Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Thrill of Victory

In last week's lesson, we studied the children of Israel's presence on the eastern banks of the Jordan River while two (2) spies sent by Joshua were hidden in Jericho and sent another way to return to camp by Rahab the harlot, a Canaanite woman (Joshua 2). In today's lesson, we see the children of Israel on the western side of the Jordan River near Jericho at Gilgal, following a miraculous crossing that should have reminded them of what God did for their forefathers in the crossing of the Red Sea in their deliverance from Egypt. Compare Joshua 3:1-5:1 with Exodus 14:10-31.

Following the miraculous crossing, three things occured which were spiritual in nature. First, all the males born in the wilderness were circumcised. Circumcision had ceased during all of the wanderings. All of the men of war who had been circumcised and crossed the Red Sea '...were consumed and dead from among the people' (Deuteronomy 2:16; cf Joshua 5:2-8) due to their spiritual sin of unbelief in God. They were not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Their offspring would be allowed to enter the Promised Land upon circumcision. Circumcision was a sign of the covenant between God and Abraham, and God in His faithfulness was keeping His unconditional promise by giving them the land (Gen 15:18-21). Second, the first Passover was celebrated in the Promised Land. The Passover was a reminder of their redemption. The Lord God had bought and freed them from slavery in Egypt. In observing the Passover the Jews were obeying the word of the Lord they received through Moses at the time of the first Passover (Exodus 13:5; cf Joshua 5:9-12). Third, there was an appearance to Joshua of the commander of the army of the Lord (Joshua 5:13-15). Joshua lifted his eyes and saw a man over him with His sword drawn. Joshua did not withdraw. Instead he asked whether the man was with the Israelites or the adversaries. Joshua was not in fear, but he was even more encouraged when the man advised him that He was the captain of the host of the Lord. Joshua immediately fell on his face, worshipped, and asked for direction. The commander told him to 'Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place where thy standest is holy ground...' (Joshua 5:15) Jericho was the first fruit to be conquered in the Promised Land by the children of Israel. It had already been given by God as a spiritual conquest. We shall review this most unusual battle more specifically at Joshua 6:2-3, 4b, 12-20.

Jericho was '...straightly shut up...' (Joshua 6:1) to its own destruction. It was well fortified. No one could go in or out for whatever reason. And the king, its men of war, and inhabitants were trembling because of Israel and their God. Still God expected Joshua and Israel to follow instructions, for that was the only way they would be able to claim victory. They had to recognize that they had been given the city of Jericho by God. It was a spiritual battle with a spiritual battle plan. It did not require opening of trenches, battering rams to knock down the walls, nor military preparations.

It required the ark of God to be carried by seven priests around the city once a day for six days, and seven times on the seventh day. Priests were normally excused from war. But they were God's ministers and in His name they were proclaiming war against the Canaanites and that God was present with the Israelites. The seven priests were to continuously blow the seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the testimony of the Lord. Wherever the ark went the people attended it. The armed men of war went before it to clear the way. The seven priests went immediately before the ark, having trumpets in their hands. The rereward came after the ark to either testify their respect for it or witness as to what was done. The rereward may be another body of armed men, unarmed men, or a multitude of people who are not armed or disciplined for war. During their seven-day march, they were commanded to remain silent until further commanded. The only sound to be heard was to be that of the rams' horns/trumpets. The horns were pulling down strong holds. The children of Israel had to have faith to believe. Follow the instructions given by God and '...the wall of the city shall fall down flat...' (Joshua 6:5).

On the morning of the seventh day, they rose about the dawn of the day and began their silent march around Jericho as they had the previous six days. It is interesting that there is no visible indication that their marching for six days in any way weakened the city walls, or for that matter brought the Israelites any closer to victory nor weakened their spirit. They simply continued to march in faith, making no effort to enter the city or to pose any threat. But on this seventh day Joshua instructed them them to march around the city seven times. Following the final lap, at last they were to give a shout, and did so, and immediately the walls fell (Joshua 6:16) '...for the Lord hath given you the city.' This was despite the fact that not one single soldier had died. The Israelites shouted for victory before the wall fell.

Now that the Lord had given them the city, there were rules in order to take possession. The entire city and all that lived in it was accursed. The city must be destroyed and all who lived within, with the exception of Rahab and all that were with her in the house. She had distinquished herself from her neighbors because of her kindness rendered to the messengers she hid. The Lord also requird all the silver, gold, vessels of brass and iron that they located in Jericho must be consecrated to the service of the Lord in the tabernacle. The idea behind this utter destruction was for all contamination from foreign gods to be eradicated. If this were not done, then the survivors would likely infuse new life into the pagan practices of the past. Also, God did not promise the Israelites treasure. He promised them a land flowing with milk and honey where they would be able to live comfortably to be able to serve Him.

They burned the city with fire, saved Rahab and her family, and placed the silver, gold, vessels of brass and iron in the Lord's treasury (Joshua 6:24,25). Jericho is then condemned to desolation and Joshua pronounces a curse upon the man that offers to rebuild the city (Joshua 6:26). If the foundation would be built, the man's firstborn would die. And if he had not understood that he was under a curse, continued to build, his youngest son would die when the city gate is erected. Joshua did not simply pronounce this curse without God. God himself forbid it under a severe penalty. In later years during the time when Israel had a very evil king and queen, Ahab and Jezebel, Israel was deeply influenced by idolatry. The godlessness of the times is witnessed by the brazen attempt by Hiel of Bethel to rebuild Jericho in defiance of God's curse. When he laid the foundation, his oldest son, Abiram, died. As the gates were erected, his youngest son, Segub, died (I Kings 16:34).

This lesson was a perfect example of spiritual warfare. '...For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places...' (Ephesians 6:10-18). Are you ready to march with your battle gear according to the Lord's battle plan in faith? Can you take instructions? Do you believe?

Written by Deborah C. Davis

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