Life is full of battles in one form or other. Right now you are dealing with relational struggles, parental struggles, health struggles, marital struggles, career struggles-because life is full of battles.
And to be able to deal with all them, as any general worth his stars will tell you, strategy is everything. No significant victory can be won without a well-planned military strategy. Strategy in military conflicts is so important that most nations have established military academies to train their officers how to lay strategic plans and carry out orders during military campaigns.
The strategy to conquer the city of Jericho was unique. It was unique in two ways: the strategy was laid out by God Himself, and the strategy was a seemingly foolish plan. The expositor John Huffman quotes one of the comedy routines that Bill Cosby, the comedian, follows in discussing the battle of Jericho. The routine is worth quoting to show the seemingly foolish strategy:
“Okay, Joshua, let me be sure that I’ve got this straight. You say that for six days we’ll walk around the city of Jericho carrying the ark of the covenant, saying absolutely nothing, with seven of our priests blowing the ram’s horn trumpets? Then on the seventh day we walk around seven times silently? Then all at once, when the trumpets start blowing, we all start shouting, and those double walls are going to fall down? Come on, Joshua, that doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.”
The military strategy laid out by the Lord actually did not make much sense. Nevertheless, Joshua believed God. He believed that God would perform a miracle and give victory over the great city of Jericho, give victory if he did one simple thing: obeyed God.
Victory over Jericho was to demonstrate one great truth for all of history: faith in God is the most powerful force in all the world. A person conquers and is victorious over all the enemies of life only if he believes and trusts God. Victory is achieved through faith. The walls of Jericho came tumbling down, collapsed because the Israelites believed God and trusted His Word.
The same is true of us, when facing a battle we can have a strategy that is our own or we can look to God for a strategy. We can fight life’s battles God’s way or our way. We can fight life’s battles with our strength or God’s strength.
Today we are focusing on the strategy that a general named Joshua used to conquer Jericho. the principles behind Joshua’s battle tactics in this particular conflict will help us in the struggles of life because there is indeed a sense in which we all face our own “Jerichos,” seemingly insurmountable trials and tribulations that often block our path.
Joshua had to deal with Jericho, he couldn’t just bypass it, because to do so would mean leaving a large military force at his rear, and that would be foolish strategy indeed. On the other hand, conquering Jericho was easier said than done because its walls were strong and high. Jericho had not one but two walls. The outer wall was six feet thick and the inner one was twelve feet thick. These double walls, combined with the position of the city, made it virtually impregnable.
How then could any general hope to conquer this fortress city? There were several options, several strategies, available to Joshua and I’m sure he would have heard them if, he had gathered his generals to seek their counsel:
For example someone would have probably suggested that he build siege ramps. This is what the Romans under General Silva did in order to get his soldiers up to the fortress on Masada and over its walls in order to attack Jewish zealots after the fall of Jerusalem.
Another general might have advised Joshua to just dig in, surround the city, and starve its defenders into submission. That was another common strategy to employ when dealing with a fortified city. You may remember that Jerusalem was besieged more than once.
But the Biblical record shows that Joshua did not adopt either of these strategies. In fact, he didn’t even seek them. Joshua was in constant contact with his Commander-in-Chief-the One Who made the rocks out of which Jericho was built, as well as the mountain on which it stood. Joshua’s Counselor and Guide was-and still is-an infallible Strategist and Commander.
Joshua 6 records the continuing conversation that Joshua was having with “The Commander of the Lord’s Army,” from Chapter 5, which as we learned in the last post was the pre-incarnate Christ, or in theological terms, a Christophany.
1 Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.
2 Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.
3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days.
4 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.
5 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.” Joshua 6:1-5 (NIV)
Now, if you were a soldier in the Hebrew army attending Joshua’s briefing and heard this plan of battle for the first time, what would you think? Wouldn’t you question your leader’s sanity? High, thick, fortified walls do not fall to the noise of tramping feet. Cities are not won by trumpets. Yet the Biblical record tells us this is exactly what happened. The people did not question Joshua’s sanity or his orders because they knew that they were God’s commands. And one thing they had learned in their 40-year-long desert boot camp, was to obey God.
So, each day for six days they all walked in silence around the watching city and on the seventh day they repeated this apparently futile exercise seven times. No one spoke, not even a whisper. The only noise was the sound of the rams’ horns blown by the priests. Then, on their seventh lap on the seventh day, when the city was entirely surrounded by the Jewish people, Joshua commanded saying, “Now! Shout! For the Lord has given you the city.”
And the people did shout. Verse 20 says, “When the trumpets sounded the people shouted, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in and took the city.”
Many people have questioned the accuracy of this battle as recorded in Joshua. They think this because they have had a hard time believing that marching and shouting and trumpet blowing could bring down massive double walls. But an article in U.S. News and World Report back in October of 1991 told of scientists who now confirm the Biblical record. Here’s a direct quote from the article:
“The city’s wall do appear to have collapsed suddenly and the blackened timbers and stones, as well as a layer of soot dating to 1400 B.C., all suggest that the city burned, as the Bible says it did. Archeologist Kathleen Kenyon also found bushels of grain on the site, .consistent with the Bible’s account of a springtime conquest so rapid that Jericho’s besieged populace had not exhausted their food.”
With such a superb confirmation of the biblical account, no wonder TIME magazine titled it’s article on the same discovery, “Score One For The Bible.” (March 5, 1990)
The New York Times also covered it with a title, Believer’s Score in Battle over the Battle of Jericho.
So let’s be clear, Jericho was a real place, this biblical account is a real event.
There are important principles we need to remember when it comes to dealing with our own struggles. Think of these principles as basic training for any soldier of the Lord.
- I must obey even when it doesn’t make sense
In other words, as Warren Wiersbe puts it, in every battle of life we must devote ourselves to God completely. We need to embrace a mindset that says,
“I will always obey God. He is the Commander-in-chief of my life. This is His battle, not mine. My goal in life is to further His purposes not my own.”
In any struggle we must respond not by trying to “win, ” not by trying to “look right.” No, instead we must seek to respond in ways that further God’s kingdom.
How many things does God ask us to do that do not make sense?
I’m not sure why God blesses 90% of my income when I tithe more than 100% of my income when I keep it for myself. 90% with God’s blessing always goes farther!
I don’t understand why forgiving the person that hurt me (as God says) allows me to have peace instead of anger and bitterness.
I’m not sure why serving my wife Niki and laying down my life as God instructs makes for a better marriage. I would think it would make me seem weak yet in God’s economy it really works.
I’ve found that God’s instructions may not always make sense but when I follow them they work.
Will you follow God’s instructions when they don’t make sense to you?
In the next post we’ll look at the second basic training principle for followers of Christ.