THE WALLS OF JERICHO
Hebrews 11:30 – By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they had been encircled for seven days.
Just about everyone has heard the story about Joshua and the walls of Jericho. It’s probably because of the song, “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, and walls came a-tumblin’ down.” In any case, the story is no legend or myth. About 40 years after the Hebrews made their exodus from Egypt, they fought a decisive battle at Jericho in order to establish a beachhead in the new homeland. Jericho was a walled city and presented a major obstacle to the Hebrews because it was right smack in the middle of their path into the Promised Land. Jericho had to go! Because the Hebrews looked to the Lord in faith, God miraculously took Jericho out of their way and the conquest of the Holy Land was able to proceed.
The sixth chapter of the book of Joshua gives us the dramatic account of this unique battle in history. Read Joshua chapters 1-6 in order to see all the important steps leading up to that climactic moment when the walls of Jericho collapsed. All of this is important history, because it is the divine record of how Israel received the land that God had promised them long before (Genesis 15:18). Through this nation in this land was to come the Savior for all mankind!
Besides the important history contained in the book of Joshua, there are some valuable spiritual lessons to be learned as well. There is the practical and devotional side to Joshua as well as the historical. The records of the battles that Israel fought contain spiritual principles for Christian warfare. We know from Scripture that we are involved in spiritual struggles with the “enemy of our souls” (Ephesians 6:11-17). Satan wants to keep us growing Christians from enjoying the spiritual blessings which are available to us in Christ. There really is love, joy, peace, rest, freedom, hope, security, and intimate fellowship (and whatever else you long for) to be experienced in the “promised land” of the Christian life. But Satan puts up his Jerichos to keep us “out of the land.” The walls of doubt and discouragement and despair become major obstacles in the path of the Christian. A particular sin or hangup in the growing Christian’s life can become a Jericho. The barriers seem insurmountable, and Satan laughs as we cringe in fear or are content to live “in the wilderness” of Christian experience. Are there any Jerichos in your life? The walls must fall!
Israel was God’s earthly people. He gave them an earthly inheritance and promised them earthly blessings (Joshua 1:3). All they had to do was go in and possess the land (1:11). God did not want His people living in the wilderness any longer. They had been there for about 40 years because of murmuring and complaining and disobedience and unbelief. (See Numbers 32:13; 1 Corinthians 10:5-11; Hebrews 3:15-19.) Now they were to move out with renewed dedication and claim that good land–the land that “flowed with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8). The Lord promised them victory over Jericho and over the whole land. He also promised them His constant presence with them (Joshua 1:5 and 6:5). There was no need to be afraid or dismayed (1:9).
What a picture of the Christian life! We are God’s people and He has given us a heavenly inheritance and all kinds of spiritual blessings. We see from this picture that there are two possible reasons why we fail to enjoy the “milk and honey” of Christian living. Murmuring and complaining and unbelief are bound to result in “desert living.” Failure to claim our “promised land” will lead to the same. We are not to wait until we get to heaven to enjoy our heavenly inheritance. God wants us to “cross the Jordan” now and claim the blessings which we have in Christ right now. This is what Ephesians 1:3 means when it says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places with Christ.” (Check out Ephesians 1:4-14 for a list of some of our spiritual blessings. Are you enjoying all these?) Yes, the good things of the “Promised Land” are ours for the taking, but we must claim them and appropriate them before we can call them our own (Joshua 1:3). A Christian who is afraid to die has not really claimed his security in Christ. (See Hebrews 13:5.) A Christian who is worried about his future has not really appropriated the “rest of soul” which is available in Christ. (See Matthew 11:29.) A Christian who is always complaining and discontented has not really experienced the joy and peace of the Kingdom. (See Romans 14:17.) A Christian who can never get along with his brothers and sisters in the Lord has not really walked in the land of overwhelming love which is available to every Christian. (See John 15:9 and think of how much love exists between Father and Son–that’s how much is given to us!)
But what about these Jerichos? They’re there because Satan knows that the frustrated Christian is an ineffective Christian. He also knows that the Christian who is enjoying the blessings of Christ is a Christian who is moving out and spreading the Kingdom of God. Therefore, Satan will do anything in his power to keep us defeated and scared and “throwing in the towel.” But God has promised us victory (Romans 8:37) just as he promised Joshua. He has also promised us His constant personal presence (Hebrews 13:5) just as He promised Joshua. There is no need to fear (2 Timothy 1:7). There are no Jericho walls that are too high or too thick for our God. What is the Jericho that is keeping you from fully entering the “land of blessing” that God has in store for you? The walls of doubt and fear or temptation or a secret sin or an “I couldn’t care less” attitude are not impregnable!
Victory over Jericho was guaranteed, but it was not automatic. Israel had to follow the instructions that God had given them to be sure of victory. We too must follow the instructions that God has given us if we are to see the “walls come tumbling down.” In the steps leading up to the fall of Jericho we see some spiritual principles which, when applied, bring sure victory. The first and foremost principle is to know and obey and apply the Word of God (Joshua 1:7-8). The “law” here means the first five books of the Bible–the Scriptures that the people had at the time. We must do more that “get a little Bible” each week. We must study God’s word until it is such a part of us that it characterizes our talk (1:8). We must obey it without compromising (1:7). We must obey all that is written (1:8). Then and only then will we be successful (1:7-8). This surely is the secret of success for the Christian. Don’t knock it until you’ve really tried it!
Another principle for victory which emerges from these early chapters of Joshua is to “follow the ark.” Now this principle will sound pretty far out until we realize that God is painting a picture here in the Scriptures to illustrate the principle He wants us to learn. The ark mentioned in Joshua 3 and 4 was not some big boat like Noah’s Ark; it was a trunk-sized sacred box that the priests carried as the Hebrews journeyed from Egypt to the Promised Land. The ark was kept in the most holy place of Israel’s tent of worship. (They didn’t have a temple until years later under King Solomon.) The ark represented the meeting place between God and man. Once a year the blood of the Old Testament sacrifices had to be presented on the ark before the Lord. It was this ark that opened up the way through the Jordan River into the Promised Land (3:13-17.) It was this ark that was carried in the midst of the Hebrew people when they marched around Jericho (6:8-9). Now in the illustration that God has drawn for us the ark pictures the Lord Jesus. He is the meeting place between God and man. (See John 14:6 and 1 Timothy 2:5.) He is the One whose blood was presented once and for all before God to settle the problem of sin. (See Hebrews 9:11-15.) He is the One who opened up the way into the “land of blessing.” He is the One who must be at the center of our march of faith around those Jerichos in our lives. Our walk of faith must be Christcentered if the walls are to fall!
There are many other spiritual principles of victory contained in the book of Joshua, but these two “biggies” are enough to get you “into the land” where you will start to enjoy your inheritance in Christ. It we put Christ where He belongs in our lives and soak up His word until it characterizes our lives, there will be no room for those Jericho obstacles. Those barrier walls will just disappear. The Jerichos in your life may take a little time to fall–remember, the walls did not fall until the people encircled the city by faith for seven days! But if the principles are really applied (no shortcuts!) the walls cannot remain. The walls of Jericho will fall down!
David R. Reid