The book of Joshua is a book about having the faith to trust God to be strong and courageous. The book is teaching us about having the faith God requires to enjoy the promised land. The book is about having the faith to be strong and courageous to do what God has asked us to do. We come to the end of Joshua 5 where the scriptures give us another picture of the faith we are to have to belong to the Lord.
Whose Side Are You On? (5:13-15)
An amazing moment occurs before the conquest of the land. Joshua is near Jericho and suddenly there was a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. A drawn sword means that this person is ready to fight. A person is ready to swing with the sword is not in the sheath but in the hand. So Joshua approaches him and asks him if he is for us for against us. Basically, Joshua wants to know whose side this man is fighting for. The man answers, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come” (5:14). This seems like a strange answer because it does not really seem to answer the question. How can this man with a drawn sword not be on either side? But Joshua understands what this person is saying. This man is the commander of the Lord’s army. Joshua falls down to the ground and worships. Bowing before this commander of the Lord’s army, Joshua asks what message he has for him. Here is the message: “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” That is the message. Nothing else is recorded for us. But this is all Joshua needs to know and it is all that we need to know.
The scene replicates the beginning of the exodus with Moses. Remember that God comes to Moses in a burning bush and the message was the same. “Do not come near; take you sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5). Now Joshua experiences a similar scene. Joshua has come into the presence of God and this is, therefore, holy ground. Since the commander of the Lord’s army does not tell Joshua not to worship, we can be assured that this is God. It is holy ground in God’s presence. God is going to go ahead and fight for his people.
But I want us to think about the answer the commander of the Lord’s army gives to Joshua. Joshua asks whose side the commander is on. The commander’s answer is no or neither. The question is not to ask, “Is God on my side?” The question is, “Am I on God’s side?” The commander of the Lord’s army has arrived to go ahead of Israel and give victory to the people. Are you on his side? God will fight for you, not because he is on your side, but because you are on his side. The commander is asking Joshua, “Are you with me?”
Too often we want God to be on our side. What I mean by this is that we want God to validate our direction, our wisdom, and our desires. We want God to be on our side and we mean that we want God to support all that we do. But that is not how God operates with people. He is God and we are his creation. We must want to be on God’s side. It is not about God being on our side but about us getting ourselves on God’s side. God is leading the way. Are we following him or are we trying to get God to follow us?
Faith To Walk In Circles (6:1-14)
With an understanding that we are going to follow God and where he leads, the Lord comes to Joshua with the plan of attack. Verse 1 of chapter 6 is important to note. The city of Jericho is ready. The city is tightly shut so that no one can go in or out. The first city that the people will face is the city of Jericho. I want us to imagine the nerves that the people would feel as we are going to finally come up against the first city as we conquer the land God is giving. So God reveals the plan. Joshua and all the men of war are going to march around the city of Jericho once and you will do that for six days (6:3). Seven priests will carry seven trumpets before the ark of the covenant. On the seventh day they will march around the city seven times and the priests will blow the trumpets. When the people hear the sound of the trumpets, then all the people will shout and the wall of the city will fall down and the army will go up. This is the battle plan. Who would go to battle with this plan? Who would fight with this plan? Why would God want to defeat Jericho with a plan like this?
One would have to imagine that the city of Jericho thought the same thing. You can imagine how the army approached the city of Jericho and starting walking around it. I am sure the city walls were ready with soldiers, preparing for the attack. But rather than battling, the army walks around one time and leaves. Even more interesting, the instructions were for the army to remain silent while they walked around the city (6:10). The people were not to have a word come out of their mouth. The only sound that was heard was the sound of the rams’ horns blowing as they army marched around. Then they all returned to the camp. What confusion there must have been in the city of Jericho after watching that! On the second day the army, the priests, and the ark of the covenant came again. You can again imagine the soldiers of Jericho preparing for battle, taking their place on the walls. But again, they march around the city without a sound but the rams’ horns and they return to camp. What the discussion must have been like in Jericho on the second night! On the third day Jericho prepares itself again but again the army marches around once and returns to their camp. By the fourth day I really want to know what the city was thinking. Are they dropping their guard a little bit? Are they thinking that these Israelites are crazy? Are they hurling insults from the wall? Are we going to fight or are you just going to keep walking around? Yet the people say nothing and the only sound from Israel is the sound of the rams’ horns. The fifth day is the same thing. The army of Israel is still quietly walking around the city once with only the sound of the rams’ horns and then returning to camp. The sixth day the same things happen again. Would the city become complacent at this point? Would the city think that these Israelites are not going to fight at all?
Then we come to the seventh day. On the seventh day it looks like everything is happening the same. I wonder if the city prepared for battle in the same way it did on the first day. But after the first time walking around the city, the army does not go back to their camp. Instead, the army marches around the city a second time. There is still no sound coming from the army except the rams’ horns. Do they have the attention of Jericho now that they have started the second lap? What about the third lap? And then they walk around a fourth time and then a fifth time and then a sixth time. But on the seventh time around something different happens. Now the priests blow the trumpets with a long, loud blast (6:5,16). Then all the army shouts (6:16).
Victory and Salvation (6:15-27)
Joshua tells the people to shout because the Lord has given them the city. All of the city was to be devoted to destruction except Rahab and all that are hidden in her house (6:17). Specific instructions are given in verse 18. The people are not to take anything as plunder. All of it is devoted for destruction or else trouble and destruction will be brought upon Israel’s own camp. All the silver, gold, bronze, and iron were to be holy to the Lord and put into the Lord’s treasury. So the trumpets blew, the people shouted, and God made the wall fall down flat. It is a military strategy that would never work unless the Lord was on your side. With the wall down, the spies are sent back to Rahab’s house to deliver her and her household from the destruction. They were brought to back to the outskirts of Israel’s camp (6:23). While the city is destroyed, Rahab and her family is spared because she hid the messengers. She lived the rest of her days with the people of Israel (6:25). A curse is placed on anyone who tries to rebuild Jericho. The account ends with verse 27, “So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.” God kept his word to Joshua. God was with Joshua and brought Israel the victory in the most amazing way: walking in circles by faith. So why did God accomplish this victory in this way? What is God trying to teach his people and teach the world about himself?
Would we trust God to walk in circles? I honestly want us to consider this question. Would we be willing to do something so illogical because we truly believe in God’s promises and God’s faithfulness? Would we trust in God to walk in circles? It does not make any sense. It seems like a waste of time. It seems to be completely pointless. There is no logic behind it. There is no master plan that you can give to show why doing something like this would cause fortified city walls to fall or give military victory. So would we do it, do it while criticizing it, or not do it at all? Would we have the faith to walk in circles?
Think about how often God calls for us to do the illogical or believe in the impossible. Naaman was told that he would be made clean from his skin disease if he dipped seven times in a dirty Jordan River. It is illogical. Why seven times? Why the Jordan River? How can a dirty river make a person clean? Naaman initially rejects the idea and complains against it. It takes faith to do the illogical. In fact, the writer of Hebrews speaks to this Jericho event as a great moment of faith. He wrote, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days” (Hebrews 11:30). This event is a message of faith.
Why does God do something like this? God does things like this so that there is no way that we can boast in ourselves. God does this so that all the glory and all the praise must be placed completely on him. Listen to what the apostle Paul said to the Christians in Corinth.
Brothers and sisters, consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one may boast in his presence. It is from him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God for us—our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, in order that, as it is written: Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:26–31 CSB)
Paul says that what God is doing in the world and what God is doing in our lives is using things that are insignificant and despised, things that are viewed as nothing, so that we will see God doing great things and not boast in ourselves. There is nothing about Jericho that would allow a single Israelite to think that this victory was because of what he did. God does not want us to think that we can deliver ourselves but to rely on him. So God uses illogical things and insignificant things to try to teach us this so that he gets our honor and praise. What gives God delight and honor is that we would have complete faith in him to believe that God accomplishes his will through the insignificant, despised, and illogical things. The cross teaches us this. How can a cross bring glory and save the world? God showed us how through Jesus.
I think one of the most illogical and difficult things God tells us to do is to have a cross attitude. We are not to think about ourselves but think about the best interests of others. We are to give ourselves for the good of others. We sacrifice for others. We do not protect ourselves but give ourselves. Do we have the faith to be godly when it seems so wrong and so illogical to do so? Do we have enough faith to walk in circles? The weapons of our warfare are not worldly and of the flesh (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). But we are battling for the Lord. Our weapons include prayer, love, sacrifice, blessing others, doing good, self-control, and more. But do we have the faith to respond with these spiritual weapons rather than the way the world responds? Do we have the faith to walk in circles and watch what God will do? Trust in the Lord for the victory and do not rely on your own understanding or wisdom.