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<060601>JOSHUA 6:1-27 A CLOSED CITY We have now arrived at what is perhaps the most interesting and instructive incident recorded in this book, namely, the fall of Jericho, which appears to have been the principal stronghold of the Canaanites. Up to this point everything had been more or less preliminary and preparatory: now the real task before them must be faced and tackled: the Canaanites must be dispossessed if Israel were to occupy their goodly heritage. They had already received very great encouragement in connection with the Jordan, where the Lord had so signally undertaken for them by the might of His power. Having attended to the important duty of circumcision and having kept the feast of the Passover, they were now fitted and furnished to go forward. What a parable was that of the beginning of the Christian life!
Having been made the subject of the miracle of regeneration, plucked as a brand from the burning, the sinner saved by Divine grace now enters upon a new life — one as radically different in character as Israel’s after they left the wilderness behind. Having obediently submitted to the ordinance of baptism and fed on the antitypical Lamb, the believer is not to settle upon his oars, but is called upon to engage in spiritual warfare and glorify God as “a soldier of Jesus Christ” ( 2 Timothy 2:3), serving under His banner and doing exploits, overcoming his foes and entering into a present possession of his inheritance.
Jericho was a frontier town and key city. It was a powerful fortress barring Israel’s ingress. Its capture was indispensable before any progress could be made by Israel in conquering and occupying the land of Canaan. It was the enemy’s leading fastness, which doubtless they considered to be quite impregnable, and the destruction of it would not only be a great encouragement unto Israel, but must still further dismay the remaining Canaanites. In its overthrow we perceive how different are the ways of God from man’s, and with what ease He accomplishes His purposes. Here we behold how futile are the efforts of those who oppose Him, and how worthless the refuges in which they vainly seek shelter. In this memorable episode we are taught how the people of God are to act if they would have Him show Himself strong in their behalf: how that carnal scheming and worldly methods are given no place; but instead, faith, obedience, courage, patience, must be exercised, if they would obtain the victory over their foes. In what is here to be before us we see not Israel acting on the defensive, seeking to protect themselves from the attacks of others, but rather, under Divine orders, taking the initiative and assuming the offensive, which tells us there is an active side to the Christian warfare as well as a passive one — something which is too often forgotten by many of us.
We must not lose sight of the close connection between what is now to be before us and that which engaged our attention in the preceding article.
There we beheld Joshua alone by Jericho, verse apparently reconnoitering that fortress and noting its formidable strength — compare our remarks on chapter 3, verses 1 and 2, where Israel was required to take full stock of the flooded river which barred their entrance into Canaan. While so engaged, Israel’s leader was suddenly confronted with a mysterious Personage “with His sword drawn in His hand” who, upon being asked, “Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?” replied, “Nay, but as Captain of the host of the Lord am I now come” (verse 14).
Just as Jehovah had appeared to Moses at the burning bush before he entered upon his great task of leading the children of Israel out of the house of bondage and Moses received assurance that God had “come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them out of that land, unto a land flowing with milk and honey” ( Exodus 3:8), so Joshua was then given promise that an all-sufficient Leader would take charge of Israel’s host and conduct them to complete victory. That we should link together Exodus 3:1-10, and Joshua 5:13-15, is intimated by the fact that on each occasion the appearing of the Lord was marked by the command, “loose thy shoe.”
As stated in our last article, the second main division of the book of Joshua commences at chapter 5, verse 13 (that section which has for its theme The Conquest of the Land), and therefore it behooves us to pay extra close attention to its opening verses. The incident described therein is not only introductory to what follows in the next six chapters, but it furnishes the key to their right interpretation. The appearing of the Angel of the Lord unto Moses at the burning bush had a deeper design than the strengthening of his heart, being a symbolical representation of the people of God then in “the iron furnace” ( Deuteronomy 4:20), the “furnace of affliction” ( Isaiah 48:10), and that the Lord Himself was present with them in it: “in all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His presence saved them” ( Isaiah 63:9, and cf. Matthew 25:36; Acts 9:11). But in Joshua verse 13-15, the Lord is viewed as no longer suffering in and with His people, but stands forth as their Captain, to command and lead them in battle. It was plain intimation that this was not Israel’s quarrel, in which they should seek Divine assistance; but Jehovah’s own quarrel, and Israel was but a division of His “host.” The wars of Israel are expressly called “the wars of the Lord” ( Numbers 21:54). Israel’s destruction of the Canaanites was no private vengeance, but Divine, because their iniquities were now “come to the full” ( Genesis 15:26; Leviticus 18:25-28).
Far more was involved here than appears on the surface, and it is only by carefully comparing Scripture with Scripture that we can discover what was really taking place behind the scenes. The dispossession of the Canaanites from their native land should cause us no uneasiness, for it was no unrighteous act on Israel’s part: rather were they made the instrument of God’s holy judgment upon those who had persisted so long in their abominations that naught remained but their extermination. We need to look above the human side of things here, and contemplate them in the light of that expression, “the wars of the Lord,” for that is what they were.
It was more than human forces which were involved on both sides, namely, Divine and infernal. Jehovah Himself was now waging war upon Satan and his hosts. The Canaanites were devoted to idolatry and necromancy, using divination, being enchanters, witches, charmers, consulters with familiar spirits; and as Moses had announced, “because of these abominations the Lord thy God doth drive them out before thee” ( Deuteronomy 18:9-14)!
As the apostle also informs us, “the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, and not to God” ( 1 Corinthians 10:20).
When man apostatized from God, he became the captive of the Devil; and when Christ came here to effect the redemption of His enslaved people, He had first to conquer their Captor. The Gospels make it clear that Christ’s conflict was far more than one with men who hated Him, namely, against the Prince of this world — it was Satan who “entered into Judas” and moved him to perform his dastardly work. The “strong man armed” kept his palace, and his goods were in peace. But when “a Stronger than he came upon him,” He overcame him and took from him all his armor in which he trusted, and “divideth his spoils” ( Luke 11:21,22, and cf. Isaiah 53:12); “that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death” ( Hebrews 2:14); “having spoiled principalities and powers, He made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in Himself” ( Colossians 2:14).
Likewise His soldiers are bidden to “Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the Devil”; the reason given being, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against wicked spirits in the heavenlies” ( Ephesians 6:10,11)!
How little is this realized! “Now Jericho was straitly shut up, because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in” ( Joshua 6:1).
This at once arrests our attention. They were not willing to issue forth and fight against Israel in the open. The fear of the Lord was upon them. What Jehovah wrought for His obedient people at the Jordan had struck terror into their souls. They were made to realize that One was with them who could not be withstood. “And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites which were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more because of the children of Israel” (verse 1).
Consequently, their hope now lay in the height and strength of the walls of Jericho. There they sheltered, yet in a spirit of uneasiness. When there is an ungrieved Spirit in the midst of God’s people, not only are they made the subjects of His quickening, fructifying and comforting influences, but those that are without are awed by His power! It is the absence of His restraint which explains the present lawlessness of society. “Now Jericho was straitly shut up.” The attentive reader will observe that the margin has it, “did shut up and was shut up.” It is an expressive emphasis in the Hebrew like “dying thou shalt die” ( Genesis 2:17) and “in blessing I will bless thee” ( Genesis 22:17). All the passages of ingress and egress were closed: the heavy gates barred, the inhabitants shut in by the massive walls. But what could such measures avail them? What are bolts and bars unto Him who can make the iron gate of a city “open of his own accord” ( Acts 12:10), and cause “all the doors” of a prison to be opened when He pleases ( Acts 16:26)? Verily, “except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain ( <19C701> Psalm 127:1). How little is that apprehended by this materialistic generation, who give little or no thought at all unto the agency of God in human affairs! What a rude awakening awaits them at the moment of death, and in the Day to come, when it shall be made to appear before an assembled universe that any other refuge than Christ Himself in which sinners sought shelter, stood them in no better stead in the hour of trial than Jericho did the Canaanites!
Jericho was one of those well-secured cities of Canaan of which it is said, “The cities were walled and very great” ( Numbers 13:28) and which to the carnal spies appeared utterly unassailable ( Deuteronomy 1:28). It was therefore a challenge to faith — just as was Jordan. God did not work that first miracle before Israel’s faith was put to the proof, but afterward.
The priests bearing the ark were required, at the Divine command, “When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan ye shall stand still in Jordan” ( Joshua 3:8), and it was not until they had complied with that order that the Lord wrought so wondrously for them: “And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brink of the water... that the water which came down from above stood and rose up in a heap” (verses 15 and 16).
So it was at Jericho. The Captain of the Lord’s host had declared He would undertake for Israel, yet here was this citadel barred against them!
Its gates were not opened by Divine hand, nor was its king panic-stricken so that he surrendered to them. No; “Jericho was straitly shut up.” That was what confronted outward sight! So it is in our experiences today. “According unto your faith be it unto you”: it is in response to that, God works. “And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor” ( Joshua 6:2).
Very blessed is that. The Lord graciously made free with His servant, and before the campaign opened assured him of the complete success of the same. But let us not fail to call to mind that which had immediately preceded this favor, for there is an inseparable moral connection between them, which it behooves us to note. Joshua himself, the priests, and the whole nation had exercised an exemplary obedience to the Divine will and had manifested a real concern for the Divine glory — in circumcising the men and in celebrating the Passover feast. It is ever God’s way to make free with us when everything is right between Him and our souls. Thus we have illustrated and exemplified here yet another effect that always follows when there is an ungrieved Spirit in the midst of a company of saints. Not only does He awe those who are without, but Divine communications are freely vouchsafed unto those who are within! That ought to be a normal and regular experience, and not an occasional and extraordinary one. As the Lord Jesus declared, “He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me; and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father, and I will love him and will manifest Myself to him” ( John 14:21).
Above, we have said that this confronting of Jericho “straitly shut up” was a challenge to faith, and that God acts “according to” our faith. But faith must ever have a foundation to rest upon, and here one was afforded the same. That word “See, I have given unto thine hand Jericho,” was instructive and emphatic. “See” was a definite call to view things with the eye of the spirit rather than that of the body: contemplate this obstacle by faith and not by carnal reason. Just as at the Red Sea the word was, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will show you today... the Lord shall fight for you” ( Exodus 14:13,14).
Yet they saw not that “salvation” or deliverance outwardly until they had, in faith and obedience, complied with the Divine order, “speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward” (verse 15). They were required to “see” God’s promised deliverance by faith before it was accomplished unto outward sight! It was the same thing here: “See, I have given into thine hand Jericho.” Have you, my reader, thus “seen” that blessed One of whom previously you had only “heard” ( Job 42:5)? Have you thus “seen Him who is invisible” ( Hebrews 11:27)? Have you thus “seen your final and complete victory over sin and death? Have you thus seen that place which your Redeemer has gone to prepare for you? That is what faith is: “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” ( Hebrews 11:1)!
That gracious declaration was not only a challenge unto the exercise of faith, and an evidence of God’s bounty, but it was also designed to subdue all the workings of self-sufficiency. The proud flesh remains in all God’s people, and the best of them are prone to take unto themselves that credit and praise which belong alone unto God. But that “See [take note of, keep steadily in mind, that] I have given into thine hand Jericho” was meant to exclude all boasting. It was not only a word to encourage and animate, but also one to humble, signifying that the success of this venture must be ascribed unto the Lord Himself, apart from whom “we can do nothing” ( John 15:5). Victory over our enemies must never be ascribed to our own prowess: rather are we to aver, “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, for Thy truth’s sake” ( <19B501> Psalm 115:1).
Jericho was Israel’s by Divine donation, and therefore its capture was to be attributed wholly unto the God of all grace. “What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” ( 1 Corinthians 4:7).
What need there is for that truth to be pressed today upon a boastful and vainglorious Christendom!
When the people of Lystra saw the healing of the cripple, they sought to render Divine homage unto Barnabas and Paul, which, when they beheld, “rent their clothes and ran in among the people crying and saying, Sirs why do ye this thing? we also are men of like passions with you” ( Acts 14:14,15).
O for more of that self-effacing spirit. How dishonoring it is unto God to have so many professing Christians eulogizing worms of the dust and using such expressions as “He is a great man,” “a remarkable preacher,” “a wonderful Bible teacher.” What glory doth the Lord get therefrom? None.
No wonder the unction of the Spirit is now so generally withheld!
Moreover, nothing is so apt to destroy a preacher’s usefulness as to puff him up with flattery; certainly nothing is so insulting to the Spirit and more calculated to cause Him to withdraw His blessing than such idolatrous man-worship. How much better to say, “Such a preacher is highly favored of the Lord in being so gifted by Him.” “The pastor was much helped by God in his sermon this morning.” “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights” ( James 1:17), and therefore it behooves us to thankfully acknowledge the Giver and freely render unto Him undivided praise for every blessing which He vouchsafes us through His servants, whether it comes in an oral or written form. “And the Lord said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor.” Taking that verse as a whole, we may perceive the Lord’s concern for His own honor.
He is very jealous of the same, saying “My glory will I not give unto another” ( Isaiah 42:8). Let us not forget that Herod was eaten up of worms “because he gave not glory to God” ( Acts 12:23)! It was to prevent Israel’s committing this sin the Lord here made this affirmation unto their leader. It was in order that His people might freely own, “He hath done marvelous things: His right hand and His holy arm hath gotten Him the victory” ( Psalm 80:1).
How often the Scriptures record such statements as these: “today the Lord hath wrought salvation [deliverance] in Israel” ( 1 Samuel 11:14); “So the Lord saved Israel that day” ( 1 Samuel 14:23); “The Lord wrought a great salvation for Israel” ( 1 Samuel 19:5); “The Lord wrought a great victory that day” ( 2 Samuel 23:10); “By him [Naaman] the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria” ( 2 Kings 5:1).
Alas, how little is such language now heard! David had been taught this God-honoring and self-abasing truth, as is shown by his words “Blessed he the Lord my strength, who teacheth my hands to war, my fingers to fight” ( <19E401> Psalm 144:1).
Such should be the acknowledgment made by us in connection with our spiritual warfare and every success granted us in the Christian life. “And ye shall compass the city: all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they have made a long blast with the rams’ horns, when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him” (verses 3-5).
In view of the preceding verse, that may strike some of our readers as a very strange requirement. If the Lord had definitely given Jericho into the hands of Joshua, why were such elaborate preparations as these necessary for its overthrow? Let those who feel the force of any such difficulty weigh attentively what we are about to say. In reality, those verses exemplify and illustrate a principle which it is most important for us to apprehend. That principle may be stated thus: the disclosure of God’s gracious purpose and the absolute certainty of its accomplishment in no wise renders needless the discharge of our responsibilities. God’s assuring us of the sureness of the end does not set aside the indispensability of the use of means. Thus, here again, as everywhere, we see preserved the balance of Truth.
So far from the Divine promises being designed to promote inactivity on our part, they are given as a spur unto the same, to assure us that if our efforts square with the Divine Rule, they will not be in vain. The gracious declaration that God had given Jericho into the hand of Israel did not discharge them from the performance of their duty, but was to assure them of certain success in the same. That principle operates throughout in the accomplishment of the Divine purpose. The truth of election is not revealed in order to license a spirit of fatalism, but to rejoice our hearts by the knowledge that the whole of Adam’s race is not doomed to destruction.
Nor are the elect mechanically delivered from destruction apart from any action of theirs, for though they be “chosen to salvation,” yet it is “through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the Truth” ( 2 Thessalonians 2:13) — unless the Truth be embraced by them no salvation would be theirs, for “he that believeth not shall be damned.” Likewise the revealed truth that Christ will yet “see of the travail of His soul and be satisfied” (Isaiah 53), that “all that the Father giveth Him shall come to Him” ( John 6:37), does not render needless the preaching of the Gospel to every creature, for that preaching is the very means which God has appointed and which the Holy Spirit makes effectual in drawing unto Christ those for whom He died. We must not divide what God has joined together.
It is the sundering of those things which God has connected — wherein He has made the one dependent upon another — which has wrought so much evil and caused so many useless divisions among His people. For example, in the twin truths of Divine preservation and Christian perseverance. Our assurance of glorification in no wise sets aside the need for care and caution, self-denial and striving against sin on our part. There is a narrow way to be trodden if Life is to be reached ( Matthew 7:14), a race to be run if the prize is to be secured ( Hebrews 12:1; Philippians 3:14).
We are indeed “kept by the power of God,’ yet “through faith” ( 1 Peter 1:5) and not irrespective of its exercise; and faith eyes and makes use of the Divine precepts equally with the Divine promises, and heeds God’s admonitions and warnings as well as appropriates His comforts and encouragements. God has nowhere declared that He will preserve the reckless and presumptuous. He preserves in faith and holiness, and not in carnality and worldliness. Christ has guaranteed, the eternal security of a certain company, but He was careful to first describe the marks of those who belong to it: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and they shall never perish” ( John 10:27,28), but no such assurance is given unto any who disregard His voice and follow a course of self-will and self-pleasing. God’s promise of Heaven to the believer is far from signifying that he will not have to fight his way there.
The appointed means must never be separated from the appointed end.
Strength for the body is obtained through the mouth, and health is not maintained without observing the rules of hygiene. Crops will not be produced unless the ground be prepared and sown. Yet in connection with spiritual matters we need to be particularly careful that we employ only those methods and use none but those means which God has appointed. “If a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned except he strive lawfully” ( 2 Timothy 2:5).
For us to determine the methods and select those means which appeal most to us when engaged in the service of God is presumptuous, a species of self-will, laying us open to the charge of “Who hath required this at your hand?” ( Isaiah 1:12); and for us to ask God’s blessing upon the same is only seeking to make Him of our mind. Let us not forget the solemn warning Pointed by the death of Uzzah, when the Lord God made a breach in Israel because they “sought Him not after the due order” ( Chronicles 15:13). We must keep closely to God’s “due order” if we are to have His approbation. That was one of the outstanding lessons here taught Joshua.
How passing strange those instructions must have appeared! How utterly inadequate such means for such an enterprise! How futile would such a procedure seem unto carnal reason! “No trenches were to be opened. no batteries erected, no batteringrams drawn up, nor any military preparations made” (Matthew Henry).
Who ever heard of a mighty fortress being completely demolished in response to a company of people walking around it? Ah, God’s ways are not only very different from man’s, but they are designed to stain his pride and secure the glory unto Himself. The leader and lawgiver of Israel was preserved in a frail ark of bulrushes. The mighty giant of the Philistines was overcome by a sling and a stone. The prophet Elijah was sustained by a widow’s handful of meal. The forerunner of Christ dwelt in the wilderness, had his raiment of camel’s hair and a leathern girdle, and fed upon locusts and wild honey. The Savior Himself was born in a stable and laid in a manger. The ones whom He selected to be His ambassadors were for the most part unlettered fishermen. What striking illustrations are these that “that which is highly, esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” ( Luke 16:15)!
Yet how needful it is to keep this principle before us!
Had Joshua called a council of war and consulted with the heads of the tribes as to what they deemed the best policy to adopt, what conflicting advice he had most probably received, what various methods of assault had been advocated. One would have reasoned that the only way to subdue Jericho was by the starving out of its inhabitants through a protracted siege Another would have counseled the use of ladders to scale its walls by men heavily mailed and armed. A third would have argued that heavy batteringrams would be more effective and less costly in lives to the attackers.
While a fourth would have suggested a surprise attack by secretly tunneling under the walls. Each would have leaned unto his own understanding, and deemed his plan the best. But Joshua conferred not with flesh and blood, but received his commission direct from the Lord, and therein he has left an example for all His servants to follow. The minister of the Gospel is responsible to Christ: he is His servant, called and commissioned by Him, and from Him alone must he take his orders. He has no authority except what Christ has given him, and he needs no more. Joshua did not refer the instructions he had received from God to the judgment of the priests and elders and ask their opinion on the same, but instead acted promptly upon them, counting upon the Divine blessing, however his fellows might regard them. “When the Lord effects HIS purposes by such means and instruments as we deem adequate, our views are apt to terminate upon them, and to overlook Him ‘who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will.’ To obviate this propensity, the Lord sometimes deviates from the common track and works by methods or instruments which in themselves appear not at all suited to produce the intended effect; nay, sometimes have no real connection with it ( Numbers 20:6-9; Ezekiel 37:1-10; John 9:4-7). But it is our duty to use only those means which the Lord appoints or allows, to submit to His will, and depend upon His blessing; and with patient waiting and self-denying diligence, to expect the event: and we shall thus succeed as far as is conducive to our real good. He takes peculiar pleasure in leading men’s attention to His own truths and ordinances, in exercising their faith and patience, in inuring them to submit their understandings implicitly to His teaching and their wills to His authority, and in securing to Himself their praises and thankful acknowledgements.
In promoting true religion, especially, He works by means and instruments which the proud, the learned, and the wealthy of this world generally despise. The doctrine of a crucified Savior, God manifested in the flesh, as the only foundation of a sinner’s hope of acceptance, and the only source of sanctifying grace; preached by ministers, frequently, of obscure birth and moderate abilities, and destitute of the advantages of eminent learning or eloquence; sometimes even homely in their appearance and address” (Thomas Scott).
Looking more closely now at the instructions which Joshua received from the Lord on this occasion, we see that once more “the ark” was given the place of honor, being made central in the order of the procession. First were to proceed the “men of war,” then came the ark with seven priests in front of it with “trumpets of rams’ horns,” and behind it came all the body of the people. The ark was the recognized symbol of Jehovah’s presence, and its being carried before the congregation was to intimate the victory was from Him. Very much indeed turns upon our realization of the Divine presence — both as a restraint upon the flesh, and a stimulant to the spirit.
When assured that the Lord is not only for us but with us, fear gives place to holy confidence. Deeply important is it for the servant of Christ not only to adhere strictly to the terms of His commission, but also to rest upon His blessed promise, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end” ( Matthew 28:19,20).
Equally necessary for the rank and the of God’s people to lay hold of that word, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” Joshua had received personal assurance of this by the appearing to him of the “Captain of the Lord’s host” ( Joshua 5:13-15), and by the prominence accorded the ark: the whole congregation were given a visible reminder of the same fact.
But the ark was also the repository of the tables of stone, on which were inscribed the ten commandments. It therefore denoted that Israel now marched as subject to the Divine Law, for only as they acted in obedience to its terms could success be expected. As was pointed out in our articles on the crossing of the Jordan, Israel marched into Canaan led by the Law: so here we are shown their conquest of the land depended upon their compliance with its requirements. But more: the presence of the ark here intimated that the Law was the minister of vengeance to the Canaanites: their cup of iniquity was now full and they must suffer the due reward of the same. Here the Law was “the minister of death” as the sequel demonstrated: see verse 21.
SEVEN DAYS OF MARCH In our last we considered the instructions which Joshua received from the Lord concerning Jericho; now we are to observe how the same were carried out. “And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said unto them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord. And he said unto the people, Pass on, and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the Lord” ( Joshua 6:6,7).
It is therefore quite evident from these verses that Joshua understood God’s promise “I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor” (verse 2) as meaning that, if His directions were faithfully and exactly executed, but only in that case, would the city be supernaturally overthrown. That promise was to assure Joshua that the Canaanites would be unable to successfully defend their city, and that the Lord would make it manifest that He had delivered it up to Israel; nevertheless they must act in full subjection to His revealed will.
This incident of the capture of Jericho is one which should be carefully pondered and taken to heart by all the people of God today, especially so by His servants, for if it be so it will supply a grand tonic to faith, and effectually counteract that spirit of gloom which now so widely obtains.
Alas, the majority of professing Christians are far more occupied with what are called “the signs of the times” than they are with the One in whose hand all “times and seasons” are ( Acts 1:7). They are walking by sight, rather than by faith; engaged with the things seen, rather than with those which are unseen. The consequence is that many of them are cast down and dispirited over present conditions, and only too often the preacher is apt to regard the situation as hopeless. But that is to be of the same temper as the unbelieving spies, who said “We be not able to go up against the people: for they are stronger than we” ( Numbers 13:31), magnifying the difficulties which confronted them and yielding to a spirit of defeatism.
If the minister of the Gospel be occupied with the smallness of his congregation, and their unresponsiveness to his preaching; if he dwell unduly upon the lack of interest on the part of the young people, and listens to the prophets of gloom, who ever give the darkest possible interpretation to things, then he may well be dejected. But if his thoughts be formed by and his own soul fed upon the Word of God, then he will discover that there is no cause whatever for dismay. Scripture nowhere teaches that God is seeking to convert the world, rather does it declare that He is visiting the Gentiles “to take out of them a people for His name” ( Acts 15:14). When giving instructions to His servants, Christ bade them “take no anxious thought,” for He would have their hearts at rest, trusting, in the living God to supply their every need; and also said “Fear not little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” ( Luke 12:22,32).
He ever sought to strengthen their confidence in the invincibility of God’s purpose, declaring “all that the Father giveth Me, shall come unto Me” ( John 6:37).
Instead of perplexing his mind with useless speculations about the ten toes of Daniel’s colossus, the business of the minister of the Gospel is to faithfully carry out the commission which he has received from his Master ( Matthew 38:19, 20). Instead of wasting time upon the newspapers and listening in to the wireless in order to ascertain the latest threats of the Kremlin or menaces of the Vatican, let him give more earnest heed to that injunction “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” ( 2 Timothy 2:15).
Instead of being so absorbed with the activities of Satan’s emissaries, let him mix faith with that heartening assurance of the Most High, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall My Word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper whereto I sent it” ( Isaiah 55:10,11).
Then preach that Word in its purity, in its fullness, with implicit confidence in its sufficiency. The Gospel of Christ is not obsolete, but is still “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” ( Romans 1:16).
Then proclaim it, realizing that the curse of God rests on all who preach any other ( Galatians 1:8). Do you reply, I have, in my poor way, sought to preach the Gospel as faithfully and earnestly as I know how: but so far as I can see, it has been fruitless, and I am thoroughly discouraged. Then take heed, we beg you, to the incident which is here before us. Get down on your knees right now and beg God to bless this article unto you.
Surely then “all things are possible to him that believeth” ( Mark 9:23)!
It requires no forced or fanciful effort of ours to show that Israel’s conquest of Jericho adumbrated the victories won by the Gospel, when it is faithfully preached and the blessing of God attends the same. As was pointed out in our last, Jericho was one of the leading strongholds of the enemy: “the cities are walled and very great” ( Numbers 13:28).
Probably Jericho was the most powerfully fortified of any of them, and as such it presented a formidable obstacle unto Joshua and his fellows.
Nevertheless, it fell before them in response to the punctual observance of the orders which they had received from the Lord. It was in manifest reference to this that the apostle declared, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” ( 1 Corinthians 10:4).
How blessedly and unmistakably was that demonstrated under his own ministry! How gloriously was the same made evident in the days of Luther!
How frequently has the same truth been made to appear in various parts of the earth since then. And you, my brethren in the ministry, have the same glorious Gospel to preach, and the same mighty God to look unto to bless your labors!
Do you reply, But I am no Joshua, no Paul, no Luther? Then we remind you of the apostle’s self-abasing and God-honoring words to those who were glorying in the flesh. “Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man. I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” ( 1 Corinthians 3:5-7).
The men whom God has most used throughout the ages were those who rated themselves as nobodies! But you say, I feel so weak and ill-equipped — God grant that such is your sincere language, for if the contrary were the case, if you deemed yourself an able and well-qualified man, you are no servant of Christ’s. Listen again to Paul, who with all his gifts and graces contemplated the tasks before him in this spirit and attitude’ “who is sufficient for these things?” ( 2 Corinthians 2:16.)
Writing to those same saints and looking back to the days of his evangelistic labors among them, the apostle declared “I came to you not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” ( 1 Corinthians 2:13).
Self-diffidence is no disqualification for Christ’s service. It was not Paul that was “great,” but rather that the weapons he used when engaging the forces of evil were “mighty through God”! And what were those “weapons”? Prayer, “the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” ( Ephesians 6:17), and faith in the One who had commissioned him.
Note that we put prayer first. Does not the example of the supreme Preacher ( Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12,13) require us to do so? Did not the Twelve declare, “We will give ourselves continually to  prayer and  to the ministry of the Word” ( Acts 6:4)? Then do thou the same.
Concerning faith, we refer the reader again to Hebrews 11:30. Now fellow preachers, the same three “weapons” are available to us, and we need no others for the glorifying of Christ and the execution of His commission.
Note well, ye preachers, our last sentence. We did not say that no other weapons are needed in order for you to be eminently “successful” in your work, or that your use of the same will ensure prompt “visible results.”
That must not be made your chief concern nor immediate end: and if you make it such, a jealous God is most likely to blow upon rather than bless your efforts. Your paramount care and principal design must be the glorifying of God ( 1 Corinthians 10:31): to make known His excellency, to enforce His just claims upon the creatures of His hands, to bid men throw down the weapons of their warfare against Him, and be reconciled to Him. If you be a real servant of God’s He has sent you forth to magnify Christ: the salvation of sinners is but secondary and subordinate thereto.
God would have a universal testimony borne unto the matchless worth of the person and work of Christ — the Gospel is a “witness” ( Matthew 24:14) to His perfections. God would have proclaimed far and wide the amazing fact that His own beloved Son “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” ( Philippians 2:8), being wholly devoted unto the will of His Father.
In the Gospel is made known the Savior’s personal dignities: that He is the Lord of glory, the Prince of life, the King of kings, the Creator and Upholder of the universe. In the Gospel is revealed His amazing condescension and humiliation: how that in obedience to the Father’s word He voluntarily and gladly, took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of sin’s flesh, tabernacling for a season in this scene.
In the Gospel is exhibited His holy and unique life: performing the work which the Father had given Him to do. In the Gospel is displayed His official glories, as Prophet, Priest and Potentate. In it is told forth His grace unto sinners: dying the just for the unjust. In it is declared how that He magnified the Divine Law and made it honorable, superlatively glorifying the Father thereby. In it we are informed how that God rewarded His incarnate Son by raising Him from the dead, and seating Him at His own right hand on high. Our business, fellow preachers, is to proclaim that Gospel in its purity and fullness, that God may be glorified, and His Son magnified.
Our business is to declare “all the counsel of God” and keep back nothing that is profitable unto souls ( Acts 20:20,27). Our marching orders are the same as Jonah’s ( Jonah 3:2) and of Deuteronomy 4:2: “Preach unto it [the city] the preaching that I bid thee.” “Ye shall not add unto the Word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it.” Only by so doing will God be glorified and our souls cleared from the awful charge of infidelity. But if we do so — and only by Divine grace, earnestly and constantly sought, can we — we may safely leave “results” with the Lord of the harvest. Nay more, we may rest in full confidence on the promise “them that honor Me, I will honor” ( 1 Samuel 2:30). But it must be left with Him as to when and how He “honors.” In the Day to come He will say “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Even now “we are unto God a sweet savor of Christ, in them that are saved and in them that perish” ( 2 Corinthians 2):
But let us now take a more definite look at the instructions given to Israel’s priests in Joshua 6:6. Observe carefully a significant omission therein, which silently but decidedly confirms what has been said above.
Joshua did not announce to them the promise which he had received from the Lord in verses 2 and 5, but simply gave them their marching orders, without any assurance that success would certainly attend their efforts! In this, as in almost all things, Joshua was a type of Christ, who, although receiving promise from His Father (in the everlasting covenant) of the sure success of His undertaking (cf. Isaiah 53:10-12), yet when commissioning His servants, gave them specific commandments but said not a word about their labors being fruitful! — see Matthew 28,29,30; Mark 16:15,16; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21-23; Acts 1:7,8.
So here: the priests were told what to do, and that was all. Unquestioning and unreserved obedience to their orders was what was required from them: nothing more, nothing less. They were, first, to “take up the ark of the covenant”; second, to “bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns”; and third, to go “before the ark of the Lord.” Let us now point out the typical significance of the same.
The ark of the covenant was the symbol of the Lord’s presence with them, as their “Leader and Commander” ( Isaiah 55:4). In like manner, Christ has assured His servants “Lo! I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” ( Matthew 28:20).
That is to be realized by faith, and not by sense. The minister of the Gospel is to go forward to the fight in the blessed consciousness that he is not alone: he is to act with full assurance that the Captain of his salvation is with him. What a difference it will make if he steadily bear the same in mind! Let him act accordingly. Let the known presence of Christ serve both as a bridle upon the flesh, and as a spur to his zeal. The priests “bearing the trumpets” at once identifies them as adumbrating ministers of the Gospel sounding forth their imperative message. “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show My people their transgressions” ( Isaiah 58:1). “I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet” ( Jeremiah 6:17). “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain” ( Joel 2:10).
The sounding of the trumpets by the priests on this occasion had a twofold design: to strike terror into the hearts of the Canaanites: to inspire with courage and confidence the people of God. And that is the twofold work of Christ’s servants.
First , to solemnly declare the revealed wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men ( Romans 1:18): to announce His war against those who continue in sin: to boldly declare “he that believeth not shall be damned.” Thus did the supreme Gospeler: Matthew 11:23,24; John 3:18, 36!
Second , to strengthen the hearts of God’s people: “And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets, and ye shall be remembered before the Lord your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies” ( Numbers 10:9). “And it shall be when ye are come nigh to the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people, and shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you” ( Deuteronomy 20:2,4). hus is the preacher to encourage the saints in their conflict with the flesh, the world, and the devil. “And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said unto them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord. And he said unto the people, Pass on and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the Lord” ( Joshua 6:6,7).
Lack of space prevented the completion of our remarks upon these two verses in our last. There we dwelt at length upon the former one, and sought to show that Israel’s priests, on this occasion, shadowed forth the ministers of the Gospel, and how that the appointed (spiritual) weapons of their “warfare are made mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds” ( 2 Corinthians 10:4). Care needs to be taken against carnalizing that expression and interpreting it in a manner unwarranted by the Analogy of Faith. It is not the Gospel converting people en masse (in a body) — “Glasgow for Christ,” “Chicago for Christ,” as Arminian slogans express it — but the delivering of individual souls from that powerful “refuge of lies” in which the natural man is entrenched. The meaning of 2 Corinthians 10:4, is explained in the next verse: “Casting down imaginations [or “reasongings”] and every high thing that exalteth itself against God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” ( 2 Corinthians 10:5).
The heart of the natural man is stoutly opposed to God, being filled with enmity against Him. It is fortified by the love of sin against every appeal unto holiness. The unregenerate are so inured and hardened by habit and practice that the Holy Spirit declares “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil’ ( Jeremiah 13:23). Their wills are enslaved, so that they “will not come to Christ” ( John 5:40). They are steeled against both the terrors of the Law and the attractions of the Gospel. Furthermore they are the captives of the devil ( Luke 11:21; 2 Timothy 2:26), and are unable to emancipate themselves. Naught but a miracle of grace can free them, and the means used by the Spirit in accomplishing that miracle is the preached Word, effectually applied to the heart by His power. Then is the proud rebel humbled into the dust before God, delivered from the dominion of sin and Satan, transformed into a loving and loyal subject of Christ.
In the seventh verse of Joshua 6, instructions were given to the people. On this occasion they were to accompany the priests! When crossing the Jordan the priests went “before the people” ( Joshua 3:6), and stood alone “in the midst of Jordan” until “all the people had passed over” ( Joshua 4:20). There they foreshadowed our great High Priest, who “by Himself” opened a way through death for His people (see Chapter Six).
But here the priests typified the servants of Christ, as engaged on their evangelistic labors. Consequently the hosts of Israel must now accompany them. What a word is that for the rank and the of the people of God today!
Only too often has the minister of the Gospel to go forth alone. He does not receive that moral and spiritual support to which he is entitled, and which he so much needs. No wonder so many faithful preachers are discouraged when the prayer-meetings are so thinly attended, and when so few are holding up their hands at the throne of grace! O that it may please God to use this paragraph in stirring up professing Christians to be more definite and fervent in praying for all godly ministers. Only a preacher knows what difference it makes to have the assurance that the hearts of his people are with him! “And it came to pass, when Joshua had spoken unto the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns passed on before the Lord, and blew with the trumpets: and the ark of the covenant of the Lord followed them” (verse 8).
Observe, first, how precise is the time-mark here of the priests’ action: they did not move forward until the people had taken their allotted position according to the instructions they had received from their leader. There was to be conjoint action: the priests accompanied by the people — exemplifying what we have said in the above paragraph. Second, since there is nothing meaningless or superfluous in Holy Writ, note how the Spirit has again emphasized the rude nature of the priests’ “trumpets.” No less than five times in this chapter are we told that those employed on this occasion were made of “rams’ horns” — a cruder or meaner material could scarcely be imagined. They were in designed and striking contrast with the “trumpets of silver” which were normally used in the camp of Israel ( Numbers 10:1-10). It was God pouring contempt on the means used — those which were despicable in the eyes of men — that Israel’s pride might be stained and Himself glorified, for His strength is ever made perfect through weakness.
Bearing in mind that Israel’s priests here foreshadowed the true servants of Christ, their using trumpets of rams’ horns is deeply significant, albeit, very distasteful to that pride of heart which glories in the flesh. It not only emphasized the feebleness of the means used by God in accomplishing His purpose of grace, namely, that it hath pleased Him “by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” ( Corinthians 1:21), but also indicated the type of men God deigns to employ as His mouthpieces. When our Lord chose the men who were to be His apostles and ambassadors, He selected not those who occupied eminent stations in the world, nor those who had passed through the schools of learning, but unlettered fishermen and a despised tax-gatherer — that was the antitype of “the rams’ horns” in contrast with “the trumpets of silver” — men of lowly origin, despised by those who are great and wise in their own eyes!
To effect the mightiest of all works, God employs what is to the mind of the natural man the most inadequate means, in order that His wisdom and power may be the more apparent. The Gospel does not depend for its success on human wisdom — a fact lost sight of by the churches today.
That same flesh-withering truth is dearly expressed in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31, though few have perceived it. The immediate design of the apostle in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2 was to show that the great and grand change wrought in the hearts of believers is not to be ascribed to any wisdom or power possessed by the preacher (who is hut a channel through which God condescends to work), but is to be attributed wholly to the Divine grace in making his message effectual. The Corinthians were glorying in human instruments, setting up one against another (see Joshua 1:12), and the apostle shows how utterly baseless and foolish was such glorying. He pointed out that it was not the learning of Paul nor the eloquence of Apollos which could convert a soul, but that God must, from beginning to end, accomplish the same. This he demonstrates by describing the type of instruments which He makes to be vehicles of blessing unto sinners. “For ye see your calling, brethren [i.e. ye perceive from your own calling out of darkness into God’s marvelous light], that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble” — “are employed” (by God) is a far better and more pertinent supplement than “are called.” “But God hath chosen [for His servants] the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen; and things which are not [nonentities, nobodies] to bring to naught the things that are.” Thus, verses 26-28 are to be connected with the whole context, and not simply with verses 24, 25. In them we behold again “the trumpets of rams’ horns” — God employing instruments which appear utterly inadequate to carnal reason. That interpretation is clearly confirmed by “that no flesh should glory in His presence,” for the Corinthians were not glorying in themselves, but in their ministers ( Joshua 1:12; 3:4)! It is clinched by the next words: “But of Him [and not by Paul, or Apollos, or any worm of the earth] are ye in Christ Jesus” (verse 30). Thus, Paul was showing that it was not through learned philosophers nor highly trained rabbins that the Corinthians had heard the Gospel of their salvation, but rather through those whom both the one and the other regarded with contempt. If further corroboration be needed, verse 31 supplies it!
God is jealous of His honor and will not share it with another. It pleases Him, as a general rule, to select for His instruments those who have no glittering accomplishments: rather, plain, simple, homely men. It is not silver-tongued orators through whom He most shows forth His praises, but by those who have nothing more, naturally, to commend them unto their hearers than that which resembles the “rams’ horns”! His most eminent servants have not been those of royal blood, noble birth, or high station, but taken from the lower walks of life. Luther, the principal agent used by God in the mighty Reformation, was the son of a miner. Bunyan was but a tinker, yet his book Pilgrim’s Progress has been translated into more languages, had a much wider circulation, and been used in blessing to a far greater number of souls, than all the writings put together of the learned Owen and Goodwin! Spurgeon had neither university nor college training, nor was he a graduate of any seminary! Though after God’s call to the ministry, each of them studied hard and long to improve himself! In proportion as the churches have made an idol of education and theological learning in their ministers, has their spirituality waned: that is a fact, however unpalatable it may be.
There is a third thing in verse 8 which claims our notice, namely, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns “passed on before the Lord.” This is generally understood to mean that they preceded the ark, but that can scarcely be its significance, unless we are ready to conclude there is needless tautology here, for the same verse ends by declaring “and the ark of the covenant of the Lord followed them.” What then is imported by they “passed on before the Lord”? It is very much more than a bare historical detail, which has no relation unto us today — alas that so few search for the present application to themselves of all in the Bible. There is that here which the servants of Christ need to observe and take to heart: something of vital importance and blessedness. That brief statement reveals to us the inward condition of the priests. It expressed their attitude unto Jehovah, and the Spirit of Truth delighted to record the same. Man looketh on the outward appearance but God looketh on the heart; and the hearts of Israel’s priests were engaged with Him, and they comported themselves accordingly. By carefully comparing Scripture with Scripture we may ascertain the meaning of this clause.
In Genesis 5:24, we are told that “Enoch walked with God.” In Samuel 2:21, that “the child Samuel grew before the Lord.” In Deuteronomy 13:4, that Israel were bidden to “walk after the Lord their God.” While in’ Colossians 2:6, Christians are exhorted “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him.” In those four prepositions we have an outline of the whole privilege and duty of the saint in his relation to God. To “walk with God” is only possible unto one who has been reconciled to Him, for “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” ( Amos 3:2). Thus it is expressive of holy communion with God. To go or walk “before the Lord” is to conduct ourselves in the realization that all our actions are being scrutinized by Him: “For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He pondereth all his goings” ( Proverbs 5:21).
Thus it is expressive of holy fear. To walk “after the Lord” is to live in complete subjection to His revealed will: “And the king stood in his place and made a covenant before the Lord, to walk after the Lord, and to keep His commandments, and His testimonies, and His statutes, with all his heart and with all his soul” ( 2 Chronicles 34:31).
There it is expressive of unreserved obedience. To “walk in Christ” is expressive of union, like a branch in the vine, and signifies to live by His enablement, strengthened by Him, “rooted and built up in Him” as Colossians 2:27, explains it.
But the one passage which more expressly explains these words of the priests passing on “before the Lord” is Genesis 17:1, when He said unto Abraham “I am the Almighty God: walk before Me, and be thou upright.”
That was said, first, by way of rebuke, right after his impatient and carnal conduct with Hagar. Second, that was said for his instruction and encouragement: to show him that there was no occasion for taking matters into his own hands. The Lord now made known Himself to Abraham as “The Almighty” — El Shaddai — the fully competent One, able to supply all his need, without the patriarch resorting to any fleshly devices. In view of which Abraham was bidden to “walk before Me and be thou upright”: that is, count upon My infinite resources. Thus, when it is said that Israel’s priests “passed on before the Lord,” the meaning is that they acted in complete dependence upon God’s all-sufficiency, confidently counting upon His undertaking for them. In the light of Proverbs 5:21, it signifies too that they moved forward in God’s fear, conscious that His eye was upon them, and therefore they dared not depart from the orders which He had given them.
Let every preacher who reads this article endeavor to recognize that this too has been recorded for his learning, his guidance, his encouragement.
Let him seek to realize, first, that he is beneath the all-seeing eye of his Master: that his actions are “before the eyes of the Lord, and He pondereth all his ways.” Let him bear that in mind while he is out of the pulpit: that the One to whom he must yet render an account of his stewardship takes note whether he is an idler and slacker, or one who faithfully devotes his time to prayer and study, and not only to “sermon preparation.” And, second, let him view by faith the all-sufficiency of the One before whom he walks, refusing to depart from His instructions, confidently counting upon Him fulfilling His purpose by and through him. Let him constantly call to mind that He is none other than “the Almighty,” the self-sufficient Jehovah.
No other provider, no other protector is needed. It was because Abraham forgot that that he stooped to fleshly devices; and when we forget it, we are very apt to depart from His rule and resort to carnal methods. It is distrust of God which lies behind the fleshly and worldly devices now so commonly employed in the churches. “And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rearward came after the ark, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets” (verse 9).
Here our attention is directed away from the priests unto the remainder of the children of Israel, and they are divided into two companies — those who went before, and those who followed behind the ark of the covenant.
The ones taking the lead consisted of the fighting force, who were to advance when the walls of Jericho fell down and slay those within the city This arrangement originated not in the mind of Joshua, for at no point was he required to lean unto his own understanding. The Lord had previously given orders through Moses that the fighting men of the tribes of Reuben and Gad should “go armed before the Lord to war... until He had driven out His enemies from before Him” ( Numbers 32:20,21).
It was in obedience thereto that Joshua here acted. As the margin more correctly renders, it was the “gathering host” of Israel who made up the rearward. In that twofold division we may find a hint that only a few of the Lord’s people are possessed of a courageous spirit and prepared to show a bold front to the enemy. “And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make your voice to be heard, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout” ( Joshua 6:10).
Here is the third item in the instructions which Joshua gave to “the people.” First, they had been bidden to “compass the city”; and second, the armed men among them to “pass on before the ark of the Lord” (verse 7); now they are enjoined to maintain strict silence as the long procession wended its way around Jericho. Very precisely and emphatically was this order worded: its threefold prohibition reminding us of the repeated interdiction of Proverbs 4:14,15, “Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. Avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away.” There is no excuse for ignorance of the Divine will: the things which God forbids us doing are as plainly stated in His Word as those which He requires of us.
No explanation was given the people, but simply the bare command: sufficient for them that so God required. Pondering it in the light of Scripture, several reasons for it and significations of it may be suggested.
First and more generally, this injunction for the people to preserve complete silence constituted a test of their obedience — made the more real by their not being told why such an imposition was necessary. For the mouths of such a vast multitude to be sealed during the entire march around the city was no small test of their subjection unto the revealed will of Jehovah. Second and more specifically, such decorous silence well became them on this occasion. Why so? Because God was in their midst, and He is “greatly to be feared in the assembly of His saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about Him” ( Psalm 89:7) — a verse which many preachers today need to press upon their congregations, among whom much irreverence obtains in the house of prayer. If the seraphim veil their faces before the Lord, how reverent should be our worship!
The “ark of the covenant” was the symbol of the Lord’s presence, and its being in Israel’s midst on this occasion required that they conduct themselves with the utmost propriety. God was about to speak loudly to the Canaanites in judgment, and it was therefore fitting that every human voice should be stilled. There is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” ( Ecclesiastes 3:7). When Pharaoh and his hosts were pursuing the children of Israel, and they were confronted by the Red Sea, they were told, “The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace” ( Exodus 14:14).
The case was a parallel one here: Jehovah was about to lay bare His mighty arm and show Himself strong on behalf of His people, and it was meet that they should be still before Him, in reverent expectation of the event. It was a case of “hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord God, for the day of the Lord [when He acts in an extraordinary manner] is at hand” ( Zephaniah 1:7); “Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord; for He is raised up out of His holy habitation” ( Zechariah 2:13).
The profound silence observed by Israel’s hosts added impressively to the gravity and solemnity of their procession.
Again; Israel’s being forbidden to open their mouths on this occasion supplied another illustration and exemplification of the difference which marks the ways of God from man’s. We are aware that some are likely to regard that statement as a trite platitude, yet they are probably the very ones who most need to be reminded of it here, for they are the least affected and influenced by it. God’s work is to be done in His appointed way: but instead of that, much of what now pretends to be “His work” is being done in the world’s way. God works silently, whether it be in creation, providence, or grace. Vegetation makes no noise in the process of its growth. God’s government, both of individuals and nations, is wrought secretly. The miracle of regeneration is not perceptible to our senses, though its effects and fruits soon become apparent. So it is in His dealings with our souls’ the Lord is not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the “still small voice” ( 1 Kings 19:11,12). We too should go about our appointed tasks in the same calmness’ “a meek and quiet spirit” is of “great price” in His sight ( 1 Peter 3:4).
Third, the silence required of “the people” on this occasion supplied another important line in the typical picture furnished by this incident - though one which certainly will not appeal to many in present-day Christendom. Israel’s capture of Jericho unmistakably pre-figured the victories achieved, under God, by the Gospel. The priests blowing with the trumpets of rams’ horns pictured the servants of God preaching His Word.
The forbidding of “the people” to open their mouths signified that the rank and the of Christians are to have no part in the oral proclamation of the Truth — they are neither qualified for nor called to the ministration of the Word. Nowhere in the Epistles is there a single exhortation for the saints as such to engage in public evangelism, nor even to do “personal work” and seek to be “soul winners.” Rather are they required to “witness for Christ” by their daily conduct in business and in the home. They are to “show forth” God’s praises, rather than tell them forth. They are to let their light shine. The testimony of the life is far more effectual than glib utterances of the lips. Actions speak louder than words.
How vastly different was the typical scene presented here in Joshua 6 from that which is now beheld in the so-called “evangelism” of our day! Here everything was orderly, decorous and reverent. “The people” in the rear’ “the ark of the covenant” — symbol of the Lord’s presence — in the midst: the “seven priests” blowing with their trumpets: the “armed men in front. The absolute silence of all the hosts of Israel — so utterly different from the war cries to which they were accustomed — must have deeply impressed the citizens of Jericho. But not only is there the marked absence of that dignified silence, gravity, solemnity, and reverence, which befits all gatherings that are professedly engaged in Divine worship, but modern “evangelism” is characterized by that which is noisy, vulgar, and carnally exciting. How different the self-advertised “evangelists” of this decadent age from the supreme Evangelist, who “suffered not the demons to speak, because they knew Him,” and who said to the cleansed leper “See thou say nothing to any man” ( Mark 1:34,42)! “So the ark of the Lord compassed the city, going about it once” (verse 11).
And what follows? Therefore its walls at once fell down? No; “and they came into the camp and lodged in the camp.” Then they had all their trouble for nothing! No indeed. But nothing happened: they were no forwarder, but just where they were previously! That is estimating things by sight, and is an erroneous conclusion. Much had happened. That which is of supreme importance had been accomplished. God had been honored and glorified! How so? By the implicit obedience of Joshua, of the priests, of the congregation of Israel. O that both ministers and laymen were more thoroughly convinced that nothing honors God so much as our obedience. “To obey is better than sacrifice” ( 1 Samuel 15:22) — the most lavish offering is unacceptable to God unless it be made by one whose will is subject to His. Attending meetings, contributing generously to His cause, busying ourselves in what is wrongly termed ‘Christian service,” is worthless — yea, a species of hypocrisy — if we be not walking in the path of the Divine precepts.
Unless what has just been said be laid to heart by both the public servants of God and private Christians, the most important lessons of this incident will be missed. As was pointed out in our last, the preacher who most honors Christ is not the one who produces the largest “visible results,” but he who sticks the closest to His commission and preaches the Word most faithfully. So with the saints. The Christian housewife who discharges her God-given duties in the home and the domestic in the kitchen who conscientiously performs her menial tasks are as pleasing and glorifying to Christ as the most self-denying missionary in the foreign field. What is the one outstanding excellence in the Savior’s life and work which the Holy Spirit has emphasized more than any other? Is it not that His meat and drink was to do the will of Him that sent Him ( John 4:34)! That there was no limit in His subjection to the Father’s authority, that He “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” ( Philippians 2:8)!
Say not that nothing was accomplished by Israel here, but admire their God-honoring obedience, and seek to emulate them. “And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord” (verse 12).
Nothing escapes the all-seeing eye of the One with whom we have to do.
In human estimation this may appear a very trivial detail, nevertheless it is one which the Holy Spirit delighted to notice and place upon imperishable record. Why so? Because it marked the diligence, fidelity and zeal of those servants of the Lord. Why so? Because they also inculcated yet another lesson which ministers of the Gospel need to heed. They are expressly bidden to study and show themselves “approved unto God, workmen who needeth not to be ashamed” ( 2 Timothy 2:15).
Slackness and slothfulness ill become those who claim to be the ambassadors of Him who rose up “a great while before day” ( Mark 1:35) and “early in the morning He came again into the temple” to teach the people ( John 8:2). That searching question of His, “what do ye more than others?” ( Matthew 5:47), is capable of many legitimate applications — not least to the preacher. Does he spend fewer or more hours per day in his study than do those who work for their daily bread! “And seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord went on continually, and blew with the trumpets; and the armed men went before them, but the rearward came after the ark of the Lord, the priests going on and blowing with the trumpets” (verse 13).
The Hebrew word for “trumpet” (shophar) has its first occurrence in Exodus 19:16,19, where its loud blast was used to awe the nation at Sinai: highly significant is the fact that it is mentioned just fourteen times here in Joshua 6: 7X2, or the number of perfect witness. The word for “rams’ horns” (yobel) is the one used throughout Leviticus 25, where twenty times it is rendered “jubilee,” so that as an alternative to “trumpets of rams’ horns” it would be equally permissible to say “trumpets of jubilee.” In the year of jubilee all slaves were released and given their freedom, and all alienated estates were restored to their original owners. In view of the oft-repeated “ye shall return every man unto his possession” ( Leviticus 25:11,13,27,28) and “the land of your possession” (verse 27) we perceive the significance and appropriateness of the sounding of “trumpets of jubilee” as Israel now began to possess their inheritance.
In that double meaning and purpose of the priests’ “trumpets of rams’ horns” we have clearly intimated the nature of that twofold work to which God has appointed His servants. Those trumpets had a mission and a ministry both unto the Canaanites and to Israel: the one were to be awed and affrighted, the other to be cheered and comforted. By faithfully preaching the holiness of God, the demands of His Law, the sinfulness of sin, and the reality of its awful wages, the minister of the Gospel is to strike terror into the hearts of the ungodly ( 2 Corinthians 5:10), urging them to “flee from the wrath to come.” Unto those who give evidence that they have forsaken their wicked ways and believed the Gospel, it is his privilege and duty to strengthen their faith and gladden their hearts by announcing to them the liberty which they have in Christ and the nature of that glorious inheritance which He purchased for them. In other words, to proclaim the grand jubilee tidings, so that assurance and joy may be the present portion of the redeemed. It is in the Epistles that the blessed contents of the Gospel are most fully unfolded to the saints. “And the second day they compassed the city once, and returned into the camp” (verse 14).
A careful reading of the context shows that while Divine assurance had been made unto Joshua himself that the Lord had given Jericho into his hand, yet he made no mention of this when giving orders to either the priests, the people, or the armed men: all were to act in what the world terms “blind obedience” — without any promise of reward. It is also to be duly noted that while Joshua had been informed by God how many days and times the enemy’s stronghold must be encircled before its walls should supernaturally collapse (verses 3-5), he kept this knowledge to himself, leaving all under him in ignorance of how long this strange method of procedure was to be continued. The absence of such information made an additional demand upon the faith and obedience of Israel on this occasion.
After making one complete circuit of the city, the holy ark of Jehovah being carried aloft in their midst, and all the host had returned to their camp without any tangible result, it is much to their credit that they repeated the whole performance a second time. Yet still there was not the slightest sign of God’s appearing on their behalf!
How striking then are the closing words of verse 14: “so they did six days”! After a second and third encompassing of Jericho, without any apparent success, little wonder had the people complained and said, What is the use of prolonging this business? Admire then their persistency. How different was this generation from their forefathers in the wilderness, who so quickly became discouraged and murmured against their leader! — and never possessed their heritage! In contrast, their sons vowed unto Joshua, “All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us we will go” ( Joshua 1:16), and faithfully did they keep their word. This too has been recorded for our instruction and for our encouragement. Was there not a time, fellowminister, when Christ made Himself known and you asked “Lord, what wouldest Thou have me do?” Did He not in His condescending grace answer “Son, go work today in My vineyard”? When you received His call to devote the whole of your time and talents to His service, did you not promise to spend and be spent in the same? Then be not weary in well doing, for in due season ye shall reap, if ye faint not.
However impetuous be our spirit, the Lord is never in a hurry, and we are required to wait His leisure. Every dispensation of God has its prefixed period: as the mercy itself, equally so the timing of the mercy, is wholly in God’s hand. “The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry ‘ ( Habakkuk 2:3). It is not at our beck and call: we can neither hasten nor retard the Almighty. “He that believeth shall not make haste” ( Isaiah 28:16), but continue steadfast in the performance of duty.
We must neither fail through discouragement, nor adopt means of our own in order to speed the issue. Two things are required of us: adhering strictly to the directions which God has given us, trustfully and hopefully waiting His blessing on the same. Patience must have her perfect work. Thus it was with Israel here. They fainted not because the walls of Jericho fell not the first or second, nor even the fifth or sixth day; nor did they take matters into their own hands and resort to another method. Rather did they “Wait on the Lord, and keep His way” ( Psalm 37:34). “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him” ( Psalm 37:7) was the grand lesson inculcated by this incident. Confide in the Lord’s goodness, count upon His power, submit fully to His authority, or there will be no waiting for Him. Israel must have implicit trust in the One who had given them their instructions through Joshua. And so must we. We are to wait in obedience as servants, and in expectation as believers. A desirous expectation concerning the future must be subordinated to a meek submission to God’s will in the present. “Wait on the Lord, and keep His way, and He shall exalt thee to inhabit the land” ( Psalm 37:34).
It is failure to “wait on the Lord” — through giving way to the feverish flesh — which causes us to depart from “His way”! Those who are in too great a hurry to acquire things take “short cuts” which God has not appointed; but such who act in unholy haste are sure to repent at leisure.
But if we patiently tarry for God’s time, then we shall confine ourselves to those means which He has assigned. Let preacher and layman alike lay hold of that promise, “they shall not be ashamed [or “confounded”] that wait for Me” ( Isaiah 49:23). “And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times” (verse 15).
What a demand upon their faith, obedience, and patience was this! After their apparently fruitless effort of marching around Jericho once a day for no less than six days, now they were required not only to do the same on the seventh day, but to then repeat the performance no less than seven times more! And note well those words “after the same manner.” There was to be no change of procedure: seeming failure did not warrant them in adopting other measures: they must adhere strictly to the Divine directions unto the end. What a needful lesson is there pointed for us! Not only was their testing protracted, but it became increasingly severe. Once a day for six days had been unavailing; and six times more on the seventh day passed without any Divine intervention; yet still they persevered! What cause for shame that we become discouraged so easily and faint so quickly!
A brief word needs to be said about the repeated occurrence of the number seven here: the seven priests, the seven trumpets, the seven days, and the seven encirclements of Jericho on the seventh day cannot be without some design and significance. The best comment we have seen thereon is John Owen’s: “The compassing of the city once every day for six days, and the entrance into it on the seventh, had respect unto the work of the creation.
For God was now entering into His rest with respect unto. His worship, in a new way of settlement and solemnity, such as He had not erected or made use of from the beginning of the world. Hence He frequently calls it ‘His rest’ ( Psalm 95:11; 132:8, 14; Hebrews 3:11; 4:3, 11). And it was a type of the new creation, with the rest of Christ thereon, and of believers in Him. Therefore would God give here a resemblance of the first work of the labor of the six days, and the reward they received on the seventh.”
THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH “And it came to pass on the seventh day that they rose up about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times” ( Joshua 6:15).
Israel was now put to a more exacting test than hitherto: once a day they had marched around Jericho for six consecutive days, but on the seventh they must do so no less than seven times. That illustrates a principle in the ways of God. In His dealings with His people the Lord develops their graces by submitting them to a variety of trials, which are harder and harder to bear. Was it not thus with “the father of all them that believe” ( Romans 4:11)? First, Abraham was called upon to leave his native land, and go forth not knowing whither. Then, after receiving promise from God of a son, his wife for many years remained barren. Finally, when the son was given and grown, the patriarch was bidden to offer him for a burnt offering. Do not expect your path to become easier, but rather that trials will be more severe. Why so? That the sufficiency of God’s grace may be known.
Seek to visualize the course followed by Israel on this occasion: project yourself in spirit among them: remember they were “men of like passions with you. For six days they had apparently made fools of themselves before the eyes of the Canaanites, and they did so unmurmuringly. Six times more they repeated the process, yet without any Divine intervention or the slightest outward sign of success! The powerful walls of Jericho stood as firm as ever! What was the use of making still another journey around them when twelve had produced no tangible results? But they made no demur, nor declined such a seemingly senseless waste of time and energy. Instead, they carried out their orders. That is the most remarkable example of united obedience recorded in the Scriptures — emphasized here by the Spirit’s telling us twice in this verse that “they compassed the city seven times.” Admire then the grace of God which wrought so gloriously in and through them. He it was who subdued their corruptions and made them willing in the day of His power. Though trials increase in severity, so increased grace is given to bear them!
Here, as ever in Scripture, we should discern a blessed conjunction of the Divine and the human, and the latter concurring with the former. God wrought secretly by imparting to them the inclination and the impulse; they exercising the same by obedient action. Though a much more severe test was made of them on this seventh day, it is expressly recorded that “they rose early about the dawning of the day.” That is the spirit in which to approach our tasks and perform our duties: with earnestness and enthusiasm, and not reluctantly and tardily. The more unpleasant the task, the sooner should it be tackled and disposed of. The harder be the duty, the more energetically should it be discharged. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” ( Ecclesiastes 9:10).
This is not the time for the Christian to take his ease: he must “labor” before he enters into his rest ( Hebrews 4:11). He is not called to picnic, but to “fight the good fight of faith,” and that implies strong opposition, and calls for the putting forth of all that is within us, if victory is to be ours. “And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout, for the Lord hath given you the city” (verse 16).
Note well when that promise was made to Israel. Not until they had fully discharged their duty, not until their obedience and patience had been severely tested, only after they had completed twelve circuits of the city, were they assured that God would deliver it into their hands. Does not that fact suggest that we make too much of the promises, or rather too little of the precepts to which they are attached? There has been a deplorable lack of balance at this point on the part of many preachers and writers.
Comforting passages have been taken from their setting, and promises severed from the conditions by which they are qualified. The consoling of saints rather than the honoring of God is too often the aim of the pulpit.
The manifestation of “good works” ( Matthew 5:16) and the bearing of “much fruit” in our lives ( John 15:8) are what most glorifies the Father. “And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout.” Previously they had been enjoined to preserve strict silence (verse 10). They were not to shout at their own caprice or pleasure, but only as and when their leader bade them — they must be completely subservient to his orders. Now the time had come for them to give one loud concerted shout. Why so? To indicate the victory was sure. But this latter command was a harder one than the former. The injunction to maintain a decorous silence was but a test of their morale; but this order for them to give a grand and general shout made a very real demand upon their faith and obedience, for it was to be made while the fortress still stood intact before them! Easy enough to shout after the victory; but this was to be given in assured anticipation of the same. It was faith’s shout of conquest. It had been prophetically announced by Balaam, when he was moved to say of Israel, “the Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them” ( Numbers 23:21). “And the city shall be accursed devoted [“devoted” — margin] even it and all that are therein to the Lord: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent” (verse 17).
This brings before us the dark side of the picture with the sole exception of Rahab and her family all within Jericho were doomed. They were accursed, being idolaters and flagrantly wicked. As such they were “devoted to the Lord,” that is, set apart unto destruction, to the praise of the glory of His justice. “The Lord hath made all things for Himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” ( Proverbs 16:4).
True, God hath made a difference between them according to His purpose of election, yet, whether this one was “chosen to salvation” ( Thessalonians 2:13) or that one was “before of old ordained to this condemnation” ( Jude 1:4), both alike were created for the Divine glory.
In the former, God makes manifest the riches of His mercy; in the latter, He displays the purity of His holiness and the verity of His righteousness.
God’s burning hatred against sin and His power to execute vengeance on all accursed to Him were solemnly demonstrated here at Jericho. “And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse and trouble it. But all the silver and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord: they shall come into the treasury of the Lord” (verses 18, 19).
Their being forbidden to enrich themselves by any of the spoils of war was a further testing of Israel’s obedience. Thereby they were taught not to set their hearts upon worldly wealth, nor heap up an abundance of it for themselves. As Matthew Henry pointed out, God had promised them a land flowing with milk and honey, not a land abounding with silver and gold, for He would have them live comfortably in it that they might serve Him cheerfully, but not covet either to trade with distant countries, or to hoard for after time.” There was a special reason for this prohibition being laid upon Israel here (for we do not find it repeated subsequently) namely, that Jericho was the first fruits of Canaan, and therefore it was most fitting that it should be entirely devoted unto the Lord, and its treasures consecrated unto Him.
It is to be duly noted that Joshua was not acting on his own initiative nor was he prompted by his own understanding when he proscribed the possessions of the Canaanites, for Moses had given express orders, “The graven images of their gods shall ye burn with fire: thou shalt not desire the silver and gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein: for it is an abomination to the Lord thy God. Neither shalt thou bring an abomination into thine house, lest thou be a cursed thing like it; but thou shalt utterly detest it, and thou shalt utterly abhor it” ( Deuteronomy 7:25,26).
There we see once again how Joshua was in all things, like his Antitype, regulated by Divine Law. Let us also point out how that this prohibition supplied yet another line in the typical picture which the capture of Jericho presents to us: when success attends the efforts of Christ’s servants, they must be particularly on their guard against taking any credit unto themselves: all the glory must be ascribed to God alone! “So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets.
And it came to pass when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the walls of Jericho fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city” (verse 20).
Here was the grand reward of Israel’s courage, obedience and patience.
Looking at it from one viewpoint, it must be said that the walls of Jericho fell down by the alone act of God, for no human hand or power contributed to it in the least. Yet from another viewpoint, the miracle may be justly attributed unto Israel: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were compassed about seven days” ( Hebrews 11:30).
From yet another angle it is equally permissible and correct to say that Jericho fell in response to their implicit obedience. Nor is there the slightest inconsistency in those three statements: far from being contradictory, they are complementary if preserved in the above order. Though He certainly is not restricted thereto, yet God is pleased, generally, to work in response to the faith and obedience of His people.
It is a very serious mistake to suppose that faith is restricted to a resting upon God’s promises: it is equally to be exercised in complying with His precepts. Trusting God is only one part of faith’s work. It is far too little recognized that conforming to God’s revealed will is also required of faith.
Faith always has to do with God: He is its Object and His Word is its Rule and Regulator. It was by faith that Noah and his family were delivered from the flood, yet it was because he took to heart the warning God gave him, and being moved with fear complied with His directions and “prepared an ark to the saving of his house” ( Hebrews 11:7). It was by faith that Abraham received the land of Canaan for an inheritance, yet in order thereto, when. he was called to leave his home he “obeyed and went out not knowing whither he went” ( Hebrews 11:8). The man after God’s own heart did something more than confide in Him: “I have believed Thy commandments” ( <19B966> Psalm 119:66) he declared. The Divine commandments, equally with the Divine promises, were the objects of his faith. Are they of your faith, my reader? “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days” ( Hebrews 11:30).
For the benefit of the many young preachers who take this magazine we propose to sermonize that verse, and at the same time summarize what has been before us in Joshua 6. Let us consider the daring of their faith. When Israel crossed the Jordan, they, as it were, burned all their bridges and boats behind them. It was not only the “armed men,” but the whole congregation which was involved. Flight was impossible, and there was no fortress in which to shelter, nor even houses to which they could retire.
They were now in the enemy’s territory, completely exposed to him. To advance unto Jericho and to march quietly around its walls (within which were “men of valor” — verse l) seemed a perilous undertaking, for what was to hinder the Canaanites from shooting at them, or casting down rocks upon them? It was truly an adventure of faith, and it is adventuresome faith which God delights to honor. Unbelief is hesitant and timorous, but daring faith is confident and courageous. “The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion” ( Proverbs 28:1).
O to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might.
There are three degrees of faith. There is a faith which reposes on the truth of the Gospel, when the weary and heavy-laden sinner comes to Christ and rests his soul upon His atoning sacrifice. There is a faith which reckons, counting upon the veracity and fidelity of God to fulfill His promises and undertake for us ( Romans 4:21; 2 Timothy 1:12). There is also a faith which risks, which dares something for the Lord. That kind of faith was exemplified by Moses when he ventured to confront the king of Egypt, and make known to him Jehovah’s demands. This daring faith was manifested by David, when with naught but a sling and some pebbles he went forth and engaged the mighty Goliath. It was demonstrated by Elijah, when single-handed he contested with the hosts of Jezebel’s false prophets on Mount Carmel. We see it again in Daniel, when he dared to be cast into the den of lions rather than comply with the idolatrous edict of Babylon’s king; and when his three fellows refused to be intimidated by the fiery furnace. We behold it again and again in the ministry and journeys of the apostle Paul, who shrank not from perils of every conceivable kind, that he might preach the unsearchable riches of Christ.
In the sequel to each of the above cases, we behold how God honored those trusting and brave hearts. God may indeed severely try, but in the end it will be seen that He never confounds or puts to shame those whose eyes are fixed steadfastly upon Himself, seeking His glory. It is venturesome faith which He ever delights to reward. When those who carried the man sick of the palsy were unable to get near Christ because of the press, and therefore broke through the roof and lowered the sufferer, so far from charging them with impudence or presumption “when Jesus saw their faith” He owned the same by healing the sick man ( Mark 2:5).
When Peter essayed to walk unto Him upon the sea, Christ rebuked him not for his rashness, but because his faith wavered. Luther would not be deterred by his friends from going to Worms, saying he would do so though every the on its houses were a devil. George Muller feared not to count upon God to feed and clothe his two thousand orphans, refusing to make an appeal (direct or indirect) for funds. How such examples shame the churches today! How few are prepared to risk anything in the Lord’s service!
Consider next the obedience of Israel’s faith — here the most prominent feature of all. Joshua himself, the priests, the armed men, the body of the people, carried out all their directions to the letter. The method prescribed and the means appointed not only appeared to be utterly inadequate to reason, but senseless; nevertheless they were strictly complied with. To do nothing more than walk around the powerful walls of Jericho and for the priests to blow upon their trumpets of rams’ horns, seemed a childish and ridiculous performance, yet that was what they had been bidden to do.
Unquestioning submission to God’s revealed will, an exact carrying out of His instructions. employing none other than those means which He has assigned, is what God requires from us, both in the performance of our daily duties and in that which pertains more especially to His worship and service. We are forbidden to lean unto our own understandings or resort unto our own devices. God has plainly declared His mind unto us in the Holy Scriptures, and they are to be the alone Rule and Regulator of all our actions. Implicit obedience unto the Lord is absolutely essential if we are to have His blessing upon our efforts.
Reader, the Divine commandments and precepts often appear strange unto fleshly wisdom. How absurd did God’s order appear to the great Naaman when he was bidden to bathe his leprous body in the Jordan; yet there was no healing for him until he complied with the same. How contrary was it to all human ideas for God to send His prophet to be fed for many months by a widow who had naught but a handful of meal and a little oil; yet under Him, it proved amply sufficient. What a testing of Simon’s submission when Christ told him to let down the nets for a draught: they had toiled all night and taken nothing, yet said the apostle “nevertheless at Thy word I will let down the net” ( Luke 5:5). How unreasonable it must have seemed to the Twelve when Christ bade them tell the vast multitude to sit down and only five loaves and two little fishes were in sight! And how unreasonable does it now appear unto the majority of preachers and members to heed the call to cast away all the fleshly and worldly devices which have been brought into the churches, substituting fasting and prayer, and counting upon God to bless the preaching of His own Word. “The obedience of faith” ( Romans 16:26). Weigh well those words.
Too often has it been affirmed that obedience is an effect or fruit of faith.
Obedience is an essential element of faith: the one can no more be separated from the other than can the light and heat of the sun. Where there is no true obedience, there is no real faith God-wards. The Gospel requires obedience as truly as it does reliance, for it bids the rebel sinner throw down the weapons of his warfare against God, to repent of his wickedness, and to surrender to the Lordship and yoke of Christ. In Peter 2:21, the Gospel is designated “the Holy Commandment,” and in 2 Thessalonians 1:8, we are told that Christ will yet take vengeance upon them “that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” which goes on to give the solemn answer to that searching question “What shall the end be of them that obey not the Gospel of God?” ( 1 Peter 4:17), namely, they “shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord.” The Gospel does far more than issue an invitation to “receive Christ as a personal Savior” or offer pardon to all who do so; it first makes known the holy requirements of God for us to forsake our evil ways and submit ourselves to the just claims of Christ.
Christ “became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey Him” ( Hebrews 5:9): not simply those who trust in Him. In like manner, the Holy Spirit is by God “given to them that obey Him” ( Acts 5:22). As we began, so must we continue, and be able to say with David “Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I have believed Thy commandments” ( <19B966> Psalm 119:66).
The commandments neither sway the conscience nor incline the affections until they be received as from God. “As the promises are not believed with a lively faith unless they draw off the heart from carnal vanities to seek that happiness which they offer to us; so the precepts are not believed rightly unless we be fully resolved to acquiesce in them as the only rule to guide us in the obtaining of that happiness, and to adhere to them, and to do them” (Manton). To “believe God’s commandments” is to hear His voice in them, to submit to His authority, to have our hearts and actions governed by His revealed will in them. If we heed not God concerning our present duties, we do but deceive ourselves when we imagine we are trusting Him with respect to future privileges. We must consent to the commandments as good and blessed in themselves, and love them as issuing from our Father.
THE DISCIPLINE OF FAITH “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days” ( Hebrews 11:30).
We have reference to Joshua 6:10, where we learn that the people were commanded, “Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout.”
That injunction constituted a very real test of their morale. For all that host of Israel to preserve strict silence as they journeyed around Jericho’s walls was a severe restraint upon their natural inclinations — the more so that no explanation for the same was furnished them. There are times when to preserve silence is far harder than for us to express, what is on our minds.
The tongue is an unruly member, yet God requires us to control the exercise of it, and there are occasions when to be mute is a manifestation of grace which is honoring to Him. Such was the case when fire from the Lord devoured the presumptuous sons of Aaron, and their father “held his peace” ( Leviticus 10:3), and when David was sorely chastised by God and he was dumb, and opened not his mouth” ( Psalm 39:9)!
How often are the sinews of faith cut by the injudicious and unfriendly criticisms of those who pose as our Christian friends, who so far from encouraging us to adhere strictly to our Rule, would have us conform to this world! How often is the servant of Christ hindered by the Goddishonoring counsels and carnal suggestions of church members when he seeks to employ none but spiritual weapons! How much mischief is wrought by those who are perpetually talking about the difficulties confronting us! The soldiers of Christ must be trained: faith must be disciplined: each one in the ranks of the Lord’s hosts must learn there is “a time to keep silent and a time to speak” ( Ecclesiastes 3:7). The children of Israel must neither make any sally upon this garrison of the Canaanites, nor employ the customary war-cries of assailants, but, instead, preserve a solemn silence as in sacred procession they encompassed the city. That might have conveyed the impression that they were lacking in spirit and zeal, thereby rendering them increasingly despicable in the sight of their enemies, yet that was the manner in which they were required to conduct themselves. God delights to make use of contemptible instruments and means, that the glory may be His alone.
We turn next to consider the patience of their faith, which was conspicuously evidenced here. The walls of Jericho did not fall down the first day nor the sixth that Israel marched around them, but only “after they had been compassed about seven days.” Nor did they fall the first time they were encompassed on the seventh day, but not until after seven circuits had been made on that day. No less than thirteen journeys around them were completed before the power of God was displayed. Why so? To test their patience as well as their courage and obedience. They must be kept waiting on the Lord. “As promised deliverances must be expected in God’s way so they must be expected in God’s time” (Matthew Henry).
Israel were required to carry out the orders they had received, to persevere in the performance of duty, and leave the issue with the Lord. The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but to those who are steadfast and persistent. “It is good [though we may not think so at the time] that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation [deliverance] of the Lord” ( Lamentations 3:26).
Observe how one Scripture throws light upon another: Hebrews 11:30, does not tell us that Israel encompassed Jericho seven times on the seventh day, nor does Joshua 6 inform us that they did so “by faith.” As pointed out previously, neither the priests nor the people received any assurance from Joshua that success would attend their efforts: they are seen there simply complying strictly and patiently with the instructions they had been given. But in Hebrews 11 the Holy Spirit discloses to us that they acted in faith. But how could that be, seeing they had no promise to rest upon?
We wonder if that question presents any difficulty to the reader. We hope not, for it is a mistake to suppose there can be no faith in God unless we have some definite word from Him to warrant it. So far as Scripture acquaints us, when Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac upon the altar, he received no promise that he would be restored to him again; nevertheless, it was “by faith” he offered Isaac “accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead” ( Hebrews 11:19). David had no promise that he would slay Goliath, yet he had full confidence that God would enable him to do so. Daniel had no guarantee of deliverance from the lions, yet he “believed in his God” for protection from them ( Joshua 6:23).
Faith has to do with a known God, with One who is a living reality to the soul, with One who can be counted upon to undertake for us. It is God in His revealed character, as made known to us in His Word, God in Christ in covenant relation to us, who is the Object of faith. True, a definite promise makes it easier to act faith, yet is not the Promiser greater than the promises, as the Giver is to all His gifts! And when we are unable to locate a promise which precisely meets our particular case, that should not deter us from having implicit confidence in God Himself. When David was guilty of the terrible sins of adultery and murder, there was no sacrifice under the law available for such crimes, but he had recourse to the known mercy of God ( Psalm 51:1) — the infinite mercy of an infinite God; nor was he confounded. So with Israel before Jericho. They had for years been supernaturally fed in the wilderness, and unfailingly guided by the pillar of cloud and fire. They had witnessed the miracle-working power of Jehovah acting on their behalf in opening a way for them through the Jordan. And now they confidently counted upon His showing Himself strong in their behalf in overthrowing this mighty citadel.
Yes, it was “by faith,” in the daring and obedience of faith, they acted, trusting God to work for them. But He was pleased to put their faith to a severe proof: they were required to exercise “the patience of hope” ( Thessalonians 1:3), to persevere in the course God had appointed, expecting Him to honor the same. Yea, to repeat their performance again and again, and still without the least sign of their efforts being rewarded.
Why so? To make it the more evident that the conquest of Canaan was of the Lord and not of them. Each fruitless journey around the city made it increasingly apparent that their enemies were to be overcome not by their power but by God’s. What a lesson is there here for each of us. “My soul, wait thou only upon God, for my expectation is from Him” ( Psalm 62:5). “Therefore will the Lord wait, that He may be gracious unto you... blessed are they that wait for Him” ( Isaiah 30:18).
But is it not at that very point most of us fail the worst? How easily we become discouraged if our efforts do not meet with prompt success, or if our prayers be not speedily answered! How impatient is the flesh! “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise” ( Hebrews 10:36).
Speaking to His disciples, the Lord Jesus declared, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint” ( Luke 18:1). How much we need to take that word to heart! How often have we “fainted” when victory was almost in sight! We become discouraged when our “Jericho” does not fall the first or second time it is encompassed. Most of us find it much harder to wait than to believe, yet we prove by painful experience that our fretful impatience accomplishes no good nor speeds the desired event a single moment. Let us be more definite and earnest in begging the Holy Spirit to work this grace of patience in us, and to be “watching thereunto with all perseverance” ( Ephesians 6:18), assured that “in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
Consider for a moment the assurance of their faith — a striking proof of which was given by them in what is recorded in Joshua 6:20. There we are told, “So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets, and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat.”
Twice over in that verse does the Holy Spirit record that which was so honoring to the Lord. During all their circuits of the city, they had been bidden to maintain a complete silence, but when their obedience and patience had been fully tested, they were ordered to “shout,” for said their leader “the Lord hath given you the city” (verse 26). But mark it well, that shout must be made while the powerful walls still stood intact! It was therefore a shout of faith, of confidence in God, of full assurance that He would appear in their behalf and recompense their “patient continuance in well doing.” That shout signified their strong persuasion that victory was certain. That is what assurance consists of: an unshakable belief that God will make good His Word, a steadfast reliance that He will reward those that seek Him diligently ( Hebrews 11:6).
That concerted and loud shout of Israel before the actual event was one of confident expectation. By such assurance God is greatly glorified. Though Abraham was about a hundred years old and his wife’s womb dead, when he received promise of a son he was “fully persuaded that what God had promised He was able also to perform” ( Romans 4:21).
When the son of the woman of Shunem died, so strong was her faith that, though none had previously been restored to life, she confidently expected her son to be revived ( 2 Kings 4) — her actions in verse 21 and her words in verse 23 evince the same. Of our Lord’s mother it is said, “Blessed is she which believed that there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord” ( Luke 1:45).
What examples are these of the heart’s full reliance upon God while outward appearances were quite unpromising! When Moffatt, the missionary who had labored for years among the Bechuanas without seeing a single seal to his ministry, received a letter from friends in England who wished to make him a present, asking him to specify what it should be, he answered, “A communion set”! Months after, when it arrived, more than a dozen converted natives sat down with him to remember the Lord’s death.
Say not “How wonderful” but “How deplorable I do not trust Him more fully.”
Take note of the renunciation of their faith. Israel’s being forbidden to seize the spoils of war, and being told that the silver and gold must be “consecrated unto the Lord” (verses 18, 19), teaches us that real faith takes no credit unto its subject, but ascribes all the honor of its performances unto the Giver. Faith precludes all boasting and self-congratulation ( Ephesians 2:8,9). Faith belongs to those who are “poor in spirit.” So far from promoting Laodicean self-esteem, it humbles us unto the dust, causing us to look away from self unto God. It is a self-emptying grace, moving us to stretch forth the beggar’s hand. Consequently, it takes no praise to itself, but gives the whole unto its Bestower. Its language is “Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy, for Thy truth’s sake” ( <19B501> Psalm 115:1).
Blessedly was this exemplified by Abraham. When the Lord gave him the victory over Chedorlaomer, and the king of Sodom invited him to take the spoils unto himself, Abraham answered, “I have lifted up my hand unto the Lord, that I will not take from a thread to a shoe-latchet... lest thou shouldest say, I have made Abraham rich” ( Genesis 14:22,23)!
Finally, behold the triumph of faith. “And it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city” (verse 20). Nothing can stand before faith: the most formidable obstacles give way to it. “All things are possible to him that believeth” ( Mark 9:23) as the whole of Hebrew 11 clearly shows. The language of an expectant faith is, “Through God we shall do valiantly, for He it is that shall tread down our enemies” ( Psalm 50:12), because faith looks away from self, with all its infirmities and limitations, unto the Almighty. “This is the victory that overcometh the world: our faith” ( 1 John 5:4): when it is in exercise, the world can neither enthrall nor intimidate, for it elevates the heart above the creature. Israel’s capture of Jericho is recorded for the encouragement of the saints of all generations, and our lengthy consideration of the same will have been in vain unless it has put new life into us as it has demonstrated afresh the invincibility of God’s purpose, the sufficiency of His power, and His readiness to put it forth on the behalf of those who render implicit obedience to His revealed will and count upon His rewarding the same. “And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox and sheep and ass, with the edge of the sword” (verse 21).
For several centuries the long-suffering of God had waited because “the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full” ( Genesis 15:16). Forty years previously, in the first year of the Exodus, the Lord had solemnly threatened them, bringing the sword of Israel to the borders of Canaan, and then withdrawing His hand for a time, giving them a further respite. But the period of waiting was now over. That united shout from Israel was the sign that the Lord would tarry no longer, that the day of His wrath was come. All the guilty inhabitants of Jericho were made a solemn and awful sacrifice to the Divine justice. “The Canaanites were ripe for destruction, and the Lord was pleased, instead of destroying them by a pestilence, a famine, an earthquake, a devastating fire from heaven, to employ the Israelites as the executioners of His vengeance, both for their warning and instruction, and for that of all who read these records. Had an angel been commissioned to slay them (as one did Sennacherib’s army: 2 Kings 19:35), who would have charged Him with iniquity or cruelty? In all public calamities infants are involved and tens of thousands die with great agony every year. “Now either God is not the agent in these calamities, which opinion — though often implied in man’s reasonings on these subjects — is not far from atheism; or they must consist with the most perfect justice and goodness. What injustice then could there be in ordering the destruction of a guilty race by the sword of His people? Or what injustice can be charged on them while executing His express commission, as ratified by undeniable miracles? It is evident that the hand of God would be far more noticed in these uncommon events than if He had destroyed His enemies by the ordinary course of second causes. The malignity of sin, with the indignation of Goal against sinners, and His power and determination to inflict condign punishment on them, would be far more conspicuous and impressive. In short, every man who by reading the account of these awful judgments, in any age or place, has been led to a deeper sense of the evil of sin, and warned to repent and seek mercy from the Lord, will to eternal ages glorify the Divine wisdom and goodness, in the very dispensations which embolden the blasphemies of the impenitent and unbelieving” (Thomas Scott). “Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God” ( Romans 11:22): the latter is as truly a Divine perfection as is the former.
In verses 22-25 we see how the promise given to Rahab in Joshua 2:14,19, was made good: “By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace” ( Hebrews 11:31).
Therein we behold the mercy of God unto those who really turn to and believe in Him. The inhabitants of Canaan had heard of Jehovah’s drying up the waters of the Red Sea, and of Israel’s destroying of Sihon and Og, but Rahab alone believed “that the Lord hath given you the land” ( Joshua 2:9,10). She evidenced her faith by receiving the two spies with good will, and sheltering those servants of God from their foes at the hazard of her own life (illustrating the principle that faith ever requires selfdenial), and by a strict compliance with their instructions. The blessed consequence and sequel was that she “perished not with them that believed not.” The preservation of her house, which was “upon the town wall” ( Joshua 2:15), was as manifest a miracle as was the falling down of all other parts of it, and typified the eternal security of those who trust in the Lord.
Let us now briefly epitomize some of the many important lessons inculcated and illustrated by the contents of Joshua 6:1. Closed doors and high walls are no insuperable obstacle when God be for us and with us: Acts 12:10 (verse 1). 2. Faith is to behold that which is invisible to sight and reason: John 8:56; Hebrews 11:1 (verse 2). 3. Divine promises do not render needless the discharge of responsibility (verse 3). 4. God pours contempt on human pride by appointing means which are contemptible in the eyes of the world (verse 4). 5. Encouragements (verse 5) are not to be bandied about promiscuously, but given to the diligent and faithful (verse 16). 6. The “ark,” in which was the Law and the “trumpets of jubilee” which announced the Gospel, tells, of the preacher’s twofold work (verse 6). 7. The rank and the of God’s people are required to support and hearten His ministers (verse 7). 8. The Lord’s presence with them ( Matthew 28:20) is what is to animate and regulate His ministers (verse 7). 9. The position of honor is reserved for the ark and the priests: Hebrews 13:7,17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12,13 (verse 9). 10. Muffle not the Gospel trumpet and let it give forth no uncertain sound: 1 Corinthians 14:8 (verse 9). 11. We must be “swift to hear, slow to speak”: James 1:19; 1 Peter 3:15 (verse 10). 12. All murmuring against God and unwarrantable criticisms of His servants must be suppressed (verse 10). 13. God takes note of and appreciates thoroughness, the completing of each task assigned (verse 11). 14. Punctuality, diligence, whole-heartedness, must ever characterize the servant of Christ (verse 12). 15. Though no visible results appear, the priests must blow their trumpets “continually” (verse 13). 16. Patience and perseverance are called for in the discharge of all our God-given duties (verse 14). 17. The more trying and difficult the task, the more earnestly should we set ourselves to it (verse 15). 18. When success is delayed, our efforts are to be increased and not diminished (verse 15). 19. We must not be discouraged over the lack of early success, but let patience have her perfect work (verse 15). 20 . God’s promise is to be faithfully relied upon during the time when there is no indication of its fulfillment (verse 16). 21. Though saints as such have no commission to speak in public, yet their mouths are to utter the Lord’s praise (verse 16). 22. It is implicit confidence in Himself which the Lord ever delights to honor — “when” (verse 16). 23. The whole world lieth in the Wicked One and is under the wrath of God (verse 17). 24 . We bring trouble upon ourselves when we set our affection on earthly things (verse 18). 25. God never confounds those who trust and obey Him (verse 18). 26. The most unlikely means are used by God in the doing of great things (verse 20). 27. Eternal destruction is the portion of all out of Christ (verse 21), eternal security of those who trust Him (verses 22, 23). 28. Build not again the things you have destroyed or renounced: Galatians 2:18 (verse 26; cf. Psalm 85:8).