- Joshua, Battle of Jericho
- Joshua 5:13 - 6:5
- Bill Couch August 2, 2015
It is good to be preaching this morning. We have been blessed by our team of teaching pastors this summer. A part of our vision is to offer intergenerational worship so that persons of all ages and stages of life feel connected within our church family. It is wonderful that we have teaching pastors in four different decades to help make connections with different generations: Jason in his 20’s, Blossom in her 30’s, Don in his 50’s and me in my 60’s.
Some of our younger generations–elementary, middle school and high school–have experienced church camp this summer. I have heard that several of them received Jesus in their hearts for the first time and others rededicated their lives to Christ. We are thrilled with the spiritual transformation that is experienced at church camp and we appreciate those of you who gave scholarships to help make it possible for anyone who wanted to go to camp to be able to attend.
This morning we begin a new series of messages entitled “Heroes of the Bible.” This series will bring first person stories of some of our pastors’ favorite heroes: Joshua, Queen Esther and King David. As part of helping our youngest generations connect with the theme, we encourage you to wear costumes of your favorite heroes: Ninja turtles or a super hero. No need to wear a full costume. For instance, if your hero is a football player you might wear just a football helmet. Or if your hero was on the world champion women’s soccer team, you might want to wear a USA soccer jersey.
Today I will bring a first person message from Joshua in the Old Testament. We are going to introduce our scripture reading with a clip from Veggie Tales. These kid-friendly cartoons communicate Biblical messages in humorous way to all ages. Let’s watch as Veggie Tales sets the stage for the battle of Jericho.
VIDEO: VEGGIE TALES
This morning, Parker Wallace is going to read our scripture.
13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” 14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” 15 The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. 1 Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. 2 Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.”
Good morning, my name is Joshua. Actually I’m a little surprised that I was included in this “Heroes of the Bible” series—I don’t really think of myself as a hero. I guess nobody really thinks of themselves as heroes! Our heroes are always someone else! Who is one of your heroes—perhaps from the Bible or from history or from your life experience? My hero was Moses. He was an amazing leader—a real spiritual giant in my eyes. He dared to confront the Pharaoh of Egypt—the most powerful man in the world at that time. Moses endured for forty years the grumbling of our people about all the things they didn’t like: the menu, the lack of water, the harsh desert conditions. Gripe, gripe, gripe. But Moses interceded for us with God and prayed for us and kept us marching toward the Promised Land. Moses died at the ripe old age of 120 before we entered Promised Land.
I was appointed by God as his successor. I had been with Moses through all these experiences and had grown in my faith, but I felt so inadequate to follow Moses as the leader of the Israelite people. Who was I to fill his sandals?
When God appointed me as the leader he said, “Get going. Claim the Promise—take the land. In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you and I won’t leave you. Strength. Courage.”
I hope you will walk with me through my story and put yourself into the story. Perhaps God is calling you to a new adventure. Where in your life is God saying, “Get going. Claim the promise. I am with you. I will give you strength and courage.”
As soon as we approached the Promised Land we encountered our first challenge—the Jordan River. Normally it is a lazy, meandering river that is easy to cross just about anywhere. But at certain times of the year it floods and becomes a wide, deep raging torrent of water. Of course we are approaching it when it is this raging river. If we tried to cross it with our livestock and children we would all be swept away and would drown. So I did what Moses taught me—when you don’t know what to do, talk with God about it.
God told me to take the Ark of the Covenant—the gold box that symbolized the presence and glory of God—and place it at the front of our long line of hundreds of thousands of people. God said, “As soon as the feet of the priests who are carrying the Ark touch the water, the Jordan River will part just like the Red Sea did when you left Egypt.” So I told the priests what God had said. They looked at the raging river and had their doubts. No one wanted to be first in line to step into the water. They said, “Can you go back to God and ask him to part the water first and then we will cross the River.” I told them that once God had given his instructions we needed to step out in faith and trust him. So with great fear and trepidation, the two priests at the front of the Ark stepped into the water. As soon as their feet touched the water, the raging torrent rolled back and they walked to the center of the River and stopped. All of the Israelites crossed through the mighty Jordan River on dry ground. When the last persons crossed over, the Ark was brought out of the water and the River began to rage again in full force.
That experience was such a validation of my appointed leadership. God was with us now just like he was with us when we crossed the Red Sea under Moses leadership. We paused and celebrated Passover together. But we could not rest long—our next challenge, Jericho, loomed right in front of us. This mighty fortified city with walls so tall and thick they would be impossible for us to climb or penetrate. We had no ladders, no battering rams, no catapults. How would we ever conquer Jericho? It was time to talk with God again. I went off by myself to pray. As I prayed a man suddenly appeared in front of me with his sword drawn. I asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” That was not exactly the response I was hoping for. But the more I thought about it, I realized what a powerful message he was giving to me.
When we start out on a new adventure with God we are aware that it is God’s adventure and we are joining him in what he is doing. Maybe we get involved in a certain ministry or mission group. At first we depend upon God as we face challenges because we know that this is His work not ours. But somewhere along the way—the ownership switches. We come to think that we are doing God’s work and that the battles we face are our battles. The forces marshaled against us and our agenda are our enemies. The question is not, “Is God on my side, but am I on God’s side?” The angel commander of the Lord’s army put me in my place. He did not respond as I expected, “I am here for you and Israel. I’m on your side.” Instead he replied, “I am here, not to take sides, but to take over and take charge as Commander of the Lord’s army.”
We would never claim the Promised Land in our own strength, but only by the mighty power of God’s spiritual army fighting the battles for us. I needed my perspective to change. Rather than asking, “Is God going to help me?” I need to ask, “God what do you want me to do?”
I’ve heard that today many athletes pray before a game. I wonder what their perspective is? Are they asking God to be on their side and help them win? What about the other team? Is God going to chose sides? Or should we pray in alignment with God’s side? “God, in this game, help us all to play to the best our abilities—both teams—so that this will be a great game. Help us to play fairly and with a spirit of good sportsmanship. Win or lose help us to represent you well in this game.” Rather than asking God to be on our side, we are putting ourselves on God’s side and praying about the things that matter to him. The same could be said if we are praying for God to be on our side in a business deal, or getting a sale or signing a new client or winning a new boyfriend or girlfriend. How do we need to be on God’s side in our work and our relationships—maybe even when we think we are doing God’s work? Am I on God’s side in this situation?
The battle for Jericho was God’s battle, not mine or ours. So I decided to listen to what the Commander of the Lord’s army had to say. The angel told me to take off my sandals, because the place where I was standing was holy ground. I did so immediately. I recognized those words as the same words that God spoke to my hero Moses from the burning bush when God called him to lead the Israelites out of slavery. God fought the battle with Pharaoh. Moses just followed instructions. That is what I needed to do. The Commander told us to march around the wall once a day for six days. On the seventh day we were to march around the wall seven times with priests blowing their trumpets. Then after the seventh time the priests were to blow a long blast on the trumpets and all the people would shout and the walls would come tumbling down and the city would be ours.
We followed God’s instructions to the letter. We aligned ourselves with God’s side and the battle was his to win. We had won the first of several battles that God would fight for us in order to fulfill his Promise to give us the Land. The land was given to us, not for our own benefit but so that we could be a blessing to all the nations of the earth. Once we had conquered the land, I warned the people to continue to make the choice to be on God’s side. I told them to choose this day whom they would serve. Whether they would serve the Lord God or the gods of the Egyptians or the gods of the new land into which we had come, but as for me and my house we would serve the Lord.
I hope you have put yourself into my story and now I hope you will put my story into you! Have you recently lost a mentor, a hero, a leader in your life—as I lost Moses? While you grieve the loss, hear God speaking the same words to you that he spoke to me: “I am with you. I will never leave you.” He will see you through. Is God calling you to a new adventure—to step out in faith and trust him? Do you feel inadequate or filled with fear? Remember his words to me—he will give you strength and courage for whatever he is calling you to do. Step into the water! Perhaps you have been serving the Lord for a long time, but now you are confusing his agenda with your own agenda. You view others who are not on your side doing your ministry the way you want them to as your enemies. Ask yourself, am I trying to get God on my side or am I on God’s side?
Thank you for letting me share my story today. I’m glad your pastor considers me a hero of the Bible—I’m not sure why! I hope you will let my story get into you and that today you will choose to serve the Lord!