How many Christians have not become all that God wanted them to be simply because they stopped trying? How many of us have failed to defeat our own “Jerichos” because we gave up?
How many lost people have not become Christians because their believer friends stopped praying for them, stopped looking for ways to share the gospel with them, stopped obeying the Great Commission too soon?
In his commentary on Joshua Dr. Alan Redpath suggests that “many people don’t see the answers to their prayers simply because they have stopped one round short in their conquest of their personal Jericho.” We may have been doing the right things but we simply stop doing them. This leads to our second basic training point for following Christ.
- I must be persistent in obedience.
Careful reading of the text seems to indicate that Joshua did not tell the people how many times they were going to have to circle the city or even exactly what was going to happen at the end of their seven days’ marching. No, the people were given their instructions one day at a time. At the end of their assignment for that day, having encircled the walls, they were directed back to their camp, and nothing happened. They had obeyed Joshua, who had been obeying God. They had encircled the walls, but when they returned to camp, the walls were still standing, no one had surrendered, and the Jewish armies seemed to be no closer to the final conquest of Canaan than they had been the day before.
This is how it was at the end of the second day and the third and the fourth and the fifth and the sixth. This is what things looked like after the sixth lap on day seven. Absolutely nothing appeared to have changed. Jericho’s walls stood intact and its ramparts were still full of soldiers bristling with weapons.
It was only after the seventh lap on the seventh day and the shout that followed, that Jericho’s walls collapsed. The victory was won only after the people obeyed and continued to obey God.
We need to learn to practice this same strategy in our own struggles because there is no substitute for continued obedience to God. Even when we can’t see success we must obey and obey and obey and obey. Remember, the kind of faith that pleases God is an obedient faith, obedience in spite of the results.
We tried, we made a couple “laps” around its walls, but we weren’t persistent enough in our obedience. That old saying is true, quitters never win. And remember you’re not a failure until you quit so hang in there! To deal with the Jericho’s of life requires consistent and persistent obedience.
How many times do problems look impossible but really aren’t?
George Danzig was a senior at Stanford University during the Depression. All the seniors that year knew they’d be joining unemployment lines when their class graduated. There was a slim chance that the top person in the class might get a teaching job. George was not at the head of his class, but he hoped that if he were able to achieve a perfect score on the final exam, he might be given a job. He studied so hard for the exam that he arrived late to class. When he got to class, the others were already hard at work. He was embarrassed and just picked up his paper and slunk into his desk. He sat down and worked the eight problems on the test paper; then he started on the two written on the board. Try as he might, he couldn’t solve either of them.
He was devastated. Out of the ten problems, he had missed those two on the board for sure. But just as he was about to hand in the paper, he took a chance and asked the professor if he could have a couple of days to work on the two he had missed. He was surprised when his professor agreed. George rushed home and plunged into those equations with a vengeance. He spent hours and hours, but he could find the solution for only one of them. He never could solve the other. It was impossible. When he turned in his work, he knew he had lost all chance of a job. That was the darkest moment of his life.
The next morning a pounding on the door awakened George. It was his mathematics professor, very excited. “George! George!” he kept shouting, “You’ve made mathematics history!” George didn’t know what his professor was talking about so the professor explained. Before the exam, he had encouraged the class to keep trying in spite of setback and failure. “Don’t be discouraged,” he had counseled. “Remember, there are classic problems that no one can solve. Even Einstein was unable to unlock their secrets.” He then wrote two of those “unsolvable” problems on the blackboard. George had come to class late and missed those opening remarks.
He didn’t know the problems on the board were impossible to solve. He thought they were part of his exam and was determined that he could work them. And he solved one! Thanks to his persistence, he did the impossible. That very morning the professor made George Danzig his assistant. He taught at Stanford until his retirement.
Danzig’s persistence enabled him to get a job, it made it possible for him to win the battle of unemployment, and our dogged determination to obey God and keep on obeying God will help us deal with our own struggles.
Remember, as Eugene Peterson said, “Christian discipleship is a long obedience in the same direction.” Hear God. Listen to His leading. And then obey Him and keep on doing so.
Here’s another test, can you continue to obey even if people are making fun of you?
I imagine that on the first day the people of Jericho would probably have been quiet watching to see what the huge encircling army would do. And can you picture how bizarre that sight would have been? Think of it: a silent attacking force of millions watched by silent defenders, waiting for something to happen that never did. I bet you could have cut the tension with a knife!
But I’m sure the defenders’ silence would not have lasted beyond the first day. Eventually they would have begun to mock the Jewish soldiers saying things like: “What do you think you’re doing, marching around our walls? What are you looking for, a way in? Do you think we’re so foolish as to have left a door open somewhere? Are you afraid to fight? Why don’t you climb up here? Come on, give it a shot! We’ll show you how a city should be defended. Cowards!”
I bet their taunts increased and became more vulgar as every day passed. Under such circumstances, it would have been difficult for anyone to keep silent! And, then what do you think the Hebrews were thinking about during their silent march as they ignored the jibes of the people of Jericho? They didn’t have anything else to do but think, so what went through their minds? Hopefully it was, “You just wait, you will see!” “This obedience to God will pay off, if not today, someday!”
Can we be that certain? As we obey we know that some will taunt us, but we are on the right path! This leads us to our final point, when victory comes we will celebrate.
- I will Celebrate at God’s Victory
God told Joshua that Jericho was already delivered into his hands—the enemy was already defeated! What confidence Joshua must have had as he went into battle! Christians also fight against a defeated enemy. Our enemy, Satan, has been defeated by Christ
Remember that we fight from victory, not just for victory.
The follower of Christ stands in a position of guaranteed victory because Jesus Christ has already defeated every spiritual enemy (John 12:31). Jesus defeated Satan not only in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11), but also during His earthly ministry (12:22-29), on the cross (Col. 2:13-15), and in His resurrection and ascension (Eph. 1:19-23). As He intercedes for His people in heaven, He helps us mature and accomplish His will (Heb. 13:20-21); and “if God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31)
This week in my study I learned that back then the Jews used two different kinds of trumpets. Some were made of silver and others were crafted out of Ram’s horns. The silver trumpets were used especially by the priests to signal the camp when something important was happening and the rams’ horns were used primarily for celebrations.
The priests didn’t use the silver trumpets in this event. They used their ram horns because Israel was not declaring war. There was no war. They were celebrating victory, God’s victory. We must remember this as we encounter obstacles in our attempt to live for God. We don’t fight for victory but from it because the battle is the Lord’s and He has already won.
Let’s put it this way. We should live not like victims but as victors because that’s what we are!