Sermon for Sunday, September 11th, 2022 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Deu 7:17-26 ESV] 17 “If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ 18 you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, 19 the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out. So will the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. 20 Moreover, the LORD your God will send hornets among them, until those who are left and hide themselves from you are destroyed. 21 You shall not be in dread of them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. 22 The LORD your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you. 23 But the LORD your God will give them over to you and throw them into great confusion, until they are destroyed. 24 And he will give their kings into your hand, and you shall make their name perish from under heaven. No one shall be able to stand against you until you have destroyed them. 25 The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire. You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God. 26 And you shall not bring an abominable thing into your house and become devoted to destruction like it. You shall utterly detest and abhor it, for it is devoted to destruction.
New Testament reading:
[Rev 18:21-24 ESV] 21 Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, “So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more; 22 and the sound of harpists and musicians, of flute players and trumpeters, will be heard in you no more, and a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more, and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more, 23 and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more, and the voice of bridegroom and bride will be heard in you no more, for your merchants were the great ones of the earth, and all nations were deceived by your sorcery. 24 And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth.”
[Jhn 5:1-17 ESV] 1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. 3 In these lay a multitude of invalids–blind, lame, and paralyzed. 4 5 One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” 7 The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” 9 And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.'” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” 15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. 16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”
Text of the sermon:
[Jos 6:1-27 ESV] 1 Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. 2 And the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. 4 Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” 6 So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD.” 7 And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the LORD.” 8 And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the LORD went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the LORD following them. 9 The armed men were walking before the priests who were blowing the trumpets, and the rear guard was walking after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. 10 But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.” 11 So he caused the ark of the LORD to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp. 12 Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. 13 And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the LORD, while the trumpets blew continually. 14 And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days. 15 On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16 And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the LORD has given you the city. 17 And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent. 18 But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. 19 But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD.” 20 So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. 21 Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword. 22 But to the two men who had spied out the land, Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her.” 23 So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. 24 And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. 25 But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. 26 Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the LORD be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. “At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates.” 27 So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.
Each chapter, each event, so far in the Book of Joshua has felt like it has “rising action” approaching the peak or the height of the story. Joshua is commissioned as the leader of the people following Moses’s death, Rahab hides the spies, Israel crosses the Jordan into the Promised Land, a memorial of stones to God’s mighty hand is laid, and the people obey the Lord in finally circumcising all of the males and in celebrating Passover both of which they had neglected for a generation. And then the Commander of the Lord’s Army appeared to Joshua.
So the story develops, and it is going well for Israel. They are obeying the Lord and being blessed in that obedience. But while now in the Holy Land, they have yet to face the Canaanites on the field of battle. The book of Joshua will go on to note a number of battles, but it is here in the Fall of Jericho that we have the peak of the story. The Lord’s miraculous invention continues and the battle is won. Immediately after this we’ll start to see disobedience in Israel and consequent problems arising from their disobedience. But here all is well.
All is well, that is, for the Israelites.
All is not well for the residents of Jericho.
They hide behind walls made by human hands. It is said “Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in.” And they can only be thought of as foolish if they believe these walls will protect them. If they know anything of what has been going on, they will know that the Lord has been with Israel and nothing and no one can stand in the way.
Calvin says “We perceive the stupidity of the inhabitants, who place their walls and gates as obstacles to the divine omnipotence, as if it were more difficult to break up or dissolve a few bars and beams than to dry up the Jordan.”
There is no protection, there is no safety apart from the Lord.
This is why you are bid, so frequently in the Scriptures, to come to Him. To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for your salvation. What other protection do you have? What other hope do you have? “Lord to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life.” There is life in none other but the Lord, the author of life and creator of all.
The Israelites are the believers in the Lord, going where He willeth. The residents of Jericho barricade themselves behind walls, shutting out the message of the Lord.
Holing up behind its city walls, Jericho resolves that God shall not be its master. But God resolves that He is the master of all, and that Jericho will be given into the hand of Israel. A contest between God and Jericho. But this is really no contest at all. What is a king of Jericho and what are his mighty men of valor compared to the Lord? Nothing.
Though Jericho is now barricaded, Rahab had heard the message. She believed in the Lord who is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath. The Lord reached her through the walls of unbelief. And she, with her whole household, will be delivered from the destruction of the city.
As we are now beginning to read about the conquest of Canaan, we do well to know something about the Canaanites. Especially we should know that the Lord long held back his wrath from this evil people.
In Genesis 15 God promised first a time of delay and then the destruction of the Canaanites. God told Abraham that after his offspring served as slaves for 400 years they would come back to the Promised Land. But God delayed because “the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” There seems to be much overlap in these names such that it wouldn’t be completely inaccurate to say that the Amorites and the Canaanites are one and the same.
Canaan, like much of the Ancient world, was a terrible place of sin. We forget just how bad the ancient world was in general. In our day “Western Civilization” has positively impacted all of the West and most of the World. The savagery and sinful practices of the ancient world have been dampened down by the effect of the Word of God on culture. But Ancient Canaan, like ancient Rome exemplified in the archaeological discoveries in Pompeii and Herculaneum, was a place of unspeakable promiscuity and evil.
We should never think “poor Canaanites.” Such good people, why does the Lord destroy them? This was a terrible nation, vile people, polytheists, immoral beyond measure.
In Deuteronomy 18 it speaks of the Abominable practices of the Canaanites:
-burning their sons and daughters as offerings
-seeking to reach the dead through a medium
Then Leviticus 18 says that the Canaanites were
-who practiced bestiality
The Lord does not want the influence of the Canaanite culture to rub off on the Israelites. The evil must be suppressed.
The slaughter of the Canaanites is not a slaughter of the innocent, but of a wicked, abominable nation of sinners.
And if the Lord should see it fit to destroy OUR nation today, He would be just, He would be in His right to do so, as those abominable practices of the Canaanites have been revived in our times. OUR nation sadly is more like Canaan than Israel.
So it is that the Lord begins here in Joshua chapter 6 the destruction of the Canaanites, starting first with the walled city of Jericho.
We’ll be looking at this text then in 3 parts:
I. The Siege
II. The Shout
III. The Sworn Statement
I. The Siege (Six days) v. 2-14
First, the siege.
Typically in the ancient world, a siege would be a long drawn out affair. The attackers would surround the city and hope that those inside would run out of food and then come to some kind of agreement. See, war is a nasty business, and an attacker would rather conquer a city without a fight, without losing some of their own soldiers in the process. So a siege would more likely result in a surrender than battle.
Well, here at Jericho it isn’t a long drawn out siege of starvation. It is a siege of just 6 (or 7) days.
And the shortness of the siege is actually relevant to the archaeological record. There is much debate about the archaeology of the city of Jericho. No one doubts the cities existence or that its walls fell. The debate is over WHEN it fell, and to WHOM it fell. Some have thought it was conquered by the Egyptians, though there is no record of that in the Egyptian sources. And, I’ve read anyways, that the Egyptians would starve out a city with a long siege. But in the archaeology, it is recorded, that there was grain in the city at the time of its fall. The archaeologist found grain in jars. That is, the people still had food. The siege was short.
The Egyptians might want a long siege, but the Israelites are commanded by God to destroy the people of Canaan. They don’t want a treaty after a long siege. They are to achieve full victory in a short period.
While archaeology never can tell us a clear picture of what happened, the Word of God can. And so we trust this account of Joshua above all else. Here it tells us that the siege was short.
And here is where the theme of text begins. That of faith.
God told the people to walk around the city once a day for six days with seven priests bearing seven trumpets of ram’s horns and with the ark of the covenant.
The ark, with seven priests in front carrying the trumpets of Jubilee, was to form the center of the procession; and that one portion of the fighting men was to go in front of it, and the rest to follow after.
The people, by faith, had followed the Ark across the Jordan, and now by faith, they follow the ark around Jericho.
It says in verse 8 that they did “Just as Joshua had commanded.” The people obeyed. God spoke clearly. Joshua repeated it clearly. And the people obeyed just as they had been told.
And going around and around the city of Jericho the people would have seen just how impressive the massive fortifications were. They would have seen that there was no way in. And no way out. And they would have seen that there was no path to victory, but by the Lord.
But the people trusted God. They had faith!
Did they feel silly, walking around a city each day? Maybe so. Did they doubt? Perhaps. But their actions show that ultimately they had faith. And God blessed them, and he blessed Rahab and her household.
We learn here that Doubting is not incompatible with faith. [REPEAT: Doubting is not incompatible with faith.]
Recall the man in Mark’s Gospel who said, “Lord, I believe, help thou my unbelief.”
Doubts creep in to our minds. We are indeed to be assured of our salvation in Jesus Christ. But doubts do not show that we are not believers. Our confession in fact says
“This faith is different in degrees, weak or strong; may be often and many ways assailed, and weakened, but gets the victory: growing up in many to the attainment of a full assurance, through Christ, who is both the author and finisher of our faith.”
So if you struggle with doubts, with the arrows of Satan attacking you, First you are encouraged to look to Christ, to have faith. And having faith in Christ, you are to be assured of your salvation despite whatever doubts you struggle with. Perhaps, for example, you struggle with the historicity of a Biblical miracle, or struggle with knowing that your prayer are heard, or some other struggle with doubt. Do not therefore conclude that you are not a true believer. You indeed are. The dead do not struggle. Only the living do.
So there was the six-day siege on Jericho where the people had faith in the Lord.
II. The Shout (The seventh day) v. 15-25
Then we come to the seventh day. And “the shout.”
Now I mentioned these very numbers, 6 and 7, recently in our Men’s Bible study on the book of Hebrews. I’m not one who is too keen on numerology. Some have made quite fanciful schemes with Biblical numbers. But I do admit that there are some simple numbers that seem to have meaning in the Bible. Six is often the number of that which is incomplete, seven is the number of completion. And perhaps this goes back to the creation week of seven days; though oddly enough all things were created in only 6 days and declared “very good” and God rested on the seventh. So you can begin to see that number parallels don’t always make for great metaphors or great theology.
Here we have God not resting on the 7th day, but essentially rather he essentially rested for 6 days, and destroyed Jericho on the 7th!!
Now in verse 15 it tells us that they arose early on the seventh day. Why do you think that is? It seems to me that it is required because they have much walking to do! They have to wall around the city 7 times and still have time for the conquest!
Also of note is that during these seven days, there must have been at least one sabbath. But the people did not rest from obeying God. They did not rest from having Faith in him. And they did not rest from their walking around the city. Thus we see how Pharsaical it is when, as in some times past, walking a certain number of steps was banned on the Sabbath.
In our Gospel reading today from John, we read of the Pharisees upset on the Sabbath that a man picked up his mat and walked! Had they not read Joshua? Walking is allowed on the Sabbath.
Somewhat like numerolgy (and its validity or invalidity), there are objects in the Bible that many give meaning to. And one of them is the trumpet. The blowing of trumpets, it is said, is frequently introduced in the writings of the prophets, as the signal and symbolical omen of the manifestations of the Lord in great judgments, through which he destroys one worldly power after another. There are trumpets at the end of the world in Revelation, and there are trumpets here in Joshua before the destruction of Jericho.
So it is by faith that the people of Israel continue walking around Jericho. And on the seventh day they walk around it seven times. And the seven priests blew their seven trumpets continuously. This is the warning of the destruction to come. And then, after a long trump blast, the people shouted.
And the wall fell down.
It is not that one part of the wall fell down, making on opening to the city. Nor was it a cascading domino effect, where one part fell causing the fall of the rest. Rather, ALL of the WALL fell down. All of it, that is, but the place where Rahab lived. She lived right up against the wall, and she was saved.
Here Joshua is a type of Christ, the Greater Joshua, who saves those who are in the city of destruction but have taken their shelter under the scarlet line of Christ’s redemption. The story of Jericho foretells the salvation of all of God’s people by His mighty hand. And the story of Jericho, and its fallen wall, foretells the destruction of all of God’s enemies. Not just the Canaanites, but all who will oppose the Lord.
Now this fall of the wall was not from an earthquake or any other natural phenomenon. Nor was it because of some sort of engineering marvel. They did not find the resonance frequency of the wall. It was not like the opera singer who can break a glass with the right note. Nor did they put a bomb under the wall (as they’d do in WWI trench battles).
It wasn’t anything physical, not even the shout that brought the wall down. It was faith.
This is explicitly said in the Book of Hebrews:
[Heb 11:30 ESV] 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.
More clearly, God took down the walls of Jericho, and faith was the instrument through which the people were blessed by God’s work.
This is how it is with our salvation as well. We are not saved by faith, we are saved by grace THROUGH faith. Grace alone is the ground of our salvation, Faith is the instrument by which we embrace the victory which the Lord has won for us.
And faith was the instrument by which God brought down the wall of Jericho so the Israelites could then bring destruction on the city.
But God saved Rahab. She is saved, not because she deserved salvation, but because God choose to save her and give her faith.
III. The Sworn Statement v. 26-27
So there was the siege, and then the shout. And then there is the sworn statement.
This is the curse on any who would rebuild Jericho.
And I think with the commentators that this is referring not to those who would rebuild houses in the place, but those who would rebuild the fortifications, the walls.
Joshua said, “Cursed before the LORD be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. “At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates.”
And we find that this curse does come. It falls upon Hiel the Bethelite in 1 Kings 16:34 He loses his sons (Abiram and Segub) when he rebuilds Jericho in the 9th century BC, some 500 years after the events in our passage.
This is a well-known core story of the Scriptures. And the Wall of Jericho are often likened to the seemingly insurmountable problems that we face in life. Problems which we cannot overcome but by faith.
So we have this application:
I. Faith brings the victory.
The wall, as we read in Hebrews, was fallen by faith.
And we read likewise in II Corinthians 10:4 – “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.”
As Matthew Henry says “Thus by faith, not by force, the walls of Jericho fell down.”
The Lord did it.
We take heed to remember this. There are times where we’d really like something in the world to go a certain way. But all the force we can muster will not give us the outcome we desire. The wall is too strong, too tall, too big. But faith in the Lord promises His involvement. And faith in God leads not only the falling of walls, but the moving of mountain.
Faith brings the victory.
We don’t always understand what God is asking us to do. Walk around the city 7 times?
How many revolutions will it take? It doesn’t seem like you’re getting anywhere. You’re going around in circles. You get up and go to work every day. You do the right things. But where is the Lord?
But note that by the plan of God, the walls fell down exactly when He said they would. The walls fall in the Lord’s timing
We are called to keep on. To keep on keeping on. To keep on trucking. Reading the word, preaching the word, praying, willing, and working, obeying the Lord. Day by Day, hour by hour, year by year. And the problems and obstacles in front of you will be conquered in the Lord’s timing.
God’s business is knocking down walls.
Our business is obeying Him. And trusting in the Lord’s victory.
Knowing that the victory of the Lord is a sure thing, the people shouted BEFORE the wall fell down. They shouted by faith.
The waited patiently for the Lord and His victory, obeying all the way.
Let us trust the Lord. Let us obey Him. Let us confidence in His plan. For in Jesus Christ all of God’s promises are yes and amen.
Let us pray.