Last week I asked the question “what area of your life are you seeking victory in right now?” I don’t doubt that many of you immediately thought about some relational, physical or spiritual barrier that you have been fighting with for a long time. The reality is that every one of us has major areas of struggle in our lives. It probably isn’t too hard to identify some areas of your life where you are waiting for God to show up and give you the victory.
But what do you anchor yourself to while you are waiting for God to give you the victory? What truths do you anchor the ship of your life to when the boat gets rocked? Joshua chapter six is a massive chunk of Scripture that I believe we can anchor ourselves to when we find ourselves fighting for our lives during life’s many circumstances.
Joshua 6:1 – 27…
1 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.” 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.
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 for 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 and sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword.
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.26 Joshua laid an oath on them at that time saying, “Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. “At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates.” 27 So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.
In this chapter we see the following things: God’s instructions for the battle (vv. 1 – 7), Israel’s detailed obedience (vv. 8 – 21), and God’s promise of deliverance fulfilled (vv. 22 – 27).
#1: God’s Instructions for the Battle (vv. 1 – 7)
At the end of Joshua chapter five we left Joshua on his face in worship before the presence of the Lord asking the Lord what the Lord wanted to say to him (5:14). The first instruction from the Lord (back in the end of chapter five) is where he instructed Joshua to remove his sandals because he was on holy ground (5:15). This encounter was similar to Moses meeting the Lord at the burning bush in Exodus. Then as we turn our attention to chapter six we can safely presume that the first seven verses are the Lord’s continued instructions to Joshua about how Israel is to pursue victory over the city of Jericho.
These divine instructions are fairly straightforward. God instructs Israel to march around the city of Jericho for seven days once per day and seven times on the seventh day. All the armed men of Israel are instructed to go first followed by seven priests with seven trumpets followed by the Ark of the Covenant and then the rear guard. These detailed instructions are given with a promise “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor… the wall of the city will fall down” (vv. 2; 5).
The point here in these divine instructions in verses 1 – 7 is that the battle belongs to our promise keeping God. God is the one who fights the battle of Jericho (contrary to the popular kid’s song) and Israel’s responsibility is to trust and obey their King for the victory.
#2: Israel’s Detailed Obedience (vv. 8 – 21)
God has given his divine instructions to Joshua. Joshua has obediently passed those instructions along to Israel. And now, Israel is obediently following the Lord’s instructions to the “t” even to the extent that they are silent as they are marching around the city for the first six days (vv. 8 – 14).
On the seventh day, they get up out of the camp and they begin their seven-circuit march and they are poised to let out the victory scream when the narrator interrupts the story for a final detail that is very important (vv. 15 – 16). That final detail is a detail regarding the destruction of the city, the preservation of Rahab and her family, and the preservation of some valuable objects for the Lord’s treasury (vv. 17 – 19). I’m going to come back to the topic of destruction and preservation in a moment but for now, notice that Israel is absolutely obedient to the Lord as the walls of Jericho fall down flat and they enter the city and destroy every living creature with the edge of the sword (vv. 20 – 21).
This must have been a horrifying thing to be part of. I can’t imagine the blood bath of the destruction inside Jericho. The Hebrew word that is used for destruction in the Old Testament in the word Karam. It is a word that is only used a handful of times to explain the extent of the destruction that Israel is to inflict upon her enemies. Total annihilation is only prescribed to the battles of Jericho and Ai. So we cannot use these two battles as some kind of national policy plan for dealing with our enemies. But, in these two stories, specifically in this one here in chapter six, we see the extent of God’s wrath against sin.
One of the theological themes throughout the book of Joshua is that Joshua, the Israelites and even the Canaanites, all have a choice to make in regards to God’s promises, commands and presence. It is futile to resist and rebel against the promises, commands and presence of God. One author observes this reality when he says that the physical extermination of the Canaanites (Josh. 6) may serve best to point us to the truth that “the horrors of Gehenna (hell) will be no less than those of Jericho” and that God will deal with and has dealt with all of our enemies (Satan, sin, the world and death) in a very serious, horrific and sobering way at the cross of Christ (Hamilton 2001: 37).
God’s judgment against sin and rebellion is no laughing matter. The bloodshed on this day at Jericho, horrifying as it is, was the blood shed of highly evil people according to earlier accounts in the Scriptures (Gen. 15:16; Deut. 9:5; Lev. 18:24, 25). So the sense here is that God’s absolute destruction of the city of Jericho and its inhabitants is totally justified. But at the same time, we also see God’s redemption and preservation of Rahab and her family because of her faith-filled obedience with the spies back in Joshua chapter two. The point here is that God takes sin and faith very seriously. He doesn’t ignore or laugh at sin and he always provides a way of escape from the consequences of sin through faith in his promises and obedience to his commands. This point leads us to the final verses in this chapter.
#3: God’s Promise of Deliverance Fulfilled (vv. 22 – 27)
God has given his instructions based upon his promise to Israel. Israel has trusted God’s promise and obeyed his instructions. The walls of Jericho lay in ruins. The inhabitants of Jericho were being slaughtered with the sword of Israel’s fighting men. But Rahab’s home was presumably still standing. And true to his word (or true to God’s word) Joshua sends the two spies to Rahab’s home and they bring her, her relatives and everyone in her household out of the city of destruction to the edge of the Israelite camp before burning the city to an ash heap (vv. 22 – 25).
The final scene of this story is Joshua cursing anyone who decides to rebuild what God has devoted to destruction and a comment on the Lord being with Joshua and making his name great throughout the land (vv. 26 – 27). The point here is that because God is our redeeming God then we must never play around with reconstructing what God has destroyed.
We’ve just spent some time in a large body of Scripture getting a grasp on the story ark of the battle of Jericho. We’ve observed God’s instructions for the battle (vv. 1 – 7), Israel’s detailed obedience (vv. 8 – 21), and God’s promise of deliverance fulfilled (vv. 22 – 27). How do you take what we’ve studied and boil it down to a few anchor points?
Life on this side of Heaven can sometimes be full of one battle after the next. If you’re not battling with how to respond to your spouse in a God-glorifying way then you may be battling with how to respond to your coworkers in a Godly manner. Sometimes, for some of us, life feels like one never-ending battle to fight. But regardless of your unique battle today, we all need anchor points to anchor our hearts to when we face the storms and battles of this life.
The way that I often do this when studying a large portion of Scripture is by praying for the Lord to help me identify or highlight some portion of the text that can act as that anchor point that points me away from myself and to my God as my one true anchor point. So the following anchor points are what the Lord highlighted for me this week and I pray they are helpful to you too.
Anchor Point #1: The Battle Belongs to God (vv. 2, 16, 20):
2 And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. 16 “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city. 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.
My responsibility is to trust and obey my King for the victory. This doesn’t mean that I can passively sit back and wait upon the Lord to win my battles. I have an active part to play in the battle. The weapons of my warfare are not of this earth. They are spiritual weapons because my fight is not against flesh and blood. I must also remember that I need to pick the fights that God is actually picking through constant communion with the Lord in prayer and Scripture study. The battle belongs to God.
Anchor Point #2: God is Our Redeeming God (v. 25):
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.
The absolute destruction of Jericho and the salvation of Rahab and her family teach me that God is my redeeming God. God has every right to wipe me out of existence for my sin against him but in his mercy and grace he has extended his love towards me in the cross of Christ and he has helped me to trust in him. He has redeemed me from the ash heap and he has restored my relationship with him. I am no longer destined for destruction. I am destined for eternal life in Heaven because of the cross and empty tomb of Christ. God is our redeeming God.
Anchor Point #3 God Takes Sin and Faith Very Seriously (v. 26):
26 Joshua laid an oath on them at that time saying, “Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho.
God has delivered me from this body of death therefore I must never play around with the things that God has marked for destruction. God doesn’t ignore or laugh at sin and he always provides a way of escape from the consequences of sin through active faith in his promises and obedience to his commands. I must be careful to hear the Spirit of the Lord when I begin to backslide into winking at sin or when I begin to behave as though my profession of faith doesn’t require faith-filled obedience. God takes sin and faith very seriously.
At the end of the day, the battle belongs to the Lord and he is our redeeming God who takes sin and faith very seriously. The cross, empty tomb and promised return of Christ is evidence to all of this.