Category: Joshua

The story of the walls of Jericho falling down is one (Joshua 6:1-27) that vividly demonstrates the miraculous power of God. But more than that, the utter destruction of Jericho teaches us several grand truths regarding God’s grace and our salvation.

The people of Israel had just crossed over the Jordan River into the land of Canaan (Joshua 3:14-17). This was the land of milk and honey God had promised to Abraham over 500 years earlier (Deuteronomy 6:3, 32:49). After spending forty difficult years wandering in the desert of Sinai, the people of Israel were now on the eastern banks of the Jordan. Their challenge: take the land of Canaan, the Promised Land. However, their first obstacle was the city of Jericho (Joshua 6:1), an unconquerable walled city. Excavations there reveal that its fortifications featured a stone wall 11 feet high and 14 feet wide. At its top was a smooth stone slope, angling upward at 35 degrees for 35 feet, where it joined massive stone walls that towered even higher. It was virtually impregnable.

In ancient warfare such cities were either taken by assault or surrounded and the people starved into submission. Its invaders might try to weaken the stone walls with fire or by tunneling, or they might simply heap up a mountain of earth to serve as a ramp. Each of these methods of assault took weeks or months, and the attacking force usually suffered heavy losses. However, the strategy to conquer the city of Jericho was unique in two ways. First, the strategy was laid out by God Himself, and, secondly, the strategy was a seemingly foolish plan. God simply told Joshua to have the people to march silently around Jericho for six days, and then after seven circuits on the seventh day to shout.

Though it seemed foolish, Joshua followed God’s instructions to the letter. When the people did finally shout, the massive walls collapsed instantly, and Israel won an easy victory. In fact, God had given the city of Jericho to them before they even began to march around its walls (Joshua 6:2, 16). It was when the people of God, by faith, followed the commands of God that the walls of Jericho fell down (Joshua 6:20).

The apostle Paul assures us: “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). The description of the complete obliteration of Jericho was recorded in Scripture in order to teach us several lessons. Most important is that obedience, even when God’s commands seem foolish, brings victory. When we are faced with seemingly insurmountable odds, we must learn that our Jericho victories are won only when our faithful obedience to God is complete (Hebrews 5:9; 1 John
, 5:3).

There are other key lessons we should learn from this story. First, there is a vast difference between God’s way and the way of man (Isaiah 55:8-9). Though militarily it was irrational to assault Jericho in the manner it was done, we must never question God’s purpose or instructions. We must have faith that God is who He says He is, and will do what He says He will do (Hebrews 10:23, 11:1).

Second, the power of God is supernatural, beyond our comprehension (Psalm 18:13-15; Daniel 4:35; Job 38:4-6). The walls of Jericho fell and they fell instantly. The walls collapsed by the sheer power of God.

Third, there is an uncompromising relationship between the grace of God and our faith and obedience to Him. As the Hebrew writer tells us: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days” (Hebrews 11:30). Although their faith had frequently failed in the past, in this instance the children of Israel believed and trusted God and His promises. As they were saved by faith, so we are today saved by faith (Romans 5:1; John 3:16-18). Yet faith must be evidenced by obedience. As with the children of Israel, the walls of Jericho fell “by faith” after they were circled for seven straight days. As such, saving faith impels us to obey God (Matthew 7:24-29; Hebrews 5:8-9; 1 John 2:3-5).

In addition, the story tells us that God keeps His promises (Joshua 6:2, 20). The walls of Jericho fell because God said they would. God’s promises to us today are just as certain. They are just as unswerving. They are exceedingly great and wonderfully precious (Hebrews 6:11-18, 10:36; Colossians 3:24).

Finally we should learn that faith without works is dead (James 2:26). It is not enough to say, “I believe God,” and then live in an ungodly manner. If we truly believe God, our desire is to obey God. Our faith is put to work. We make every effort to do exactly what God says and keep His commandments. Joshua and the Israelites carried out the commands of God and conquered Jericho. God gave them victory over an enemy that was trying to keep them out of the Promised Land. So it is with us today: if we have true faith, we are compelled to obey God, and God gives us victory over the enemies that we face throughout life. Obedience is the clear evidence of faith. Our faith is the evidence to others that we truly believe in Him. We can conquer and be victorious through life by faith, a faith that obeys the God who gives us that faith as a free gift (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Joshua is best known as Moses’ second in command who takes over and leads the Israelites into the Promised Land after Moses’ death. Joshua is considered one of the Bible’s greatest military leaders for leading the seven-year conquest of the Promised Land, and is often held up as a model for leadership and a source of practical application on how to be an effective leader. Let’s look at his life from a biblical perspective.

As a military leader, Joshua would be considered one of the greatest generals in human history, but it would be a mistake to credit Israel’s victory solely to Joshua’s skill as a military general. The first time we see Joshua is in Exodus 17 in the battle against the Amalekites. Exodus 17:13 tells us that Joshua “overwhelmed Amalek and his people,” and so we’re tempted to conclude that Joshua’s military expertise saved the day. But in this passage we see something odd occurring. In verse 11 we read, “Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.” Eventually, Moses’ arms grew so weary that Aaron had to bring a stone to prop them up. Hence, we see in this vignette that Joshua prevailed because God gave him the battle.

The same can be said of the military victories in the Promised Land. The Lord had promised sure victory and delivered it in convincing fashion. The only exception is in the battle of Ai (Joshua 7). There are several things to note about this incident. Israel broke faith with God in regards to the “devoted things” (Joshua 7:1). God had commanded the Israelites to devote everything to destruction (Joshua 6:17), and Achan had kept some of the loot from the battle of Jericho for himself. Because of this, God judged them by not giving them the victory at Ai. Another thing to note is that there is no explicit command by God to go against Ai. The purpose of putting these two battle stories side by side is show that when God sets the program and agenda, victory follows, but when man sets the program and agenda, failure ensues. Jericho was the Lord’s battle; Ai was not. God redeemed the situation and eventually gave them the victory, but not until after the object lesson was given.

Further evidence of Joshua’s leadership qualities can be seen in his rock-solid faith in God. When the Israelites were on the edge of the Promised Land in Numbers 13, God commanded Moses to send out twelve people to spy out the land, one from each of the tribes of Israel. Upon their return, ten reported that the land, while bounteous as the Lord had promised, was occupied by strong and fierce warriors dwelling in large, fortified cities. Furthermore, the Nephilim (giants from the Israelites’ perspective) were in the land. However, Joshua and Caleb were the only two who urged the people to take the land (Numbers 14:7-10). Here we see one thing that sets Joshua (and Caleb) apart from the rest of the Israelites—they believed in the promises of God. They were not intimidated by the size of the warriors or the strength of the cities. Rather, they knew their God and remembered how He had dealt with Egypt, the most powerful nation on the earth at that time. If God could takecare of the mighty Egyptian army, He could certainly take care of the various Canaanite tribes. God rewarded Joshua’s and Caleb’s faith by exempting them from the entire generation of Israelites that would perish in the wilderness.

We see Joshua’s faithfulness in the act of obediently consecrating the people before the invasion of the Promised Land and again after the defeat at Ai. But no more clearly is Joshua’s faithfulness on display than at the end of the book that bears his name when he gathers the people together one last time and recounts the deeds of God on their behalf. After that speech, Joshua urges the people to forsake their idols and remain faithful to the covenant that God made with them at Sinai, saying, “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

So what can we learn from Joshua’s life? Can we draw principles for leadership from his life? Sure. That God gave him the victory in taking the Promised Land does not take away from his military leadership. Furthermore, he was a more-than-capable leader for the Israelites, but his skill in leadership is not the primary lesson we should draw from Joshua’s life. A better lesson would be Joshua’s faithfulness, his stand against the ten spies who brought the disparaging report about the obstacles in taking over the Promised Land, and his zeal in ensuring the covenant faithfulness of the people. But even his faith wasn’t perfect. There is the fact that Joshua sent spies into Jericho even though God had ensured victory, and then there is the overconfidence he exhibited in the battle of Ai.

The primary lesson to draw from Joshua’s life is that God is faithful to His promises. God promised Abraham that his descendants would dwell in the land, and under Joshua, God brought the people into the land that He had promised to give to them. This act completed the mission of redemption that God started with Moses in bringing Israel out of Egypt. It is also a type which points to the ultimate redemption that Jesus brings to the community of faith. Like Moses, Jesus delivered us from bondage and slavery to sin, and like Joshua, Jesus will bring us into the eternal Promised Land and everlasting Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4:8-10).