THE STORY OF JOSHUA – Joshua 6:1–5 – 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.”
God’s people had been slaves in Egypt for centuries. As we read yesterday, God wanted them to live as a free people. But it would take more than one act of liberation for God’s people to live into that free reality. Instead of marching into the Promised Land at God’s command, the people of God balked (Numbers 14). So God, patiently but firmly, began a process of reshaping his people. The reshaping process was a 40-year period of wandering in the desert—an entire generation’s worth of learning to trust God and follow him, no matter what.
Time and again, during those forty long years, God’s people felt so much despair that they actually longed for their bondage in Egypt. Surely the security of their chains was preferable to this unpredictable wilderness! But however much God’s people wanted their chains back, God had other plans.
So when the forty years were over, God brought his people back to the Promised Land. He gave them another opportunity to trust and follow him, no matter what.
By this time, many of God’s people had learned to follow God’s marching orders. Especially Joshua, the military commander who was tasked with leading the charge into the Promised Land. Joshua had been Moses’ right-hand man for years. Joshua knew God, trusted God, and spent time with God (Exodus 24:13).
So as the people of God stood on the outskirts of Jericho, the border of their new nation, Joshua was ready to do whatever God asked him to do.
Then God asked Joshua to do something absurd.
Joshua was ready to fight. But God didn’t want Joshua to fight—at least not at first. The battle plan God gave him consisted of, “Walk around the city … a whole lot.” God wanted Joshua to trust him. Impressively, Joshua and the people did.
Aren’t you thankful God has never asked you to do something as absurd as he asked Joshua?
Then again, were Joshua’s marching orders that much more jarring than ours?
Often, the toughest parts of the Bible aren’t the passages we find most confusing, but the ones we find most convicting. God’s call to obedience is startling: Love your neighbor (yes, even them); give radically; open up not only your home but your life; be people of complete integrity, even when it doesn’t benefit you. To walk the road of obedience, we need to have the same supernatural faith Joshua did, trusting God (whom we cannot see) in the face of the potential downsides (which we absolutely can see).
The army that walked around Jericho was not composed of people whose faith was superhuman. It was composed of people who had experienced God repeatedly over the course of forty years. Joshua was able to pursue radical obedience for God because he experienced radical intimacy with God.
If this was true of Joshua, how much more is it true for those of us who follow Jesus? The intimacy we can share with God far outpaces that available to Joshua. He spoke with God only a few times. But Jesus came to live among us as God in the flesh. He taught us to approach God not through periodic rituals, but through daily and intimate prayer.
He even promised that for those who followed him, he would send his Spirit to be with them—no matter how great their trial, no matter how deep their sin.
No matter what.
God called Joshua to obey him, but the specifics of that obedience seemed absurd. What areas of obedience seem absurd in the world we live in? How would your obedience change if you were certain God was present with you?