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Now Jericho was straitly shut up.
An old writer says that every carnal heart is a Jericho shut up; God sits down before it and displays mercy and judgment: it hardens itself in a wilful security and saith, “I shall never be moved.” What numbers of men there are who close their hearts and keep them barred against God! God might have thrown down the walls of Jericho at once, but you must remember that He uses means to accomplish ends. God required Israel to walk round Jericho. That was their part. God is not usually in a hurry. He can afford to wait until the seventh day before bringing down the walls. I don’t read that the Israelites grew tired of waiting on this occasion. They went at it day after day quietly marching ahead. Here is a lesson of perseverance for us, We sometimes grow impatient. We see no good resulting from our own labours, and are disposed to murmur. (Charles Leach.)
Seven trumpets of rams’ horns.
The blast of the trumpet
was, in the Jewish feasts, the solemn proclamation of the presence of God. And hence the purpose of that singular march circumambulating the city was to declare “Here is the Lord of the whole earth, weaving His invisible cordon and network around the doomed city.”
1. Here is a confidence in the Divine presence, manifested by unquestioning obedience to a Divine command. Joshua had spoken; God had spoken through him. And so here goes; up with the ark and the trumpets, and out on to the hot sand for the march. It would have been a great deal easier to have stopped in the tents. It was disheartening work marching round thus. The sceptical spirit in the host--the folk of whom there are many great-grandchildren living to-day, who always have objections to urge when disagreeable duties are crammed up against their faces--would have enough to say on that occasion, but the bulk of the people were true, and obeyed. Now, we do not need to put out the eyes of our understanding in order to practise the obedience of faith. And we have to exercise common sense about the things that seem to us to be duties. But this is plain, that if once we see a thing to be, in Christian language, the will of our Father in heaven, then that is everything, and there is only one course for us, and that is, unquestioning submission, active submission, and, what is as hard, passive submission.
2. Then here again is faith manifesting itself by an obedience which was altogether ignorant of what was coming. We, too, have to do our day’s march, knowing very little about to-morrow; and we have to carry on all through life “doing the duty that lies nearest us,” entirely ignorant of the strange issues to which it may conduct. So, seeing that we know nothing about the issues, let us make sure of the motives; and seeing that we do not know what to-morrow may bring forth, nor even what the next moment may bring, let us see that we fill the present instant as full as it will hold with active obedience to God, based upon simple faith in Him.
3. Then, here, again, is faith manifesting itself by persistency. A week was not long, but it was a long while during which to do that one apparently useless thing and nothing else. Familiarity would breed monotony, but notwithstanding the deadly influences of habit, the obedient host turned out for their daily round. “Let us not be weary in well-doing.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Religious work often seems impracticable
When we are in great religious moods, in sublime spiritual ecstasies, in immediate and vital touch with God, we are not afraid to adopt apparently impracticable measures in carrying out the purposes of righteousness and wisdom. What could be more ridiculous, from a purely military point of view, than the directions given for the capture and overthrow of Jericho? They had no relation to the event. The foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men. We cannot always judge things by appearances. We ourselves are often startled by the want--apparent, at least--of adaptation of means to ends. The religious method may always be called impracticable. It is very slow; it does not seem to work with any immediate effect. What can be duller, slower, than what is generally understood as teaching? Yet it is by teaching that the kingdom of heaven is to be prepared for. It is a very slow method. One gleam from heaven’s own midday would startle the world more surely t Why not this sudden outburst of intolerable glory? Because there is no lasting in it, no power of duration and sustenance. Men cannot live upon such visions. Things that are not are employed to bring to nought things that are. Foolish things, little things, contemptible things, are used by the hand almighty to shake down towers and walls and temples and capitals, and bring them to nought before the throne of righteousness. Thus religion is not afraid of the impracticable--at least, of what may appear to be impracticable to those who look only upon the surface. Religion has never been afraid to claim prayer as one of its very pillars--the signature of its very power. What can, from the outside, be more futile and ridiculous than to be speaking into the vacant air--to exclude all living things upon the earth, and to speak to One we have never seen, and pour our heart’s penitence, woe, hope, into an ear we cannot detect amid all the clouds which float through the heavens? Yet religion says, “Continue instant in prayer”; you have no other hope. Besides, processes may be long, and results may be brought about in startling suddenness.(J. -Parker, D. D.)
The seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times.--
The compassing of Jericho
1. The posture was a walking posture, as it had no direct or probable tendency for subduing the city, so it likewise seemed ridiculous to the rude citizens, who might well scoffingly say, “What are these foolish people doing? Have they not had a walk long enough for forty years in the wilderness that now they have a new walk round about our walls, and that once every day for six days together? They desire indeed to possess our city, but they may compass it long enough before that posture can conquer it,” &c. Besides, this posture seemed perilous as well as ridiculous. Yet God will make Jericho as well as His Israel know that He can give victory to their feet as well as to their hands. God oftentimes delighteth to go some way of His own (which is not man’s way) and worketh His own will by such means, and in such a manner, as the world judges both perilous and ridiculous. As the greater was God’s glory in effecting this great work, wherein Israel contributed nothing to it, so the stronger was Israel’s faith in believing it should be effected, notwithstanding both the difficulty, danger, and improbability of means and manner.
(1) The term of place or space of ground they walked was, negatively, not an acre, or furlong, or any such measures of miles, nor was it a half-turn, but positively, it must be a whole turn, a compassing the city round about. Had they not gone round about, all had not been their own. They had conquered no more than they had compassed, so had done their work but to half part. It looks more like children’s play, in treading a maze, than any stratagem of warriors. All this was to teach Israel not to expect success from their own prowess or policy, but merely from the prescription and favourable presence of that God who can work what He pleaseth, even by the most contemptible ways.
(2) The term of time unto which this action was extended, this compassing the city, must be done once every day for six days together, but on the seventh day they must surround it seven times successively (Joshua 6:3; Joshua 6:11; Joshua 6:13-6.6.16). Israel walks their circuit six times over for six days, and on each day return into their camp. Nothing was effected in order to Jericho’s overthrow, so long a time they are held in suspense, for the exercise of their faith and patience. (C. Ness.)
Work which seems aimless
God taught His people to work six days, apparently doing nothing. It is easy enough to work for Christ when ground is manifestly being gained. Fighting is not hard work when souls are won to Christ; when an enemy goes down at well-nigh every blow, and many captives are delivered. It is far harder work to toil and do nothing. Thus Carey laboured for a lifetime marching round letters and languages and dialects, and probably some wondered how he could call that work for Christ. So David Livingstone spent his life in walking up and down Africa, and some well-meaning and good men asked, “How can he call himself a missionary? He is merely a geographer,” they said; “he has been discovering the water-shed of a continent instead of carrying to its thirsty inhabitants the Water of Life.” So little did they know of what was being done; so little, perhaps, did Livingstone himself sometimes know. We can see now that in all that, to some, aimless marching, England’s sympathy, America’s sympathy, the sympathy of all Christendom, was being won for Africa; and that the heart of the whole Church of Christ was being brought to feel, “Those negroes must no longer be made slaves; those men and women must hear the gospel; the work of the great man who died upon his knees for Africa, and whose heart lies buried in Africa, must not be suffered--under God, shall not be suffered--to fall to the ground.” It is very hard, however, to learn to do what seems to be nothing. It is hard for parents to teach their children, when all their labour seems so useless; fruitless work is hard for other teachers, and hard for preachers. God shows us here that it is enough for us to say, “Am I doing faithfully and prayerfully and zealously what my Lord has bidden me to do?”
A justifiable Sabbath work
Was it not contrary to the spirit of the law to make no difference on the Sabbath? As the narrative reads we are led to think that the Sabbath was the last of the seven days, in which ease, instead of a cessation of labour, there was an increase of it sevenfold. Possibly this may be a mistake; but at the least it seems as if, all days being treated alike, there was a neglect of the precept, “ In it thou shalt not do any work.” To this it has usually been replied that the law of the Sabbath being only a matter of arrangement, and not founded on any unchangeable obligation, it was quite competent for God to suspend it or for a time repeal it, if occasion required. The present instance has been viewed as one of those exceptional occasions when the obligation to do no work was suspended for a time. But this is hardly satisfactory explanation. Was it likely that immediately after God had so solemnly charged Joshua respecting the book of the law, that it was “not to depart out of his mouth, but he was to meditate therein day and night, to observe to do according to all that was written therein,” that almost on the first occurrence of a public national interest He would direct him to disregard the law of the Sabbath? What seems the just explanation is, that this solemn procession of the ark was really an act of worship, a very public and solemn act of worship, and that therefore the labour which it involved was altogether justifiable, just as the Sabbath labour involved in the offering of the daily sacrifices could not be objected to. It was a very solemn and open demonstration of honour to that great Being in whom Israel trusted--of obedience to His word, and unfaltering confidence that He would show Himself the God of His chosen people. At every step of their march they might well have sung--“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.” The absurdity of their proceeding, to the eye of flesh, invested it with a high sanctity, because it testified to a conviction that the presence of that God who dwelt symbolically in the ark would more than compensate for all the feebleness and even apparent silliness of the plan. It was indeed an exception to the usual way of keeping the Sabbath, but an exception that maintained and exalted the honour of God. And, in a sense, it might be called resting, inasmuch as no aggressive operations of any kind were carried on; it was simply a waiting on God, waiting till He should arise out of His place, and cause it to be seen that (Psalms 44:3). (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
Ye shall not shout.
., until the day I bid you shout.
Joshua taking Jericho
I. One of the essential attributes of a great leader--the power to repress the passions of a nation of warriors: “Ye shall not shout,” &c. This was the command of a young ruler. The temptation of the young and inexperienced is impatience. We but gradually learn the lesson, “He that believeth shall not make haste.” Joshua, however, had learnt this. It is easy to arouse a nation when new scenes suggest new possibilities, but it is difficult to suppress emotions at such a time, and to insist upon silence “until.” This is one of the tests of ruler-ship. Every general should be equal to this task. Joshua was.
II. One of the characteristics of a great people--willing obedience to the command to repress their emotions at such a time as this. Joshua does not seem to have told them all that the Lord had told him. Their ignorance of the final issue made obedience to the command to go round Jericho for six days without giving vent to their feelings in one single shout the more difficult, and on that account imparted to it a grander meaning. At the outset the nation of conquerors had to conquer their own spirit. There must be a reserve of force. Only those who can be silent can shout to good purpose. So has it ever been with God’s servants. They have had their seasons of delay. Moses in Midian; Christ’s disciples tarrying in Jerusalem “until,” &c.; Paul in Arabia; so here the people who could persist in their apparently meaningless rounds “until” they were bidden to shout, had the making of conquerors in them. The shout would have all the momentum of the delay in it.
III. The divine method of accomplishing triumphs: “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit.” The triumph thus gained is often the consummation of patient waiting and implicit obedience on our part. The world misunderstands the meaning of the apparent monotonous routine of Providence, and asks sneeringly, “Where is the promise of His coming?” All the while we know that the Lord is not slack concerning His promise, and that every apparent delay hastens the final consummation. And “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” (D. Davies.)
The wall fell down flat.
The fight of faith
Of uninspired poems, perhaps the most widely read are those which celebrate a siege--the siege of Troy. Homer and Virgil have sung in noble numbers the praises of the heroes in that world-renowned fight. Their qualities, deeds, reverses, successes, as thus recorded, will live as long as such poetry has a charm for the human mind. But, after all, the principles which animated Agamemnon, Ajax, Achilles, Nestor, Ulysses, and others of these old-world heroes, were very commonplace. The play of human passion, headstrong, self-willed, fierce, implacable, impure, treacherous, constitutes the base, shaft, and capital of these poetic columns. The whole thing is of the earth earthy. It is the fight of the flesh that we witness, not the fight of faith. In this chapter we have the record of a siege of another sort, the description of heroes of a different spirit. There an innocent city must be besieged for ten years because Paris ran off with a beautiful woman. Here, after a seven days’ pause for possible penitence, the Lord’s host executed judgment on a city of exceptional wickedness because God’s patience was exhausted. There in long works elaborated by the genius of the world’s great poets we have many pictures that command our admiration. Here in one little line the Holy Ghost presents a picture far more marvellous and sublime, when He simply says, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down.”
I. Consider, then, this fight of faith; and first of all mark the foundation of the faith whereby Jericho was overthrown. It was a well-founded faith, for it rested altogether on the Word of God. “What are the marching orders?” This is the only question faith asks; if it is convinced in regard to this, it can command mountains to be plucked up by the roots and cast into the sea. As it was in the siege of Jericho so is it in the siege of Mansoul. All must be done in faith, or nothing is done to good purpose. Faith asks, What has God commanded? And the answer is clear as day: “Preach the Word.” “Testify of Me.” We have something more to do than to defend the faith, or to apologise for the gospel; we have to prophesy over the dry bones, knowing that in the power of that Word they will rise up an exceeding great army.
II. Think also of the trial of his faith. The whole thing looked like child’s play. The means seem to human wisdom utterly, ridiculously inadequate to the end in view. Even so in our days faith is tried. What, it may be asked, are you to preach, preach for ever, to do nothing but preach? Again, it must have been a trial to Israel to wait so long. If going round Jericho is to accomplish the work, surely once round is as good as a thousand times. If one shout will lay the walls flat, why not shout the first day, and make short work of it? To try every mode of presenting the gospel, so as to reach the conscience and influence the life of those who hear, but never to see any good result therefrom; to labour in some degraded district to elevate the masses by the leverage of the gospel, and to see them sink back like dry sand into their congenial degradation; to teach in the Sabbath-school with earnestness and diligence, and never have the assurance that One soul is savingly touched; to train up the children in the family with careful pains and earnest prayers, and yet to find their hearts wayward and prone to evil--all these are sad and trying experiences under which the heart is apt to sink discouraged and to ask, Is this gospel the true power after all? For a cure to such faintness let us remember Israel. Perfect victory comes soon or late to every soul who works in the energy of God’s Spirit as God directs. Not only the walls of Jericho but mighty mountains are beaten small by the worm Jacob. Still another part of the trial of Israel’s faith must have been the thought of what their enemies had been saying and thinking. Say what we will, the opinions and thoughts of our fellows have an influence over us, and cause either gratification or discomfort. One of the severest trials to the faithful witness of Christ is his critics. Some of them are unfriendly, and their aim is to destroy his influence. Some of them are friendly; and their purpose is to extend his influence. If he is a foolish man, weak in faith, he will be spoiled by either of them. He should try to get all the good out of them that is in them; and if there is no good in them pay no more attention to them than the Israelites did to the men of Jericho.
III. As we look at Israel in its march round Jericho we also see a good example of the obedience of faith. We have need to imitate these warriors, and to remember that faith without works is dead. Faith develops itself in and by docility. We can attain to victory, the Divine blessing can rest on our labours, only as we work according to the Divine plans, only as we obey His revealed will.
IV. We have stiff further in the conduct of Israel before Jericho a display of the courage of faith. Faith is brave as well as obedient. Displaying its banners in the name of the Lord, it can run through a troop, and overleap a wall. Faith never underrates difficulties; faith never despises danger; but obeying God, it never quails before them, even when it is most exposed. Walking in the path of obedience, it knows that the Lord will preserve it from all evil, and therefore its heart never fails.
V. The patience of Israel’s faith is also plainly shown. The faith of these warriors was enduring as well as courageous. This was like the finishing of their education so far as patience went. Much mischief is often wrought by that natural impetuosity which rushes forward before God has prepared the way, even as much ground is often lost by that lack of patience which faints in the day of adversity, and gives in before the work is done. Only by patient continuance in well-doing are great things accomplished.
VI. Though the faith of Israel was strongly tried before Jericho, still it was not without true encouragement. Faith can always derive strength from some quarter: it can live where all else would die. The command of God would encourage Israel. No word that He speaks is vain. Also the very way in which they marched would strengthen their hearts. They marched as God’s people, with Jehovah’s priests in their company, bearing the sacred ark of God’s strength, before which all the might of man is weakness. The sacred number seven, moreover, interwoven with their work, showed that there was order and completeness in the task set before them, even though they might not be able to discover them.
VII. Think, lastly, of the triumph of this faith. Nothing in Jericho was left alive. Thus perished the enemies of Jehovah. Israel’s victory was complete. Behold in Jericho two things--the might of man, as revealed in these walls and towers and stalwart soldiers; the wisdom of man, as shown in their watchfulness, their care and precautions. Behold also two other things--the foolishness of God in that aimless marching round the city; the weakness of God in the sound of these rams’ horns, in the shout of these soldiers. See the effect; the walls are a ruin, Jericho is burned with fire, the place is desolate. Learn therefore that the weakness of God is stronger than men, and the foolishness of God is wiser than men. (A. B. Mackay.)
The walls of Jericho
In various directions we may find a counterpart of these remarkable experiences.
I. In Christian experience. If Egypt represents our conflict with the world, and Amalek our conflict with the flesh, the seven nations of Canaan represent our conflict with the principalities and powers of wicked spirits, who resist our entrance into the heavenlies, and our practical realisation of what Christ has wrought for us. Who is there amongst us that does not know, or has not known, of something--a cherished indulgence, a friendship, a pernicious entanglement--reared as an impassable barrier to the enjoyment of those blessed possibilities of Christian experience which are ours in Christ, but which for that reason seem beyond our reach? That thing is a Jericho. Now it cannot be the purpose of God that anything, however deeply rooted, should shut His redeemed ones out of the heavenly places, which are theirs in Christ--even though it should be the result of their own sin, or mistake, the heirloom of early indiscretions, the entail of trespass off the narrow path.
1. Be still. The hardest of all commandments this. That our voice should not be heard! That we should utter our complaints to God alone! All this is foreign to our habits and taste. As death is the last enemy to be destroyed in the universe of God, so is the restraint of the tongue the last lesson learnt by His children. “Be still,” saith God, “ and know that I am God. I will be exalted,” &c. And that soul may well be still and wait which has learnt that the Lord of hosts is beside it, and the God of Jacob is its refuge. To that Friend it hies to pour out its secret agony. In that home it nestles as in the covert of a great rock, sheltered from the blast.
2. Obey. As in this story so in grace, there must be co-operation between God and man. Only God can remove the difficulties that stand in the way of an entirely consecrated and blessed life, but there are commands and duties which it is incumbent on us to fulfil. In some cases we are withholding obedience that we should give at once. There are things which we ought to do which we are not doing. And there is equal danger in doing more than we should--endeavouring to scale walls which we are told to encompass; shooting before the word of command has been uttered; making the circuit of the city oftener than the once each day prescribed by the Divine ordering. It is so hard to feel that we do more by doing less; that we save time by resting quietly in our tents; that it is vain to rise early and late take rest, because He giveth to His beloved while they sleep.
3. Have faith. Look away from all your preparations, and even from your God-commanded acts, to God Himself; and as you do so your difficulties will melt away, that stone will be rolled from the mouth of the sepulchre, that iron gate will open of its own accord, those mighty walls will fall down fiat. And it shall come to pass that the obstacle which threatened to make the best life impossible shall minister to such an unfolding of God’s very present help as shall furnish fuel for praise in all coming years.
II. In Christian work. The apostle speaks of strongholds that had to be cast down, and of high things that exalted themselves against the knowledge of God; and asserts that he did not war against such things according to the flesh, and that the weapons of his warfare were not of the flesh, but mighty before God for the casting down of strongholds, and for the bringing of every high and proud thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Our only hope is to act on strictly spiritual lines, because we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with the wicked spirits that lie behind all that is seen in this world of men and things. If we can overthrow the dark spirits that abet and maintain, we shall see the system which they support crumble as a palace of clouds before the wind. Let us be pure and holy, giving time to heart-searching in the presence of the Captain; let us lift up the sacrifice and work of Jesus; let us blow the gospel trumpet of alarm and summons to surrender; let us be much in silent prayer before God; let us cherish a spirit of unity and love, as the tribes of Israel forgot their differences in one common expedition against their foes; above all, let us believe in the presence and co-operation of God, and we shall see the old miracle repeated, and the walls of Jericho fall down flat.
III. In the story of the church. This capture of Jericho is surely capable of being read as a parable of things that are yet to be. We know that the world lieth in the power of the wicked one. It has long boasted itself against God, with its mighty walls and gates, and it would seem as if the time will never come of which psalmists and kings have sung and spoken in rapturous phrase. In the meanwhile the various tribes of the Church of Christ have been perambulating about the walls, subjected to much derision and mockery, though sometimes a sickening premonition of approaching judgment must steal upon the hearts of the votaries of worldliness. For nearly nineteen centuries the circuit has been made, the trumpet-blast uttered, the testimony maintained. And surely the seven days have nearly expired. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
The lofty city, He layeth it low
This incident teaches solemn truths as to God’s character and working, and animating thoughts as to our duty as His soldiers. The true revelation of God is by His deeds, and the Scripture words of prophet or psalmist, which we call revelation, are all bused upon and draw out the significance of the history. The page of which this siege is the first paragraph is written in blood, and is crowded with terrible entries; but it is a page in the revelation of God, and its message, once delivered, is not set aside, though completed, by the later pages, which tell of love as His very being. If God makes Himself known by His doings as men do, the dream of a God whose love is so flaccid that He cannot punish is baseless. But this same story reveals His long-suffering patience as well; for, not only had generations passed, during which His thunder was silent, but even at this supreme moment the cloud gathered slowly, and ample time was given to escape. The slow minute-hand creeps round the dial for a long silent hour; but when it reaches the sixtieth of the seconds, in each of which it might have been stopped, the bell rings out, and all is over. God waits, that men may turn; but if they do not turn God strikes, and the stroke is mortal. Now, all this is as true under the gospel as it was in the days of Joshua. The message of love does not contradict the message of law, nor the revelation of the Father set aside the revelation of the Judge. The lessons of stimulus for us are equally plain. The Epistle to the Hebrews points to the fall of Jericho as a triumph of faith, and emphasises the obedience to the strange command to compass the walls, and the patience which did it seven days, as the tokens of the Israelites’ faith. So we may draw the lessons of the conquering power of faith over all strongest opposition, of the way by which faith becomes victorious, and of the tokens which will attest its presence. Jericho is a symbol of the evils against which the individual Christian has in his own life to fight, but still more of the banded and organised enemies arrayed against the Church. The great Babylon shines through the little Jericho, and its fall comes about in the same fashion. The faith which these fierce sons of the desert exercised was in form rude enough; but, however little of a spiritual or refining aspect it had, it was still real confidence in God’s help, and that, in its poorest form, makes the weakest strong, and turns cowards into heroes, In its lowest operations, it will send men to dash themselves against stone walls with desperate bravery, and to meet death as joyfully as a bride. Christians, who should have it in its highest and purest energy, ought not to be less brave in the harder conflict which is laid upon them--against evil in their own hearts and the organised iniquities of society. The one victorious power is that of absolute confidence in God’s help. Eloquence, learning, strategy, organising power, machinery, and wise methods, are all very good; but an ounce of faith is worth a ton of them when the question is how the walls of Jericho are to be got down. It will beget these qualities, they will never produce it. Mark how faith conquers. It does so by bringing the might of God into the field. Faith is not the battering-ram which beats down the walls, but only the hand which swings the ram. God’s power is, if we may say so, set loose to work through our faith; and that faith is mighty, because it opens the door for the entrance of His omnipotence. The slow marches round and round the doomed city, and the war-cry, at last did not effect the capture; but they were the tokens of the faith which brought into play the power which did. We may learn, too, the tokens of faith. They are docile obedience and perseverance therein. It is a slow task to leaven society with the principles of the gospel, which will destroy deeply rooted and long-continued abuses. But we have to “keep pegging away,” to use Abraham Lincoln’s homespun heroic phrase. If we can do no more, we can at least blow the trumpet which proclaims that God is here and summons Jericho to surrender. If we have to die before the seventh day comes, no matter. We shall have our share in the triumph all the same, and, wherever we are, shall hear the great shout which tells the fall of the bloody city, “ to be found no more at all.” (A. Maclaren, D. D.)
I. God would have his people work. We daily insist upon it that works do not make a man to live, but we equally insist upon it that spiritual life continually manifests itself by holy deeds. The soldiers of God’s army, after they had crossed the Jordan, were not to lie still in luxurious ease till Jericho’s walls should crumble down by slow degrees; and though God determined to send Jericho to destruction on a sudden, yet His people are not to sit still upon some neighbouring knoll and expect the catastrophe: they are to labour, and Jericho is to fall as the result of their toil. Let us look at this work a little in connection with this narrative.
1. You will observe that the work to be done by Israel was universal. There was a place for each one to occupy. The men of arms were to go round the city, and with them the priests were to march also. Both the ecclesiastical and the military castes should be represented here. They must neither of them sit still. God would have His people work universally.
2. But, next, He would have them work in His own appointed way. They are not to go in a scramble--in a boyish race; there must be the soldiers in their troops, the priests in their array, and then again, the men of war to bring up the rear. God would have His people work according to His own revealed will. If I go upon a tour I do not expect to see certain sights which have been guaranteed to me by my friend, unless I agree to follow the little chart which he has mapped out for me. I cannot expect to have that sublime view of the Alps if I refuse to climb a certain spot and stand there and view the glacier and the snow peak glittering in the sun. And I cannot expect to have God’s blessing in my ministry and in the Sunday-school class unless I keep to “It is written,” and in all things have a tender conscience, and am jealous of myself lest I err.
3. Then, again, remember, they encompassed the city daily. So does God call His Church to work daily. The wheel must revolve again, and again, and again: it is that perpetual motion of industry which produces wealth, and it must be the ceaseless energy of our zeal which shall produce spiritual conquest.
4. Nor have we exhausted the metaphors with which our text supplies us, for surely we may add that God would have His people work in faith. We are told that, “by faith the walls of Jericho fell down.” Is the preaching of the gospel a power? If you think it is not, never try it again. Is the gospel mighty to save? Will the gospel come out victorious? If you have any doubt slink back to your cowardly repose, but let the man whom God sends never doubt. If you have achieved no successes, if after fifty years your trumpet of jubilee was exceeding small, if after fifty years it was something like a ram’s horn that had not been bored, and could not make any noise at all, yet still go on; your time for shouting has not come yet, but your time for compassing the city is always present. Go on with it, go on with it, and God will not permit you to end till you have won the victory. So let us notice once more under this head of work, they worked with patience and courage, God kept this people labouring in the presence of difficulty. Sometimes we get into the habit of shutting our eyes to difficulty; that will not do: faith is not a fool, faith does not shut her eyes to difficulty, and then run head foremost against a brick wall--never. Faith sees the difficulty, surveys it all, and then she says, “By my God will I leap over a wall”; and over the wall she goes.
II. God would have his people wait. The delay must have sorely tried the faith and patience of the Israelites. There are a great many brethren who seem to be perfectly satisfied to rest at ease, but men of war do not generally seem to be of that temperament. When I was in the military prison at Dublin I observed a form of punishment there. Men were carrying large shot. A man took up a large shot and carried it to the end of the yard, and he afterwards had to pick that shot up and bring it back again. I said, “How is it you do not let them take all the shot to that end and pile them up there?” The officer said, “We used to do so but it was no use, for when the fellows had piled them up they felt they were doing something, but now we make them carry the shot from one end of the yard to the other, and then back again, and back again, and they feel they have to work hard and do nothing. That is always miserable work to the soldiers.” Many of our soldiers at Sebastopol made bitter complaints at not being led to battle. And you will often have heard young military men say, that they hate the inactivity of peace, they want to be doing something. Now these men of war were kept for six days marching round and round the city, and they must have felt themselves to have been doing very little all that week. Though as men of war we would rather come to close quarters and see more done, yet as men of God we must keep to our posts of duty, and learn how to wait. Besides this, what rendered the waiting so very galling was (what must have struck their reason if it did not assail their faith) the utter desperateness of the ease. How could they hope to win that city by simply going round and round? “Give me a good ladder,” says one, “ a rope-ladder and a couple of good irons at the end of it; just let me hear the clank upon the top-stone, and I am your man to lead the ‘ forlorn hope,’ and there are fifty thousand of us to follow, and we will soon have Judah’s standard waving on the top, and make the sons of Jericho know what the sons of Abraham can do.” But no; they must just march round the place till they have compassed the city twelve times. And so there are certain spirits apt to say, “Could not we do more by adopting these methods and such other expedients?” Now we know that God has His reasons for making us wait. It is for His own glory we doubt not. We know that all things work together for good, and, we believe, it will be ultimately for our profit. When I have read some masterly tragic poem, and verse after verse has dwelt upon the horrible portion of the tale, did I wish it shortened? Would I have the author leave out one of those dark verses? Not
I. God is writing a great poem of human history, the subject is the victory of truth, the destruction of Antichrist. Let the history be long. Who wants it shortened? who wants a brief story on so exceedingly interesting a subject as this, from so great an Author?
III. God would have his people win. The victory is very sure, and, when it comes forth, very complete. Nothing could be more so. It may be very sudden also, and it will be very glorious. But we shall get nothing by it, for when Jericho fell, nobody gained anything except to offer it unto the Lord; so that we have to persevere in disinterested service, just toiling on for the Master, remembering that when success comes it will all be His--every single atom of it--the glory will be to Him and not to us. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Lessons from the fall of Jericho
I. The lesson of self-control. “Ye shall not shout” was perhaps a hard order to the enthusiastic young soldiers of Joshua. Yet by putting the seal on their lips and withholding arrow and missle they became victors. How grandly do the annals of biography illustrate this duty of controlling one’s spirit! Under the clouds of aspersion, maligning of motive, slanders, and jeers that darken the sun of truth, a good man is often called to fight in the shade, to walk wearily and monotonously the round of duty in silence and in patience. He who endures the contradictions against himself is like the disciplined soldier who stands in the ranks, seeing the cowardly ruffian approach, pistol in hand; he receives death calmly rather than break ranks, fire without orders, or disobey commands. There are trying positions in life when we must wait silently till we see the whites of the enemy’s eyes, or hold the linstock from the touch-hole even while the hostile broadsides crash through our ship’s timbers. This hard and severe discipline makes noble characters and turns the common man into a hero. It infuses in the soul the right kind of fear--fear for the noblest, fear lest we fail in obedience to what ought to be obeyed.
II. The lesson of perseverance. Jericho, the walled and apparently impregnable fortress, is but a symbol of foes in the heart and evils in the world. The conflict is lifelong. God calls us to what seems slow, tedious, patient methods. Sometimes He seems to shock all worldly sense and maxims by His providences, which make even His children, for a time, a by-word, a shaking of the head and wagging of the tongue to the ungodly. The intrenched evil spirits laugh. Sometimes there is a kind of enemy that cometh not forth but by prayer and by fasting. Abstinence and silence are laid upon us. Behold the Jericho in us--habitual faults, hereditary vices, bosom sins. Behold in the Christian’s warfare-opposition of science, falsely so called, in philosophy, in criticism, in infidelity, in war, in intemperance, in vice, these are Jerichos that appear impregnable. The difficulties seem walled up to heaven. Nevertheless, we are well able, with God’s help, to possess the land and to take every city.
III. The power of faith and its gain by exercise. This tax on Israel’s courage--compelling men of war, whose yell in charging is part of their offensive power, to make silence a weapon--was laid on them for the strengthening of their faith. The whole affair appeared irrational. But to those loyally obedient to the command of a leader inspired of God, their act was in the finest strain of reason. The method selected, the means employed, were those of the wisest and bravest; for Joshua, their leader, was a tried man. Nor, without neglecting means, are we to think that the same means employed by others, even mighty men of old, will serve us without faith. (W. E. Griffis.)
The fall of Jericho
I. The situation of the Israelites at this time. The wilderness is behind them. They are standing on this side Jordan within the borders of the long wished for Canaan. But though in Canaan, the land is not yet theirs. A powerful nation is in possession of it, from whom they have still to take it if they would occupy it. And how are they to take it? They are without military resources of any kind. And have we not shadowed forth here the condition of many of God’s servants in our world? your own spiritual condition perhaps at this moment? As you look backward you can see that much indeed has been done for you. But now what is your situation? You are ready to say, “Almost as bad as it was at first. We thought we were saved for ever, but we see now that our salvation is but begun. Not only is heaven itself far off, but all that is heavenly and spiritual: it is yet to be won. And how is it to be won? We know not. We have as many difficulties before us as we have escaped, or more: and we are helpless as children.”
II. The town these Israelites have now to take.
1. It is a strong place. Oh, what a picture of Jericho within your hearts! Men of the world look on their souls as what we may call an open country. Talk to them of the holiness of the gospel and the happiness of the gospel, they never feel that there is anything within them which shuts these things out of them. But what do some of you think? or rather what do you know? If you are taught of God you will answer, “ We know this--our whole soul is entrenched against Christ and His salvation. It is covered all over with fortresses which shut Him out.”
2. It was a frontier town also. God gave them, you observe, a most formidable difficulty to overcome the instant they set foot in Canaan. And so it is in the spiritual life. Severe conflicts, we say, are for the aged Christian; heavy trials for the man who has first borne light ones: the Lord deals gently with those who are inexperienced in His ways. And this is quite true. But yet it frequently happens that the servant of God has some one great difficulty to get over in the very outset of his course.
III. The means by which these Israelites took this strong city.
1. They were means which God had appointed. We no more know how to master Satan or our own evil hearts than we know how to control the sea or direct the clouds. The Lord therefore gives us instruction in all things. Our real wisdom is to be mindful of our ignorance.
2. These means seemed most unlikely to succeed. So, too, in the spiritual warfare. If we would have the strongholds of Satan pulled down in our hearts we must expect God to give us many strange commands, and deal with us often in a very strange manner. When we look to Him for strength He may answer us by making us feel our weakness; and when we are determined to be zealous and active, and take our enemies by storm, He may say, “Your strength is to sit still. In returning and rest shall ye be saved.”
IV. The probable reasons why god appointed these strange means to overthrow this city.
1. A simplicity of obedience was certainly one thing this event was intended to teach these Israelites. God’s commands, be they what they may, must not be trifled with. We are not to sit in judgment on them; we must obey them.
2. A simplicity of faith was also inculcated here. God loves to be trusted as well as obeyed. He delights in the confidence of His people.
3. The people were taught, too, by this transaction the importance of a patient waiting on God. He consults our good, not only in the things He gives us, but in the day and hour in which He gives them. They are not always ready for us the moment we wish for them. We must generally wait for as well as seek them.
4. And one thing more Israel must surely have learnt here--to give glory to God. And now let me speak to three classes of persons.
(1) To those who are in a situation like that of these Israelites while besieging Jericho- such as are warring with some powerful evil which keeps them from the enjoyment of some spiritual good. You want that sin vanquished, and so does God; but He wants more. He wants all sin vanquished in you, and you made meet for His heavenly kingdom.
(2) Others, it may be, have just gained such a victory as this. You are even now rejoicing over some bosom-sin which the Lord has enabled you to overcome. Happy are you! Never build that vile Jericho again. Never suffer it to be built. Watch over its ruins lest they should unawares be raised up. And this also I would say to you--rejoice still in the ruins of those guilty walls. Look forward to other victories. If bought with a Saviour’s blood, you are destined to be conquerors still, and “ more than conquerors,” triumphant conquerors, through Him they loved you.
(3) But there may be some to whom all this is a riddle. “Seek to enter in at the strait gate.” (C. Bradley, M. A.)
I. The city which was to be taken. How vainly they reckon who leave God out of their calculations! When He is with us no opposing host can harm us; but when He is against us no earthly walls can protect us.
II. The means by which it was taken. These were very peculiar.
1. There was no natural fitness in the means to produce the end designed.
2. The means employed were such as would provoke the ridicule of the besieged.
3. The means employed produced no effect whatever for six days, nor even on the seventh, until the shout was raised at the last.
III. The disposition that was to be made of the city. It Was to be accursed or devoted to God. The Israelites in destroying the inhabitants of Jericho and the Canaanites generally were but the instruments in God’s hand of carrying out His sentence. Lessons:
1. Retribution, though long delayed, comes at last. God’s judgments have leaden feet, and so they come slowly; but they have iron hands, and so they strike deadly when they come.
2. Faith does what God says, and asks no questions.
3. At the sound of the trumpets of the priests the walls of Jericho fell down. By the preaching of the gospel the strong holds of sin and Satan are to be overthrown.
4. Let us not be impatient of results when we are doing God’s commands.
5. Success in our working for God is His doing, not ours, and so the whole glory of it should be given to Him. (W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
The siege of Jericho
Consider the circumstances of this event as calculated--
I. To try the faith of Israel.
II. To give a pledge that God would fight for his people.
III. To secure all the glory to God.
IV. To show that judgment would be sure to fall on the devoted Canaanites. (C. D. Marston, M. A.)
The overthrow of Jericho
Forty years before this God brought this people’s fathers to this same point, and to this very opportunity, but faith in Him was at such a very low ebb that this deed could not be done. He got them comfortably packed away under the clod, and at last raised up out of their sons a more faithful generation to serve Him and to do His work. I can imagine that when the sough of that strange, mysterious band of people who had been creeping along the edge of the desert, so wonderfully guided, and so wonderfully fed, reached the people of Jericho, and when at last they themselves began to heave in sight, old men in Jericho would be saying to younger braves, “Be not afraid of them. These men’s fathers came up against us, but when they saw the height of our walls, and the height of ourselves, their hearts melted within them like water, and we have seen nothing of them for almost a lifetime. Be not afraid of them.” But they were wrong. I can imagine other men, who had been out doing the work of scouts and spies, saying as they gathered round their fires in Jericho and talked about the host that was on the way, “Ah, say not so. Whatever these men’s fathers were, we have been out and seen the sons.” The spies, no doubt, went back to Jericho and said, “Shut your gates! Man the walls! It is death or victory this time.” There was something uncanny about the men and women who could so sing praise to an invisible God. And the advice was taken. Jericho was straitly shut up. They considered it no laughing matter this time. Only let God’s truth, in power, come into the Church’s heart, and this immediate triumph will be secured. Jericho will be straitly shut up. There will be a splendid division and separation, with a clear field and issue of conflict definitely presented--all Jericho there, and all Israel here, and the ground cleared in front for the contending hosts. But to-day, where are we? We do not know what is Jericho, and what is Israel. We are all here and there; all mixed, hopelessly, helplessly. But let us come near to God, as these Israelites after forty shameful years did. Let us gather round Him. Let us lift up our hearts in faith and prayer to Him. Then He will revive us, and this immediate sign will follow: the world will stop scoffing, the world will stop insulting. But then notice still further, that this was a victory won, by faith working through organisation. The cry on every hand is, “Organise, organise, organise.!” I think that there is a little too much said about organisation. Still, we must not despise it, and we must not forget that God is not the God of confusion, but of order. God does His work by plan and system. I can imagine a small breed of Israelites--men far too like ourselves--who on the first day’s round would have given vent to what we call “the rationalising spirit,” and they would have said to their fellows, “Now, really, being israelites has led us along some strange paths, but I will draw the line at this. As intelligent, sensible men, what mortal connection can there be between our walking round the wails with all this horn blowing and tooting and the down-coming of these walls? “And do not the rationalists seem to have a deal to say for themselves? But when I put it that way, you see how stupid it would have been, judged by the after results. Always let us believe that faith in God is splendidly intelligent. And let me say, further, if any of us have doubts--and just because we are human we have them--let us adopt Joshua’s plan. If you have doubts keep them to yourself. Do not give them to me. I have plenty of my own, and I will try and keep mine back from you. That is a grand plan for doubts. Shut the mouth upon them. Let them be hermetically sealed. Do not let them get the fresh air, and they will very likely wither and die. Less talking, and more walking. Less conferring with men, and more simple, sublime, stupendous faith in the Word of God. God has spoken, and God has sworn, “I will give Jericho into your hands, and its mighty men of valour. Believe in Me.” And it turned out that that was the highest wisdom. And, last of all, we see an organisation that was gloriously successful. On the seventh day they compassed the city seven times; and, as surely as God had spoken the word, the deed was done. He kept them from ventilating their doubts. He compelled them to look to Him, and to trust in Him. He poured contempt on all their wisdom and all their strength, so that their unbelief just withered away at the root, and died out in their hearts because it had nothing to feed upon. To-day, where are we? Just where the Israelites were; still, after all that has come and gone, only on the borders. The world still needs to be taken captive for Jesus Christ. The first thing is to get our own hearts, our own selves united--united round the Lord, and then knit together to each other as one man. You will always find in Scripture that, when God’s people get united round about Him, nothing can stand before them. Here they were united, and Jericho fell without a stroke.(John McNeill.)
The fall of Jericho
(A Sermon to Children):--What do we mean when we pray for the Church “militant here on earth”? We mean the fighting Church--the Church on the battlefield of the world. Christians are God’s army, and every one--men, women, and children--must try to show that they are good soldiers of Jesus Christ. What do you think is required of a good soldier?
I. First of all he must be BRAVE. It has been said that an English soldier or sailor never knows when he is beaten. The word coward does not seem to go well with the name Briton. But there’s a better sort of courage than that of a fighting soldier; that is, the courage of a Christian, which enables him to do right at any cost; which enables him to bear sorrow and insult and loss for Jesus Christ’s sake. We all like to hear about acts of bravery like that of the boy ensign, Anstruther, who at the battle of Alma planted the colours of the 23rd Regiment on the wall of the great redoubt, and then fell, shot dead, with the colours drooping over him like a pall. But the courage which is thought most of in heaven is the courage to do right. The child who is brave enough to say “No” when he is asked to do wrong; the boy or girl who can’t tell a lie to escape punishment; the schoolboy who is brave enough to say his prayers with a whole bedroom of companions laughing and jeering at him--these are the heroes whose names are written in God’s Book.
II. What else must a good soldier be? Obedient. Can you remember any one mentioned in the Bible who was a very tall, powerful, brave soldier, and yet not good soldier, because he was disobedient? King Saul. If you really love the Lord, you will keep His commandments. A soldier must not do what he likes, but what he is ordered to do. Between you and the Paradise of God there lies a long journey, the enemy’s country, where the devil and his angels will fight against you; but don’t be afraid, only be brave and go forward, and follow Jesus your Captain, and you will be able to say, as Paul said, “Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (British Weekly Pulpit.)
The fall of Jericho
In the campaign against Jericho the children of Israel appear at their best. Never before or afterwards did they act with greater unanimity or singleness of heart. There were noble individual souls such as Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, Samuel, David, and the prophets’ whom the writer of the book of the Hebrews could single out as worthy of mention; but there were only two events in which the nation as a whole participated which were specified in that splendid summary; namely, the crossing of the Red Sea as on dry land and the marching around Jericho seven days. Had Israel gone forward as they began, their course in history would have been like that of some mighty river, rising in the mountains and carrying a crystalline current far onward towards the sea, its waters unsullied by continuous flowing but sweet and clear to the very end. What makes the fall of Jericho for ever interesting is the fact that it resulted from the faith and obedience of the many. In this contest Joshua was hardly more conspicuous than the humblest soldier in his army. The striking thing about the campaign is the sharp contrast between the protracted preparation and the suddenness of the catastrophe. This is often the case. The end comes quickly and easily because of the long and careful preparation for it, the means being adjusted to the end. Only one thing then is needed, namely, to trust in God and go forward. That is what Israel did and kept on doing until the time came to shout. Then, because the people had done their part, God did His part. The faith they showed was simple and implicit. It did not confuse the two spheres of action, theirs and His. They did the walking and shouting, He overturned the walls. He was the effective agent, they the instrumental agent. (S. E. Bushnell.)
The Christian conflict
I. God can use the feeblest instrumentalities to accomplish his purposes. If ever feeble instrumentalities were used, surely it was now. Feeble instrumentalities! God has often worked that way, and does so still. You remember proud Naaman! Many a time He has used the little girl, the little child, to bring men to acknowledge Him. What happened when the little child was born into your home? In the first place, it became the anchor which held the mother to her home as never before. But it did more than this. It was the connecting-link which bound together father and mother, husband and wife, in a closer bond of affection and oneness than the marriage ring. The ring was the beginning of the union, the coming of that little child was the completion of the union. Nay, it did more than this even. Impressed by the fact that the little one would look to you for guidance in matters of the soul and the better life, were you not forced to think how you had neglected such matters yourself, and for the child’s sake, as well as your own, you were driven to the Cross to seek salvation? Such things have often happened, and we trust they may again. The Cross of Calvary was a feeble instrumentality. The preaching of a crucified and risen and glorified Saviour has often been regarded as a feeble thing. And yet, by the foolishness of preaching, God has won for Himself many thousands of the bravest and noblest champions of His cause.
II. God wants all instrumentalities to fight against the forces of sin. Look at Joshua 6:9. It shows us that all the hosts of God were in that procession. God wants all, and the battle needs all. Armed strong men--men of courage, confidence, faith--let these pass on in front. Let them lead us in the battle. Priests, ministers, teachers--let them fall into line. And then the rereward--the people. God wants all! He wants you, and the cause needs you. Do you say you can’t carry arms? You are timid, and possess but little or no strength? What of that? There is a place for you; see that you fill it. You can sustain and encourage those who are in front, and you will best do this by filling your place in the ranks. Do you say you can’t preach? Do you tell us that it is impossible for you to take the pulpit or mount the platform, and address your fellows in eloquent words? You can support and pray for those whom God has called to blow the ram’s horn and bear the solemn and sacred ark of the covenant of the gospel. You can march, you can share the conflict; God has a place for you. (Chas. Leach, D. D.)
The potency of inadequate instrumentalities
When we have clear indications of the Divine mind as to any course of action we are to advance to it promptly and without fear, even though the means at our disposal appear utterly inadequate to the object sought to be gained. No man goeth a warfare at his own charges in the service of God. The resources of infinite power avail for that service, and they are sure to be brought into play if it be undertaken for God’s glory and in accordance with His will. Who could have supposed that the fishermen of Galilee would in the end triumph over all the might of kings and rulers; over all the influence of priesthoods and systems of worship enshrined in the traditions of centuries; over all the learning and intellect of the philosopher, and over all the prejudices and passions of the multitude? Who could have thought that the efforts of a poor German student in Berlin, on behalf of some neglected children, would expand into the widespread and well-rooted “Inner Mission” of Wichern? Or that the concern of a prison chaplain for the welfare of some of the prisoners after their release would develop into the worldwide work of Fliedner? Or that the distress of a kind-hearted medical student in London for a batch of poor boys who “didn’t live nowhere,” and whose pale faces, as they lay on a cold night on the roof of a shed, stirred in him an irrepressible compassion, would give birth to one of the marvels of London philanthropy--Dr. Barnardo’s twenty institutions, caring for three to four thousand children, in connection with which the announcement could be made that no really destitute child was ever turned from its doors? When Carey on his shoemaker’s stool contemplated the evangelisation of India, there was as great a gulf between the end and the apparent means as when the priests blew with their rams’ horns round the walls of Jericho. But Carey felt it to be a Divine command, and Joshua-like set himself to obey it, leaving to God from whom it came to furnish the power by which the work was to be done. And wherever there have been found men and women of strong faith in God, who have looked on His will as recorded in the Scriptures with as much reverence as if it had been announced personally to themselves, and who have set themselves to obey that will with a sense of its reality and a faith in God’s promised help like that of Joshua as the priests marched round Jericho, the same result has been realised: “The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.” (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
1. Was it not of the nature of discipline that the men were to have arms, and yet were not to use them? It is hard to have the weapon, to see the thing that is to be done, and to know that the proposed thing could be done by the use of the weapon, and yet to allow it to remain in disuse. This is part of the continual discipline of life; this is what we are all called upon to do to-day. We do not use all our faculties; sometimes we have almost to strip ourselves of our distinctive faculties, or to let them lie in disuse, and to be doing everything by doing nothing. This is part of a deeply-planned scheme of education. This is how Jesus Christ Himself conducted His own life in the sight of men. He did not use all His faculties; He did not call into requisition all His resources; He was quiet when He might have been restless, calm when He might have excited a tumult which would have had all the effect of an unexpected and irresistible storm. When one offered to defend Him, He said, “Nay, not thus; thou dost not understand the spirit of the kingdom; thinkest thou that I could not now pray unto My Father, and He would send twelve legions of angels, which would look all these petty enemies into dismay? We must not use all our resources. We have the strength, but do not resort to the tyranny of using it. Some things are to be accomplished by submission, patience, meekness; knowing the righteousness of the cause, we await the issue with imperturbable calm. But what a lesson this is to those who are impatient! Life without discipline is life without dignity.
2. Was it not, further, of the nature of discipline for the men to be in the midst of plenty and yet not touch it? (Joshua 6:18-6.6.19). To keep men back from things which they could so easily use and and so naturally appropriate, and to remain in comparative poverty in the very midst of abundance, is not easy. When we do not want the things, it is no trouble to let them alone; but when they are round about us, urging themselves upon us, and are almost clamorous in their appeal that we should appropriate them, to stand in their presence as with folded arms, and look upon them, not with contempt, but with a judgment that values them, yet with a conscience that will not appropriate them, is an attainment in religious manhood which we must not expect to secure without long training. This is part of the mystery of providence. Here it is that character discovers its quality. We are in reality what we are in critical circumstances. It is the exceptional hour that is the key to the lifetime. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
3. Is it not in the nature of discipline to be in great excitement, and yet not to express it? “And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout” (verse 10). The instruction seems easy. Obedience under such circumstances would be most difficult, Who can keep down excitement--honest and honourable excitement? To shout under such circumstances as are described in the text is natural. Inborn instincts may be profaned, and the very voice of God within the soul may be mistaken. The whole kingdom of heaven is hindered in some instances because people will not hold their tongues. God knows when His people should shout, speak, pray, work; the distribution of parts, functions, duties, is with God. Here we clearly see that much detail must go before great results. It is not for us to take this work out of the Lord’s hand. Be patient in the detail. It seems a long time since we began going round this awful hell. It seems to be encroaching upon us, rather than we seem to be encroaching upon its heat. Travel on! It is the fifth day; to-morrow is the sixth day; and the day after is the seventh day. “The Lord shall suddenly come to His temple.” “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” How quickly he falls! (J. Parker, D. D.)
They burnt the city . . . and all that was therein.
Too polluted to be spared
Great were their offences whose possessions were too polluted to retain any value or become of any service to the people of God, and who not only themselves became a curse, but all that they had. This not unfrequently discovers itself in the transfer of ill-gotten wealth--a curse comes with it, which a new possession does not wipe off, but consumes and withers as though cankered and moth-eaten. It was not to enrich His people with the spoils of conquest that the Captain of their salvation led the march of triumph, but to inspire them with a holy detestation of sin, and especially the corruptions and impurities of idolatry, as the just cause of His vengeance. Nothing so entirely unfits men to live in this world, and so soon hastens them to another, even to depriving them of the common pity and forbearance of God, as the corruptions of idolatry, the sanctified impurities of a false religion. This proves infinitely worse in its nature, and unspeakably more dangerous in its influence, than would the positive absence or total obliteration of all that bears the name of sanctity. In this view the admonition receives peculiar force as addressed by the apostle (1 Corinthians 10:20-46.10.21). (W. Seaton.)
The silver and the gold.., they put into the treasury.--
Booty given to God
Other cities would be conquered and their booty be divided among the people, but in this case all was to be given to God, No one was to be richer for those marches and that tremendous slaughter except as every one was richer when the treasure was dedicated to God. It was enough to be delivered by His help from so formidable a foe, who held the two main passes to the hill country above, an enemy too powerful to be left unconquered in their rear. Besides, all that was God’s was theirs. As well might a son begrudge the increasing wealth of his father in whose prosperity his own interests were enhanced. But the fact that one man, Achan, did covet and then conceal a goodly Babylonish mantle, with some silver and gold that he found, shows how real was the temptation, yet how magnificently it was resisted. Only one man among all those thousands played the thief. How splendid, then, was the fidelity of the many! (C. S. Bushnell.)
Seems not this too severe to forbid the soldiers the spoils of the city
1. It was wonderful continency in the soldiery, now wanting all things of country provisions, by their so long wandering in the wilderness.
2. Jericho was the firstfruits of that cursed country, so must wholly be devoted to God, and offered up a whole burnt-offering.
3. The hungry soldiers might have been so glutted with the spoils of this rich city that it would in all likelihood have made them fitter for idleness and luxury than for marching forward in a martial conquest of Canaan.
4. The whole army being thus admonished by the prohibition of their expected prey, might understand that the conquest of Jericho was accomplished solely by the almighty power of God, and not by any of their prowess and valour, as was afterwards done in subduing all the other cities.
5. This severity was exercised upon this city at their first landing in Canaan, to strike the greater terror upon the other Canaanitish cities, which they had to conquer, and, if possible, to bring them to repentance and submission. (C. Ness.)
Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive.--
It has not been the lot of Rahab to share the devout interest which has been lavished on Mary Magdalene. Our Correggios, Titians, and Carlo Dolcis have not attempted to represent the spirit of contrition and devotion transfiguring the face of the Canaanite girl. And this is not surprising. Rahab had never seen the human face of Jesus, nor heard the words that dropped like honey from His lips. But though she was not one of those whose contrite and holy love painters delight to represent, she belonged to the same order, and in some respects is more remarkable than any of the New Testament penitents. For her light was much dimmer than theirs who lived in the days of the Son of Man. She was utterly without support or sympathy from those among whom she rived, for with the exception of her own relations, who seem to have been influenced by herself, not a creature in Jericho shared her faith, or showed the slightest regard for the God of Israel. But the time has now come for her to reap the reward of her faith and its works. In her case there was but a short interval between the sowing and the reaping. And God showed Himself able to do in her exceeding abundantly above what she could ask or think. For she was not only protected when Jericho and all its people were destroyed, but incorporated with the children of Israel. No doubt the scarlet cord was hung from her window, as had been arranged with the spies. And a happy woman she no doubt was when she saw the faces of her old guests, and under their protection was brought out with all her kindred and all that she had and led to a place of safety. It is a blessed time, after you have stood fast to duty while many have failed, when the hour comes that brings you peace and blessing, while it carries confusion and misery to the faithless. How thankful one is at such a moment for the grace that enabled one to choose the right! What do we not gain by patience when we do the right and wait for the reward? One of the pictures in the Interpreter’s House is that of “a little room where sat two little children, each in his chair. The name of the eldest was Passion, and of the other Patience. Passion seemed much discontent, but Patience was very quiet. Then asked Christian, ‘What is the reason of the discontent of Passion?’ The Interpreter answered, ‘The Governor of them would have them stay for his best things till the beginning of the next year; but he will have them all now; but Patience is willing to wait.’” The case of Rahab was one of those where whole families were saved on account of the faith of one member. The head of a Hebrew house was eminently a representative man, and by a well-understood and recognised law his family were implicated in his acts, whether for good or for evil. Rut in this case the protector of the family, the member of it that determines the fate of the whole, is not the one whom the law recognises, but his child, his daughter. A woman occupies here a higher and more influential place, in relation to the rest of the family, than she has ever held at any previous time. The incident comes in as a kind of foreshadow of what was to be abundantly verified in after-times. This narrative shows it to be in the line of God’s providence that sisters and daughters shall prove instruments of deliverance to their relations. It is blessed when they are so even in earthly things, but far more glorious when, through faith and prayer and unwearied interest, they are enabled to win them to Christ, and turn them into living epistles for Him. But let us now advert to the reception of Rahab and her household into the nation and Church of the Israelites. At first they could be treated only as unclean until the rites of purification should be performed. In the case of Rahab this was doubly necessary--owing to her race, and owing to her life. Thereafter they were admitted to the commonwealth of Israel, and had an interest in the covenants of promise. The ceremonial purification and the formal admission signified little, except in so far as they represented the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Ghost. “Where sin abounded grace did much more abound.” When the enemy ensnares a woman, wiles her into the filthiest chambers of sin, and so enchains her there that she cannot escape, but must sink deeper and deeper in the mire, the case is truly hopeless. More rapidly and more thoroughly than in the case of a man, the leprosy spreads till every virtuous principle is rooted out, and every womanly feeling is displaced by the passions of a sensual reprobate. “Son of man, can these bones live?” Is there any art to breathe the breath of purity and pure love into that defiled soul? Can such a woman ever find her home on the mountains of spices, and hear a loving bridegroom say, “My love, my undefiled is but one”? It is just here that the religion of the Bible achieves its highest triumphs. We say the religion of the Bible, but we should rather say, that gracious Being whose grace the Bible unfolds. “The things that are impossible with men are possible with God.” Jesus Christ is the Prince of Life. Living faith in a living and loving Saviour can do all things. We wonder whether Rahab obtained much help in her new life from the fellowship of those among whom she came when she joined the Church. If the Church then was what the Church ever ought to be, if its outstanding members were like the three fair damsels, Prudence, Piety, and Charity, in the Palace Beautiful, no doubt she would be helped greatly. But it is not very often that that emblem is realised. And strange to say, among the members of our Churches now we usually find a very imperfect sense of the duty which they owe to those who come among them from without, and especially out of great wickedness. It is quite possible that Rahab was chilled by the coldness of some of her Hebrew sisters, looking on her as an intruder, a reprobate, and grieved because their select society was broken in upon by this outlandish woman. And it is quite possible that she was disappointed to find that, though they were nominally the people of God, there was very little of what was Divine or heavenly about them. So it often happens that what ought to be the greatest attraction in a Church, the character of its members, is the greatest repellant. Will the day ever be when every one that names the name of Christ Shall be a living epistle, known and read of all men? But however she may have been affected by the spirit of those among whom she came, Rahab undoubtedly attained to a good degree before God, and a place of high honour in the Hebrew community. It was well for her that what at first arrested and impressed her was not anything in the people of Israel; it was the glorious attributes of their God. For this would preserve her substantially from disappointment. Men might change, or they might pass away, but God remained the same yesterday and to-day and for ever. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
Cursed be the man . . . that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho.--
The unprosperous builder
Here is a terrible denunciation, under a curse, of the destruction of the family of that person that should labour to build up Jericho again. As in blessing there are three things considerable, that come near one another--a blessing, a prayer, and a prophecy--so is it likewise in cursing: there is a prayer that God would pour forth His vengeance upon the enemies of the Church, and a prophetical prediction that God will do it. “Cursed be the man before the Lord.” That is, let him be cursed indeed. That that is done before the Lord is truly and solemnly done. This was a solemn curse, a heavy curse, and it did truly light upon him. And let him be cursed before the Lord, however the world bless him. “That riseth and builds this city Jericho.” Why would not God have Jericho built again?
1. Partly because He would have it a perpetual remembrance of His goodness and merciful dealing with His people, passing over Jordan and coming freshly into Canaan; for we are all subject to forget. If this city had been built again, the memory of it would have been forgotten; but lying all waste and desolate, the passers by would ask the cause--as God speaks of His own people--“What is the reason that this city lies thus?” And then it would give them occasion of speaking of the mercy of God to His people. And likewise it would give occasion to speak of the justice of God against the idolatrous inhabitants, whose sins were grown ripe.
2. And likewise it was dedicated to God as the firstfruits. Being one of the chief mother cities of the land, it was dedicated and consecrated to God as a thing severed; it was to be for ever severed from common use. There are two ways of severing things from common use: one by way of destruction, as here the city of Jericho; another by way of dedication, as the gold of Jericho. God would have this city severed from common use, as a perpetual monument and remembrance of His mercy and justice.
3. And likewise for terror to the rest of the inhabitants; for usually great conquerors set up some terrible example of justice to terrify others. Now, this being one of the first cities after their passing over Jordan, God would have the destruction of it to strike terror, together with this sentence of a curse, upon all that should build it again for ever.
4. And then that this terrible sentence might be a means to draw others to come in to God’s people to join with them, and submit, and prevent their destruction, seeing how terribly God had dealt with Jericho. (R. Sibbes, D. D.)
The curse of Jericho
I. Let us listen to the curse pronounced. Such an act of destruction was clearly directed in that law which Joshua was to ponder day and night. It was the first city that Joshua had taken, and he was bound to act according to the directions laid down by Moses (Deuteronomy 13:15-5.13.18). Joshua therefore had no choice as regards Jericho. Other conquerors, for their own pride and self-glorification, have ordained that fair cities should be levelled with the dust and their sites sown with salt. Thus was it with Troy, Carthage, Sidon. Joshua did this as he did all things, in obedience to the Divine command. Jericho was “cursed before the Lord,” i.e., from God’s presence and by His sentence. But did this dreadful destruction serve any good purpose? Yes, truly. Here we have sermons in stones, far more intelligible and emphatic even than those with which the book of nature is filled. To begin with, inasmuch as they are tokens of a just and long-deferred judgment on wickedness, they sound a loud note of warning to the impenitent. Especially do they display the terrible nature of the sin of idolatry and its consequent evils. Would they not be impressive witnesses against Israel in every evil day of apostasy? And would they not also give encouragement to every faithful heart that strove to follow the Lord fully? Pious souls could read these words writ in large characters on every one of them, “Not by might, nor by power, nor by wisdom, but by faith, is the victory won”; and the practical conclusion was plain: “Faithful to God, you can never know defeat.” Thus these stones would also emphasise the truth, that in the greatest triumphs and the most brilliant successes there is no room for pride or boastfulness or self-sufficiency on the part of man. Always these stones would say, “His right hand and His holy arm hath gotten Him the victory.” What a stimulus therefore to truthful and healthful effort would these stones become!
II. But the time came when the curse was despised. It may seem incredible that a curse so plain, so terrible, so memorable, should be thought so little of, but when we read the Divine record we can clearly trace the causes of this sinful audacity. To begin with, there was a popular cause for this despisal. It was done in a day when Israel’s God was forgotten, when spiritual life was very low, when public sentiment was degraded, when open impiety reigned in high places, and only one solitary man stood out an open witness against the evils of the day. The very sins for which Jericho was destroyed were rampant and popular in Israel (1 Kings 16:30-11.16.33). How significant are the words, “In his days.” There were many bad, but none worse than they. It is also instructive to notice that the builder was a Bethelite. Hiel had come under the full influence of all the evil principles that were rampant. He was born and bred, he lived and died, at Bethel, the metropolis of idolatry, the place in which Jeroboam had set up his calf. There was also a sceptical cause which led to the despising of the curse. Unbelief was at the bottom of Hiel’s impious act, as it is the root of every evil work. Perhaps he had reasoned thus. The curse, if there ever was any force in it, must have spent itself by this time. Unbelief forgot whose curse this was. It could not get beyond the lip of Joshua to the will of the changeless and almighty Jehovah. Or perhaps Hiel had said: “It is nothing but an old wives’ fable, unworthy of credence; an old-fashioned jingle, without a particle of meaning; an apocryphal curse, to explain an apocryphal miracle: or at the very utmost, granting that it has some historical basis, it can be nothing more than the expression of Joshua’s ill-nature and ill-feeling, and therefore is a fossilised manifestation of the narrow, bitter, bigoted age in which he lived. The supposition that it is a Divine proclamation is utterly absurd, utterly inconsistent with the nature of things. It would be neither just nor wise nor loving in God to do so. Such a curse as that does not commend itself to my conscience, reason, or heart, and therefore it is unworthy of credence.” Hiel, having stood in the way of sinners, would not be long in sitting in the seat of the scornful. And perhaps the governing and most potent of these concurrent causes was a purely materialistic one. Hiel may have said to himself and others, “You see I am a practical man of business. I am neither a prophet nor a prophet’s son. Profit, not prophecy, is my forte. Now look, did you ever see such a splendid site?” (Had Hiel lived in our days he could have drawn up a splendid prospectus for a limited liability building company.) “And what a delicious climate this valley enjoys; even in mid-winter the air is bright and balmy. And see, the building material is lying around, ready to be used. The site can be got for an old song, on account of that ridiculous superstition about Joshua, which has seared so many chicken-hearted noodles. Do you shake your head and say there may be some truth in it? What care I? I see plainly how I can make money out of this. You to your books and me to my buildings, and every man to his own trade.” It was not so very difficult then for Hiel to despise the curse of Joshua; even so it is not difficult for any one to despise the curse of the gospel. The spirit of the age, whether as expressed by common talk, or the newspaper press, or current literature, is in favour of such a despisal. There are also sceptical reasons which conduce to the same end. The record which contains this curse is old and not trustworthy, say some. The curse is decrepit and antiquated. The edge of the sword of judgment is blunt and its blade is rusty. The Lord is slack concerning His threatenings. We are too enlightened and liberal nowadays to believe in these things. But perhaps the great reason why men will not take heed to this curse is because they are so absorbed in the things of time and sense that they can think of nothing else.
III. Now notice the fulfilment of the curse. Hiel was full of his great life-work. The plans have been drawn, the trenches have been dug, the stones arranged and prepared, multitudes of labourers engaged. There is to be a grand opening ceremony at the laying of the foundation stone; therefore the members of his family and his numerous relations and friends flock from all quarters. It is a most auspicious occasion. But in the midst of the ceremony his firstborn is seized with a sudden sickness; he falls in a swoon, and is carried away from the crowd. But by and by a messenger with a sorrowful countenance returns and whispers into Hiel’s ear, “Abiram is dead.” It was a terrible blow, in this hour of his father’s triumph to be cut down. But perhaps, his friends would say, the excitement of the ceremony was too much for him. He had never been very strong, and was complaining for some time, and this must have been heat apoplexy, a Sunstroke. But though Abiram’s death was a great interruption, the work must be carried on all the same. At last it is all but finished. There is nothing left but the putting up of the gates. Absorbed in his great undertaking, he has been able to drive away ominous thoughts and what he calls superstitious fears I But there is growing on him, as he nears the completion of the work, a nervous anxiety that he cannot drive away. On one thing he is resolved--there shall be no public ceremonial at the closing of the Work, as there was at the commencement. He will superintend the putting up of the gates himself, and not permit any of his children to be present. As he was thus busily occupied at the finishing touch of his great work, a messenger arrived in hot haste from Bethel, fourteen miles distant, with the doleful news, “Segub is dead.” Thus was the curse of Joshua concerning Jericho fulfilled. Learn from this how faithful are God’s words, the terrible as well as the gracious. No jot or tittle of His truth ever fails. His word may remain in abeyance for many years, but the lapse of time can never destroy its vitality, “ The Word of the Lord endureth for ever.” See also how infatuated is unbelief, Every blow hardens rather than softens. Behold also the bitter fruits of unbelief. Pleasant and profitable Hiel thought his work would be; perhaps this very speculation was more for his children’s benefit than for his own; but the solemn narrative teaches that there can be no lasting profit for us or ours if we run contrary to God’s Word, if we deny His will.
IV. But we can turn to a more grateful scene, and consider the removal of the curse. Jericho was rebuilt in disobedience to a command, in defiance of a threatening, and at the awful cost of the builder’s children; yet it was not demolished. God had better things in store for it. His prophets and His people were permitted to dwell there, and though there was much theft was pleasant and attractive in it, it was an uncomfortable residence. The curse seemed to hover over it and linger within its Walls (2 Kings 3:19-12.3.22). Thus the curse of Joshua is removed. Strange cure this; the old curse met by the new cruse; the old word of judgment removed by the new word of healing. “Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters.” How strange that the salt of the new cruse should abolish the bitterness of the old spring--passing strange. Yet can we not here see the symbol of higher truth? Can we not see Jesus and His salvation in this strange action of that prophet so like Himself? Each human being is like Jericho. “The city of Mansoul,” “the house we live in,” is it not like Jericho, pleasant for situation, fair in its outlook? Our powers and faculties of mind and body, the possibilities of our nature, are all that could be desired; yet the water of spiritual health is naught and the ground barren. We are lying under a curse. But see, the Saviour comes. The wonder-working wood for the bitterness of Marah and the wonder-working salt for the spring of Jericho, both picture that cross and passion by which Jesus has removed the curse. Yes, and the world itself is also like Jericho. Is it not fair and beautiful; most pleasant for situation? Every prospect pleases. But there is a deadly drawback, “The water is naught and the land barren.” Death reigns. “The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain, waiting.” Yes, waiting; waiting the coming of Him who brings healing and life and fruitfulness with Him; to welcome whose arrival all creatures will shout for joy, for there shall be no more curse. His presence will bless us with Eden again. (A. B. Mackay.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Joshua 6". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent