JEHOVAH TSEBAOTH / Part Two
THE FALL OF JERICHO
Last time we saw how Jesus is the Lord of hosts and how that title covers the whole hosts of Heaven and Earth, indeed He is the Lord of all, history is His Story from beginning to end.
We also saw how this name of God covers the spiritual forces of Heaven, the angels who serve Him in fighting the principalities and powers of evil, and that is what is at the heart of the Fall of Jericho. This passage illustrates so well the power of our Lord of Hosts.
Joshua was quite a man, he was totally loyal to God and a more than worthy successor to Moses. Moses knew that he was not to be allowed to go into the Promised Land of Canaan, but that Joshua would be the one to lead the people of Israel there after his death. In Deuteronomy 31 v 6 Moses says to Joshua, “Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them, for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
After Moses had died God spoke to Joshua:“Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them – the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid nor dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1 : 2-9
Joshua acted immediately on the word of God, and gathered the people together, ready to cross the River Jordan. He was determined with all his heart, mind soul and strength, to be obedient to the calling that God had given him in complete and utter trust.
He was so different to the rest of his generation in that his faith was totally in God. He refused to compromise, he refused to be bitter and disillusioned and full of unbelief. He chose to be a soldier for God, obedient and ready to sacrifice himself for God’s cause, ready to bring down all strongholds that stood between him and God’s victory. Remember that all those strongholds that lay before him were in the Promised Land, on the other side of the River Jordan. So often we read or hear songs about crossing the Jordan that intimate that once we are over the Jordan all will be well, or we are crossing the Jordan to the Promised Land of Heaven. That’s all nonsense! The Israelites were crossing the Jordan into a land full of enemies, full of trouble and certainly no paradise.
Joshua was the leader of a new generation of Israelites who knew nothing of life in Egypt. They had all been born in the wilderness and were eager to go with Joshua, eager to serve God and declare war on anything that stood in their way.
What stood in their way? Jericho!
1) Firstly they had to cross the River Jordan.
“And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off, the waters that come down from upstream, and they shall stand as a heap. So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as those who bore the ark came to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests, who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest) that the waters that came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea or Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan.” Joshua 3:13-17
They were prepared and ready and they knew that God was going before them, but they also knew that as soon as they reached the other side they would be in enemy territory.
Exciting? YES! Scary? YES!
But God’s promise was there. He held back the waters of the Jordan so they could cross over on dry land. A mini Red Sea experience for the generation who had not seen God’s miracle there. All except Joshua that is.
I was trying to work out how old Joshua would have been at this point and I believe ha had to be at least 60 to 70 years old, because as we remember from before, he had already defeated the Amalekites not long after the Israelites began their wanderings, and he was at Mount Sinai. Ex 24 v 12 – 13 Joshua came out of Egypt, he was with Moses all the way through the forty years of the wilderness wanderings. He was the only one, with Caleb, from the previous generation to go into the Promised Land on the scouting mission and so, because all his generation perished through unbelief, he was now the oldest of all the Israelites, along with Caleb (Numbers 13 & 14).
Back to the crossing of the river.
As they crossed into Canaan they were on the offensive, prepared for confrontation and war. When they were seen crossing into the territory of Canaan, the word quickly spread and fear filled the Amorites and Canaanites. “So it was, when all the kings of the Amorites, who were on the west side of the Jordan, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan from before the children of Israel until we had crossed over, that their heart melted; and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the children of Israel.” Joshua 5 v 1
It’s interesting how fear took hold of these Godless people who had had things all their own way for so long. They had not been challenged before, and all the time the Israelites were wandering about on the other side of the river, they presented no threat to those living in the land. Not until this point in time. Up to that time the gates of Jericho had remained open, people could come and go as they pleased. Joshua knew that, because he had sent two spies to Jericho before, and they had lodged in the city wall with Rahab, who had helped them to escape when their presence was discovered.
Now that the Israelites were in the land and fear overcame the people, the gates were shut. Things had changed, now they felt threatened and insecure. They knew how God had dried up the Red Sea for these people, but forty years is a long time for a story to last and it becomes like a fairy tale; but now God had dried up the River Jordan, and things were getting a little too close to home. Now they were faced with a huge number of people and they felt intimidated.
2). Secondly the men of Israel had to go through something totally humbling.
“At that time the Lord said to Joshua, ” Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.” So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: All the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness on the way, after they had come out of Egypt. For all the people who had come out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness, on the way as they came out of Egypt, had not been circumcised.” Joshua 5 v 2 – 5
Can you imagine the rejoicing of these young people as they set foot in the Promised Land? Joshua had trained the men and turned them from raw recruits into a fighting army. You know what young men can be like when faced with the prospect of a battle. We see it in our own history of WW1 and WW2. The sheer bravado, the ‘we want to join up’ attitude, egging each other on, glamourising war. All the time this was going on amongst the Israelite men however, Joshua was sharpening flint knives.
Circumcision was an important outward sign of the covenant made between God and Abraham so long before.
“Therefore circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff necked no longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe.” Deut 10:16-17. Not only did fleshly circumcision obey the command of God, but also signified a spiritual commitment.
“Then the Lord your God will bring you to the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it. He will prosper you and multiply you more than your fathers. And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” Deut 30:5-6
This was a prophetic word given through Moses to these young men. This circumcision had to do with spiritual warfare. It signified the end of all confidence in the flesh. God knew how enthusiastic they all were. He saw them straining at the leash to tear down the Satanic stronghold of Jericho, but God commanded Joshua to cut them off short, to put an end to their confidence in their own strength.
We can imagine that after that most unpleasant experience the last thing on their minds was war and victory. They would have been much too sore and possibly feverish. No more dancing and singing right now, only groaning in pain. They were rendered impotent, helpless and utterly vulnerable and useless as soldiers. God was teaching them how powerless they were in the flesh. He wanted them to see that the only way they could be safe was through faith in Him. He brought them to this place of weakness because He wanted to prove Himself strong on their behalf.
Isn’t it strange that the enemy didn’t attack them in their time of weakness? Why didn’t they? Perhaps God didn’t allow them to, because in the heavens unseen forces were at work protecting the Israelites. Perhaps the enemy saw things that the Israelites did not which kept them away.
I remember a true story about a group of missionaries in Africa, who knew they were surrounded by hostile natives who were driven by the devil to destroy them. All night they huddled under a makeshift tent, wondering when the angry men would strike; but nothing happened. Later after some of those devil driven men became believers in Jesus Christ, the missionaries asked why they didn’t attack that night and kill them. “We couldn’t!” was the reply, “because of the big strong men standing around you with swords in their hands.” I think it might have been like that in this situation. It was the hosts of Heaven who were protecting the people of God and putting fear into the hearts of their enemies. You see, it wasn’t their battle, it was God’s. They were not required at this time to lift a hand in their own power. God was making the way forward for them. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts.” Zechariah 4:6. As the men healed and rested, so God calmed their souls so that they could listen to Him.
More next time.
In His mighty name, Jehovah Tsebaoth,