Joshua 6:1-27 “What is Your Jericho?” by B. Fan
These are the sermon notes from a sermon that was shared with the Chinese Evangelical Free Church of Santa Barbara on May 20, 2018. The bold text references cues for main points.
Good morning, Resound family, it’s a pleasure to share this morning with you all in worship; it’s always refreshing for me to come back to Chinese Church. As we start this morning, I’d like to read the last verse of Joshua 6, and then I’ll open with a word of prayer.
27 So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for giving us this day to come and be before Your Word. We thank You for its power and sufficiency for us in our lives, and we thank You that by Your Word we come to know You more. Give us the energy this morning to be sensitive to Your work in us; help us to seek after You with fresh eyes and pure hearts. We love You, and we need You. In Jesus’s name I pray, amen.”
This morning, we are going to be going through chapter 6 of Joshua. You might be wondering why I began with the last verse (and I didn’t even put a spoiler tag on it!), and so I’d like to unpack the reason for that right now. Part of the reason is I didn’t know which verses to choose out of the whole chapter, and I know very few of us want me to read the whole chapter out loud. However, there’s another reason. Yesterday, my family and I had our funeral service for my grandma. When I accepted the invitation to speak for you all a few months ago, I did so without knowing that she was going to be gone – she hadn’t even gone to the hospital yet at that point, and she was still living with my grandpa in a retirement home. When I realized that the funeral and the sermon were going to be back to back, I started to stress a little bit. After all, it seems uncontroversial to say that giving a testimony at a funeral and preaching the next day is not something most of us would like to do. Nevertheless, God was merciful and made it easier on me.
Now, how many of us here have been to a funeral? (Maybe hands raise.) Okay, so some of us. I’m not sure how common it is at the funerals that you’ve been to, but for all of the funerals I’ve attended, there was always a “eulogy.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a eulogy is “a speech or writing in commendation of the character and services of a person, or the qualities of a thing; esp. a set oration in honour of a deceased person.” Hopefully, starting with verse 27 makes more sense. In most eulogies, we remember the highlights of the person’s life—Joshua chapter 6, verse 27 concludes what might have been a large part of Joshua’s own eulogy: the story of Jericho.
I want to preface this morning’s message by saying that there is a lot going on in Joshua 6; however, God has been drawing my attention to this idea of a eulogy in light of my grandma’s funeral, so I’m going to lean into that a little bit. When we think about the idea of a eulogy and when we think about Joshua, those of us who have grown up with children’s Bibles or going to Sunday school will probably point to the story of Jericho. After all, it seems a little unlikely that Joshua’s integrity in honoring his promise to Rahab would feature in a children’s Sunday school lesson. When we are thinking about Joshua’s life, we can’t seem to easily get outside of the walls of Jericho coming down, and I think that’s actually helpful for us to think about our lives and how we’re living as Christians today.
If it’s fair to say that Jericho characterizes Joshua’s life, it’s worth taking some time to unpack the many facets of what goes down in the town of Jericho. The question we want to answer today (or at least think about more intentionally) is: what is, or will be, your Jericho? When people are looking back at your life, people that you impacted, people you loved, people God put you next to, what will they say was the defining moment or aspect of who you were? In Joshua’s life, Jericho would likely be how people remembered Joshua. This morning, we’ll take a closer look at three aspects of Jericho both for Joshua and for us: 1) Jericho as Obstacle, 2) Jericho as Promise Fulfilled, and 3) Jericho as Testimony.
So, the first point: Jericho as Obstacle. Something that works well for the youth group that I lead back home is to really dig into the “weird,” awesome parts of the Bible; basically, it’s exaggerating everything so that the jadedness of Sunday school stories fades away and the Word becomes relevant again. At this point, I’d like to invite us to do the same. I listened to our brother Joey’s sermon last week (and it was a really great sermon, as usual—that’s a gifted brother right there), and he mentions the scene at the tail end of chapter 5, how Joshua comes face to face with the “captain of the host of the LORD.” WHOA. It looks like this will be the reinforcement that they needed. But when we get to Chapter 6, I imagine the start of chapter 6 like the scene in Infinity War—if you haven’t seen it, cover your ears—it’s like watching Thanos’s gauntlet ALMOST get taken off, only to have Star Lord punch Thanos in the face and ruin everything. Okay, maybe it’s not THAT extreme, but again, we’re going for exaggeration. The prospect of breaking into a tightly guarded city is daunting for sure. Despite how glorious the captain of the host of the LORD must have seemed, the city of Jericho was still a tightly shut city, and Joshua was just one guy. As he’s staring at the city, he comes face to face with a tremendous obstacle—THE obstacle, some might say. This is the start of Jericho becoming Jericho for Joshua, and we can take something from this too. If anyone thinks that being a Christian is smooth sailing and that you’ll never encounter a Jericho in his life, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but this is highly unlikely (though I grant that it could happen). On the opposite end, maybe you’ve been a Christian for a while, and I’ve rattled you a little bit by asking you about a “defining moment of who you were.” You might be thinking, “That’s just movie stuff – some people are just going to live normal lives without dramatic challenges.” Maybe you’re right. But maybe, you’re also missing out on something that God has been using to shape and form you. Each person’s “Jericho” is not going to be of the same magnitude, but how it characterizes us, challenges us, and changes us remains the same. It’s a transformative experience to encounter and conquer the “Jericho” of your own narrative. The important thing is, like in every great action movie, there’s a big obstacle to face.
However, if you’re sitting there this morning thinking, “Hm, I don’t have a Jericho…maybe I should go find one,” stop. Please don’t seek out a Jericho. You’ll be like the person who jumps into the lion enclosure at a zoo to kill a lion—no one asked you to jump in and risk your life just to get on the news. It IS different though, if you find yourself out camping and you need to successfully fight off a hungry bear. Jericho is not just a trial, it’s not just an obstacle in your life; Jericho is also God’s promise fulfilled. Before Joshua does anything else, the Lord gives him a command and gives him instructions on how he is to proceed. But God doesn’t just say, “Hey man, here are some strats you can use, and they might work, but maybe they won’t. Then you’ll need a plan B and a plan C—good luck, buddy.” God gives very precise instructions to Joshua on what needed to be done for the Lord to bring Him victory. When we’re younger and we hear this story, we might remember being excited because usually the Sunday school teacher would have us do a little skit and walk around a table or a room or something and eventually knock down some books or fake walls. But what we need to recognize is that God is inviting Joshua to participate in His work. He promises Joshua by saying, “I have given Jericho into your hand.” I have given Jericho into your hand. You shall march around the city and do the rest of these instructions. But the thing to note here is that the promise and the fulfillment of the promise is on God’s end. And this isn’t a wimpy promise either. God is promising that the walls of a city are going to fall down. Everyone here is relatively familiar with Henley Gate, I’m assuming? This is like if God promised: “March around UCSB once a day for six days, then on the seventh day, march around it seven times, have some pastors blow trumpets, and have all the marchers shout, and Henley Gate will come down,” except BIGGER. It’s a pretty big deal, and it requires Joshua to have faith that God is a God who fulfills promises. After all, let’s dive into the narrative a bit again. It’s probably really hot out there, and maybe marching around so many times has Joshua and the people pretty exhausted. Is God going to really fulfill His promise? Or is this going to be another Egypt situation where they get led into the wilderness and have no food and water and get absolutely crushed by the people of Jericho once they’re good and tired? For us, this is the part of our walk when we know the Word of God, we know that God has the good of those who believe in Him in mind, but just looking at Jericho, we let it show through our body language a little. Maybe we start stooping over a little bit, maybe we sigh more often, maybe start losing sleep. We KNOW the promise that He’s given to us and we KNOW the instructions He’s given to us in how to follow after Him. But we can’t help but wonder—what if this all in vain? The start of Jericho is daunting because we can’t bring ourselves to believe what we haven’t seen happen yet.
So what happens then? Joshua does exactly as the Lord commands him, bringing them around town once each day for six days. On the seventh day, he has the people march around the city of Jericho seven times. The people shout, and the walls come crumbling down. Before this happens though, Joshua does something interesting. When you read the text—and I highly encourage you all to go home and read it because the OT reads a lot like a bedtime story in some cases—there’s an awkward pause in the narrative. After they finish the seventh round and the priests have blown their trumpets, we as the audience are thinking, “LET’S GOOOO!” But Joshua says something that seems like a momentum stopper, a buzz kill. He says in verses 16-19,
16 “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.”
As Joshua recognizes that the promised fall of Jericho is before them, he takes a moment to check the hearts of Israel. He reminds them that the Lord has given them the city. He reminds them that the city is devoted to the Lord for destruction, and that this city is not to be looted because it’s going to be left as an example of the Lord’s power. In other words, he brings it back to God. Joshua knows that even though the he and the people are invited to participate in the fulfillment of God’s promise—hence the shouting bit of it and the commands that they have to follow—he sees that ultimately, it is about God fulfilling His Word. For us, we’re invited to participate in our Jericho just as the people of Israel are; God gives us instructions, but before all of that, He gives us His promise that He will deliver us. When we face our Jericho, or if we’ve already faced our Jericho, the hope is found in God’s presence. Just as they brought the ark with them, the sign of God’s presence, so too should we be concerned with bringing the Lord’s presence with us as we face Jericho.
The last part of chapter 6 ends with Joshua pronouncing a curse on Jericho and anyone who would try to rebuild its foundation, and verse 27, which we started with. Because of what the Lord had done, Joshua’s fame was in all the land. Jericho becomes his testimony of the working of the Lord in his life. We see all through the chapter how concerned Joshua is with what God is doing. As we face our Jericho, we ought to be just as concerned as well, just as ready to make sure that we attribute what is happening to the Lord. (Joshua is a type/foreshadowing of Jesus, so we’ve also been given a Gentile example; talk about Rahab and how the events at Jericho are also 1) obstacle, 2) promise fulfilled, and 3) testimony.) The OT comes alive in this story with a very real application—upon the fall of Jericho, the story asks us: where is our heart? Will we become consumed by our overcoming, by our “fame being in all the land”? Or will we remember to attribute it to the Lord being with us? When we’ve encountered and walked through Jericho in our lives, it’s the story we tell people of how God has accomplished much in us. Even if it seems like a small thing outwardly—maybe it’s just that your temper got better, you made a better relationship with your parents, etc.—we need to praise God and thank God for the Jericho in our walk. Who here finds it terrifying to share the Gospel? A few of us, myself included. But brothers and sisters, look! We’ve been given something to lean into. Jericho will be our testimony, not of how our great faith won it all in the end, but of our great God who promises and fulfills what He has promised. And while Joshua may have had one Jericho in his life, he had many battles; so too is it with us. And with each battle, we ought to approach it the same way we approach Jericho. For me, my Jericho is overcoming depression in high school. What’s funny is that I never turned from God, never questioned Him. My theology just got so warped to the point that I thought God would be pleased if I ended my life because I was sacrificing for my parents. But He promises to be a God who wipes tears away, who redeems us and loves us and makes us overcomers. He was faithful. Even though I wasn’t comfortable sharing about it at church or with the friends that I had in high school, He was still able to work through some close friends of mine to bring me out of the dark place back into His life. And I owe each day I live to Him and the fulfillment of His promise. That’s my Jericho, and that’s the testimony I’ll give to each unbeliever He surrounds me with.
So to cap it all off, I offer a challenge to all of us. As we’re facing the task of preaching the Gospel, what is your Jericho? Facing the obstacle of sin, God promised to redeem us through His great love for us by sending His Son to die for us, thus fulfilling His promise: what will our testimony of Jericho look like as we share the Gospel with the rest of the world? Let’s pray.