The pastor wanted to get a feel for his new church. He visited the children’s Sunday school class to see what the kids knew. The teacher said, “Pastor, this morning we’re learning about Jericho. The pastor said, “Well, let’s see what you’ve learned. Who tore down the walls of Jericho?” For a few moments, no one spoke. Then little Billy shyly raised his hand, “Pastor, I didn’t do it.” Surprised by the response, the pastor asked, “Come on now kids, who tore down the walls of Jericho?” The teacher spoke up, “Pastor, Billy’s a good boy. If he says he didn’t do it, I believe he didn’t do it.” Flustered, the pastor went to the Sunday school superintendent and told her the story. The superintendent listened intently, then said, “Well, Pastor, we’ve had some problems with Billy before. Let me talk to him and see what we can do.” The pastor was nearly beside himself by this point, frustrated with how little anybody seemed to know about the Bible. He decided to go straight to the leaders of the church- surely THEY would know the story. He told them the whole thing and then waited for their response. A white-haired gentleman thoughtfully stroked his chin and said, “Well, Pastor, I think I understand the problem. I understand your concern.” The pastor breathed a little sigh of relief, “Thank goodness.” The elderly man went on, “Yes, we’ll take care of this. I move we take money out of the General Fund and pay for those walls to be fixed! Let’s just get it done”
Today, we continue our current sermon series- Glory Days. Based on the book by Max Lucado, we are focusing on a concept he describes as living your Promised Land life…now. When we face challenges that are bigger than we can handle, a GREAT place to go for hope and inspiration is the Old Testament story of Joshua. So we’re walking through that book, focusing on how Joshua led the Hebrews out of the wilderness and into the land of Canaan- the Promised Land.
The first week, we focused on WHEN the Glory Days are…and we stated that they are NOW! Last week, we looked at the fact that, since they ARE now, we have a responsibility to accept our inheritance. Today, we move forward, right to the walls themselves. We face our fears as we Circle Jericho.
The Hebrew people have crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land. But there is STILL much to do. God sends them to the walled city of Jericho. And He gives them a seemingly impossible task.
Joshua 6:1-5 Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”
What do you know about the walls of Jericho? According to Veggie Tales, they were guarded by French Peas who threw Slushees down on the unsuspecting Hebrews! I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that’s not exactly how it went! . The walls were immense. They wrapped around the city of Jericho like a suit of armor. Imagine 2 concentric circles of stone 40′ high. Imagine formidable. Imagine impenetrable. The people inside the walls were much the same- ferocious and barbaric. They and their impressive walls had withstood all sieges, repelled all invaders. They were undefeated…that is, until Joshua and his people showed up.
The gates of Jericho were securely barred- they were shut and locked. In fact, we are told that no one was going out…and no one was getting in. Clearly they didn’t want to let anybody in. But the fact that they also weren’t letting anybody out shows that the people of Jericho saw this as a serious, potentially desperate situation.
Then God says something that is THE most important thing said throughout this story. He says, “I have delivered Jericho into your hands.” All you teachers out there- did you notice the verb tense? It wasn’t, “I am GOING to deliver…” It wasn’t, “I AM delivering…” It was, “I have ALREADY delivered…” Past tense. Already done. God has already done the heavy lifting. All the Hebrews have to do is be faithful to what God is calling them.
But the Hebrews aren’t stupid- they KNOW that defeating a walled city is a major challenge. There are basically five ways to capture a walled city:
- go OVER the wall with ladders, ramps and such
- go UNDER the wall by digging a tunnel
- go THROUGH the wall by smashing a hole in it
- lay siege to the city and starve them into submission
- use some kind of trickery, like the Trojan Horse
They KNOW those truths. They understand them. And they really aren’t capable of ANY of them! So how are they going to win? They are going to march around the city once a day for six days and then 7 times on the 7th day, The trumpets will blow and the walls? They’ll come a’tumbin’ down! Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!
But let’s be honest- “march around the city for several days” isn’t the best military advice ever given. It really doesn’t make…well…ANY sense. I mean, who in their right mind would actually DO that? Apparently, the Hebrews would. It required faith and trust. They had to believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God would keep His promise and deliver the city to them.
I don’t know about you, but I can’t read this passage without the number 7 standing out to me. 7 days of walking. 7 times around the wall on day 7. 7 priests blowing 7 trumpets. 7 must be pretty important to this story. Well…it is. Biblically, theologically, 7 is seen as a perfect number- the number of completion. It appears 860 times in the Bible- 54 times in the book of Revelation alone. According to Jewish tradition, Adam was created on the 7th day of the 7th month. There are 7 days in a week and the Sabbath is on the 7th day. The Bible is divided into 7 major sections. Jesus said we should forgive someone 70 X 7 times. It’s an important number! The remarkable collection of sevens in this story underscores the sacred significance of the event.
In the end, the people marched and the trumpets blew. Notice God told the people to keep quiet. In other words, no chitchat, no opinion giving, no second guessing, no whining. No complaining. Just be quiet and let the trumpets sound. And when they did…the walls came down. Bricks cracked. Stone fractured. Everything shook—the walls, the ground…and the knees of the Jericho soldiers. The impenetrable fortress met the unstoppable force. Mighty Jericho crumbled.
Remember- the Hebrews have surrounded the city. And when the walls come down, they ALL go STRAIGHT in. This wasn’t just a minor wall failure in an isolated spot. Not a breach here and there. This was a catastrophic and complete failure of the wall, giving access to the city from all sides.
But the truth of the matter is this- Joshua and his people did NOT bring those walls down. The Hebrews never swung a hammer. They never fired a trebuchet. They never used siege weapons to break down the gates. In the grand scheme of things..they didn’t do ANYTHING…except follow God. God came through in a BIG way for the Hebrew people. AND…God is willing- anxious- to come through in a BIG way for you.
The question isn’t CAN you overcome? The question is WILL you overcome? Life always offers challenges, but God always gives you the strength to overcome them. God didn’t say, “Joshua, take the city.” He said, “Joshua, receive the city I’ve already taken.” Joshua didn’t go forth hoping to win. He went forth knowing that God had already won. And the same can be true about you. God doesn’t say, “Break your bad habit.” He says, “I’ve already broken the bad habits of your life. Receive the blessing of my victory.”
What is your Jericho? Is it your fears? Is it your bitterness? Your prejudice? Your insecurity? Your guilt? Your negativity, anxiety, critical nature? Your Jericho is ANY attitude or mind-set that keeps you from joy and peace. Jericho is what stands between you and your Glory Days. It’s that thing that mocks you, tells you to take your dreams back to the wilderness where they belong. It’s big. It blocks your way…and it HAS to come down.
The taking of Jericho- no hand-to-hand combat? No flashing swords? No flying spears, battering rams, catapults? Just march, be quiet and watch…then yell? What kind of warfare is this? I’ll tell you what kind of warfare that is- spiritual warfare. Satan isn’t passive. He’s not fair. He’s active and he’s deceptive. And he’s always looking for a foothold- a stronghold. He’s always trying to eclipse our greater discovery of God. He tries to magnify problems and minimize God. But the ONLY authority the devil has over your life is what you’re willing to let him have- no more, no less. Tell the devil “NO” and watch him run. He WILL retreat. Remind him that he’s not allowed in God’s house. And the New Testament is clear- YOU are God’s house.
To fully live in the Promised Land, you have to face your Jericho. It’s not easy. Satan doesn’t give up without a fight. He WILL push back. But he WON’T win…unless you let him. Like my childhood cat Charlie, Satan was declawed at the cross of Calvary. He has NO authority over you.
Are there days when you see nothing but Jericho? Are there times when despair seems to be the order of the day? Do you sometimes feel defeated? Do you ever dwell on the word “impossible”? Do negatives rule your thinking? “God could never forgive me.” “I couldn’t possible forgive that person.” “Bad things always happen to me.” “I don’t deserve to be loved.” “I’ll never recover from this.” Today’s problem doesn’t have to be tomorrow’s problem. It’s not God’s will that you live an unhappy, dreary, defeated life. Quit listening to the old voices and start listening to the new ones. It’s time to stop living out of your circumstances and start living out of your inheritance. You can watch your strongholds be demolished, reduced to rubble once and for all.
You can see Jericho leveled. “How?”, you might ask? By keeping God in the center, by making sure the main thing is the Main Thing. Notice what preceded the people as they marched around Jericho- the Ark of the Covenant…the dwelling place of God. Everything centered around Him.
Maybe you’re thinking, “I’ve been fighting this battle for a long time and I don’t seem to be getting anywhere.” I get that. It must have seemed like that to the Hebrews, too. God told Joshua how many days of walking around the city it would take. But Joshua didn’t tell the people. They just kept walking…and wondering. But they kept walking.
Keep walking. You never know- this might be the day your walls come a tumblin’ down. You might be only a few steps away from victory. The trumpets sounded. The walls fell. And the people took the city. The walls that had kept them out now became stepping-stones into the Glory Days.
We so easily live within the joy-sucking walls of Jericho. But I just stopped by this morning to tell you that you don’t have to do that ANY more. You may feel beyond inadequate, but you have a power at your fingertips that cannot be beat- you have God.
For 6 days, the people of God marched around the city of Jericho. On the seventh day, when God called them to march around the city 7 times, some of them must have thought, “You have GOT to be kidding! This is ridiculous!” But they did it anyway. And you know the rest of the story- the walls came down!
How many times have you marched for 6 days…only to give up just short of the finish line? Victory might only be one more march away. If you’ve given up on something that God called you to do because you were tired, consider taking another run at it. Reengage God’s plan for you. Start marching again.
If you want to see your Jericho fall, you have to stop labeling yourself. You have to stop listening to the lies. You have to stop believing there’s no hope for a new beginning. Come to the walls of YOUR Jericho in God’s power. Put God center stage, with Jesus at His right hand…and in your heart. Come NOT with hope of a possible victory but with assurance of a complete victory. Blast your ram’s horn. Blow your silver trumpet. March like a Promised Land conqueror. What would it take for you to start marching again? Will you start? Today? Keep marching- this just might be the day the walls come down.