Faithful to Worship (Joshua 6)

by Feb 12, 2024

The Lord said to Joshua, “Look, I have handed Jericho, its king, and its best soldiers over to you.” (Joshua 6:2)

There’s a lot of good stuff in Joshua Chapter 6, but I’d like to focus on the first half of the chapter. Actually, let’s go back to the last three verses of Chapter 5 (vv.13 – 15) to begin. The chapter breaks did not exist in the original language of the Bible but were added centuries later to help us study better. So, in 5:13 Joshua is out near Jericho when he encounters an armed warrior, sword in hand. Joshua challenges him with, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” Sounds like a very 21st Century American question, doesn’t it, where we’re all divided up into different competing teams – political, social, racial, sports, you name it! The man’s reply doesn’t answer Joshua’s question, it transcends it. “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” We’ll break that down in a moment.

In Chapter 6 Joshua is then given instructions on how to conquer the stronghold of Jericho. It sounds very little like an army tactic and more like a marching band. For six days you will follow the priests as they carry the Ark of the Lord around the city, blowing their horns. Then you will return to camp. Do the same thing for six days – nothing more, nothing less. Then on the seventh day march around the city seven times as before but then everyone will shout and the walls will fall down flat and you can all run up and take the city. They don’t teach that one in the military academies like West Point and Annapolis. 

Like the Israelites, we think from the point of view of the Israelite team. They’re here to take a land promised by God to their ancestor Abraham. From God’s point of view, that’s only half the picture. In Genesis 15:16, God tells Abraham that his descendants will be held in Egypt for a period of four generations while God gives the Amorites in the land of Canaan a chance to repent of their evil ways. God is not just blessing Israel after four hundred years in slavery, he’s judging the Canaanites after four hundred years of mercifully giving them a chance to repent. That’s why the answer to Joshua’s question about whose side the warrior is on is “No.” God is on the throne of both mercy and justice and He desires that all people would repent and come to Him. 

“Okay,” we ask, “but what’s with all the marching and trumpets and stuff?” God wants both the Israelites and the Canaanites to know that it is God who is at work in this moment. A lot of different ancient kingdoms had arks that were carried into battle for “luck” but those carried the images of Pharaohs and kings. The Ark of the Lord carries the Word of the only true God of the universe.

This holds true for today as well. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 tells us, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” Our enemy is not some other country or political party or candidate or NFL team. Our enemy is our own flesh and the worldly values we continue to live by and the father of lies, satan himself. And those can not be defeated by our own strength, or cleverness or – God forbid – by fighting “fire with fire,” or “the ends justify the means,” or even “whatever works to defeat those unsaved people.” Unsaved people are the prize we’re supposed to be winning, not for “them” to be destroyed. Our weapons involve turning the other cheek, blessing those who curse us, doing good to those who abuse us, being the servant of all. Our foundation looks nothing like the mess of modern life, it’s the Sermon on the Mount, the Cross of Calvary and the Empty Tomb. God’s will can only be done God’s way.