Continued from front page.

The conquering of Jericho was going to be a miraculous work of God, just as it had been in the people's crossing of the Jordan River on dry ground. Throughout Scripture, the work of God is always precipitated by an act of obedience. We cannot sit back passively, waiting for God to do it all, but we are to become active, obedient participants. For the conquest of Jericho, there were important steps God instructed the people to take in order to prepare them for victory.

For 40 years in the wilderness, the Israelites had not practiced circumcision, which was the mark of the covenant God had made with Abraham. God set Abraham apart to father a nation that would bless the world. Circumcision was marking the male sex organ as sacred to the purpose of procreation of the Hebrew people, from which would come the Messiah. For generations, every male born to the Israelites was to be circumcised at 8 days old, but this became redundant once Christ was born. During the wilderness years, the people were off the purpose of God and fell out of relationship with Him. They not only failed to trust Him, but rebelled and disobeyed, so for 40 years, circumcision was not adhered to.

The people have now entered the land of Canaan, and Joshua tells them they have to get back on God's purpose and realign themselves with His agenda. They were to circumcise every male under 40 years old who had not been circumcised. In the wilderness years, Moses had spoken to Israel about circumcision but he was not talking of physical circumcision. He said, “Circumcise your hearts therefore and do not be stiff-necked any longer” (Deuteronomy 10:16). Later, he says, “The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and you will live” (30:6).

The physical acts and signs of our relationship with God are outward expressions that speak of our inner disposition and relationship with God. This, of course, is God's concern. The physical expression of being on purpose with God is only valid as it expresses our hearts being aligned with His. There is nothing physical we can do to be right with God as it is solely a matter of the heart being in a right relationship with God.

The second measure the Israelites were to take was to celebrate Passover. This was to commemorate God having delivered them out of Egypt and was to be celebrated every year. In the wilderness, Scripture records only one time it was celebrated, on the first anniversary of the initial Passover, which marked the beginning of the second year of their journey. The people had not entered Canaan yet and found no reason to celebrate. In fact, after six weeks into their journey, they longed to go back to Egypt where they had adequate food. For 39 years, the Passover had been neglected, but now in Canaan, Joshua 5:10 tell us, "On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover."

The manna God had fed the Israelites in the desert suddenly stopped the day after they celebrated Passover. For the first time, they enjoyed the produce of the land. The manna had sustained them, but did not satisfy them. Once dried on the ground, it looked like milk and tasted like honey, but was not the real thing. Unless we are prepared to go all the way with God, we will never be satisfied with His provision. This picture of manna depicts being sealed by the Holy Spirit, but not being filled by the Holy Spirit. There is the taste, but not the experience of God's full provision, which comes when we bring our lives under the Lordship of Jesus Christ and are living in a committed relationship with Him.

The Israelites are now in the land of Canaan; every male under the age of 40 has been circumcised; they have celebrated the Passover and are realigned with God. Nearing the city of Jericho, Joshua sees a man in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua asked him if he was with them or with the enemy. "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come" (Joshua 5:14). Joshua fell face down in reverence. The man told him to take off his sandals because he was on holy ground. Joshua did so and the man disappeared. This is known in Scripture as a theophany, a physical incarnation of God, who is going to be the means by which the Israelites will gain victory after victory.

They now move forward with God's instructions to conquer Jericho. They were first to line up an armed guard of soldiers and behind them, were to be seven priests, carrying rams horns that had been converted into trumpets. Behind them, would be the Ark of the Covenant carried on the shoulders of the priests. Following the Ark, would be the nation, marching behind them and at the rear, a guard of armed soldiers.

On the first morning, they were to march around the city walls of Jericho with the priests blowing the rams horns the entire way. The people were to march in silence, and at the end of the circuit, everyone was to go back to their camp in Gilgal. This same procedure was repeated, as per God's instructions, six mornings in a row. The city of Jericho was shut down and gates closed because of the Israelites' activity. They had heard stories of God's intervention on behalf of His people and were frightened of what would become of them. Everyone in Jericho stayed within the city walls.

On the seventh day, the Israelites were instructed to go around the city walls in the same way they had before, not once but seven times. At the end of the seventh circling, the blowing of the trumpets stopped before one, long sharp blast was given, and then Joshua commanded the people, "Shout! For the LORD has given you the city!" (Joshua 6:16). Verse 20 says, "When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.”

All great works of God are precipitated by people aligning themselves with His purpose. We can never be presumptuous, thinking God will work simply on the merit of the task at hand. Before God intervenes, giving us the power and the victory, we need to be in a right relationship with Him; one of trust in Him, dependence on Him, obedience to Him and out of our love for God, a heart that genuinely seeks His will.