Joshua 6: 1-5; 12-16; 20
Gary Bulley, pastor
Living Stone Community Church, Cumming
I believe people like surprises, and God knows this. Reflect on the times that He has surprised you. Consider the times He surprised His people. The miracles of Scripture tend to be dramatic, awe-inspiring events that our imaginations could never adequately anticipate: creation, grace, and the cross. God is good and wonderful in the way He provides, and usually He provides in unexpected ways.
When we look at military history we see where surprising the enemy can lead to dramatic success. Unconventional tactics in battle can also lead to unrecoverable losses and devastation. The battle of Jericho can serve as a defining moment when convention was rejected in obedience to God’s plan.
The fall of Jericho, a city surrounded by a great wall, is defined by God’s provision of victory and the necessity of His people’s confidence in His character and obedience to His instruction. We may also add the necessity of perseverance.
Temptation to not persevere
The more I study the Bible the more I see that God’s people are called to perseverance. Perseverance is difficult. Not only are we people who like to see progress in the things we attempt, we also doubt when things are not progressing in the way we hope. Sometimes we even fear that we will fail.
Thus, when we struggle we are often tempted to give up or call it a day. If you’ve ever tried to run a marathon or put together a difficult puzzle, you know what I am talking about. The truth is, success in just about anything comes from
persevering through obstacles, self-doubt, and discouragement.
I am sure you can think of times in your life when this was true for you. And if persevering is beneficial for accomplishing simple things in life, how much more beneficial is persevering for the things of God? This is why we’re encouraged to hold fast and persevere through times of struggle.
Perseverance brings reward.
A friend of mine competes in Iron Man events. If you don’t know, the Iron Man is a triathlon event where the participants have to endure three long-distance races.First, they swim for 2.4 miles, then they ride a bicycle for 112 miles, and then they run a marathon for 26.2 miles. They are completed in that order without a break.
I asked my friend why he does it. He says he does it to be healthy and raise money for charity, but mostly he does it for the sense of accomplishment. Every time my friend completes an Iron Man event, he is proud of his accomplishment in a way that many of us probably understand because we know what it is like to succeed. But how much richer is the achievement when it is born out of discipline to God and perseverance for the things of God?
God’s methods and purpose
God called Joshua to lead the Israelites in the first week of our study. In the second week, God affirmed Joshua’s leadership by allowing the Israelites to cross the Jordon on dry ground. God also promised to bring them victory over their enemies, and with this instance in Jericho, it was by obeying God’s instructions for circling the walls and sounding the trumpets that they were able to overcome their enemy.
God’s tactics and methodologies are different than our own, because often, His purposes are different than our own. Given conventional battle tactics, the Israelites would have attempted to scale the walls of Jericho and battling them within the confines of the walls that surrounded the fortified city. Home field advantage would have been squarely with Jericho and the Israelites, even if victorious, would have suffered great losses because of the benefit of those walls.
God’s tactics and methodologies are different than our own, because often, His purposes are different than our own.
The walls surrounding Jericho were an obstacle that needed to be removed in order to ensure victory. Through their destruction, the Israelites would be able to conduct the battle on their terms.
God’s ways are seldom our ways. We, unfortunately, trust our ways sometimes before we trust God’s ways. Let’s face it, following God can be a little unconventional in our society. Yet, we are called to obedience and perseverance.
Joshua repeatedly demonstrated these qualities and God used him to lead the Israelites to impressive victories. Joshua understood the importance of submission. In the case of Jericho, he may even have thought God’s instructions strange. How is marching around the city blowing trumpets going to bring victory? Yet, because he was obedient and persevering even when he didn’t understand, God surprised Joshua with His power, presence, and an incredible victory.
God’s movement isn’t accidental
God’s activity in our lives is often mysterious and unexpected. I am sure not a single Israelite predicted how Jericho was going to fall. Once the walls fell, they were left slack-jawed in wonder and amazement.
God surprised them once again even though they had a history of God dramatically moving in their midst. However, simply because God’s moving is often mysterious and unexpected does not mean it is accidental. God had a plan in Jericho. The Israelites stuck to the plan and God responded in an incredible way.
God likewise has a plan for us. His plan involves His power and presence just as it did for the people of Israel. God’s plan for us involves grace and life and fruit and victory.
How is that going? Does God still surprise you with His presence and power? I hope so. If not, perhaps you are not sticking to the plan by living in obedience and perseverance to God’s instructions found in His Word. Maybe you ought to give that a try and see what happens.