Warner's TheoBlog

Thoughts from a disciple who writes


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Walking around in circles

Even I can see, as I read Joshua 6, that the strategy to take the fortified city of Jericho is a little bit alternative. It is not normal to walk in circles around a city and never fire a rock or stone at the walls, and then to expect the walls to come down.

“as the commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” (Josh. 5:14-15)

Joshua’s encounter with the commander of the Lord’s army reveals several things.

  • First, God’s power is present as the people of Israel start to take possession of the promised land. His army is already at the scene of the battle and preparations have been made.
  • Second,  the land around Jericho is already holy. God has set it apart for the people of Israel to see the power of His presence and activity. The land will not be made holy when the city is taken and the non-believers are destroyed. It is already holy because God says that it is. In the same way, I am acceptable to God; not because I am without sin, but because Jesus says that I am. It might seem an odd thing to say but; things are not made holy by our actions, but by God’s declaration. They become real to us as we walk in the faith that they are real.
  • Third, the city of Jericho is doomed by the word of God, but the actions are still to take place.
  • Fourth, the plan to take the city is not Joshua’s. Jericho will fall at the hand of God by the plan of God. Joshua 6 relates God’s plan to open a city that is heavily defended and tight shut… and it is crazy.

“March round the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Make seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march round the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, make the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.” (Josh. 6:3-5)

As we read on, this is what happens. The whole army of God marches around the walls a total of 13 times in a period of 7 days. The Ark of the Covenant, which holds the words of God and the proof of the wilderness experience, is given centre stage and the people walk with it around the whole city of Jericho. On the seventh day, they walk around the city seven times and at the last moment let out an enormous shout of praise for God and the walls come tumbling down. Then the huge column of the army charges from all directions at once into the now defenseless city and wins the battle.

There are several things that come to mind as I read this…

  • There is no doubt at all that God wins this battle. No matter what people might say or claim, there is no other possible explanation. And so, as the people of Israel enter the campaign to win the promised land they are building on an earthshattering, resounding victory that is entirely down to God.
  • The faith of the people needs to be strong. The army of the Israelites must have felt like a proper bunch of plonkas, walking in silence around the city walls. The people and army of Jericho would have shouted insults at them all the time they marched and, as day followed day, the army must have wondered what was going to happen and if Joshua had made a mistake. I wonder what the talk in the camp was after the first day of walking around the walls? I wonder what people were saying about Joshua after the 6th day of nothing happening? I wonder how enthusiastic they felt after the 6th circuit on the 7th day? By faith they marched and shouted.
  • Faith is not a feeling, it is a conscious decision. Whatever the feeling of the army of Israel, they went through with the entire plan. God said it would work, and it worked. There must have been occasions when the army thought it was a stupid idea… but they kept going out of a conscious decision to follow God’s words. We are no different. If we believe God has said something, we need to carry on until the end. If they had given up after 6 days, they would not have won.
  • God’s plans are not the same as our plans. No sane General would suggest this plan to take Jericho… but God did. How audacious is that? God has the power and authority to carry through His plans… even when we cannot see how they might actually work out. We need to submit to the plan and power of God, not expect him to take our advice.

This passage has so much to teach us. As disciples, individually and as a community, the will of God should be our primary focus and the glory of God our ultimate aim. No matter what the apparent evidence of our eyes might be or what the preference of our desires might suggest, God’s word is key. When we hear God speak we need to carry it through… however mad it seems.


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Freedom and Circumcision

After 40 unnecessary, but prescribed, years wondering in the wilderness, all but two (Joshua and Caleb) of the people of God who had looked upon the promised land and refused to enter it for fear of the people who lived there were dead. Even Moses, the Prophet of God, who God spoke to face to face, had died on the top of Mount Nebo, looking out over the land. This was a whole new generation.

Crossing over (part 2) had taken place. The million or so people of God had miraculously cross the river Jordon and were now, for the first time, standing on the very land that was the promise of God to them. This was a momentous moment and, having placed their feet on the land, they enact a ritual as a commitment of themselves to serve and follow God. It is an act that has not been performed for 40 years.

After the people had left Egypt, God had commanded that all of the men should be circumcised, in line with the promise to Abraham, as a sign of their belonging to God and commitment to follow God as their King. During the wilderness years, this practice had not been carried out on the children born, whilst all of the men who had been of fighting age at Crossover 1 had died. This left an entire generation of men (with only Joshua and Caleb as exceptions) who were part of the people of God but had not been circumcised as a sign of their belonging and commitment.

Thus, in Joshua 5, all of the men are circumcised. Ouch! No wonder it says, “And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed” (Josh. 5:8).

It is obvious to say, but necessary, that we who are God’s people need to commit ourselves to the plan of God. Contrary to much popular opinion, God does not worship and serve us. It is not we who decide what is right and wrong. We serve God and, even when it is hard to follow or we do not see the sense of it, we follow and submit to him.

God is all powerful and when he leads us to the edge of a promise, no matter how impossible that promise might seem to be fulfilled to our eyes, He has the power to make it a reality. We, the people of God, must have faith in the word of God even when it seems difficult to believe.

When the people of Israel had come to the edge of the promised land for the first time, they had looked at a wonderful place and been consumed with fear of the people who lived there. Even though God had told them that it was theirs, they had refused to enter the land. They were still slaves, in their minds, to the domination of human beings rather than fully submitted to faith in the promise of God. Their bodies were circumcised in submission, but their minds were not.

On this second occasion, the people have had their minds renewed over the period of 40 years and ACTUALLY crossed into the promised land in obedience to God’s word. The people who lived in the land are the same as they had been 40 years previously and the cities, like Jericho, were still surrounded by high walls. Yet the people of God were willing to have faith in the power of God rather than the supposed evidence of their eyes. They were no longer in the mindset of the slaves of Egypt, who were unable to see past the power of human beings. Now they were children of God in body, mind and spirit.

Their act of circumcision was the final sign that they had left the past behind and were moving into God’s future. God speaks to them following;

“Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt” (Joshua 5:9)

I love these words. In that moment, the people of God step out of the wilderness and into the promise of God. They begin to live by faith instead of fear. God, in His grace, rolls away the past so that we can walk into HIS future. These words echo down to us too.

No longer are their minds dominated by the experience of Egypt and the fear of people with whips. Rather, they are defined by their adoption as the nation who are ruled by the one true and living God. God, who took them out of Egypt with miracle after miracle, fed them out of nothing for 40 years and took them over the flooded river Jordon into the promised land, has rolled away the influence of the past.

This people are not longer the people of Israel. Now they are the people of God.

What about your slavery? What experiences and attitudes cause you to act out of fear rather than faith? Have you crossed over into the promised land yet?

Further, what about the Church? Does it live in the attitudes of the past and so called pragmatism, rather than faith in the promise of God that looks far away but is actually much closer?

“Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt” (Joshua 5:9)

I hear and accept these words by faith. No longer will I be ruled by the past. Now I will walk into God’s future. And where my past affects my actions, I will leave it in the wilderness to be rolled away by God.