Sermon: Jericho

17 Jul

In our day of high technology we might think that military battle has changed. In some ways it has. To be sure, in Joshua there were no drones or missiles. There were no battleships off the Mediterranean coast. It was just man-to-man combat. But even today, military leaders study the battles of history, because there are principles there that are unchanging. With the people of Israel, as the returned to the land God had promised them, they used two tried and true strategies. First, they divide and conquer. Jericho was in the heart of the land. By cutting through the middle of the land and establishing strength, the peoples of the land would be weakened and become more subject to defeat at Israel’s hand. Second, Israel’s strategy is to claim the high ground. They go into Jericho which is at the foot of the hill country. From Jericho as a base they can go up into Ai and from there they can go into all the hill country and have the military advantage. So the things Israel did were not unusual on one level. They were strategies that were tried and true even in that day. But when we actually read Joshua chapter 6, we find that the way they carried out this well-worn strategy was highly unusual, because it was all directed by God and involved God’s miraculous intervention.

As Christians, we don’t look particularly different from the rest of the world. We all do many of the same things the rest of the world does: we eat, sleep, get dressed, work, travel, manage money, have families, go to school and all the rest. But there is in the life of a Christian to be a pattern of life that is unique. This pattern is laid out in the account of the battle of Jericho but it appears all through the Bible and is still at work in our lives as well. The pattern works whether we are in the battle of Jericho or whether we are in the battle of school or whether we are in the battle of the office or whether we are in the battle of parenting toddlers or teenagers or whether we are in the battle of aging. There is a time-tested, Holy Spirit-inspired pattern for living which we would do well to remember: it is simply this . . . God Gives the Word, God Gives the Way, God Gives the Win.

GOD GIVES THE WORD     Look at Joshua 6:1-2 . . .

Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor.

In Jericho, God gave the word to Joshua. He gave it in the form of a command and a promise. The command had been the long-standing call of God for the people of Israel to go back from Egypt into their God-given land and conquer that land. The promise was that the Lord would be with them and that they would be successful. This theme of command and promise runs all throughout scripture. This is how God works. He calls us to His purposes and gives us His promises. Our calling first and foremost is to trust Him. This is what Joshua and the Israelites did at Jericho. This is what we are to do in our lives. When we see a command of God that is for us in the Bible, we should trust God enough to walk in that truth. It is true that we are not under law but under grace but it is also true that Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commands.” Jesus’ chief commands to us are to believe on Him and to love God and one another. But the New Testament is filled with specific ways we can love God and one another and though we are not under the Old Testament law, it too is filled with God-inspired wisdom for living. So the question is not only will we believe the Bible is the Word of God, the question is will we really listen to what it says and walk in its truth? I know there are people today who take the Bible literally but they don’t take the Bible seriously. Jesus really did say what He said for our sakes. His sayings should not be quarantined for some other age. The apostles wrote letters to churches which were intended for the saints through all the ages. And the Old Testament, as Paul reminds us, was written for our instruction. So we are to hear and heed the commands of God by faith. But the other part of that well-worn biblical formula is true as well, with the command comes a promise. The reward of obedience is real. God rewards faithful obedience. When we walk in His ways we reap life and strength and blessing. When we wander from His ways we reap weakness and confusion and defeat. This is why Israel in obedience had victory over the larger city in Jericho but in disobedience was thrown into confusion and defeat in the tiny town of Ai. Remember this truth. Command and promise. God Gives the Word.

 GOD GIVES THE WAY        Look at verses 3 through 5 . . .

You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. 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. 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.”

God gives the way for His commands to be fulfilled and His promises to be unleashed. When we read of His way in Joshua 6 we should be struck by the oddness of His ways to our way of thinking. No weapons, no siege works and military posturing. Just a march around the city, the blowing of trumpets, the presence of the ark. But with it the promise of a miracle. Walls will fall.

The ways of God are foolishness to the unspiritual person. God’s seemingly strange ways are on display all through the Bible. Noah builds an ark before an incredulous audience. God calls Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac and Abraham is willing until God intervenes. God elevates the slave Joseph to second in command in Egypt. God calls Moses at 80 years old to lead Israel out of Egypt. Gideon has this huge army to square off against the Midianites until God tells him to whittle it down to 300 and gives him a strategy that involves torches and breaking pitchers. Over and over all through the Bible God’s strange ways are on display. And nowhere is this more evident than in the coming of the Lord Jesus Himself. God comes to us as a baby, a baby. A baby born to a family of lowly means, a baby raised in an obscure place. A baby who is the Son of God yet who had no form or majesty that we should look at Him and no beauty that we should be drawn to Him. A King who has nowhere to lay His head. One who controls nature and demons and disease and death and yet submitted Himself to death, even death on a cross. The God-Man, who cried out in agony “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?”

Hallelujah, what a Savior! God Gives the Way. Jesus, who said, “I AM the WAY and the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me.”

God Gives the Word, God Gives the Way and finally . . .

GOD GIVES THE WIN

Look at verse 20 . . .

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.

God gave the win. This is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith. If you will believe God’s Word and follow God’s Way you will have God’s Win. This doesn’t mean of course that all in your life will be blessed according to your desires or definition but it does mean you will be blessed. You will be blessed with deeper and fuller intimacy with God. You will be blessed with a heart that can see and savor God as never before. You will be blessed with stability of heart that can take both the hardships and joys of life with a right perspective of humility and hope. God defines the win but it is indeed a win. God can define wins better than we. We sometimes think something is a win when God knows having that thing would destroy us. I don’t want my wins, I want God’s wins for me. And I know that if I trust in God’s Word and follow God’s Way I will experience God’s Win. In fact, even my losses will be wins because God will work in all things for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. The dividing line between the miserable and the mighty in faith is this message. To hear a Word from God and to know the Way of God and not walk in it is of all things most miserable. Like going to a weight loss seminar when you have no intention of changing your diet. You see the success stories, you hear of the exciting changes but deep down you know you are just going to keep eating Twinkies. That is the life of many people in churches all over America today. I suggest to you that the perpetually discouraged person has faltered somewhere along the line to believe that God gives the Word, God gives the Way and God gives the Win.

If you are discouraged, defeated, burned out, broken down or otherwise just inwardly drained this morning, I encourage you to carefully consider the pattern we see in Joshua 6: God gives the Word, God gives the Way, God gives the Win. In thinking about your life, is your heart in alignment with these three truths? Or is your faith failing at one or more of these points? This is the issue that you need to settle in your heart and re-affirm in your mind day by day. Today I will take seriously what God has said, I will follow the steps He has given me for my life, and I will experience His victory on His terms for my eternal good, for His glory and for the blessing of others.

Nowhere is the truth of this passage clearer than at the cross. God gave the Word before the foundation of the world that He would redeem a people for Himself through the sacrifice of His Son. God gave the Way: in the fullness of time God sent His Son born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those under the law. It looked foolish to many. Many said he had a demon. His own family said He was crazy. But Jesus set His face like a flint to obey the Father. This was His mission first and foremost: obedience to the Father. And God gave the Win. Through suffering, through death, through the empty tomb, God gave the Win. It was difficult a road of suffering that led to victory. And so it will be for us. Wins are costly. Our victory cost the life’s blood of God’s Son and our daily victories cost us death to self. But they are victories. As we partake of the Lord’s Supper today, remember this word from Joshua 6 and from all the Scriptures: God Gives the Word, God Gives the Way, God Gives the Win.  We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: