Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.” Joshua 6.1-5.
This morning’s reading has not been randomly selected as my readings usually are but follows on from those of the last two days. Those of you who regularly read these posts will know that I have been thinking about strongholds — those fortified places that the devil occupies in the world, in the church and (most particularly) in my own heart and mind — and about the way in which the Lord has provided for them to be demolished. And it was as I finished writing yesterday’s post on “Spiritual Weapons” that the story of the Battle of Jericho came to mind.
Here was a stronghold indeed! Jericho was a fortressed city, and the problem was that, until the Children of Israel had taken Jericho, they could make no further progress into the land of promise; for Jericho controlled not only the fords across the Jordan but also the passes in the cliffs that gave access to the hill country. What a reminder that is to me of the importance of getting rid of strongholds wherever I encounter them. I need to remember that all strongholds are where they are by the devil’s design. They are strategically occupied by the enemy to impede progress and hold back the purposes of God in my life and in the church and in the world. And I can take it as certain that wherever there is a stronghold — in my own life or elsewhere — things are not moving forward in the way that God wants them to move forward.
But how am I to demolish the strongholds I encounter. Jericho was a walled city that was “tightly shut up” so that God’s people could not get at those within and could not conquer it … or not by any human means. Yet I note that the first thing the Lord tells Joshua as he gazes at this impregnable fortress is: “I have delivered Jericho into your hands.” I have delivered … It is a reminder to me that, where there are strongholds, it is the Lord’s role to demolishes them, not mine. I have a part to play, but it is not I who will bring the walls down; the Lord will. Or should I say, “the Lord has” for the Lord’s words to Joshua put the conquest of Jericho in the past. So far as the Lord is concerned, the stronghold has already fallen.
The next thing I note is the complete absence of the use of human weaponry in the Lord’s directions for the conquest. Yes, the “armed men” are to march round the walls but they are not to use their arms. The weapons here are the parading of the ark of the presence, the blowing of trumpets of ram’s horns and the giving of a loud shout (later described as a “war cry” — Joshua 6.10). Looking back to 2 Corinthians 10.3-4 (see “Demolishing Strongholds” on 8 October), they are weapons “of the Spirit” as opposed to weapons “of the flesh” … and they must have seemed a great foolishness to those who took them up and began to circle the stronghold with them in obedience to the Lord’s command.
A final observation is that although trumpets were used in ancient Israel for signalling (as indeed, at the end of the seven days, they were used here), they were above all instruments of praise (2 Chronicles 5.13). And that is perhaps something which it is important for me to add to what I was telling myself yesterday about being filled with the Spirit. The Lord “inhabits the praises of Israel” (Psalm 22.3 KJV). Praise is the air that the Holy Spirit breathes. And he loves it when praise is the thing that fills my mouth and my heart. Indeed it is when I am full of praise that I find I am full of the Holy Spirit too.