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Stephen R. Clark
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Delivered July 7, 2019 | Huntingdon Valley, PA | Huntingdon Valley Presbyterian Church
You can listen to the sermon here: https://www.hvpc.org/sermons/sermon/2019-07-07/obedience-destroys-barriers-builds-faith:-the-fall-of-jericho

THE FALL OF JERICHO: Obedience Destroys Barriers & Builds Faith

Joshua 6

Call to Worship -- 1 Timothy 6:15b-16

He who is the blessed
and only Sovereign,
the King of kings
and Lord of lords,
who alone has immortality,
who dwells in unapproachable light,
whom no one has ever seen or can see.
To him be honor and eternal dominion.
Come, let us worship the King of kings!

Readings -- Joshua 6:1-27, ESV

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=joshua+6&version=ESV

xThe battle of Jericho. Most of us are probably at least vaguely aware of this biblical event. It’s a popular Sunday school story. Today, we’re going to walk through this story, but not exactly in the order as the chapter is written.

Hebrew reporting and storytelling presents an element with a little detail, mentions it again with new detail, and so on. It’s a great way to write an interesting story. But since it’s not linear, it can be a little confusing.

In the handout in your bulletin, what I’ve done is taken the verses and grouped them back together into nine parts. Everything is there, just in a slightly different order. Here’s the outline we’re going to work through:

1. Siege of Fear (6:1)
2. Receiving the Battle Plan (6:2-5)
 3. Sharing the Battle Plan (6:6-7)
4. Rules of Engagement (6:18-19)
5. Executing the Battle Plan (6:8-16, 20)
6. The Result of the Battle Plan (6:17a, 21, 24)
7. Rahab Saved (6:17b, 22-23, 25)
8. Future Warning (6:26)
9. Resolution & Fame (6:27)

As we go and at the end we’ll consider some possible applications.

Siege Of Fear

First, let’s talk about Jericho under siege. Laying siege to a city was a common warfare tactic. Essentially, the city locks itself up tight, blocking all potential ways to get in. While outside, the opponent surrounds the city, preventing anyone bringing in supplies.

Verse one succinctly states that this is the case with Jericho. But imagine what it was like inside for the people.

Remember what Rahab said in chapter 2:

“I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath.”

The story of the two kings mentioned is found in Deuteronomy 2 and 3. These kings would not allow the children of Israel to pass freely and so they were wiped out.

The news of these events spread throughout the region.

But, why was the word spreading? What was the big deal that caused this news to travel so far and wide?

Simple.

When you have a few hundred thousand immigrants milling about your country, it’s going to cause a stir.

When they left Egypt by crossing the Red Sea, Exodus 12:37 says there were “about 600,00 men on foot, besides women and children.”

Of the original population that left Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb survived. You can read their story in Numbers 13 and 14. Yet, in Numbers 26:51, it states there were 601,730 who went into the Promised Land.

How is this true?

Well, as they wandered the desert for forty years, they married, had children, and grew up new families.

These new people are the ones entering the promised land. And there’s likely more than 601,730 of them.

Typically in scripture, when we see numbers like this, those being counted are able-bodied men. When considering the women, children, and elderly, estimates for how many left Egypt and how many crossed the Jordan range as high as 2.4 million. This was a lot of foot traffic!

So, when you have somewhere between 600,000 and 2.4 million people, with all their carts and cattle and carry-ons wandering about your country, camping outside your cities, it draws attention.

It’s fascinating to read through the Old Testament and encounter story after story where pagan people who rejected God were also very familiar with the stories of God’s miraculous activity defending the nation of Israel.

They knew about the plagues. They knew about the pillars of fire and smoke. They knew about the Red Sea and what happened to the Egyptian army. They had heard about the manna and the quails.

Even though they had no bulletins or email or websites from which they could get information, still, they knew.

And when the news includes the destruction of kingdoms by these people, anxiety and fear builds.

Receiving The Battle Plan

So, Jericho is locked up tight. Meanwhile, Joshua is seeking the Lord about how to proceed. God responds and lays out the strategy.

Remember a couple of weeks ago when we talked about the crossing of the Jordan? We learned that through Joshua, the people HEARD THE VOICE OF GOD. Then, with Joshua, they OBEYED THE VOICE OF GOD. Finally, standing in the Promised Land, they got behind Joshua and FOLLOWED THE VOICE OF GOD.

The same pattern is happening here. And the battle plan Joshua is given is pretty extraordinary.

For seven days, walk around Jericho. Six days, walk around once. On the seventh, walk around seven times, blow the horns, shout, and the walls will fall down flat.

There are a few more details, but you get the idea. This is clearly God’s battle plan and God’s battle. No seasoned general would come up with such an absurd plan.

Sharing The Battle Plan

Joshua takes the information to the people and shares it verbatim.

I imagine he set up a whiteboard, drew a crude picture to represent a bird’s eye view of Jericho, and said, “Okay, here’s what we’re going to do.” And then he proceeded to draw circles around Jericho.

And the people are like, “Okay! Sounds good!”



Maybe it didn’t happen exactly like that, but, the people were obedient. They heard the plan and made preparations.

The vast majority of their fighting forces would be in front of the procession. We’re talking thousands upon thousands of men. Next came the seven priests and the Ark of the Covenant. Bringing up the rear was another contingent of thousands of soldiers.

In other words, in the middle between these two massive groups of soldiers -- at the heart and center of the action -- was the Ark, a signal to them and others that God was with them.

This act of obedience, the marching around the city, was more worship than warfare at this point. By their obedience, the children of Israel were declaring their trust and faith in God.

Rules Of Engagement

After laying out this battle plan, Joshua gives some rules of engagement. He clearly cautions that no one is to take anything for themselves, that only the precious metals are to be recovered and placed into the Lord’s treasury. Everything else is “devoted to destruction.” Everything. It all belongs to God. Violating these rules could have serious negative consequences for the entire nation.

Executing The Battle Plan

Okay, they’ve got the plan, they get everything in order, and begin the first day’s march around Jericho. Try to imagine what it was like.



When I first moved to Cleveland in 2008 I lived in an apartment downtown on the 20th floor. One weekend morning I was awakened early by an annoying cacophony of caterwauling. I got up, looked down on the street. It was some holiday that was an excuse for a parade. People were already gathering and milling about.

And that sound?

Do you know what a vuvuzela is?

It’s a long plastic horn that when blown sounds like a mournful constipated cow. There were several street vendors selling them and dozens of kids and adults randomly blowing them.

This went on all day and into the night.

A ram’s horn, also known as a shofar, makes roughly the same kind of sound. Maybe with a little less constipation. Still, beyond a few short toots, the sound can get on your nerves. It’s not mellow music for meditating. It’s penetrating distracting dissonance.

This was the sound the people in Jericho were having to listen to.

At the same time, thousands of armed men bracketing priests carrying the Ark of the Lord, were walking around their city, not saying a word.

It took hours for the armed forces to march around Jericho. Odds are the entire city was surrounded for much of this time.

Men marching and not speaking. Biblical versions of vuvuzelas wailing. It was unsettling.

Can you imagine the anxiety building inside the walls?

For six days they endured this. Then, on the seventh day, they endured it seven times.

The Result Of The Battle Plan

On the seventh day after the seventh go around, something spectacular happens. The walls fall down flat. Except of course, in the section where Rahab is waiting. While everyone else was experiencing anxiety, she was waiting with anticipation.

The phrase translated “fell down flat” in the Hebrew means to fall “under itself.” One translation uses the word “crumbled.” The point is that this was no ordinary tumbling over of a wall. It was as if a massive force pressed down upon the walls from above, pushing the walls down flat enough so all around the city, the soldiers could easily walk straight in.

This was no natural phenomenon. This had nothing to do, as some have speculated, with any vibrations of the marching men somehow weakening the walls. There was no massive wind or earthquake. The walls were simply flattened by the hand of God.

This was nothing short of a clear and stunning demonstration of the awesome power of God. Keep this in mind: The God we worship and serve is the same big, powerful God.

So, the walls came down, the men went into the city, and now there’s a bit of a battle. Odds are the city’s defenders had been waiting, armed and ready, for whatever was going to happen. They would defend their king as best they could.

But, scripture makes plain that it wasn’t just soldiers who were “devoted to destruction.” There were also “men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys” that were dispatched “with the edge of the sword.”

This makes people squirm a little. So let’s get some perspective.

The Promised Land that the children of Israel are moving into is the land of Canaan. The Canaanites are a despicable, idolatrous nation descended from Noah’s son, Canaan. They worshipped an assortment of lower case “g” gods, all man-imagined, and did so through such practices as temple prostitution and child sacrifice. When we encounter in the Bible the false god Baal, or read about Asherah poles, the Canaanites are usually involved.

Generally speaking, they were, in a word, evil.

They persisted in their evil, in their failure to acknowledge the one true God, even in the face of the overwhelming evidence that God was indeed the one true God. Just as I mentioned before, they had heard the reports, they knew the stories. Just as Rahab had heard the reports and knew the stories.

And just as Rahab had done, they, too, could have acknowledged God and switched sides. But they didn’t. They held firm in their wrong-headed and dark-hearted beliefs. I’m guessing that as the children of Israel were marching outside the walls of Jericho, inside the walls of Jericho they were calling out to their gods. Nonexistent gods who had never and could never do anything for them.

Remember the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18? 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of Asherah whipped themselves into a frenzy for hours to no avail. Perhaps some of this was going on inside Jericho. We don’t know.

What we do know is that no one, other than Rahab, repented of their evil and acknowledged God. And so they perished in their disbelief. Not only did they perish, but so did their families. Even their tainted belongings were destroyed.

Rahab Saved

Only Rahab, along with her family, was saved.

The saving of Rahab, a heathen prostitute, is intriguing. Rahab and “all in her house” are saved! Why?

In the great faith chapter, Hebrews 11:29-31 declares, “By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.”

In a sense, this reflects the truth of Matthew 19:30, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Rahab heard about the acts of God, believed in this true God, and then acted on this fledgling, unformed faith, at great risk, to secure a place for herself and her family with the people of God. She rejected the evil of the Canaanites and chose the godliness of the children of Israel. She chose light and life over darkness and death.

Rahab appears to not be one of the chosen, yet is redeemed and accepted because of her faith.

We need to be careful when we speculate about someone’s faith status because things are not always as they appear. This will become more apparent when we look at chapter 7 next week.

Future Warning

Okay, Jericho has fallen, the battle -- what little there was -- is over. Joshua stands with his men, looks over the destruction and cautions, “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.”

Guess what?

Yep. Some fool hundreds of years later comes along and ignores the warning. In 1 Kings 16:34 we read,

“In his [Ahab’s] days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.”

This is the only mention of Hiel in the Bible.

What an epitaph! What foolishness!

Why would someone want to rebuild, to reestablish what the Lord has destroyed and called evil?

We could also ask why would anyone want to revisit what the Lord has delivered them from? After all, Proverbs 26:11 cautions, "Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly."

That’s kind of what Hiel was doing, except he was repeating someone else’s folly. Ignoring Joshua’s caution, which was actually a mandate from God, he sought to restore evil that God had destroyed. And it cost him. Just as the disobedience of the children of Israel cost them before and after entering the Promised Land.

Resolution & Fame

Finally, the story reaches resolution and is wrapped up in one sentence: “So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.”

The word continues to spread that Joshua is a mighty leader and the children of Israel are a formidable force because the one true God has their backs.

Three Takeaways

I want to highlight three takeaways from this story of Jericho.

The Whole World Is Watching

First, an important truth to understand from this is that the whole world is watching.

When we take on the label of Christian, everything we do will be viewed and assessed by those around us who reject the label of Christian.

How we behave, how we talk, how we do everything we do reflects negatively or positively on the Kingdom of God. People look at us, get a sense of our values, and make judgments about all of Evangelical Christianity.

If you think it’s okay to be ethically imprecise, to fudge facts, to ignore inconvenient laws, then, based on your behavior, those non-believers around you believe all Christians think it’s okay to be ethically imprecise, to fudge facts, and to ignore inconvenient laws.

If you swear, call people vile names, exhibit racist behavior, then, based on your behavior, those non-believers around you believe all Christians are foul-mouthed, insulting, racists.

On the other hand, if you behave like God is the God of creation, that Jesus was raised from the dead, and that the Holy Spirit lives in you -- your behavior is going to be attractive and intriguing to those non-believers around you.

Each one of us is like the cover on the book of Christianity. And in this case, others believe that they can tell the book by its cover.

Can they? What’s on your cover?

The Disobedience Of One Impacts All

Second,
another important insight we can gain from this story is that the obedience or disobedience of one can impact all. One influences many.

You’ve likely heard the saying that one bad apple spoils the barrel. Meaning that all the apples in a barrel will become spoiled if one becomes spoiled. With apples, all that really means is, because all the apples were put into the barrel about the same time, if one begins to rot, odds are the others will begin to rot as well. That’s just the way nature and entropy works.

With people, it means that the behavior of one person can influence the behaviors of many, or create consequences that impact others.

This carries some really heavy implications for parents, or any head of a household, or any leader.

The leaders of Jericho heard about God. Believed what they heard. And then rejected God, followed their false gods, and brought their whole families and city into destruction.

Rahab heard about God. Believed what she heard. And then followed God and brought her entire family along into salvation.

What kind of influencer are you?

God Is A Big God

This third takeaway is really important. I really want us all to grasp this truth.

And that is simply that God is a big God and He can meet all of our big needs. As well as the little ones.

For example, parts of this church are more than a hundred years old. A lot of stuff needs to be replaced or repaired. The Administration Commission put together a 3-5 year needs list that totals over $600,000. And that’s just a conservative ballpark estimate.

Yes. That’s a lot of money. But our God is bigger.

Let’s take a look at Ephesians 3:20-21:

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Note these words: “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.

The NIV renders it “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

Sometimes I think we’ve forgotten how big our God is. We see the big number attached to maintaining this facility and exclaim, “We can’t afford that! We’ll just have to keep using band-aids, bailing wire, and short cuts to hold things together.”

To borrow the title of a classic book by J.B. Philips, Your God Is Too Small!

The children of Israel were called to the Promised Land. That’s where God wanted them. He didn’t just call them there, he got them there. And he did it through some pretty impossible means.

We at HVPC are called to be here. In Huntingdon Valley. How do I know that? Because God planted this church here over 150 years ago. And while it has gone through some expansion and contraction, it’s still here. It’s still relevant.

We have a mission. To complete that mission in this building means we need to maintain this building. Or, maybe we need a new building.

Either way, God knows what we need. He will provide what we need to complete the mission he has called us to.

Beyond the needs of our facility, there are even more needs out there in our community that we are called to address.

If God has called us to serve our community from this location -- and I believe he has -- then he has provided the resources, is providing the resources, will provide the resources to meet all of these needs without band-aids, bailing wire, and short-cuts.

And these resources? They are you and me. We are them.

We Are Called

The children of Israel were called to the Promised Land, and they were also required to participate in the conquest of the Promised Land. They were required to give of their time, talent, and treasure to fulfill their calling.

The same is true for us. As part of the body of Christ all are called to contribute to the needs of the body of Christ. This building that houses this local body of Christ has needs. This community that surrounds this local body of Christ has needs. To withhold our time, our talent, and our treasure from this local body of Christ or the community we’re in is to be disobedient.

Those of us who are giving of our time, talent, and treasure need to give a little more of one or all of those things, and trust that God will take care of our personal needs. Because he will.

Those of us who aren’t giving of our time, talent, or treasure need to start giving in all three areas. And trust that God will take care of our personal needs. Because he will.

Remember, the whole world is watching, and, the disobedience of one impacts all.

But our God is a big God and he will meet our needs as we share within this local body of Christ, and as we share into our community.

Are you ready to move into the Promised Land?

=====

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