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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Walls of defense don't stand a chance!

Have you ever been beaten before you even started?  I imagine the people of Jericho felt a little like that.  They looked out, seeing a vast army of God's people, having heard of God's interventions on behalf of this people.  Evidence of their fear was in them shutting their gates so tightly - none coming or going.  Why?  Because of the people of Israel.  Imagine that - the "testimony" of what God had done through this people had made its way into their town. Faced as they were by their armies, they could not help but respond to what they saw and heard.  This is the power of a testimony - living it out in real life.  

Jericho was shut up tight as a drum because of the People of Israel: no one going in, no one coming out.  God spoke to Joshua, “Look sharp now. I’ve already given Jericho to you, along with its king and its crack troops. Here’s what you are to do: March around the city, all your soldiers. Circle the city once. Repeat this for six days. Have seven priests carry seven ram’s horn trumpets in front of the Chest. On the seventh day march around the city seven times, the priests blowing away on the trumpets. And then, a long blast on the ram’s horn—when you hear that, all the people are to shout at the top of their lungs. The city wall will collapse at once. All the people are to enter, every man straight on in.”  (Joshua 6:1-5 MSG)

It was as though Jericho was "captured" by Israel's testimony even before their armies could conquer them!  Evidently, the "testimony" of God's actions on behalf of Israel had a profound effect on the inhabitants of the city of Jericho.  If you have studied scripture for any length of time, these walls separating Israel from Jericho's inhabitants were actually quite large - something of "adequate" defense against most armies.  In fact, there were two walls, a large retaining wall and an embankment of soil which normally protected this city.  Archaeologists calculated the two walls to be something like 46 feet from ground level - top to bottom.  That is a pretty sizable set of walls!  The first was set upon a retaining wall 12 feet high itself with the wall extending about another 20 feet on top of that - all about six feet wide!  The two walls were separated by a large soil embankment building up to the inner wall which stood about 46 feet high from ground level and also about six feet wide.  Now, imagine seeing a bunch of people intent on coming inside with nothing more than their "marching sandals"!

Jericho was kind of dependent upon what was outside their walls - for they needed to hunt game outside the walls.  The small city of probably less than 100 mud huts required access to the "outside world" in order to provide for those who dwelt within.  To shut up the gates implied a cutting off of resources and the possibility of starvation.  They would have had a little reserve, but not likely all that much.  So, this maneuver rendered them helpless - although a sandal-clad group of people really didn't seem that formidable to most!  I wonder if this was part of God's plan - to cut them off from their supply?  

Now, to fully understand the battle of Jericho, it is imperative we understand when Jericho's battle was fought.  Israel has wandered for years in the wilderness between leaving Egypt and now arriving into the land of Promise. Canaan had been a dream to them at this point.  Joshua would lead them in and help them conquer the armies of the region.  They hadn't had a lot of battles under their belt by this time - but something about the testimony of this people made its way to Jericho.  Something caused the people of Jericho to tremble in fear before them.  Could that "something" be what had just occurred with God's people - something which would forever change them? Isn't that what really gives God's people a unique testimony anyway - the stuff which really "changes" them inside and out?  What happened just prior to the Jericho walls?  The circumcision of Israel and the appearance of the Commander of the Angel Armies!  

Joshua listened intently to the instructions of God as he faced the battles before him.  His intention was to do more than "act" like a holy and set apart people - he wanted Israel's strength to be based on having been encountered by the Commander of the Angel Armies!  They were to do more than "act" - they were to "be".  It is our "being" which speaks louder than any words we might speak.  Maybe this is why Israel was instructed to just circle the city completely silent for six whole days!  God didn't need their words to accomplish his purposes - he needed their obedience.  I think we get this confused sometimes.  We imagine God needing our convincing arguments in order to see walls crumble in the lives of those around us.  In truth, he just needs the evidence of his actions in our lives to speak through!  Actions are the basis of our testimony - changed lives are the "loudest" testimony!

For six days they march - silent.  For six days Jericho watches intently - assured they were safe against all invasions - especially against this "silent" crowd of "witnesses".  Hmmm...I wonder how many times our silent testimony becomes our most instrumental tool in God's hands?  I think it is more than we realize.  When Israel finally did speak - what did they say?  They testified of God's grace, his love, and his protection - they praised God with shouts and cheers.  If you have ever wondered what speaks the loudest in your life, it is likely the testimonials of God's actions in your life!  It is the testimony of his grace which speaks clearly and which breaks down the defenses.  It isn't the eloquence of our words - it is the connection between our words and our actions.  Israel was obedient to all God asked - silence for six days, praise on the seventh.  Obedience is evidence of their connection with God's heart. It was likely their obedience which spoke loudest.  Just sayin!