The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Walls are Coming Down!

And the Lord said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. – Joshua 6:2

Are you struggling with a stronghold of sin in your life; a sinful habit, a sinful attitude, or a sinful relationship? Something you know displeases God? Something you know just doesn’t belong in the life of one who calls themselves a “Christian”? Have you been struggling, trying to gain the victory, without success? Does your Christian life seem not too much different than your old pre-Christian life; one of defeat; ongoing defeat? Have you been seeking the Lord and feel His outstretched hand is just beyond your grasp? Are you a “wretched” Christian? (cf. Romans 7:24). If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, if this describes you, I pray the following study encourages you and ushers you into a life of victory.

The book of Joshua is a record of the history of the conquest of the Promised Canaan Land by Israel. Joshua is the successor to Moses and the human instrument of leadership appointed and anointed by God to lead the way. But this great book also has a broader application. It is a book rich with biblical typology about the Spirit-filled life. It is a book that promises victory if we will simply take courage and trust the Lord and His word (Joshua 1). It is a book that testifies that God only needs a little bit of faith in a person to work through them (Joshua 2). Crossing the Jordan typifies stepping by faith into an impassable obstacle trusting the Lord to make a way through (Joshua 3). It is a book that beckons us to mark and remember what God does for us so as to encourage us in future ventures of faith (Joshua 4). And it is a book that prioritizes getting our heart free of fleshly self-reliance before we march out to battle; victory begins in the heart (Joshua 5).

Joshua 6 marks the beginning of the conquest of Canaan; the Promised Land historically; the Spirit-filled life typically. Joshua has been told by God, “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I said to Moses” (Joshua 1:3). The battle of Jericho is where the proof of this promise will start to be tested. There are lessons to learn here that will bring down strongholds that keep us from the fullness of Gods’ promises. What are these lessons?

First, there are battles to be fought against strongholds in the Promised Land. The Spirit-filled life is not a life free from battles. Actually, the fighting begins when we enter God’s Land of Promise. We shouldn’t think it strange when we encounter obstacles in the Spirit-filled life (e.g. 1 Peter 4:12f.). No, when you seek the fullness of the Spirit get ready for a fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Those foes are going to try and dig into the soil of your heart and life. They must be rooted out. Those walled fortresses must be brought down.

Jericho was an oasis city built around a natural spring. Water is a precious commodity. It’s a resource Israel needed. And with Jericho standing, its enemy inhabitants safe inside, Israel would always have to worry about attacks. But Jericho presented a formidable obstacle. It’s estimated the walls of Jericho were built in three tiers that from ground level would appear around ten stories tall. Leaving this city intact would be suicidal. But how could it be taken? Charging attempts to scale the walls would be a bloody endeavor. This city, the walls of Jericho must come down. But how could this be done?

Do you have a “Jericho” stronghold in your life; something that threatens to keep you from taking the Promised Land of God’s promises in your life?  Castles of addictions, rebellion, pride, negativity, or lovelessness? Or maybe you coddle but are convicted of gluttony, greed, lust, jealousy, prejudice, hatred, lovelessness, etc.? (Yes, “lovelessness.”) Do you have a high walled, seemingly impregnable something in your life that looms darkly over your walk with the Lord? God promises to form the “divine nature” in us and to help us escape “the corruption that is in the world through lust” (cf. 2 Peter 1:2-4). This world is filled with corruption and tempting allurements that when given into just once, can become near instant fortresses of sin in our life. And when that happens, when there is a foe to God’s promises present in our life, it must be brought down. If we are to be all God desires us to be and experience all God desires us to experience, these walled strongholds must come down!

Second, the walls come down by faith. As Joshua first laid eyes on fortress Jericho he may have been a bit in awe. He may have been a bit intimidated; doubting; fearful. But the first words of the Lord to him were, “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor” (Joshua 6:2). Notice, God speaks in the past tense about the demise of Jericho. This is a done deal as far as God is concerned. These walls are coming down. They were standing tall now, but they were as good as down according to God. Here is a major lesson in bringing down strongholds in our life. Joshua was at a point of decision. He could choose to be overwhelmed by what he saw, or He could take God at His word. He had to decide whether to walk strong by faith or shrink because of what he saw (cf. 2 Cor. 5:8).

The first time God’s people approached the Land they chose to cower and retreat in the shadow of the giants that lived in the Land (Num. 14). Only Joshua and Caleb demonstrated faith to take what God had promised. Now Joshua again would have to walk in such faith in God. If the walls are to come down for us as they did for them, we will have to walk in faith. The Bible says, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled seven days” (Heb. 11:30).

Third, the walls don’t come down by worldly means. The inhabitants of Jericho were shut up secure in their city (Joshua 6:1). The world walls itself in from contact with God. They want no part of God or His people. They don’t think they need God. They don’t want God. They oppose God. They think, We’re doing fine on our own thank you. But God was already rattling their cages. There was a fast spreading word in the land that something supernatural was approaching. Word of how God had parted the Red Sea and Jordan River had travelled to Jericho and the people were full of fear of God and His people (cf. Joshua 2:8-11; 5:1). God has a way of getting His message through to people. God has a way of bringing down pride and worldly confidence.

How sad it is when God’s people look first to worldly convention and resources to defend themselves or solve their problems or meet their needs. The Bible says when we do that we risk being cheated of God’s best (cf. Col. 2:8-10). Don’t depend on worldly walls or fortifications to protect you or solve your safety issues. Put your trust in God. By faith learn that God’s ways of warring are different than ours. “For though we walk in the flesh,  we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:3-4). No doubt when Paul was inspired to write these words the Spirit had brought Jericho to mind. God’s ways are different; holy.

Fourth, the walls come down by unconventional means that require faith. What was God’s strategy for bringing down these towering stronghold walls?  You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. 4 And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet,  that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.” (Joshua 6:3-5). Can you imagine what Joshua’s military men were thinking when Joshua came back to them with God’s plan to bring down these great walls of this great city? You know how military men are; they want to use weapons. They want to use machines of war. But Joshua’s word from the Lord had none of that. No catapults. No siege mounds. No grappling hooks to ascend those huge walls. No battering rams. No conventional military weapons or strategy. No hail, thunder or lightening, not even a mighty rushing wind either! God could and would use such things at other times, but not here.  God does not war like men do. God requires men to put their faith in Him and then watch Him tear walls down.

It’s not likely such a God-sent plan would survive the scrutiny of many today. And yet, this is the perfect integration of God’s sovereignty and human cooperation. God wanted His people to march around that city, seeing its bastions and bulwarks, seeing its sturdiness and strength. God wanted His people to see and know this was the best the world had to offer. He also wanted it to be crystal clear that nothing they in their own strength could do would bring down such mighty walls.

God also wanted the people of Jericho to see what they were up against. This was no conventionally fighting army. It must have seemed pretty confusing to “the king and mighty men of valor” watching the march of God’s ark and His people around and around the city. They certainly didn’t know what was happening. What they did know was that no battle was ever engaged in like this. There was a uniqueness here; a holiness to what was going on.

God wanted Israel as well as those in Jericho to see that He can and will bring down the best the world can muster to oppose Him. “No weapon formed against you shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17). “One with God is a majority” said Martin Luther. God wants us to learn that He  fights differently than the world. And as His people we should too. We are to  use spiritual not fleshly weaponry. He wants the inhabitants of Jericho to realize that the army of God is different, holy, and fights with a different strategy and different weapons; undefeatable weapons powered by God.

God wants us to learn that He has resources and ways that we know not. His capabilities are limitless. We can do all things through Him who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13). God simply wants us to trust Him. That is what He is teaching Joshua and His people at this first holy battle of Jericho.

Our flesh is repulsed by the simplicity of God’s plans. We, our flesh, want to work; to do something. God says “Trust Me.” Romans 7 is all about working and doing in the flesh. That is the wretched way. Romans 8 is all about what God the Holy Spirit does in and through us. God wants to bring us over the Jordan and into Romans 8; the Spirit-filled winning way.

Do you have a Jericho in your life; a city or something standing between you and realizing God’s promises? God wants to tear those walls down. But He may lead you to rely on an unexpected or unconventional means of bringing the walls down.  “You mean all I have to do is pray, study God’s word and ask Him to help me live it? All I have to do is trust in the Holy Spirit to empower me and change me? All I have to do is, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved’? (Acts 16:31). Yes! That indeed might be what God asks. Whatever means He chooses, it will always involve trusting Him. For without faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Without faith it is impossible to take hold of God’s promises.

Fifth, the battle belongs to the Lord. God had instructed the people that He would fight for them (Deut. 1:30; 3:22; 20:4). That is a promise that God would teach His people throughout history (e.g. 2 Chron. 20:15). At Jericho it is no accident that God has the ark prominently displayed in the battle march (Joshua 6:6). The ark of the covenant was the symbol of God’s presence. Iit was God who was the Commander in this first battle in the Promised Land (compare Joshua 5:13-15). We are to work hard and do our best, but it is God who is working in and through us (Phil. 2:12-13). Neither the one who plants or the one who waters in ministry is anything. It is God who brings growth (1 Cor. 3:5ff.). Apart from Him we can do nothing. We become fruitful by abiding in Jesus (John 15). We are who we are by God’s grace (1 Cor. 15:10).

Sixth, the faith God requires is obedient. God’s instructions were specific; only shout on the seventh day, not before (Joshua 6:7-11). Their faith was demonstrated in their obedience. Joshua and the people followed the LORD’s instructions to the letter. The inhabitants of Jericho, as well as Joshua and the people were likely perplexed at what God asked His people to do. But obeying God does not require we always understand what God requires us to do. There are times in life when we won’t have all the answers to our questions. There are times in life when we won’t know the solutions to our problems. We won’t always know why God does what He does or asks us to do what He asks us to do. But our responsibility is to simply obey. God’s ways are not our ways. But His is ways are always right and true (cf. Isaiah 55:6-10). Love Jesus and obey Him (John 14:15, 21).

Seventh, victory comes when we rest the outcome by faith with the Lord. For six days they were to march around Jericho. On the seventh day they were to march around seven times. See the emphasis? On the seventh day they were to march around the city seven times. The seventh day is the Sabbath day; a day of rest. The walls would come down on the seventh day (Joshua 6:12-16). Victory came when by faith they trusted in God’s word and entrusted the stronghold to the Lord. There’s more to this battle account than mere history. In Hebrews it states, “For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His” (Heb. 4:8-10). We enter into newness of life by faith. We continue in newness of life by faith. “From faith to faith” we see the walls come down (Romans 1:17). Rest your stronghold in the strong hands of the Lord.

I want you to consider something. If you have been struggling with a stronghold in your life maybe it has been a necessary part of God’s sanctifying process. Maybe He’s allowed you to march around and around the towering stronghold to let you learn that those walls are too big for me or anyone else to bring down. Maybe, He wants you to come to a point where you release and rest the stronghold with Him. Our extremities are God’s opportunities. Maybe God wants the inhabitants of the stronghold to recognize they can’t stand against God. And maybe God wants you to learn that only He can bring those walls down. Not programs or human plans, not human strategies or efforts, not human counsel or anything human, simply and solitarily He alone can bring down the walls. Maybe God wants you to learn that before you can live a consistent life of victory in the Land of the Spirit-filled. Maybe He wants to teach you that it’s not a matter of our struggle, but rather of our surrender to Him.

Eighth, give God the glory for His victory. The Lord instructed Joshua and the people to “abstain from the accursed things” (Joshua 6:18-19; cf. also 6:24-25). The first battle in the conquest of the Promised Land was holy in that it was wholly a work of the Lord. Therefore, this city of Jericho was to be devoted to God as an offering to Him. The “accursed things” (Hebrew cherem) refer to the spoil of the battle. Joshua and Israel couldn’t take credit for what God did at Jericho. They had no claim to the spoil. It all belonged to God. Everything won in this battle was to be entirely devoted to the Lord.  This was God’s work, His victory, His glory. Give God glory in all that He does in and through you (e.g. 1 Cor. 10:31; Col. 3:23-24). “Not unto us. O LORD, not unto us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth” (Psalm 115:1).

Ninth, the walls are coming down! It states, “So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat.(Joshua 6:20). When God says the walls are coming down, the walls are coming down. God is always faithful. He will always come through and do His part. What God says will happen, happens. At some point you will have to make a shout of faith. At some point you will have to make your faith in God known. You will have to trust the Lord. You will risk the truth of God being the truth. You will have to risk the reality of God’s faithfulness. But that is truly no risk at all because God is true and faithful. Those who trust in Him will not be ashamed (Jer. 17:7-8).

Tenth, don’t rebuild what God tears down. Finally, it states, “Then Joshua charged them at that time, saying, “Cursed be the man before the Lord who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates.” (Joshua 6:26). This curse was fulfilled in 1 Kings 16:34 when Heil of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. “He laid its foundation with Abiram his firstborn, and with his youngest son Segub he set up its gates, according to the word of the LORD, which had been spoken through Joshua the son of Nun.” What God has torn down should remain down.

In the New Testament it states, “For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor” (Gal. 2:18). When we face our Jericho’s it’s important to devote them to God. It’s important to not hold back any part of our Jericho’s. If you have a habit or Jericho fortress in your life that is impeding God’s work and threatening the taking of God’s promises, don’t give God only a partial part of that city. Don’t offer to God that city, holding back a portion that you can go back to later to indulge in. You have to make a full and complete offering of the reprobate cities in your life. Complete, total surrender in offering the enemy city to God is what God requires for victory. Then watch Him work; watch Him bring the walls down, and give Him all the glory!

“So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout all the country.” (Joshua 6:27). The Lord said the walls of Jericho would come down. They came down; just as He said they would. Do you have any walled strongholds in your life that are blocking the way to God’s promises? Why not bring them to Him in faith, totally surrendering them to Him. Then in faith obey His instruction, and watch the walls come down! The walls are coming down! Believe it!


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