God is leading (His people) the obedient believer, into victory and salvation
Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to 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 to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the Lord.” And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them. The armed men were walking before the priests who were blowing the trumpets, and the rear guard was walking after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.” So he caused the ark of the Lord to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp. Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days. On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city. And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.” So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword. But to the two men who had spied out the land, Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.” So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. “At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates.” So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.” (Joshua 6:1-27 ESV)
I have heard some strange applications of this text in my life before, here is one for example: if your want victories in your life: “Shout the name of Jesus seven times really loud and the walls of poverty, failing exams, sicknesses and singleness will fall down.” God will lead you into the promised land of prosperity and wealth and health and success if you have faith in Him and shout his name seven times!
Or I can image someone say: “walk around your neighbourhood and city, walk around Tembisa 7 times, once every day and the seventh day shout aloud the Name of Jesus, and see how the walls and strongholds of drunkenness and prostitution, and drug abuse and sexual immorality and poverty and sickness will came tumbling down.”
The people of God had been journeying for 40 years in the wilderness, God had kept His people for 40 years in the wilderness and although because of their disobedience they had to stay in the wilderness for 40 years God kept them, tested them, gave them food and drink and led His people by the pillar of fire at night and by the cloud at daytime. All the men above 20 years had died out except for Joshua and Caleb. And now they stood at the brink of the Promised Land. God miraculously made the river Jordan to stop from flowing, and the Israelites came through the river on dry ground. God showed that He was with Joshua as He was with Moses. Just before God appointed Joshua to be Moses’ successor in leading His people God made it clear that it is not because the Israelites were so righteous that God would drive out the nations of Israel before them but because the Amorites were so evil. In fact, God made it clear that the Israelites were a stubborn people and it was because of the covenant that God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to give them the land of Canaan that He would drive out the heathen nations. God said in his address to the nation of Israel that it was not because they were a greater nation than other nations nor that they were more noble or greater in number but because God loved them and because He made his covenant with their forefathers that He was going to give them the land (Deuteronomy 8-10).
Before the nation received their marching orders God told Joshua to circumcise all the men, because they hadn’t been circumcised in the wilderness during the 40 years. The circumcision was a sign of God’s covenant of grace with his people. And then just before Joshua received His orders a strange Figure appeared to Joshua. He identifies Himself as the commander of the army of the Lord. And when Joshua comes closer He tells Joshua to take off his sandals because the place where he stands is holy ground. So who was this figure? If we look at other scriptures where God said the same thing, like in Exodus 3,4 where God appeared to Moses, we must conclude that this Person was Christ. The text also says that Joshua worshipped before Him. Joshua was commissioned to be the leader of the army of Israel but then we see that the real leader of the armies of Israel was actually God. That is why some commentators say we have a christophony here. A christophony is an appearing of Christ in a human form before His incarnation. So at the beginning here we see that God was the leader of the army.
Commentaries tell us that the gates and walls of Jericho was so fortified that it was in a sense impenetrable. The people of Jericho and the heathen nations at the time heard of the Israelites coming and they fortified their walls. They knew they were coming. Our text says that no one came in or out of the city. They probably got provisions for themselves for many days.
God gave specific commands to his people for victory and conquest
— We see clearly that God gave specific commands to Joshua and His people to conquer this city. Jericho couldn’t have been a very large city, because a contingent of the army had to be able to walk around it seven times the last day. It could have been possible for the army of Israel, just given their size, about 600 000, surely to conquer the city just by attacking it. But God made it clear that they were to follow His instructions in the conquest of the city. The army, possibly just a part or contingent had to walk around the city once a day for seven days. Seven priests had to blow the trumpets (Rams horns) as they walked. The last day they had to walk seven times around the city and then give a loud shout at the command of Joshua.
We can now start asking why should there have been seven priests? Why should the priests have blown the rams horns (trumpets)? Why should they have walked once a day around the city for seven days and why seven times the last day? And why did God command them that the Ark of the Covenant be in the midst of them as they walked?
If we read through the book of Joshua we see that God gave a different strategy each time they went to war. The issue was not if the strategy made sense to Joshua or the people, the issue was: were they going to be obedient to God? We know that the number seven is significant in the Bible. We see that the number seven is used many times in the book of Revelation as well. The number symbolizes perfection or completeness. We can probably infer that the iniquity of the people in Jericho was complete and that is why they had to walk around the city seven times. Or we can infer that God is a God of perfection and if they had to obey God they had to do so perfectly. What the instructions of God to Joshua show us is that God demands from His people perfect obedience to His commands because He is a God of perfection. If we do obey Him perfectly we will have victory. The difficulty with this inference, which I believe to be true, is that we as Christians cannot obey God perfectly. Only Christ obeyed God perfectly on our behalf when he lived as a man on earth.
God commanded Joshua to made sure that the ark of the Covenant was in the midst of the procession around the city. The Ark of the Covenant symbolized the presence and glory of God. Without God’s presence and glory Israel could not have been successful in military battle. The fact that there had to be seven priests again symbolizes God’s perfection. The battle and things in the city devoted to destruction would in other words be a complete destruction. The priests blew on their horns (trumpets) because it was a battle cry. The Israelites knew they would not have been successful in their military campaigns unless they heard from God, his strategy, and unless they obeyed Him.
God has been leading His people throughout all the centuries and throughout history into spiritual victory over His enemies. God is still leading his church through this sinful world into the Promised Land, the new heavens and the new earth where righteousness will dwell. For us to be spiritually victorious we have to obey God perfectly. The problem here is obvious. We cannot do it perfectly. We need Someone to obey God perfectly on our behalf. We need the presence of God in our lives to have victory in our spiritual battles. This is the good news: Jesus Christ obeyed God perfectly on our behalf. He obtain a perfect righteousness on our behalf so that we can have spiritual victory over every sin. In Christ, with Christ, with the presence of Christ, we can conquer our enemies. The Bible therefore says that in this spiritual battle against the world, Satan, sin and the flesh we have to put on Christ. We have to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. We have to put on the armor of light (Romans 13:8-12). Only in Christ’s perfection, in Christ’s truth, in His righteousness and salvation can we have victory and conquer all our enemies! There is no other way!
— We must remember that we don’t war today with physical weapons but with spiritual weapons and our warfare today is primarily against strongholds different from the people of Israel. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says we ought to take every thought captive and make it obedient unto Christ. It says we must pull down the strongholds and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. So what are the so called impenetrable walls of Jericho today, the impenetrable strongholds of this world? Isn’t it false religion: Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Animism, secular humanism, the idols of fame and money and sport? The pornography plaque that are destroying relationships and marriages? Secular humanism and its tenants: evolutionism, relativism, permissiveness and amorality are the walls of today.
God gave His people, the Israelites, specific commands to conquer the heathen nations in Israel and God gave us, his church, specific commands for spiritual conquest and victory. Put on Christ! Put on the full armor of God! Go into all the nations and make the peoples my disciples’ teaching them to obey everything that I commanded you (Matthew 28:18-20). Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). Love one another! Put to death the deeds of the flesh! Pluck out the eye that is causing you to stumble, cut off the hand metaphorically etc. Flee youthful lusts! Flee sexual immorality! Lay down your lives for one another etc. Are we obedient to His commands?
Joshua a type and representative of Christ
The name of Joshua means Jahwe saves in Hebrew. It is not by coincidence that God used Joshua to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land. Joshua was a type of Jesus Christ. We know today that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. We know that God sent Jesus Christ into the world to save sinners like you and me. God used Joshua to save the Israelites when they came into the Promised Land from the Amorites and Perizzites etc.
We read in this portion that God was with Joshua, and that is what made him great (verse 27). Joshua conquered because God was with Him and that reality was tangible by the Ark of the Covenant that went with them.
Today Jesus is leading his people to conquer and have spiritual victory and enter the promised land of the new heavens and the new earth and to give His people an inheritance just as Joshua led the Israelites to conquer the land of Israel and gave the Israelites an inheritance. Each of the tribes of Israel got an inheritance and so each of God’s children, each daughter and each son of God has an inheritance in heaven. We know primarily our inheritance is Christ.
If we want to receive our inheritance one day we have to listen to our commander in Chief, Jesus Christ, just as the Israelites listened to their commander in Chief which was Joshua, which in effect listened to God. To advance spiritually and conquer in the war of life we have to commit and submit to Christ and live in union with Him. There is no other way to survive and to conquer. We are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus who loved us (Romans 8:37). To Him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, Jesus said in the book of Revelation. There is much overcoming that must take place in a Christian’s life.
God’s judgment upon his enemies and the world
We see in this portion that God told the Israelites that they had to devote to destruction everything that breathed: the women, men, young, old, children and even the animals. You might ask: How cruel of God to command such a thing! To order for helpless children to be killed!? We must make one thing clear: Jericho and its inhabitants and later the other nations in Israel were devoted to destruction because they deserved it: The Bible assumes that the iniquity of the Amorites was complete. Our text says men, woman, young and old and the animals were killed. The heathen nations in Israel were not murdered. They were not innocent. God’s judgment came upon them. They were killed! God used the nation of Israel to judge, just as he used the state of different countries through centuries past and uses the state today to judge wrongdoers (Romans 13:1-7). But the nation of Israel being used as God’s executioner was only for a certain time period in history, until the land was given to God’s people. To take the earth by force from unbelievers by believers is not an unchangeable law from God. It never was. This command by God to devote the inhabitants to destruction was only given at a certain point in time. The reason God told the Israelites to kill the heathen was to prevent them from committing idolatry. That was also the reason they should not have taken the spoils of gold and silver for themselves. Many articles of gold and sliver in Jericho and in other places in Israel were shrines and idol ornaments that could have lead to idolatry.
The spoils the Israelites took in the destruction of Jericho for the treasury was justified because all the earth belongs to God. The gold, the silver and vessels of bronze and iron were God’s property in the first place. The reason God ordered the people not to take any gold or vessels for themselves was because it was associated with idol worship in Jericho.
The way the promised land was taken by God’s people in Joshua’s isn’t prescriptive for God’s people today. Our promised land is not a physical place on this earth. God’s people and his kingdom does not advance today by military might. God’s kingdom is not of this world as Jesus said. God’s kingdom advances today by the proclamation of the gospel and the prayers of God’s people, by Christian love and service (the means of grace). We see this very clearly in the armor of God. We don’t have physical swords and helmets and physical breastplates on. We advance spiritually by loving our neighbour and speaking the truth, by doing what is right and living righteously, by sharing the gospel and obeying the word of God.
God’s judgment abided on the heathen nations living in Israel in Joshua’s time because of their sins and rebellion and idol worship and sexual immorality. Deuteronomy 18:10-14 makes that very clear.
“When you come into the land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you. You shall be blameless before the Lord your God, for these nations, which you are about to dispossess, listen to fortune-tellers and to diviners. But as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do this.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-14 ESV).
God’s righteous judgment is upon all people who refuse to obey him. And God’s judgement will abide on those who disbelieve in Him and disobey Him permanently if they refuse to repent. That is what happened to the Amorites. Their time of grace was there. Just as it is now for us. The gospel is being proclaimed across the world, the fame of God is crossing boundaries. But if people disbelieve and are rebellious God’s judgement will remain on them (John 3:36).
God fulfils his promises to His people
God gave His enemies over to the Israelites (verse 2). Listen to verse 2 again: “And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor.” The walls of Jericho came tumbling down supernaturally after the Israelites obeyed God’s specific instructions. God was fighting for His people. The God who did miracles in Moses’ time was the same God who did miracles in Joshua’s time. The God who parted the Red Sea was the same God who made the river Jordan stop from flowing. The God who judged the Egyptians was the same God who judged the people in Jericho. If we read further in the book of Joshua we see how God kept on fighting the battles of the Israelites when they obeyed God. At one point God made huge hailstones to fall from the sky to kill His enemies. The people of Jericho were defeated because God was with His people and because God’s people obeyed Him. When Achan later on stole some of the devoted things the Israelites were defeated in their next battle. Our enemies will be defeated when we obey God. But we cannot expect God to give us spiritual victory if we steal, lie, commit adultery and worship idols. There is no such thing! If we continue to disobey God we will be defeated spiritually.
The book of Joshua and this portion wants to tell us one thing:
God is faithful to keep his promises. God promised to give his people the promised land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and God gave it!! Because we see this truth, God keeping his promises, clearly in Scripture we can trust that God will keep his promises made in the Bible and made to us concerning His Son Jesus Christ. The Bible says: ““For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”” (Romans 10:11-13 ESV).
God rewards the faith and obedience of his people. This is very clear from this passage. We don’t always understand God’s commands to us. We don’t always feel to obey God’s specific instructions, but we have to obey. The Israelites didn’t understand why they had to walk around the city seven times, but they obeyed. And when they did, they had the victory. When God tells us in His word: be not unequally yoked with an unbeliever, what are we to do? Discuss, debate? No, obey! When God tells his church to invite people as many as we can find to the wedding feast of the Lamb are we to debate and negotiate or to obey? When God tells us to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, are we to debate and negotiate or are we to obey? When God tells us to pluck out the eye and cut off the hand that is causing us to stumble, metaphorically speaking, kill the deeds of the body, what are we to do? It might not make sense to you, but will you obey? Is the Internet making you to stumble? Will you obey and cut off the thing that is stumbling you? Pluck it out? You say to me: I need it! Jesus says: if your hand causes you to stumble cut it off! Kill the deeds of the body! If we through the Spirt put to death the deeds of the body we shall live (Romans 8:12,13). Those who are led by the Spirit of God are called the children of God! (Romans 8:14).
Rahab and her house a picture of salvation in Christ
The book of Joshua and our passage tells us that Rahab the prostitute hid the spies because she believed in God (Joshua 2:8-12).
““Before the men lay down, she came up to them on the roof and said to the men, “I know that the Lord has given you the land, and that the fear of you has fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land melt away before you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction. And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, he is God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.””(Joshua 2:8-13 ESV).
Rahab and her household was saved from destruction because of Rahab’s faith. She obeyed (hanging the scarlet cord) because she believed in God. The book of Hebrews 11 makes that clear. Rahab was included in the hallmark of faith because she believed in God.
Rahab and her house’s salvation that day is a picture of our salvation from God’s coming wrath in Christ — the world is headed for judgment and destruction. People from across the world are being included into God’s kingdom as they respond to the gospel message. God’s kingdom is increasing and His judgment on people will be severe and everlasting, but all who believe in God and in Jesus Christ will be saved, they and their households (See Acts 16:31-34). Rahab is a picture of a heathen person who can be saved from the wrath and judgment to come.
Joshua spared her life and those who were with her because of the scarlet cord. They were heathen people. Rahab was a terrible sinner, a prostitute. This story shows us that God is not only interested in the salvation of individuals but of families. We see this truth in all of Scripture. Yes God saves individuals in families but as with the case with Rahab God saved her family as well. God’s heart is to include people from all nations who would have faith in Him. Those who turn to Him in faith will be saved from coming judgement.
So how do we enter the victorious life and the promised land (the Celestial City?)
By faith, trusting in Christ, submitting to Him, putting on Christ, clothed in His perfection and righteousness as our Commander in Chief who delivered us from the slavery of sin and false religion and obeying Him by putting to death the deeds of the body, praying, serving and proclaiming the good news of Christ.