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Thursday, December 27, 2012

What mighty walls, Jericho!

Have you ever read the story of the storming of Jericho?  It begins with the statement:  "Jericho was shut up tight as a drum because of the People of Israel: no one going in, no one coming out." (Joshua 6:1 MSG)  Now, let me paint a little picture for you of Jericho, for as I do, you will see just how amazing it was that Israel actually "halted" the activity of this great city just by their presence!  

First, its location was in the western part of the Jordan valley just above the Dead Sea.  It was known as the city of palms because it was filled with the trees.  For anyone to pass through the valley of Jordan, they had to first pass through Jericho.  It was like a natural "toll station" for all travelers of the time.  

Second, its fortifications were massive.  The outside "city wall" was six-feet thick, separated by a space of about twelve feet from the inner wall which was double the thickness of the outer wall.  For those who would attempt to lay siege to this great city, over 18 feet of thick stone awaited them!  The most impressive part of the walls were their height - over thirty feet high.  So, in total, two walls, one six by thirty feet, the other twelve by thirty!  

Our understanding is there were some homes between the two walls, but the greatest amount of homes were inside the second wall.  Probably some merchants and some of the soldiers who defended this great city lived in the outer wall homes.  These were made of something similar to what we'd call adobe brick these days - sod and grass packed so tightly as to give them great endurance against the elements and insulation against the heat.  

What makes the story most amazing is "how" the walls came down.  Yesterday, if you read my blog, you will recall us learning a little bit about the idea of the power of our words.  Israel surrounded Jericho, for a period of six days without uttering even one word!  They'd walk around the city, just as one unified group of people, but silent - not a peep heard.  Imagine being one of the guards on the great wall of Jericho, seeing this huge group of immigrants from Egypt, marching around in silence!  You'd probably thought they'd lost their marbles!

If you were going to lay siege to a city this fortified, I imagine you'd expect to see Joshua commanding the troops to begin to muster their weapons, sharpen their swords, and erect some catapults to launch some stones of warfare against this might fortress.  The guards on the city wall did not see any of this kind of activity, so imagine their surprise, and the surprise of the inhabitants of this city when all of a sudden on the seventh day the people of Israel erupted in a shout!  At first, I imagine they giggled to themselves, thinking this group of "cowards" had lost their minds.  Then, almost quicker than they could gather their own senses, the walls began to shake!  What seemed like pretty solid footing -  a rock-solid defense - became the undoing of a city!

The power of a word spoken in the right time, in the right frame of mind, with the backing of God - now there's a "rocking" offense!  As they shouted in one unified voice, God's presence going before them, they began to see first one stone fall to the ground, then another, until the wall was nothing more than a flattened mound unable to protect even a mouse!  

There is much the story of Jericho can teach us.  First, the power of obedience.  I imagine Joshua met more than a few glaring looks from his Israelite companions when he shared the idea of circling this great city with nothing more than the presence of God before them and their "silent" marching for six days!  And then he asked for seven laps on the seventh!  Yet, they did it!  They submitted to the plan of God - obedience in action is a powerful tool.  

Second, the power of our silence.  I imagine this six days gave the Israelites many opportunities to focus on the one out front - God himself!  The priests were carrying the "ark of the covenant".  The ark was the place where God "connected" with his people - the place of his presence.  So, as they circled, he led the way!  The power of God's presence in the right perspective in our lives is something we'd all do well to learn - him first, us second.

Last, but not least, I want us to consider the power of praise.  I don't believe they broke their silence in just "words" without meaning.  The scripture tells us, "...they gave a thunderclap shout."  They had marched around the city seven times on the seventh day - then culminated the seventh "lap" with this huge thunderclap shout.  I'd like to think the shout they lifted was one of praise - for they were focused on what God was about to do!  The lips of God's people would do well to be silent when silence is the best plan - then to thunder loudly when praise is about to bring the walls down!

Sometimes it is nice to revisit some of our Old Testament stories just to see the lessons God provided as a memorial for us to learn from.  Now, consider the walls of defense you face today.  Obedience, silence, and praise - let them be your offense against those walls!  Just sayin!