Thursday, January 15, 2004

See I Have Handed Jericho Over To You

I think that the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho (Joshua 5:13-6:27 NRS) is probably one of the most beloved Bible stories that many people know. The story of a nomadic nation and their God that overcome the mighty people of Jericho is inspiring. As beloved of a story as it is to so many of us I think that Joshua becomes the hero of myth and legend, rather than the scared, doubting, yet trusting servant of God that he like any of us must admit we have been.

Allow me to paint a scene for you. God has charged Joshua with the task of filling Moses' shoes. These are big shoes to fill. Any sane person would feel completely inadequate in this charge. Now as Joshua's first test as the leader of these Wilderness people he must take the MIGHTY, POWERFUL city of Jericho. Anxious about the military decisions facing him Joshua has wandered away from the camp. He is alone, no company except his thoughts, no interruptions except his memories of this city from a lifetime ago. It had been so long since he stood at the foot this mighty city before. Everyone he knew and loved, even his mentor had died. Here this old man, one of only 2 remaining people with a memory of Egypt, reflected on the cosmic struggle that stared at from these faceless walls. Light reflected in the windows of the homes built into the mighty walls of this fortress. Families were laughing, fighting, preparing for bed, doing all the things that families do. Joshua watched them all. How would he take this city?
The anxiousness only grew worse the more he wandered, the closer he advanced to the mighty walls he and his wilderness militia would have to breech. So he turned around, ready to return to the camp he had ventured out of hours earlier, and there he was met by Him. He was a man of great strength and stature, he was armored for war and readied for battle with his sword drawn. Joshua filled with fear and awe responded "Whose side are you on?" Joshua, had enough fear of this battle before this encounter, now faced with only himself and this supposed warrior of Jericho the chances of victory had become insurmountable. So Joshua asked a simple question, to see if the being of battle was friend or foe.

The angel of the Lord responds, "neither." This adversary was no warrior in this battle at all. He was merely a messenger. He bore a message of hope to this wary Commander. A message I can only imagine was absolutely not understandable to inexperienced ears of leadership it fell on. Joshua 6:2 is the revelation of that message, "I (the Lord) have given you Jericho!" Joshua heard the Lord he had seen split the Red Sea, provide manna, give water from the rock, fill the camp with quail, and stop up the Jordan river say to him, "I am not bound by military strategy, the wisdom of my commanders, or the strength of their armies." Joshua was reminded by the God who had made his mentors face glow, who had led these people by cloud and by fire, and who had protected them from Pharaoh̢۪s armies with a wall of fire, "My purposes and timings are not your purposes and timings. My ways are not your ways." God gently reminded Joshua, "This battle is mine because the mighty walls of that great city are made of the dust I formed." The anxious steward of God's people, was put at ease by the powerful presence of the people's God.
So at God's command they marched. They circled, they trumpeted, and they yelled. They proclaimed the victory of the victory of the Lord, until those walls had fallen, the people had been defeated, and amongst the rubble stood only one small section of the wall with a red piece of fabric hanging from it's window to remind the people that this was a God of power, and a God of promise.

That power, and that promise has been eternally fulfilled in the great mystery of the Cross. We personally know the presence of God's promise and power. We too can face our adversaries, with the promise of God, "I have handed Jericho over to you." No matter what your Jericho is, no matter what tribulation looms before you like the mighty walls of that great city, God is teaching you the same lesson he taught that wandering servant Joshua, "This is my victory to give." Look at your troubles and see them as the victories God has prepared for you through him. Take God your mighty walls of tribulation, and let him make them crumble.

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