Joshua has been successfully used of God to lead the Hebrew nation into the Promised Land. They have crossed the River Jordan and Joshua meets with the pre-incarnate Jesus as the Commander of the army of the Lord (5:13-14). He now finds himself preparing to lead the conquest of the Promised Land as he will lead the Hebrew army against the walled city of Jericho.
As followers of Jesus Christ we can be in a similar situation. We have met with Jesus and figuratively removed our shoes in recognition of His holiness. We are in the Promised Land of salvation, but we are not sure how to conquer the spiritual battles in front of us. It is those individual battles that lead to the whole conquest we greatly desire. Pastors and others are telling us to have victory in Jesus, but we do not know how. We can even wonder, what does that exactly mean? Sometimes it can even be discouraging because you have heard of people that entered into the Promised Land of salvation by grace and through faith, but are now defeated in sin and no longer seem to be walking with God.
Subject: The Battle
Object: Have Victory
I. Vs 1-7, God Directs us:
The people of Jericho had heard of the great victories God had already given the Children of Israel (2:9-10, 5:1), and now their greatest fears are coming to pass as the Hebrew soldiers prepare themselves for battle to take the closed and walled city. This would be the Children of Israel's first battle for the conquest of their Land, so it must have been comforting for Joshua to hear God's promise of victory in verse 2.
God desired victory for His people Israel in their Promised Land. God desires no less to give victory for His people today. For both the Hebrews and for us, victory comes by following the direction of God. For Joshua, as for us, the direction God gives may seem ridiculous. Any military commander would have to question putting all the men in one location and setting a pattern the enemy could discern and prepare for. Yet, when we are faced with seemingly impossible spiritual battles, it is better to follow the direction of God rather than follow the conventional warfare methods of man.
II. Vs 8-14, We Obey Him:
Joshua and the army obeyed though some of the directions went against the perceived wisdom of warfare. As humans we desire to go our own way and follow our own paths. We choose work over worship, self independence over dependent relationships, and pride over meekness. None of those are God's direction for victory. Admittedly, God's directions do not always seem obvious, but they are wise (Jeremiah 8:9, 1 Cor 1:19).
For us, there are things God directs us in that may seem counterintuitive. Sometimes I may think I have no money and yet God asks me to give of what I think I do not have. Two young lovers may find it difficult to think of the remainder of their life together, yet they are directed to not spend one night together before marriage. God directs us differently than the world directs us. The world never promises victory, but God does, consider the words of Jesus, "Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it."
III. 15-21, God uses us
To have watched the Battle of Jericho from a distance would have been amusing and frightening. A fortified city was locked up in fear and a strange bunch of refugees were walking in circles with a box. Though they did not speak, they were anything but stealth as the ones in robes blew trumpets. They kept repeating the pattern, even on their Sabbath day, and finally they shouted and the wall of Jericho fell. Then these seemingly non-violent religious people took action, "And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword."
The correlation between victory and obedience, even obedience to seemingly strange directions, becomes clear as the Hebrew army defeats Jericho without a single clash of swords, arrow shot or dagger thrust. Obviously God could have conquered Jericho by other means, but because of the obedience of the Hebrew army He gave the honor to His people. As we obey God, we are used. It is also the place where victory comes from. With discerning, but hopefully not judgmental, eyes we can see the equal correlation between disobedience, defeat and deferral of victory. In the next chapter we'll see this correlation played out strongly after God gave very clear directions about the accursed things and plunder in Jericho (Vs 18-19).
IV. Vs 22-25, God saves
Heb. 11:31 "By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace."
In the midst of the destruction of all the unbelievers in the city, God saves the one that had faith. For most hearers the destruction of so many people and the salvation of only those of one household may sound brutal. It is! It is harsh and a difficult passage to fathom, but let us have clear understanding. Just as obedience brings victory and life, disobedience brings destruction and death. The people of Jericho had a very clear witness of the power of God and knew His desires. The people of Jericho made a conscious effort to shut God and His people out. They chose death. It is not pretty, it is not joyful, but God was faithful to save all the faithful from the destruction and death. It is much better to understand the Rehab story from God's point of view rather than from the point of view of the people who chose to worship accursed things (Vs 18) and would tempt God's people into similar destruction.
Rahab is one of the most interesting people in the Bible. She is an example of God saving His people out of the destruction and judgment leading to death. She is called a harlot, but also called a woman of faith. Most importantly, God called her His own and saved her and her family. The image we see in Jericho is God's devouring fire of judgment and yet God used is people to save Rahab and her family from it. This is the nature of our God. He is a seeking, serving and saving God.
Verses 26-27 will be the Conclusion:
The prophecy of verse 26 is fulfilled in 1 Kings 16:34, but do not allow that to overshadow verse 27, "So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout all the country."
This is not about bringing fame for Joshua for its own sake, but for the glory of God and fulfillment of His promises. The Children of Israel just had victory in the first battle of what would be a great war to conquer and occupy the Promised Land. By obeying God and achieving that victory in the first battle, they had expectation of victory for the whole war.