The True Commander
The people had passed over into the Promised Land, and it was now time to begin the work of dispossessing the inhabitants of the land. Israel's campaign in Canaan would be the work of the Lord just as their deliverance from Egypt and their crossing over Jordan and into Canaan. God is imminent and personal; he will save, deliver, and judge. Israel will not achieve any objective in the land apart from the work of God. God's presence is manifest among his people, is present with Joshua, and his power over all creation was witnessed firsthand. The people set up a memorial, renew the sign of the covenant, and keep the Passover. A new era has dawned for God's chosen people who find themselves in a new land with a new diet because God's manna ceased and Israel enjoyed the fruit of the land. Joshua is by Jericho contemplating a stratagem for this fortified city when his planning is interrupted by a man standing before him with his sword drawn. Joshua has led the army of Israel for some time and surely his first instinct must have been to draw his sword as well. However, Joshua acts honorably and asks the man straightforwardly if was for Israel or their adversaries. The man is not on a side and declares himself to be the commander of the army of the Lord. Joshua was facing a seemingly impossible military situation, but now he understands that the Lord will do the fighting and he falls to the ground in recognition of his superior. The commander of the army of Israel is the servant of the true leader and is ready to follow orders. The man does not rebuke Joshua and instructs him to take off his sandals because this was the presence of the Lord, and the place was holy. God was reminding Joshua of his holiness and prescribing the way in which he must worship. Joshua obeys. God himself would fight for his people, and he would be victorious.
An Unconventional Plan
Jericho was preparing for the siege and restricted all access to the city. Inside the walls of Jericho, the people were filled with fear and had undoubtedly made provisions to defend the city. Little did they know that God had already given Joshua the city along with the king and his warriors. The city would fall by faith, and the Lord gave detailed instructions for Joshua to follow. For six days, the ark accompanied by seven priests bearing trumpets and the army would march around the city one time. Day seven would be different. The number seven is symbolic of completion and totality because it points to God's work during creation and the Sabbath week. On day seven, Israel would march around the city, but the march would be repeated seven times and the priests would sound the trumpets. When the people heard the long blast from the ram's horn, they were to shout, the walls would collapse, and they would enter the city unimpeded.
Joshua explains the plan to the priests and the people and there is no record of the people doubting or questioning God's instructions. Joshua directs the armed men to proceed before the ark and the priests who were followed by a rear guard. Joshua then issues one more detail that was left out up until this point; the people were to remain silent until they were instructed to shout. Jericho must have been very confused by the behavior of Israel. One cannot help but wonder if the Jericho's soldiers sounded the alarm when they first saw the army begin to march and the priests blew the trumpets. Imagine the king of Jericho's military leaders trying to explain that the enemy was not constructing siege mounds or deploying their soldiers strategically around the city. Jericho must have been unsettled and apprehensive that first day. Day after day for six days, Israel marched around the city one time, and nothing happened. Were the people of Jericho less concerned thinking that nothing would happen on day seven and it would be the same as it had been for the previous six days? How did the soldiers posted on the wall respond when the march continued around the city? The people must have been counting, and when the seventh circuit around the city was followed by a long blast from the priests, surely they looked to Joshua for the signal. Joshua gave the command to shout for victory, devote the city to destruction, spare Rahab along with those in her house, and keep themselves from the devoted things. Everything in the city belonged to the Lord whether it was for worship or destruction because God had conquered Jericho. The people shouted and the God who commands flooded rivers and soaked soil now melts the walls of this great city before his people, and they took the city. Some may be troubled by the destruction of the city including men, women, children, and animals. Others may accuse God of being a monster or a different God than the one described in the newer testament. God is not careless, mean, or heartless but one must look closely at the scriptures for answers. Sin brings death and Israel bears the sword of God's judgment. God does not change. He must act in wrath toward sin, and it must be punished by death. Deuteronomy 9:4–6 sheds light on the situation, “Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. “Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people.” God is right and just in all he does. He is patient and merciful. He knew that the people of Canaan would continue to sin and was patient for five hundred years with them (Genesis 15:16). God is slow to anger and graceful as the picture of salvation unfolds in the house of a prostitute named Rahab along with her family. She finds her name among the faithful in Hebrews chapter eleven as a trophy of God's grace.
Things To Consider:
- Are you fighting with God or worshiping God?
- How are we able to draw the sword of the Lord today?
- Why is it important to remember that every victory is from the Lord?
- Why do you think God gave Israel the city in this way?
- How do you see the gospel in Rahab and the scarlet cord?
- Why are material things dangerous to us?
- Why does sin bring death?
- How can you explain God's wrath to others?
- Why do we miss his grace and patience in so many stories?
- What insurmountable walls are you facing right now?
- Have you asked the Lord for direction?