15 On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16 And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city. 17 And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. 18 But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. 19 But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.” 20 So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. 21 Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword.
Destruction & Rules of War
Accepting the foolishness of the march was one thing, now Joshua is instructed to destroy the city completely. This destruction is not some capricious cosmic deity indiscriminately murdering for fun. The story of Joshua is also not a prescription for some sort of Christian Jihad, it had a specific purpose for a particular time when God established his kingdom in a particular place. But it does give us a picture of the kingdom that would one day be established in our own hearts in King Jesus.
Historically, God’s Rules of War were initially given to Moses in Deuteronomy 20. There, God gives protocols for those cities within and outside the boundaries of the Promised Land. For those cities “far away”: (1) 20.2 Priest comes forward to encourage the people – Lord is with you (2) 20.5-9 – then, they would offer terms of peace to the city. If they accept, make them slaves. If they refuse, go to war and kill all the males, spare everything else, and take it as plunder.
For those cities “nearby” the cities in God’s land, Deuteronomy 20.16-18, “…you shall save alive nothing that breathes, 17 but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded, 18 that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God.
God is Holy
Because this is a real story, it is a disturbing one. But if you can resist being governed by your emotions, you will see that it reveals exactly how serious God is about sin. And though we may cringe at the wrath God commands, God is Holy and he hates sin. You hate sin too, just not your own. As for Jericho, and all the Canaanites, God had been patient with these people for well over 400 years. As God, he had the right to destroy this rebellious people at any time. And though they could have repented, these people fully immersed themselves in sin, so much so that, in Leviticus 20, God describes these people saying that the land vomited up its inhabitants. And Archeology has proven how grossly immoral their culture was with religious practices that included perverse sex worship, prostitution, incest, divination, even human sacrifice. Do we really want our God tolerate this kind of sin? Not even a pagan will argue that human sacrifice is wrong—it is horrible. But the truth is, until we begin to view every sin, especially your own, as just as horrible, we will never truly understand the holiness of God.
Men are Sinful
God instructs Joshua to cleanse the land completely—no survivors, no compromises, no impurities. Worship must be pure devotion, all areas of life must be cleansed from sin that they might be filled with the joyful presence of God. If you don’t fully devote yourself to God, you will think sin is something you can manage, something that disappoints God, but not something that is “that bad.” I am reminded by an illustration in C.S. Lewis, THE GREAT DIVORCE, his creative description of heaven. People arrive at a bus stop and have the decision to step into paradise—but they must leave the sin that separated them from God behind. One man’s in perches on his shoulder like an animal, biting him, and digging his nails in. When the angels ask permission for God to kill it, he almost can’t let it go. He makes excuses, claims it will never act up again, that it’s not a problem. God says, if you don’t kill sin and idolatry completely, it will kill you and it will keep you away from God.
God is Loving & Just
Many will agree that God is Holy, understand the “image” that God is making her, but claim He’s not loving because of the real deaths that occur. God is loving; He just loves Himself first. God really hates sin and will really kill those who, in the end, love their in more then Him. And though like children we’ll say, that is not fair! God is just, not fair. The last thing we want is a “fair” God who gives us all what we in fact rightly deserve—death. Instead, we have a merciful, forgiving, and gracious God whose patience does run out at some point because he is just and holy. God’s judgment here the just act of a just God, justifiably, enforcing his justice. Allowing or tolerating sin is the most unloving thing God can do. It is loving to warn his people of danger. It is loving to defend his people from harm. It is loving to destroy sin. And if you say, it’s not loving to destroy innocent people that might be good. As Jesus said, there is no one good but God. There are no innocent people. The question is not, Is God worthy to be worshipped? The question is, will you worship God as He has revealed himself in all his mystery, wrath, and love? If not, then it is unlikely that you will follow Him in the way He commands. The problem is we want to stand in judgment of the judge. It’s not that you don’t like what God is doing or asking you to do, you don’t like God.
CONCLUSION - Verses 22-27 Mercy & Wrath, Grace & Justice
And though God uses Israel to judge Jericho’s sin, he judges all sin even Israel’s. Israel is not set apart because they are less sinful. God says in Deuteronomy 7, that Israel was chosen not because they were more lovable, but because God set His love on them. The question isn’t why does he kill people, but why he lets anyone live at all. No one but dirty, broken, evil, rebellious people get saved because that is all there is to save. 22 But to the two men who had spied out the land, Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.” 23 So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. 24 And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. 25 But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
In the middle of evil of Jericho, in the community of rebellion, at the center of sinfulness, there is hope and salvation—Rahab, the super-great grandmother of our Jesus. And the story ends bringing the wrath of God and the love of God together—on the cross where Jesus died. The same God in the Old Testament who commands the destruction of Jericho for the purity of His people, is the same God who sends his own Son and commands His destruction for the purity of His church. The love, grace, and mercy of God meet the holiness, wrath, and justice of God here, in this man. Joshua chapter 6 is not intended for us to sit and debate whether or not God is worthy to be followed. It is to leads us to see that the entire world is sinful and under the wrath of God, but that in love, Jesus takes all wrath Himself that you might live.
Let us not debate or apologize, but repent and worship the God who reveals Himself as hating sin and loving sinful men. It’s only when you worship God as He has revealed himself in all his mystery, wrath, and love? Will you follow Him in the way He commands. As Deitrich Bonhoeffer says, “Only those who believe obey, and only those who obey believe.”
Romans 5.6-11 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.