Joseph and Walls of Jericho
Grab your Bible, Joshua chapter one is where we’re going to be this morning. As we go through this book of scripture, this passage, I’m really going to give us a summary of Joshua. I want to highlight an idea that’s communicated in the book of Joshua as we look at this together. But one thing I want you to know as a church family, we’re going through this series called The Kingdom Come looking at God’s major theme in scripture which is all about redemption. God’s made you for relationship in Him, to delight and enjoy that relationship for all of eternity. Man’s sin, we’ve rebelled against God, we’re alienated from God because of sin. We can’t, no matter how religious we are perform our way back to God, there is no good that you do in life that will ever make you righteous enough before God because God is perfect, God is holy. It is an impossibility.
In fact, when God gave the law in the Old Testament, which we’ve already looked at together, it demonstrated to us just how sinful we were. It is an impossibility to reconcile a relationship with God no matter how religious you may be. We need God and His grace to forgive us. And the way that He did that was through the cross. God pursued us for relationship by being born, as we celebrate this time of year, as a baby and he was a king. I’ve heard it said like this that there have been thousands that have been born babies and became kings, there’s only one who is king who became a baby. And He’s given His life for you. But when you think about the Bible sometimes we get lost in the enormity that is scripture, 66 books.
So one of the things I want to show you this morning is as you look at scripture, here’s a little bit of a picture for you to consider how scripture lays itself out especially in the Old Testament. Old Testament’s 39 books. When you pick up the Old Testament, I think it’s important to know that the Old Testament is not put together chronologically, it’s put together according to literary genre. The first 17 books of the Old Testament are historical books. They lay out for you really the history of the Bible as it’s unfolded for us and it basically follows that concept from beginning to the end of the first 17 books with a few books that inter lap. And so you’ll see the first 17 mentioned here, the first five are often called the Torah or the books of the law but it still follows in a chronological history for the most part. When you get with Genesis, some of these books you’ll notice that they are lumped together.
And by the way, if you’re looking at this graph and you’re like, “Man, I would like to just be able to see this graph,” if you download the church app and you click on, at the very beginning of the church app you’ll see three options. The first is a picture of the church building. The second is a picture of me, you’re welcome. I didn’t do that. And the third is a picture called notes, you click on notes in the very top it’s got Joshua 1-7 which is where we are today. And you’ll see a few things in there for you that relate to today’s message. The first one is an outline of the Old Testament. So you can look at this on the app. The second is a topic I’ll deal with in a minute. But the first 17 books are history books so you see Genesis and the next two books, Exodus and Leviticus. I almost called it Exoticus or something but Exodus, Leviticus is really they work in combination with one another.
The same is true for Numbers and Deuteronomy, which is where we just ended. Joshua and then you got Judges and Ruth and Ruth is a story that happens in the book of Judges and so they work together. I and II Samuel, I and II Kings, the book of I and II Chronicles really follows the theme of both I and II Samuel and I and II Kings, it’s just got a different purpose as to why it’s written even though a lot of the same stories you can find there. And then Ezra and Esther, Esther falls during the time period of Ezra and then the book of Nehemiah. You’ll notice a gap between there because Israel after II Kings was taken into seven years of captivity and when they return those three books are written after the return.
And then you have 400 years of silence until the New Testament. Now if you think in terms of, “Okay, what about the other 22 books of the Old Testament?” Well, after the first 17 books in your Bible, you have five books that are poetic books. I’ve actually listed six of them here, I’ll tell you why in just a minute. The book of Job falls during the time period of Genesis and so it’s a poetic book. Then the books of Psalms and it spans from the time of Moses to the time of Ezra, a thousand years for the book of Psalms. It’s Israel’s worship book, the songbook that they would sing to the Lord. David wrote the most of those and he happens to fall right in the middle of this time period between Moses and Ezra. And then you have King Solomon who writes three books which is Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon. The book of Lamentations is a poetic book but it actually falls in with the prophetic books because Jeremiah wrote it and Jeremiah writes it during his time of prophecy as Jerusalem is falling.
And when you think about the prophetic books, they all come to the latter half of the Old Testament. It’s really interesting when you look at these, these are not written according to chronology. They’re written basically as they pop up in scripture but you can break them up into three different groups. And you’ll notice with some of these they had the letters NP or FP right after them, NP means a northern prophet, FP means a foreign prophet, he was called to a foreign land. And the rest of them were all southern prophets if it doesn’t have an NP or an FP beside of it. But they have these prophets that come and what’s interesting is you look at these prophets as at the very end of really the Old Testament, all these prophets start coming prophesying at the same time, multiple prophets, not all of them had books, some of them do have books. But the last 17 books of your Bible are all prophetic.
And then when you get to the end of Nehemiah, silence, 400 years of silence in fact. Jewish history even records that there was no prophet around. As if God wants to get their attention. And then when the New Testament starts, finally God prophetically returns again and He appears to John the Baptist parents in the temple. And then to Mary. God grabs her attention with the coming of the Messiah. So that lays out the Old Testament for you. Today, we are in the book of Joshua. And Joshua chapter one, if you remember last week we got to the point where Moses brought them right up to the Promised Land, they disobeyed God, they were left to wander for 40 years and God told them Joshua and Caleb would be the ones that would actually bring them into the Promised Land, that that generation would pass away anyone that was 20 years old and older and they would bring in this young generation to follow after the Lord.
And so Joshua’s the one that brings them into the Promised Land and now he’s got to fill the boots of Moses. You could imagine how intimidating that would be. Moses for the Jewish people that is the leader of leaders and now the guy that follows that … Who wants to be the guy that follows that? And Joshua chapter one, really the Lord comes into Joshua’s life and He gives him this statement of really encouragement to where he was in his faithfulness and pursuing after the Lord. And he says these two verses in Joshua 1:8 and 9, exceptional verses that I think should encourage us in anything that we do for God. It says this, “This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth but you shall meditate on it day and night so you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it for then you will make your way prosperous and then you will have success.”
I don’t know if you remember this but when we started this series together, looking at God’s Kingdom, we started in Psalm 119 which is all about the power of God’s word and we actually focused on that word meditate which is in verse eight. And it’s the same word that the Hebrews would use to refer to a lion, the way a lion would roar. And when a lion roars, this is not words that come out of his mouth, the roar of a lion reverberates from the inside of his being to the point that it shakes him at his core. And when you think about studying God’s Word, I think it’s intended the same way in our lives that when we look at God’s Word it’s not just words that we intellectually understand but the very center of our being, we’re supposed to allow this word to transform our lives.
And He’s saying the same thing to Joshua, “Look, Joshua, you got to lead and here’s Moses’ secret. It was My word.” That’s it. It’s not about you. It’s about Me. And so focus on My word and then He says this in verse nine, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage, or be courageous. Do not tremble or be dismayed for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” It’s not based on your power, it’s based on His presence. So He says, “Focus on My word and recognize I’m not going to abandon you. Wherever I call you to, I have already been there. And I will be with you wherever you go.” And so it was on that promise that Joshua leads the people into the Promised Land.
You know, I think about verses like this, I think one of the encouraging things maybe for us to consider is … Maybe I would just say it like this, this may be a little blunt but stop letting people tell you you’re a snowflake. I think in our culture today we’re so focused on the uniqueness of people, which I think we’re beautifully made, we’re wonderfully made but the power of how you’re made has nothing to do with you. It’s about the God who gave you life. And the way that we find our strength in anything that we do in this world, while we recognize you’re made beautifully, you’re made wonderfully because you’re made in the image of God the point is you’re made in the image of God. And I think sometimes we focus so much on how individualistic people are, we forget that where that all drives from and apart from the Lord we have nothing to even boast about.
And He’s looking at Joshua and here’s the problem in our lives, oftentimes we get fearful about doing things in this world it’s because we focus so much inside of ourselves that we forget to look outside of ourselves from where any of that strength comes from to what we’re called to to begin with. And so for Joshua, he’s looking about himself as doing anything as a leader for the Lord and all of us are called to lead in some capacity for Jesus. I think he begins to look within himself at the incapability that he feels like he possesses but God isn’t there anybody better? God, do you not know my flaws? Do you not know how messed up I am? Do you not know the inadequacies and the struggles that I face? And when I look in the mirror the type of person I see? And God says, “Stop looking at you. Look at me. Everything that you’re about to enter to is based on my promises anyway. That’s the only reason you’re at the precipice of entering into this Promised Land. And if I brought you here, I’m going to carry you through.”
And so Joshua starts off with that thought. And the first battle that they get into as they enter into the land of Canaan is the battle of Jericho. And Joshua chapter five is where it picks up and when you get to chapter five, verse 13, really interesting part of this story, I’m going to talk about a few particulars here but let me just read this in verse 13. It says, “Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us or are you for our adversaries?'” Let me stop there. You can imagine maybe as a leader where Joshua would be in these moments. He’s going into the Promised Land, final of the fulfillment of all that God has said to His people. Outside of Jericho, in the Hebrew literally says when it says he’s by Jericho what it’s communicating to us, he’s literally right beside the walls of Jericho.
And if you know this story, the walls of Jericho are going to come tumbling down. But he’s the adversary to these people and you can kind of get a hint of his bravery here that before the battle even takes place he is right beside the wall. How incredible this moment but maybe we should ask the question, “Why? Why would he be by these walls?” I can imagine as a leader knowing the next day this battle could start, that Joshua’s having a pretty restless night. And so perhaps in the middle of the night knowing what awaits for the next day, Joshua gathering his thoughts by himself, he decides to wander by the very walls of Jericho. Maybe seek God’s face. And in these moments, he comes across this individual I should say, he finds out it’s an angel, and he asks this question, “Are you for us, or are you for our adversary?”
Could you imagine that? This person with a sword drawn right outside of the wall and Joshua, like to me in this moment he’s greater than Chuck Norris, because most people they see this they’re like, “I’ll just turn around and go the other direction. We’ll be back to fight this battle tomorrow.” And Joshua’s like, “No, we’re not.” And he just storms right up to him and in these moments say, “Okay. Who are you for? Are you for me or are you for them?” And I love the answer here. The answer verse 14, he said, “No.” What kind of answer is this? He gave him an either or question and he just answers with a no. You have two choices and then you pick third option and he just says, “No.”
And then he goes on and explains, “Rather I am come now as captain of the host of the Lord. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and bowed down and said to him, ‘What has my Lord said to His servant?’ And the captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua, ‘Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” I love this answer. I love the response he gives, he says, “No.” Doesn’t even answer Joshua’s question. And if you consider for a minute why in the world would this person not tell Joshua we’re on your side or on the other person’s side or the angel, why would he not say that? Why did he just say no? Maybe it’s to say this to us as we consider leading in this world or leaders in this world, God is more interested in His kingdom than He is in yours. If you study history, it’s pretty intriguing as people or groups or nations go into battle how quick people are in the midst of this battle to determine for everyone else whose side God is on.
Let’s go fight the war. God is on our side. That’s the declaration we justify our actions by saying God is with us, right? And I love what the angel does here, the angel of the Lord. Neither. I’m on God’s side. Maybe the question rather for Joshua was, “Joshua, whose side are you on?” Because we can go so far as to say, has really anyone ever gone into battle completely innocent? I think all of us in humility recognize that some point there’s a need to stand up for what’s right against what’s wrong but along that path, we could all lose our way. And what’s more important to determine whose side God is on is whether or not we’re on God’s side. And so the angel responds and says, “No,” meaning Joshua check yourself to recognize which side you’re on because that’s what I’m here for. And when Joshua hears the response, it tells us he bows down. And when you consider what’s happening in this passage of scripture, the Bible tells us ample times but if you want a passage Revelation 22:8 and 9, “We are not to bow down or worship the angels.”
So what exactly is Joshua bowing down to? Bible tells us that we’re to worship God and worship Him alone. In fact when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness in Matthew 4:9 and 10, Jesus said as much. We are only to bow down to the Lord and He alone. It’s what theologians will qualify this moment as, this angel of the Lord, this is actually a Christophany. This is an Old Testament appearance of Jesus before he physically comes in the flesh in the New Testament. This happens a few times within the context of the Old Testament but this is exactly what Joshua is experiencing. And so Joshua, in reverence for the angel of the Lord, the Lord of hosts who carries angels into battle, he bows down in these moments.
In chapter six then it gives us the actions that God tells Joshua in chapter six verse one, “Now Jericho was tightly shut because of the sons of Israel. No one went out, and no one came in. And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have given Jericho into your hand with its king and the valiant warriors, you shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days. And seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of rams horns before the ark. Then on the seventh day, you shall march around the city seven times and the priest shall blow the trumpets. It shall be that when they make a long blast with the rams horn and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, all of the people shall shout with a great shout and the wall of the city shall fall down flat and the people will go up every man straight ahead.”
Joshua, you can imagine after meeting an angel, he’s probably all amped up for this fight. Israel finally coming in the Promised Land, he’s all amped up for this fight. And I don’t want to lose sight of how bizarre this moment is. They tell us the walls of Jericho were so thick that a double-sized chariot could ride around the top of this wall. But Joshua’s commanded rather than to go in and just fight to walk around this wall for seven days. By scholars estimate, about a half a mile march for seven days, six days they just walk around silent no one talking let’s just walk around this. Can you imagine Joshua saying this to his troops? “Okay, guys I got God’s battle plan. We’re going to go right up to this wall where they can take stones and cast it on our head and crush us but rather what we’re going to do is we’re just going to walk around the wall. No one talk. Priests go out there and let’s do this.” And so they just walk around.
Can you imagine come home that night and you talk to your family and they’re like, “How’d it go? ‘Well, we just quietly walked and we finished our circle and now none of us really said anything to each other but here we are.” Silly, right? But the story goes on in verse 18 says, “Command to them, but as for you only keep yourselves from the things under the band so that you will not covet them and take some of the things under the band and make the camp of Israel a curse and bring trouble on it.” So this is just a highlight verse for a minute but God tells them when they go into Jericho don’t take anything from here. There are certain things that you can give to God but everything else is to be burned and done away with. So certain items for treasury to the Lord, they’re to dedicate, everything else they’re not to have, it’s banned from their possession. We’ll come back to this verse in just a minute.
But in verse 20, “So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets, and when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell.” So here they are in verse 20, “They do everything that God says to do and they blow the trumpet on the seventh day after walking around seven times on the seventh day and the people shout, priests blow their trumpet, when people heard the sound of the trumpet the people shout with a great shout, the wall fell down flat so the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city. They utterly destroyed everything in the city both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep, and donkey with the edge of the sword however, Rahab and her father’s household and all she had, Joshua spared.” Now, how do you deal with that? How do you deal with what you just read in scripture? That God ordains the killing of these people.
I will tell you, I’m going to give you just some brief thoughts related to this but if you want to read a little more on this, I wrote a blog on it this morning, it’s on our website but you can also go to the app and click on notes and click on today’s sermon and right at the top it says, “Dealing with the killing in Jericho and other passages like that in the Bible.” But how do you deal with that? I could tell you how Richard Dawkins deals with it in his book The God Delusion. He says this, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all of fiction, jealous, petty, unjust, unforgiving, control freak, vindictive, blood-thirsty, ethic cleanser, misogynistic, homophobic, racist, and infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, capriciously malevolent, bully.” So there’s one option. How do you deal with this? When you consider this passage of scripture, I think there’s a few things that we should understand as it relates to what God ordains in the Old Testament especially as Joshua comes in and defeats people at the battle of Jericho.
The first is just dealing with the concept of who has the right to the authorship and sustaining of life. I think when it comes to us as individuals, we didn’t create life therefore we don’t own life. But God is the author and sustainer of life. And the reality is that God doesn’t owe us anything including the next moment of breath that you take. Every moment of life that you have is an act of His grace and mercy. God is the author of life. In addition to that, I would just say as it relates to God, God is not sadistic. Life is taught in the Bible as sacred, divine, it’s a gift from the Lord. Ezekiel 33:11 tells us, “God does not delight in the death of the wicked.” If you want to read more passages on God’s love for individuals, even sinners, I’ve quoted that in the blog.
Third, I would say this that God could’ve wiped out Jericho without using Israel. I think in this moment, God’s allowing Israel to go in and be one of His instruments in the destruction of these people here but God didn’t have to use them. In fact if you just look at the precedent in the Old Testament, starting with the Noahic flood … Remember the Noahic flood? We’ve studied this together, we asked the same questions related to the Noahic flood and we identified even before the Noahic flood came that God for a thousand years had been warning people that judgment was coming and He called them to repent. And after that point, God finally brought the flood but it wasn’t without an act of His mercy being demonstrated through him. And God wiped out the world.
And God could’ve done the same here in Jericho. But rather He chose to work through a people group. Now it’s evident that God was working in these moments because God was the one that brought the walls of Jericho down. So you see the hand of God there, but He allows Israel to go in and conduct this. And so what He’s identifying for us is something unique about this people group. So God in this precedent, could’ve just in the Exodus when He brought the plagues just did it all Himself, but He wanted to work through this particular people group for a specific reason and that was to identify them for a unique purpose which would bring the Messiah that would redeem all of mankind. The promise of Genesis 15 that through this people group, all nations be blessed, or I should say through Abraham all nations would be blessed. God sends Israel to Jericho. He doesn’t send Israel to Jericho because he thinks Israel’s superior. In fact, scripture has already told us that God had declared the people of this land wicked and God had been warning them for centuries.
In fact if you go back all the way to the promise of Abraham in Genesis 15:16, God even says to Abraham then that He’s going to send His people into this promised land but not at that moment, God was going to wait 400 years and He tells him the reason why, that the sins of the people in the land hasn’t come to the place where God’s going to judge them yet. But in 400 years from now, God will judge them. When you think about the judgment what happened in this land, the Bible tells us that God sends them in the land, Deuteronomy 9:5, “because they were wicked people.” And Deuteronomy 12:31, He tells us the reason He recognizes their wickedness and one of the reasons includes they are burning children alive and worship to false gods. Slaughtering kids. And after hundreds of years of patience, God finally says, “That’s enough.” And He sends Israel in.
Now I like in these moments to compare it to things that we know in our history that we have done for the protection of people like World War II. And you think in terms of World War II, if you look at what was happening with Hitler and the genocide of the Jews, no one would look at that and say, “Standing up for them is a wrong thing,” absolutely not a wrong thing. And if we’re willing to look at what men have done in the past to prohibit the genocide of people, how much more should we not trust in the goodness of God to do so because God does not delight in the death of the wicked. You tell me we’re more confident in what man does for the preservation of life than we are for God.
Last I would say this, it’s not about genocide, it was about judging sin. When you read passages like this in scripture, I think it’s important to just remember that Joshua’s military conquest it’s not an excuse to hate other people. I don’t think God’s saying because of this judgment really just despise and hate people. God doesn’t hate people. God created them in His image. God made life precious. At the same time, God is holy. And the wickedness of sin shouldn’t rise within us, I hate for people, we don’t fight against people rather we should fight for people. Bible tells us that as God moved physically through Israel in the Old Testament, today God works through His church spiritually. So we don’t pick up sword and fight people, that’s not what we’re about. Rather the Bible tells us in Ephesians 6 that we’re in a spiritual battle for the souls of people. And so just because people sin this is not an excuse to hate, thank God that in our sin God didn’t hate us rather He came and He died for us. He offered us His grace.
The same grace God extended to the land of Canaan for hundreds of years before final judgment that He used through Israel to identify the promise of the Messiah. That gives you a little bit of an idea of how you begin to deal with it. If you want to read more, you can look at the blog that was wrote there. But Joshua goes into battle, the walls come down, and they go in and they defeat. Right after this battle, a humbling circumstance arises. And this is really where I want to land for the rest of this service to really conclude it is now as you look at chapter six there’s this comparative story that takes place in chapter seven. They go into the Promised Land on the courage of the Lord, not their own, through God’s word that they read together. And when you get to chapter five and six, you see the way they enter that.
By the time you get to chapter seven, now they’re humbled. And the reason is is because of an individual named Achan. Chapter seven verse one tells us, “But the sons of Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things under the ban.” Remember chapter six verse 18, God said, “There’s certain things that are banned, don’t take those things.” But it says, “Israel acted unfaithfully in regard to the things that were under the ban. For Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, from the tribe of Judah, took some of the things under the ban therefore the anger of the Lord burned against the sons of Israel. Now Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethlehem, and said to them ‘Go up and spy out the land,’ so the men went up and spied out the land in Ai.” And verse five, “The men of Ai struck down about 36 of their men and pursued them from the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them down on the descent so the hearts of the people melted and became as water.”
So they go up to spy on the land and they decide to attack the land, they go up and they attack and what they find themselves immediately doing is retreating. And why? Achan broke faith in God. Achan got greedy and more than just greedy, what he did is he quit depending on the Lord. And what you see in these two contrasting stories is really indicative of what happens from the book of Joshua on through Judges. In chapter five, you see Joshua bowing down before this angel in surrender of faith based on the promises of God that we read in chapter one. And then you read about this life of Achan who Joshua walks in full obedience in these circumstances but Achan now walks in partial obedience. He goes into battle but he doesn’t do all that God says.
And in that though, I think Achan probably could’ve justified his actions. He comes to his mom and said, “These things are under the ban but really is it everything? I’m not as important as Joshua before God so if he took something I’m sure God would be mad at him but I’m just Achan. So they’re going to destroy this stuff anyway, so I might as well take it.” Could you imagine that moment? You go into battle, you happen to be in one of the homes that’s going to get destroyed and you see these elaborate items and no one else is around and you know what’s going to happen to everything, it’s all going to be burned up. And then temptation. Maybe in comparison to Achan, we could ask the question where do you stop following the Lord and rather choose to follow your desires? What if what God calls you to seems hard? What are you willing to take and hide in your tent?
Going into the Promised Land for the first time, in everyone’s mind I could think they might be considering, “How are we going to sustain here? And what kind of supplies are we going to find to be able to meet our needs?” And the first battle in, Achan’s like, “All of my problems solved. Here it is.” And rather than listen to the Lord, he decides I think to take what he would prefer to be the easy route. And rather than trust in God with all of his life, he trusted in God with a partial obedience to go into battle but the moment it looks favorable for him, he stops and he pursues his own things. When you consider on the other end the idea of Joshua, what Joshua needed to lead Israel was courage. When you think about courage, he had the courage to believe that what God has is better than what He wanted, being able to trust and rest on the foundation of God is crucial to where God leads you. When you look at a passage like this, you can see in comparison these two stories that trusting in the Lord is foundational.
And I don’t think as we consider Achan, when you think back to Joshua, I don’t think necessarily what God called Joshua to do was all that easy. You can imagine getting the battle plans that God says to them, “Go to Jericho and march around it for several days and then after being faithful quietly marching around this city for so many days then I’ll deliver.” I don’t know about you but I’m the kind of person that I like to see progress when I do things. I like to do and immediately see progress, not six days walk, grab thousands of people and walk around a building in just wait quietly. I don’t know maybe this time of year you found yourself in that sort of boat that people always get into this time of year where you’ve got to buy a gym membership.
It’s January 1, I’m starting new. That’s the number one most popular time of year that people buy gym memberships because you’ve recognized during the holiday seasons you don’t fit in your pants anymore. And you’re like, “I got to get back to my pants fitting,” and so you go to the gym and you start working out. And you know what happens when you go to the gym and you start working out? When you get home, you flex in the mirror or you jump on the scale or you put on your pants and you want to see if they fit again because we want to see immediate gratification. We’re people that don’t like to wait. We’re people that like to see progress instantaneously. But for Joshua, it was walking away for six days.
You think about the battles that you’re in, some of you praying for your friends and family feels like maybe they’re behind that impenetrable wall. Can I encourage you? Don’t quit. When you consider what God calls you to in this world, let me encourage you by saying it this way, stop focusing on the outcome rather just focus on obedience. Outcome is God’s responsibility. Obedience is ours. God doesn’t need us to knock down the walls. But you know the joy of Joshua’s story is he gets to share the incredible journey with God about being present when God Himself knocks down the wall. Do things for God, it’s the want of instant gratification but what God calls us to in our lives, obedience. You think about this, when you’re leading a group of people like Joshua, thousands of people and they’re all just sitting there wondering, “Why does he have us just walking around this wall? Because God tells him to, that’s so weird. He’s a horrible leader.” What if in that walk, day five, day six, Joshua got so discouraged and he quit on day six? What if he quit on day six?
I don’t know that this would ever happen but what if God’s called you into some battles like this in your life, spiritually speaking, and when you get to heaven God says, “You quit on day six”? Courage is the ability to move forward in obedience without results because God is faithful. Endurance is what courage looks like over the long haul. When I read the story of Joshua and Jericho and Achan and Ai, what I begin to realize contrasting these two stories and I think the reason that they’re really back to back in scripture is honestly, there’s a piece of all of us in both these stories. There’s moments where we walk in faith where we’re like Joshua wanting to conquer the walls. And there are moments in our lives where trusting in the Lord just seems hard and the temptation of Achan arises in our lives.
And when you study the book of Joshua, you realize as you look at these two positions shared with us that the book of Joshua honestly ends in a tragedy. And the reason it ends in a tragedy is because after Joshua there’s no leaders. You see, Moses finds a successor who’s Joshua and Joshua leads them in the Promised Land but after Joshua’s gone, there’s no leaders. And when you get to the book of Judges, you see all of that played out. So if you read through this book in Joshua into the book of Judges, here’s how Joshua ends. Look at this. Joshua 24, last chapter is what Joshua says to the people, he said to the people, “You will not be able to serve the Lord for He is a holy God, He is a jealous God, He will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.” Yet through all this leadership of Joshua, there’s no leader appointed for Israel for the people to follow after. Judges opens up, they’re following their own heart. And Joshua tells them as the book ends, “Look, you’re not following God. This is not going to go well.”
When you read the book of Judges, you see what happens. It tells us. It starts off and it repeats throughout the book of Judges, “Everyone did what was right in their own eyes. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” And what he’s saying is, “Everyone becomes the determiner of truth and really their own god.” And what you see in the beginning of Judges, everyone’s being oppressed by these leaders and by the time you get to the end of Judges what you find is rather than them being oppressed by the people in the land of Canaan that the people of Israel have turned on each other and they’re fighting and killing one another. It ends with a civil war. Why? Because they’re their own gods. The story of Joshua and Jericho and Achan and Ai gets played out over and over again from Joshua through the book of Judges. And it ends in tragedy.
The question for us is how do we begin to lead and to follow God the way that He calls us to? How do we lead for the Lord? And how do we follow the Lord the way that He calls us to? And as we look at these two stories, I’m just going to give you three thoughts as it relates to this idea of being a godly leader for Christ and following after Him because we’re all called to be leaders. We all lead in some capacity and rather than end with a tragedy the book of Joshua, we want to walk in victory in Christ. How do we do that? For Joshua as we’ve already seen, Joshua’s book started off with a statement from the Lord. Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you?” God, by what authority could I even do what you called me to? It’s the Lord saying, “It’s me who’s commanded you. It’s my authority.” And so based on that then He gives this thought, “Be strong and courageous. Don’t tremble or be dismayed.” He’s saying to him, “Don’t be afraid.” Some translations will translate that as, “Don’t be afraid.”
You know what’s interesting when you study this idea of fear in the Bible, do you know fear is used in scripture 366 times. The idea of don’t be afraid is used 366 times in scripture. It’s one for every day of the year plus leap year and that’s what people say. When it comes to the idea of being a leader for the Lord, that’s what will ultimately creep up. When you stand up, when you stand out, when you step out to follow God the question always becomes but can this really happen? Can I really do this? And the encouragement is don’t look on the inside of you because the promise isn’t based on you, it’s based on Him and you certainly don’t want to walk on this false idea of who God is. You want to truly understand who He is as you take steps in Him but it’s based on His authority, not yours. And so the promise is don’t be afraid because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Trust what God has for you. It’s better than what you have for yourself.
So do what God calls you to. Oftentimes, the temptation in life is to almost immediately let it be followed by fear. Courage is following after the Lord by faith in the midst of fear. And so when it comes to the idea of leadership, this thought of what we give in to in life becomes important. For Joshua, he’s reminded that it should not be about fear but rather about faith. And then for Achan and contrasting to him, Achan has personal obedience. And partial obedience really finds itself in cowardly faith. It doesn’t fully believe in the good promises of God in his life. He hears what God says to Israel as they go into the Promised Land. And rather than just fully walk in obedience to God, he gets to a moment and says, “But really is God that good? Is He? He told us not to take this stuff, but really is God … If I just take this, keep it to myself, I don’t tell anybody about it, hide it in my tent, I can use it later and care for all my needs.”
And so he walks in partial obedience. And that partial obedience is built out of cowardly faith. He was a coward to trust in all that God said rather than confront the fear with the promises of God, he was cowardly. And here’s what’s shocking to me, guys. When you study the idea of being cowardly in scripture, you get to Revelation 21. Revelation 21, God starts to describe people that go to hell. If I were to say this morning, “Okay, get out your notepads and everyone I want you to write for me a list of people that go to hell. Start that list. What would be on the top of your list?” You can think of all sorts of descriptions of utter debauchery in society, sinfulness of I mean Hitler. I don’t know if even the characteristic, you just Hitler goes on the top, whatever that was that’s what goes on top.
But when you read Revelation 21:8, do you know what God’s list starts with? Cowardly. It’s interesting, isn’t it? Cowardly. God in His grace and His promises have come and He’s given it all. And rather than give your life back to Him, we give into fear. We let the pressure of the world supersede it. And we trust in the things of this world rather than the One who gave the good things that we find in this world. And therefore the soul is lost. And when I mentioned something like that the danger is to stop and say, guilt ourselves and say, “I don’t want to be cowardly. I need to muster more strength.” But can I just tell you, the answer isn’t don’t not be cowardly. The answer to this problem isn’t stop being cowardly. The answer to this is Jesus because the strength that’s a supply that gives us the strength to overcome fear is never found in us. So I don’t want to read this and walk guilty about being cowardly about anything, it’s rather to encourage us to seek God and rest ourselves in His promises.
This last thought I want to give to you is how do you know you’re faithfully trusting in God rather than in self or the things of this world? I will tell you it expresses itself really in one way as a leader and that is in patience. Joshua patiently walks around for seven days trusting in God. Achan, the moment he can trust in something else to provide for his life when he walked into wherever this location was that had all the possessions he wanted, he immediately gives up on God and goes for it. He wasn’t patient following the Lord to watch God provide. How do I know I’m following after the Lord? I think it’s consistency of faithful patience in your life. And you ask the question, Well, how do I know I’m being patient?”
And here it is, here’s the real kicker, and I need to end with this. Bible tells us, very quickly, “Love is patient.” You got battles you’re fighting in your life, right? Maybe things you want to see God do, maybe things you want to see God do in the lives of people and it is not happening on your timetable. And when those things don’t happen what often happens in our life is we get frustrated or we get anxious. We fight or we flight. When God’s moving in our lives, there’s patience. And the way that’s demonstrated is seen in how you love. Guys, you need to think about the way you interact in this world as a leader for Him. Is patience a mark of your life? Is patience being demonstrated and trusting in God? The way to really know is to see in how well you love.
I think for us this is a great lesson in Utah where we live because we all have battles in our lives. We all have opportunity to be Joshua in Jericho or Achan in Ai but what God calls us to is to be godly leaders, to not walk in fear but in faith, to not give in to cowardly circumstances with partial obedience but trusting that God is good. And in that trust, we can be patient because we know He is the strength over all and in that patience we’re able to love, to give people the opportunity to come to know Him as well.