2nd Sunday after Pentecost
Joshua 5:13-6:5, 20
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, “You’re kidding me!” How many times have you said or heard that phrase? Do you know where it comes from? When you kid someone you are treating them like child. When children are young they’re kind of like sponges, they just soak in information. In fact, they will often believe everything exactly as you tell them. So, a child is often easy to trick or “kid.” Remember that? When you were a child and you’d believe just about anything someone would tell you? What happened? Well, it doesn’t take long before children begin to be suspicious if something sounds a little crazy. And maybe it’s because they have had their hopes or expectations dashed too many times- someone has led them along with a certain hope or idea, they’ve begun to get quite excited, only to have their hopes dashed. If that happens to you a lot you begin to get suspicious. And we begin to use phrases like, “Are you kidding me? Are you joking? Are you really being serious? You don’t actually think I’ll believe that, do you?” So, now, if something sounds a little odd to us, it probably is. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We grow accustomed to living in a sinful world- we have to. We have to filter out truth from hoax, reality from fiction.
But do we do that with God? In fact, God wants us to have a “child-like” trust in Him. God wants us to take His words and promises at face value – even when it sounds crazy. But how often aren’t we carrying over to our relationship with God not an unquestioning faith and obedience to His Word, but a skeptical, “Are you kidding me God? Are you joking? Are you really being serious? You don’t actually think I’ll believe that, do you God?”
What do you think the reaction of the Israelites was to the battle plan that God laid before them? I wonder how many were saying or thinking to themselves, “This is absolutely crazy! You have to be kidding me! You’re joking, right?”
So where are we? The Israelites had been in Egypt for several hundred years, they had become enslaved and treated ruthlessly. Under Moses God miraculously delivered them out of slavery through a series of 10 plagues on the Egyptian nation, then led them with a pillar of cloud and a pillar of fire, then miraculously parted the Red Sea so the whole nation could cross it on dry ground to escape Pharaoh’s army. Then God led them to the border of the Promised Land of Canaan, they sent in 12 spies to search out the land, the spies returned and told how wonderful the land was, but how strong and mighty the people of the land were. 10 spies said there’s no way we can take over this land, 2 spies – Joshua and Caleb – said, “We can do it! With God with us they are no match!” But the people believed the unbelieving spies and so as a result of their unbelief God had them wander throughout the desert wilderness for about 40 years until all those 20 years and older died. Now, Moses has also died and Joshua has taken over as the leader of the Israelites. Joshua will be the one who will lead the nation as they take over the Promised Land from the Canaanites who lived there.
First, as the nation enters the Promised Land God does another miracle. The entire Jordan river – which was at flood stage- was cut off so the entire nation could pass into the land of Canaan on dry ground. The first major city they came to was Jericho. It was a very strategic city, located on some main trade routes. Thus it was a well-fortified city. Most of these cities in Canaan were like their own little city-states, each with a ruler, a government, and their own army. Jericho also had something else: a wall. Archaeologists who have studied Jericho have concluded that the wall seemed to have two parts to it. There was stone retaining wall base 12-15 feet high, on top of that was a wall 20-26 feet high 6 feet thick. Then there was a space and then another wall on an embankment and the base of this 2nd wall 46 feet above ground level. So imagine you’re an Israelite. You’re standing on ground level, not only are you staring at a wall 30 -40 feet above you, there’s a second wall that starts at 46 feet above where you’re standing. This was a heavily fortified city!
So Joshua is out standing near Jericho, probably scouting it out, thinking about how they are going to attack it, maybe even wondering to himself how in the world are we going to be able to defeat this city. They don’t have months or years to lay siege on it. When all of sudden he looks up and he’s rather startled, the Hebrew literally says, “He lifted his eyes and looked and behold! A man standing in front of him with a sword drawn out in his hand!” And Joshua asks the person, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” And the man responds, literally, “No, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Now we have a couple questions. First, who is this guy? And second, what does He mean? First, who is he? A couple things, we notice that Joshua falls down before him in reverence and the Hebrew word usually denotes worship. And the ground that Joshua stands on his holy. Very similar to Moses when God appeared to Moses in a burning bush. It seems quite clear that this is the Lord appearing to Joshua and quite likely this is the 2nd person of the Triune God – God the Son before He was born into the world to save us. And what does He mean “no” or “neither”? It could mean that Joshua is way off if he thinks this man is just an ordinary human being- he’s not, He’s God. Or, it’s not so much God being on certain sides, like “God must be on my side.” No, the real question to ask is: Am I on GOD’s side?
Then God gives Joshua the battle plan. But first he starts with this: “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands.” At that, it’s already done. No matter what happens next, it’s as good as accomplished because God promised it. And here’s the battle plan: they are to march around the city once a day for six days. Then on the seventh day they are to march around it seven times and have the priests blow the trumpets give a loud shout and the walls are going to come crashing down, fall right down, not teeter and fall, but straight down and they will go straight in. You see, usually to take a walled city there would eventually be a breach in the wall and the army go in through it, but here, it’s everyone straight in.
Now, imagine you’re an Israelite. You’re staring at this massive wall in front of you and you hear the battle plan. What are you thinking? “Are you crazy? You’re joking, right? You’re kidding me, right? March around, the wall fall down, really? That’s crazy!”
What’s your Jericho in life right now? What are you facing? What insurmountable thing is staring you in the face and you can’t see how God is going to bring you through it? My bills are increasing but my income in decreasing. I know my health is not what it should be and I’m not sure what the future holds. My marriage relationship is not in a good place. I’m just not getting through to my children. What’s your Jericho right now? What are you facing?
Six days they marched around Jericho. Interesting, isn’t it? Isn’t God economical? Why not just save time and do it all at once? What’s with this six days of marching around the city? Ever thought about that? Maybe you have, as you’re marching around your Jericho and nothing’s happened yet. There’s a reason. God is foremost interested in our hearts. God is foremost interested in growing the faith He has given His people. To God a greater faith is far more important than a material gift, a stronger trust in Him is more important than the walls falling down. And in order for that to happen all attention must be directed away from humans and on to God. It won’t be the strength of their army or their ingenuity that is going to take the city, only God. The same is true for you and me. More important to God than bringing down your Jericho’s walls, more important than giving you things that will make your life easier, is growing your faith, is leading you to serve God with all your heart, is moving you to place all your trust in God.
And God acted. Jericho’s walls came crashing down, just like God had said. But this is just a foreshadow of something far greater. This is just a precursor of the real Joshua who brought down the real wall. The name Joshua in Greek is Jesus. The name means “The Lord saves.” The worst Jericho, the largest wall in your life is really the wall of sin that has separated you from God. All your mistrust of God, all your doubts about Him and His love, all your questions, all your worry, all your failures to be the person of faith God has called you to be – all those sins have built an insurmountable wall between you and God. You’re never going to bring that wall down. It looks impossible. But God does the impossible. He tears walls down.
The Almighty God born as a baby and placed in a manger – you’re kidding! But it’s true. The Creator and Ruler of all walked our dusty roads and didn’t have a place to lay his head- you’re kidding! But it’s true. The Lord of all nailed upon a cross to die for the sins of the world – you’re kidding! But it’s true. Jesus rises from the dead to prove that our sins are forgiven – you’re kidding! But it’s true. Satan defeated, the wall of sin between you and God destroyed, the victory is won! And furthermore, God broke down every wall of resistance your stony heart put up and every scheme of Satan in order to bring you to faith in Him as your Savior.
I don’t know what Jericho you’re facing in life right now. But I do know God’s promises. I do know that when God makes a promise, it’s as good as done, no matter how crazy or bizarre or impossible it sounds. It was true for Joshua at Jericho and it’s true today. And this is what faith does, faith looks at the promises of God and says does God have the power to do what He’s promised to do? God promised to cause the walls of Jericho to fall down, did He have the power to do that? Yep! God promised to send a Savior into this world, born of a virgin, did He have the power to do that? Yep! God promised that the Savior would suffer, die for all sins, and rise from the dead, did He have the power to do that? Yep! God’s promised to be with you always, to never leave you nor forsake you, to never give you more than you can handle, to strengthen you through His Word, to always answer your prayers in the best way, to work all things for your good, to finally take you to heaven when you die. Does He have the power to do all that? Yep!
So no matter what Jericho you are up against, find your strength in God’s promises. Say with Joshua, “What message does my Lord have for His servant.” And where do you find that message, where do you find God’s promises? In His Word. No matter what Jericho you’re up against, you’ll find the strength for the battle in God’s Word. And through it He will assure of His promises to you, grow your faith and He will give you the victory. No kidding! Amen.