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.
Today we would like to study one of the greatest miracles recorded in the Bible: the fall of Jericho. This miracle did not occur several times, but happened just once, and it is recorded here in the passage.
Characteristically, Jericho represents the city of idolatry, the bastion of the power of darkness, and its wall signifies the system that protects and promotes idol worship.
The miracle to take down the walls of Jericho teaches us God's wisdom to fight and uproot the power of darkness and build God's kingdom in man's heart. Let us see how this miracle came about.
I. Take off your sandals (5:13-15)
Look at v. 13. “Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’” We don't know why Joshua went near Jericho. Perhaps he did so to figure out the next move as the leader of the Lord's army. As he was near Jericho he might have felt tension. He might have felt goose bumps breaking out all over his body. At the same time a lot of thoughts and ideas might have arisen in his heart. Thus he might have thought about what kind of plan was best to attack and capture the city of Jericho.
Then all of sudden, as he looked up, he saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. This man did not approach him gradually from a distance. But he appeared out of nowhere. Joshua might have been scared to death. But he controlled himself. Then he went up and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?"
What did the man say? Look at v. 14a. ""Neither," he replied. This reply is surprising. This man was neither for Joshua nor the people of Jericho. Then for whom did he come? Look at v. 14a again. "[B]ut as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." This reply was even more surprising. Joshua might have thought that he was the man in charge. But he was wrong. He was not the commander in charge. Rather the man who was standing in front of him was the commander of the army of the LORD!
As we engage ourselves in the Lord's battle such as by visiting the campus to meet the students, making telephone calls to our Bible students, or leading either group or one-on-one Bible studies with God's flock, we must first realize that we are not the men in charge. There is someone else who is present to lead us!
Then who are we? Look at v. 14b. "Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, ‘What message does my Lord have for his servant?’" This passage shows us that we are his servants. And it is the Lord Jesus Christ who is with us, leading us to fight his battle in his way!What impresses us the most here then is the way Joshua possessed himself before the Lord. "Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence..." He fell facedown to the ground. At first he looked "up" and "saw" the man and "confronted" him saying, "Are you for us or for our enemies?" Depending upon this man's answer, Joshua was even ready to give the man an upper cut punch. But upon realizing who this man was, his attitude immediately changed. In a facedown position, Joshua did not even dare to look at him. Furthermore, the expression "fell facedown 'to' the ground" shows us his complete humility. The ground is symbolic of nothingness. In other words, by falling facedown to the ground Joshua brought himself down to level of ground zero. He did not set himself up before the Lord. Rather he lowered himself to complete nothingness. To him the Lord was as high as the heavens. And he was as low as the dust on the ground.
Why did Joshua do this? Look at v. 14 again. "What message does my Lord have for his servant?" He did this to be ready to listen to the word of the Lord. He was ready to take any order from the Lord and carry it out. The master's order might be unreasonable. It might be in conflict with his opinions. But whatever the command he was ready to listen; he was ready to obey. Are you ready to listen to the Lord? Are you ready to obey? If the answer is yes, are you ready to obey "any" command?
What did the man say then? Look at v. 15. "The commander of the LORD's army replied, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so." Here the command to "take off" his sandals is symbolic of the need for one to empty oneself before the Lord. Our own “self,” no matter how refined, educated, or intelligent it may be, is still contaminated by our own sinful nature which we pick up from this world as well from our forefathers. So as long as we are filled with our own “self,” we cannot listen to the message the Lord has for us. Even if we fall facedown physically to the ground, and even if the Lord speaks to us, the message of the Lord will bounce off the thick shell of our
”self.” Joshua was no exception. Yes, he did receive discipleship training for 40 years. But he still needed to empty himself, for at that particular moment, he was still filled with himself - his own ideas, thoughts, memories, opinions, experiences, preoccupations, etc. and so forth. And these are totally of no use in taking down the walls of Jericho. So in order to practically prepare Joshua to listen to the Lord and carry out the command the Lord has for the Lord's army, the commander said, "Take off your sandals."
The Lord then said something else. Look at v. 15b. "[F]or the place you are standing is holy." What does this mean? The word "holy" gives us a clue to answering to this question. “Holy” means "separated." In the Bible it is most applicable to the Lord God himself. In fact, in the kingdom of God where God is the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the most repeated word is the word "holy." This then indicates that the Lord God wants to reveal himself to us. And it is for this reason that he commands us to empty ourselves. The deal then is this: we need to empty ourselves of ourselves so that the Lord could fill us with himself. This is the first and foremost piece of wisdom for us to secure. Before he sends us out to the battlefield, he desires to literally make us into a chariot of fire, not an empty wagon, but a chariot carrying the King of the Universe himself!
II. See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands (6:1-27)
How did they fight the battle?
Look at v. 1. "Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in." This passage shows us that it was impossible for the Israelites to capture the city through conventional means such as catapult or some form of artillery. In those days the Israelites did not have any tanks or missiles. They did not have any tools to build ramparts to scale the wall. [Ed: Actually, ramparts were available even in this age, though it is not known whether Joshua and the Israelites had the material to build them at this point.Especially since they had come from 40 years of wandering in the desert.Either way, though, they obviously did not make any ramparts, etc. but relied on the Lord.] To make matters worse, the manna had stopped raining down from heavens. So they could not wait indefinitely. They had to capture the city and move on as quickly as possible.
What did the Lord say to Joshua at this critical moment? Look at v. 2. "Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.’" Although it looked impossible for the Lord's army to capture Jericho, the Lord God gave Joshua firm assurance of complete victory.
How then would the Lord's army fight? Look at vs. 3-5. "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." This passage is brief, but it shows all the wisdom necessary to fight the battle against Jericho. The first thing we notice here is that the weapons, the strategy, and the principles used to fight the battle of Jericho are all different from those used by the world’s military powers to fight conventional war (like the United States’ war against Iraq). In order to beef up the military in the Persian Gulf area, recent news reports say that the U.S. dispatched the 101st airborne army. Boy, each of the soldiers belonging to the unit is heavily armed with: a machine gun, hand grenades, a helmet, knives, and much more. Of course they are supported by other weaponry like missiles, helicopters, tanks, etc. and so forth. But the Lord used none of these. The Lord adopted an entirely different approach. Why? He did so because he was dealing with an entirely different kind of warfare, that is, the war against idol worship.
The wisdom the Lord described in these three verses thus has universal application to all the spiritual wars against every hint of idol worship built in every individual, every family, every society, and every nation of every generation. Therefore we had better stop for a moment and think about the wisdom the Lord adopted in this short Bible passage.
1) March around the city.
This command deserves special attention. The word "march" or "advance" (in v. 7) indicates that the army was well organized. Under the leadership of Moses, the Israelites learned how to camp, how to break camp, how to travel, all in an orderly fashion, and all in accordance with their particular families and tribes. God's people need organization.
At the same time the expression "around" the city indicates the need for us to identify the target. The city was a bastion of idol worship. By commanding the Israelites to circle around the city 13 times, the Lord God made the members of the Lord's army clearly identify the target that was to be destroyed. The Lord God made them thoroughly familiar with the goal of their battle. The repeated circling thus works as training to "mark" the target. It is like a man catching a mouse and putting it in a bottle.
The call to march around the city then comes to us as a call for each of us to identify every hint of idol worship, every influence of this adulterous and wicked world, and especially every vestige of darkness built inside of us. This is like a man studying God's word thoroughly and writing a life testimony, repenting of every hint of sin.
2) With all armed men.
Again the number of fighting men was about 40,000. One Bible scholar says that if you spread the army out evenly, the area that this many people would cover was roughly 12 square miles. This many people were to form a line or two, and march around the small city. It was indeed a long march. The area then must have been very crowded. It might have easily created confusion and disorderliness among the people. But still the Lord God commanded all the armed men to participate. "March around the city with all the armed men."
This then tells us that in waging the Lord's battle, the spirit of participation is very important. We find the same pattern in the book of Acts. In the first few chapters of the book of Acts, at first glance it looks as if only a few people like Peter and John are fighting the battle. But it was not so. Even a casual reading of the chapters tells us that in building God's kingdom, "all" the members of the church participated. At first they had about 120 members. And a significant number of them were women. And they all participated in the battle: some by prayer, some by preparing food for the apostles, some by doing the laundry, some by working during the day time and then rejoining the church again during the evening in the prayer meeting, etc. and so forth, and some just by being present and thus rounding out the numbers.
Last Tuesday I saw the same spirit of participation in serving the monthly Bible academy entitled, "It was very good" at CSULB. For this particular spiritual venture, some prepared a banner and title, some designed flyers, some prepared picket signs, some prepared snacks, some reserved the room, some invited students, some organized “singspiration,” some made Xerox copies, some just filled out the numbers attending. The Lord God blessed this spirit of participation. Blessing their concerted efforts, the Lord filled Room 19 right behind Carl's Junior. When we continue to work together like this, very soon the Lord will help us to hold Bible academies for college students, and even fill the Pyramid building!
3) Do this for six days...
The passage says that the army was to circle the city once a day for the first six days. Then on the seventh day, which was the Sabbath, the army was to circle the city seven times. At first glance this repetitive action sounds unnecessary. Yet why did the Lord ask them to do this seemingly boring venture repeatedly? What kind of message is here for us? The message is clear: the importance of continuation and the importance of concentration. Continuity and concentration are the two important elements in fighting the Lord's battle. It takes a long time for a man, a society, or a civilization to pick up a lifestyle or pattern which is idolatrous. Therefore it requires continued and concentrated efforts to root out any hint of darkness built inside of a man's life. And in rooting out the power of darkness, there is no vacation. Every day is the day to fight the battle. And as many evangelists say, in leading men to destruction, Satan works full time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and Satan takes no vacation. In fact he works full-time, and he even works over-time, especially on the weekends. This is why the Lord asked the Israelites to go out once for six days but seven times on the seventh day.
4) Blow the trumpets of rams' horns.
One of the most striking features of the Lord's battle was the blowing of the trumpets of rams' horns. "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." According to the Jewish custom, the trumpets made out of rams' horns were used only on special occasions such as when the Israelites were to meet the Lord on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:13) and at the Feast of Trumpets (i.e., Rosh HaShana, the Jewish New Year) which was ten days before the Day of Atonement (i.e., Yom Kippur; cf. Lev 23:24-32).The ram also indicates the sign of trust and faith, for in Genesis 24, when Abraham perfected his faith and obedience by obeying even the command to offer his son Isaac, the Lord God instead provided him with a ram. This ram refers to Jesus Christ who offered himself on the cross as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. These practices and events indicate that the blowing of the trumpets of the rams' horns refers to the inspiration for the repentance of our sins and faith in the grace and love of the Lord which forgives men of their sins.
The ram's “horn” also indicates God's power to save sinners from the power of sin. Describing this power the Apostle Paul says in Romans 1:16-17, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’" This then teaches us that preaching the message of repentance and the message of the gospel, the good news of great joy, is the most important weapon for us to fight against our enemies. And we must let the gospel message be heard on all college campuses and beyond.
5) The ark.
As we saw earlier in studying Joshua 3-4, the Ark of the Covenant refers to the word of God, holding Moses' Ten Commandments. Consistent with this truth, the Apostle Paul describes God's word as the offensive weapon to fight the Lord's battle, for he says in Ephesians 6:17, "Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
6) A loud shout.
Look at v. 5 again. "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." Let us also read v. 10. "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!’" When we read these two verses together we wonder why Joshua at one time asked them to keep quiet, but later to shout. When we put ourselves in the position of the soldiers called to march around the city in a long procession, we can easily understand why Joshua commanded this. As we can see in this passage, the Israelites were to keep quiet for a long period of time. It was only at the last moment, at the sound of the long blast of the trumpets that they were to shout, giving a really loud shout. And boy, the shout must have been as loud as thunder! Imagine the 40,000 soldiers keeping quiet all the time, but all of a sudden and all at once shouting in a really loud shout, making all the possible noises they wanted to make! All combined together, we can see that the Lord trained them to learn three things: faith, obedience, and deep prayer, all at the same time. Faith, obedience, and prayer. These are three important points for us to apply in fighting the Lord's battle. Of the three, prayer is particularly noteworthy. In many places of the Bible, prayer is compared to silence before men but to shouts or cries before the Lord. We see many psalmists like King David adopting the same wisdom in fighting the Lord’s battle. In times of difficulties, David did not make a noise before men. He bottled up all of his bad feelings like bitterness, frustrations, despair, and then he went up to the Lord's Temple, and there he cried out before the Lord like a crazy man. Then the Lord God heard his prayers, and gave him many victories. When Jesus came, he also asked his disciples to fight the battle through prayers. For example, in Matthew 6:6, Jesus said, "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." In Mark 9:29, he also said in teaching his disciples how to drive out powerful demons, "This kind can come out only by prayer." May the Lord bless each of us to be warriors of prayer.
7) The wall will collapse.
Look at v. 5b. "[T]hen the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in." When we complete our obedience to the principles described above, the Lord will cause the walls of Jericho collapse. Let us note that it was the wall that the Lord promised to take down. This "wall" is symbolic of the system which protects and promotes idol worship; it represents the “isms,” thoughts, ideas, philosophies, and principles that advocate the dark lifestyles of mankind. In 2 Corinthians 10:4,5, the Apostle Paul expressed the same concept by saying, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
The rest of the Bible passage for today is simply the implementation of what we have learned thus far.
When the Israelites obeyed the Lord's instructions, the walls of Jericho collapsed all by themselves. Then the Israelites charged straight in. Then they saved Rahab and all who were with her. They put everyone else to death. They successfully overcame the first organized city of idol worship.
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.
Jericho represents the bastion of idol worship. The passage then teaches us the wisdom to fight the Lord's battle against idol worship, and win.
Notice that conventional elements of military strategy and armaments are utterly irrelevant in such a confrontation between the forces of holiness and forces of desecration.
Notice that when Jericho loses its metaphysical foundation its wall falls by itself. So uproot the inner elements of defilement. When this process is completed, Jericho wall will collapse by itself.
1. Read 5:13-14a. Put yourself in the position of Joshua as he was approaching Jericho. How might he have felt as the "leader" of the Lord's army? Yet, what does the following indicate about the kind of battle Joshua was facing: 1) "a drawn sword" [in the hand of the 'man']; 2) [The man's reply saying,] "Neither"; and 3) "as the commander of the Lord's army I have now come"?
** He might have felt goose bumps breaking out all over his body.
He also might have been wondering how to practically capture Jericho. Thus, a lot of ideas or thoughts (or plans) might have gone through his mind.
** Sword refers to the word of God. "A drawn" sword refers to the word of the Lord that was about to be spoken to Joshua.
Psalms 149:6 May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands,
Hebrews 4:12For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Revelation 1:16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.
** "Neither" indicates that the battle is the Lord's, not that of human beings like Israelites or Canaanites.
At the same time, the enemies might include not only the enemies "outside" but also "inside". You also could very well be the Lord's enemies, even without yourself knowing it.
** A "man" (Jos 5:13) refers to the Lord's angel who appeared in human form.
"The Lord's army" refers to [not just the Israelites, I mean those who put trust in the Lord and his promises] but also to the heavenly hosts working in the heavenly realms to carry out the Lord's will. Cf. Mat 26:53; 2Ki 6:17.
"Commander" indicates that there is an orderly system among the Lord's angels fighting the Lord's battles.
This passage then reveals to us the heavenly "roots" (or origins if you will) of whatever goes on in this physical realm. As the root in the heavenly (or spiritual) realms goes so also the realities in the physical world will follow. This is just like clouds as they build up in the sky- so also it will follow that rain will come down from there.
2. Read v. 14b-15. What wisdom do the following statements teach us in waging the Lord's battle: 1) Joshua fell facedown in reverence; 2) Take off your sandals; and 3) for the place where you are standing is holy?
** Humility is the key to gettingspecific help from the Lord in bearing spiritual fruit that lasts forever.
In order to gain wisdom/instructions to wage the Lord's battle, we must be completely humble before the Lord. By the same token a proud-minded person renders himself vulnerable to getting influenced by the devil even without his knowing it.
** Purity [or daily piety] is the key to getting the kind of help accustomed to meet the challenges one is facing each and every day. We achieve this quality by repenting of our sins daily and turning to the Lord for his new empowerment. Taking off sandals is symbolic of repenting of daily sins we pick up.
Read John 13:10Jesus answered, "A person who has had a bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you."
** Holiness is the key to winning a smashing victory.
We achieve this quality by entering intoholy ground. It has been said, “The world is not a playground but a battleground.” But before getting into the battlefield, we must first be on holy ground.
What does holiness mean? How does an unholy sinner acquire holiness? The answer is simple: by securing the Lord's presence inside, for the word ‘holy’ should be used only in describing the nature of the Lord God. Humans, regardless of their discipline, are unable to reach God's holiness on their own.
3. Read 6:1 and compare this passage with Genesis 7:16. What do they have in common? Yet how are they different? In what respect were the people inside the "wall" different from Rahab (Heb 11:31)? What wisdom is there for us to learn in securing the blessing the Lord God has in mind for all (2Co 6:11-18)?
** No crossing over [between the Lord's side and the world's side, between salvation and judgment.]
** Inthe case of Jericho, it was the unbelieving people who shut themselves in. Inthe case of Noah, it was the Lord who shut Noah in.
** They did not "welcome" the Lord's servants (i.e., messengers, namely two spies).
** We should not harden our hearts towards God's servants. They may look stupid, flawed in character, or ill-mannered, but we should not forget that Jesus sends them!
4. Read v. 2. What assurance does this passage remind us of in fighting the Lord's battle (cf. John 16:33; 1Jn 5:4)?
** The only perfect way to win a perfect victory overenemies (be it the world, your selfish ego or Satan) is to go by absolute faith in the Lord God, even as Jesus demonstrated his faith in His heavenly Father.
5. Read vs. 3-7. What wisdom do the following orders teach us in fighting the Lord's battle against Jericho:
1) "March around the city...'with all the armed men'";
2) "Do this for 'six' days";
3) "On the 'seventh' day, march around the city 'seven' times";
4) "With the priests blowing 'trumpets'";
5) "When you hear them sound a long blast...have 'all' the people give a loud 'shout'";
6) "Take up 'the ark of the covenant'...with armed 'guard' [going ahead and rear] of the ark; and
7) "Do not give a war cry or raise 'your' voices; do not say a word until I tell you to shout?
** Marching around the city implies the need for us to identify all the worldly influences inside of us, so we whould toss them out of our lives, and thereby be completely set free of worldly influences such as greed, sexual immorality, etc.
"With all the armed men" indicates the need for us to do this on a collective basis through joint efforts.
** Repetition of the same thing repeating even 6 times indicates that until we uproot all of them (defilements of evils of this wicked and adulterous generation), we need to be persistent in identifying and disassociating ourselves from them.
6 is a human number, indicating that week by week during the six days a week we need to struggle to overcome what is of this world and gain what is of God.
** Seven is a perfect number assigned to the Lord God, indicating that after weekly struggles to overcome ourselves and the world built inside of us, we come to the Lord once a week, to receive what is perfect, namely full forgiveness of our sins and full restoration of our relationship with the Lord.
** This trumpet is made of "ram" not of "silver". This trumpet sound has two meanings: 1) inspiration to repent" and 2) inspiration to trust in the Lord.
The first meaning is alluded to first in Exodus 19:19 where the Lord God showed the standards against which to repent, which standards were given in trumpet blasts; and second in the Israel's festival called the feast of the trumpets [with trumpet made of rams sounding ten days until the Day of Atonement. Lev 23:24-32.
The second meaning is alluded to in Genesis 24 whereupon Abraham's demonstration of faith and obedience the Lord God gave a ram as a burnt offering in replacement of Isaac.
** Shout refers to prayer offered to God for His help.
** The Ark of the Covenant refers to Jesus, the gospel who is the fulfillment of law, perfecter and author of faith, and the way for us to come to the Father in prayer.
** This command to keep quiet indicates that human words (ideas or thoughts) are utterly useless in winning the Lord's battle.
6. Read 8-21. In what respect was it not easy for the Israelites to obey Joshua's instructions? Yet how did they obey? How did the Lord bless their obedience?
** They might have been tempted to engage in talking relationships, saying worldly things. In meeting together even among fellow soldiers either in a family setting or for other purposes such as a church budget meeting, etc., one must be careful about uttering human words.
7. Read vs. 22-27. Who alone were saved? What happened to the rest of the people? What warning is there for us to heed against?
** Rahab and all who were in her house [under the sign of the scarlet cord].
** All destroyed - their persons, families, works, ventures, accomplishments, monies in their bank accounts, and everything else.
** Ignoring the way of salvation shuts man out, only to face one destiny: God's wrath--utter destruction.