The story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho (Joshua 5) is one of my favorite stories in the Bible. I often like to pretend that I was there when it was unfolding. I imagine that I am one of the Israelites that was at the meeting where Joshua unveiled the plan he had received from YAHWEH for destroying Jericho. It would have been at the end of 40 years of wandering the desert because we had doubted God the first time we had seen the giants in the land of the Canaanites. Joshua had just come from spending time with YAHWEH and he had called an assembly of the leaders to hear the battle plan. The sense of excitement and nervousness for what we were about to embark on would have been very intense. I imagine I would have been one of many people at that meeting that would have become more and more confused as Joshua laid out the plan. What Joshua claimed God had told him was that we were supposed to walk around the city walls without making a sound once a day for 6 days, and then on the seventh day, we were supposed to walk around the city 7 times with the band playing instruments the whole time. At the end of the seventh time around the city, we were supposed to scream as loud as we could. I wonder if anyone would have been brave enough to ask Joshua to go ask God again for instructions, just to make sure he had heard God right.
When we read the account of this historical event, we have the benefit of knowing how the story ends. We know that at the end of the marching when the Israelite’s have endured 7 days of being mocked by the Canaanites as they marched, and after they had ended the marching by yelling at the top of their lungs, God brought the walls of Jericho down and the Israelite’s destroyed the city. But to the Israelite’s who were following God’s instructions, this would have taken a lot of faith and perseverance.
What I like most about this story is that it demonstrates the way God likes to do things for His people, and it demonstrates the importance of learning to hear God for ourselves and to follow His leading in our lives. You see, God knows that we are not capable of changing our own hearts. He knows that He is the only one capable of doing the supernatural work of changing the heart of mankind. But God wants a relationship with us, and so He wants to include us on the Journey. God wants to do things WITH us, not just FOR us. So God partners with us on the journey of true heart change and becoming pure and holy. When we have obstacles in our lives that get in the way of our spiritual growth we can ask God for instructions for what He wants us to do to overcome these obstacles, and He will give us something to do.
God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows us better than anyone else knows us. So sometimes when God gives us instructions they will seem ridiculous, just like His instructions for capturing Jericho. The instructions might be something so simple and seemingly unrelated to the obstacle that we are trying to overcome that they can cause us to doubt that we are hearing properly. But when we realize that God is the only one who can remove the obstacles in our lives, then we can more easily accept whatever instructions He gives us. How many of us, if faced with the obstacle of Jericho, would have tried to come up with a plan that involved long ladders to scale the walls in an attempt to just breach the walls? Yet God had the Israelites walk around the walls, almost ignoring that the walls were even there!
Sometimes God asks us to walk around the walls of our obstacles so that He can partner with us in bringing them down. While obstacles seem to be designed to bring us down in life, God only allows them in our lives because He knows He can use them to build us up. The walking around the walls demonstrates our trust in God. And when we see God bring the walls down it builds our faith in the One we have placed our trust in, because we know He is faithful.
Now the Bible contains instructions for all Christians to follow on a daily basis, such as: putting on the full armor of God, meditating on God’s Word day and night, offering our bodies as living sacrifices to God, and more like this… But these disciplines were never designed to become the object of our faith or to become something that enables us to take credit for fruit in our lives. It’s not me that has the power to defeat Satan or to resist the sinful desires that tempt me, it’s Christ in me that has the power!
So if there is a “Jericho” that you are currently facing in your life I would encourage you to go to God in prayer and ask Him what He wants you to do to partner with Him in bringing that “Jericho” down! And as long as it doesn’t clearly contradict scripture, go and do it, no matter how confusing it may seem. And while it is important to listen to Godly counsel for wisdom, it is also important to develop a relationship with God that is not dependent on other people getting wisdom from God for you. Eventually, we have to become mature enough that we are able to hear God for ourselves. Sometimes this means walking around the walls, and leaving it up to God to bring them down!