International Sunday School LessonStudy Notes
Lesson Text: Joshua 6:2-4, 12-20aLesson Title: God Is Victorious
Joshua 6 and the fall of the city of Jericho is without a doubt one of the most interesting and encouraging events recorded in the book of Joshua. Up until this point in Joshua, everything had been more or less in preparation for the task of securing victory against the Canaanites. In Joshua 3 the Lord miraculously parted the waters of the swollen Jordan in order that the Israelites could cross over on “dry ground” (Joshua 3:17). It's important to remember that the people Joshua was leading would have been about sixty years old at the time they crossed the Jordan. No one over the age of twenty at the time of Israel's rebellion was allowed to enter the Promised Land, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb. The people wandered in the wilderness for forty years until all of that generation had died. So most of the Israelites Joshua was now leading were not alive to see the parting of the Red Sea. Most of them didn't know any life other than the wandering wilderness. They knew little if anything about the victory God could provide. God was about to show them that He is victorious.
As Joshua approached the city of Jericho, he was confronted by a mysterious man with a drawn sword in his hand (Joshua 5:13). The Hebrew text seems to suggest that the warrior's appearance was both sudden and striking. Joshua asked the stranger, “Art thou for us, or for our adversaries” (Joshua 5:13). This was a reasonable question given the circumstances. The walled city of Jericho was Israel's first military objective in its campaign to take possession of Canaan. God's people had suffered a forty-year delay when fear of Canaanite superiority initially kept them from entering the Land of Promise soon after the Exodus (Numbers 13-14). A defeat at this stage in the journey would have been disastrous, discouraging Israel from proceeding further ahead. Joshua was being careful and cautious as he awaited instructions from the Lord.
The mysterious stranger's title, “captain of the host of the LORD,” along with the fact that Joshua fell face down in reverence, suggests that this surprise visitor was more than a mere man (Joshua 5:14). In words similar of the call of Moses, the stranger commanded Joshua to remove his sandals and revealed an unusual battle plan for the defeat of Jericho. Many Bible scholars believe that this was a physical pre-Bethlehem appearance of Jesus Christ. Although the commander of the Lord's army promised to grant Joshua's army victory over Jericho, He did not claim to be on Israel's side. He revealed His good purpose for Israel, rooted in God's promises to Abraham long before.
Illus. Winston Churchill once said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” The courage to remain silent was probably not difficult for Joshua to do when he realized to whom he was talking. If you want to experience victory, listen to the victorious God!
God Is Victorious Because His Plans Are His Promises (Joshua 6:2-4)
Joshua 6:1 says, “Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.” Those words mean Jericho was a powerful obstacle baring Israel’s progress. Jericho appears to be the principal stronghold of the Canaanites. The capture and defeat of Jericho was a must before Israel could occupy any land in Canaan. Because of the news of Israel’s exodus from Egypt and their recent victories the king of Jericho was troubled at the presence of Joshua and the Israelites and he basically closed the city of Jericho. God promised that He would cause the enemies of Israel to respond in this manner (Exodus 23:27).
History records that in bygone days, the world had a godly fear of the church. Politicians and the business world dared not make a decision until they “tested the waters” to see how the church and God’s people would respond. Today, the church has so little respect and power with God that it no longer matters what the church thinks. Decisions are made by worldly leaders without any regard to people of God. The king of Jericho knew Joshua was outside his city walls. Does your community know you are there?
“And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.” God is speaking to Joshua because Joshua has a good track record of listening and obeying. God is about to give His battle plan to Joshua but actually God’s plan is a promise. “I have given” is an exclamation of prophetic certainty. Joshua had not yet fought the battle of Jericho; but the Lord had already guaranteed him victory. God is above time, and that which is yet future for us is present for Him. What a way to fight!
“See” is an important word for Joshua and for us. God wanted Joshua to “see” that He was in control of everything. This is a word of faith, trust, and expectation. No doubt Joshua remembered the ten spies who “saw the giants…and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers” (Numbers 13:33) when they gave their report before going into the land of Canaan. What you “see” affects your victory. God’s people must “see” by faith what God has promised. Jesus told the Pharisees who couldn’t see spiritual truth, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad” (John 8:56). Joseph saw things his brothers didn’t see and it was the difference in victory and defeat (Genesis 37).
As God proceeds to reveal His plan to Joshua we must remember that all of it rests upon His promise recorded in verse 2, “I have given into thine hand Jericho.” “And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shall thou do six days.” As the guards on the city walls of Jericho watch they suddenly see a host of Israelites begin to surround the wall of Jericho. They are carrying a strange box (the Ark of the Covenant) and the march around the city once. Scholars say it would have only taken about 30 minutes to complete the march. The next day the Israelites returned and marched one time around the city and left. They did this for “six days.” Talk about psychological warfare! By the time God’s plan was completed the Canaanites must have been mentally exhausted and captivated by fear.
God’s plan was not only involved military strategy but it also involved spiritual strategy. “And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets.” On the “seventh day” the children of Israel were to march “seven times” around Jericho. Six days of a single march around the city would give way on the seventh day to seven such marches around the city. On the seventh lap, the priests would “blow with the trumpets.” The “rams’ horns” were for Israel the horns of jubilee.
If all of this strategy seems ridiculous in light of modern warfare it was designed so by God. The victory over Jericho is about God, not Israel. That’s the heart of the story. At the center of every victory we have in life is the Lord God Himself. He promised Joshua, “I have given into thine hand, Jericho” (Joshua 6:2). He had previously promised Joshua, “…As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Joshua 1:5). This is God’s promise to Joshua. And the outstanding thing in this entire story is the “Ark of the Covenant.” It is mentioned ten times in chapter 6 (verse 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13). It is the symbol of God’s presence among His people. That is the key to victory! There wasn’t enough military might, weaponry, or might in all of Israel to bring down the walls of Jericho. But God would do it for them. The battle is the Lord’s.
God is Victorious Because His Procedures Involve His People (Joshua 6:12-20)
If you read Joshua 6 you will see that God gave Joshua a strategic way in which the people were to be lined up for their march around the walls of Jericho. We commonly think that all the people marched around the city of Jericho, but realistically that would be impossible. There were between two and three million Israelites which could have completely surrounded the city in about 30 minutes. If you read the text carefully, it is more likely that a representative number of Israelites from various tribes were used in this conquest. Verse nine speaks about the “soliders.” Verse 6, 8, 13 were the priests with the rams horns. At the very center of the march was the “ark of the covenant” (Joshua 6:6). God had it all organized and He had a specific purpose for the placement of the people. God’s plan must have added to the fear of the Canaanites.
Another important element in this story is that we don’t know how much of the information God gave to Joshua was given to the children of Israel. They may not have known everything Joshua knew, thus they may not have had the level of assurance Joshua had. However, it is safe to conclude that the Israelites must have sensed the security and promise in the words and leadership of Joshua as he courageously and confidently gave directions to the nation for their conquest of Jericho. Everything in this story demanded faith from Joshua and the people (Hebrews 11:30).
“And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priest took up the ark of the LORD. And seven priests bearing seven trumpets of ram’s horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually, and blew with the trumpets: and the armed men went before them; but the rereward came after the ark of the LORD, the priests going on, and blowing with trumpets.” It’s amazing how the Lord notices and records things in the Bible. In the midst of recording the events of the fall of Jericho and all the details and strategies given by the Lord to Joshua and the Israelites, God wants us to remember “Joshua rose early in the morning…” In human estimation this may appear to be a trivial detail in this miraculous story. It was no trivial detail to the all-seeing eyes of God. He records it four times in Joshua (Joshua 3:1; 6:12; 7:16; 8:10). Just because God is in control and victory rests entirely upon His plan and power, God’s servants are not excused from obedience and preparation.
The early rising of Joshua was a vital link in the “seven priests” obeying and following God’s instructions. The “seven priests” were properly positioned along with the “ark of the LORD.” The “armed men” or the soldiers were placed “before” the “priests” and the “rereward” or the body of soldiers behind the ark completed the company of marchers. These verses teach us that everyone did as they were commanded by God. This was not time for personal opinion to question God’s directive. “It's important that leaders receive their orders from the Lord and that those who follow them obey their instructions. As with the crossing of the Jordan River, so also the conquest of Jericho was a miracle of faith. Joshua and his people listened to God's orders, believed them, and obeyed; and God did the rest. When God's people rebel against spiritual leadership, as Israel often did in the wilderness, it leads to discipline and defeat.” (The Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament © 2001-2004 by Warren W. Wiersbe. All rights reserved.)
After marching the first day, the children of Israel "returned into the camp" and then repeated the process "six days." According to God’s plan the Israelites marched around the city “seven times” on the “seventh day.” It’s hard to imagine what must have been going through the minds of the priests and the people as they line up for this final march following God’s instructions exactly. They are committed to following this through to the end. Are you?
“Only on that day” means there was something different about this day. Previously for six days, they had been made to look ridiculous in the eyes of the Canaanites. Marching around the city and then nothing happening. No divine intervention. No fallen walls. Matthew Henry writes, “As promised deliverances must be expected in God’s way, so they must also be expected in God’s time.” While the previous marches around the city took a little over a half an hour, today they will march between four and five hours.
“And it came to pass…” is the summary statement of what happened at Jericho. It’s a simple statement that says that what God told them would happen did happened just as God told them it would happen! “…At the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city.” The command to “Shout” means “break the silence.” For six days there had been silence from the Israelites. But now, the blowing of the ram’s horns and the shout of God’s people is a verbal declaration that God had given them the city. The “Shout” was not about emotion but about promise. The “Shout” was in unison expressing the people’s expectation of God’s action to fulfill His promise. In essence, the “Shout” is saying, “God is victorious!”
“And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD…” The Hebrew word “cursed” means “utterly destroyed,” as mentioned in verse 21. God is saying that Jericho is mine for the purpose of destruction. Everything in Jericho could be dealt with by God as He so pleased. Jericho was the “first-fruits” of many victories to come. If you are tempted to think that God is cruel and vindictive in his actions toward the Canaanites, remember that the people of Jericho were wicked and pagan people who had ample and gracious opportunities to trust in Jehovah God. And the same God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, Jericho and other evil nations is going to judge our world and evil nations with fire in the coming days. But the good news is, “Rahab” didn’t die in that judgment
“Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.” Rahab and her family are the exceptions to the fulfilling of God’s curse upon Jericho. Rahab didn’t die in God’s judgment upon Jericho. You are the Rahab of this world if you have trusted Christ as Lord and Savior. When the time comes for judgment you want to be like Rahab and believe God among those who have refused to obey.
In verse 18, the Israelites were to “keep themselves from the accursed things, lest ye make yourselves accursed.” Often the soliders would plunder and take treasurers and trophies from military conquests as part of their reward. Israel was not to take anything from the city. God said in verse 19, “But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.” The materials were valuable and would be an asset to Israel in the coming days and they continued to conquer land and occupy territory. God would use resources conquered as He saw fit in the Promised Land.
When the people heard the priests blow the trumpets, they shouted as they had been commanded and “the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.” There have been numerous and even comical attempts by liberals to explain what happened at Jericho. Theories have been offered ranging from an earthquake to the vibrations of the sound from the rams’ horns being responsible for the fall of the walls of Jericho. Doctor David Jeremiah calls this the “Memorex theory” which he takes from the old television commercial which showed the great singer Ella Fitzgerald breaking a glass when she reached a certain pitch! The fact is God caused the walls of Jericho to fall. When “the wall fell down flat” all the people had to do was walk in and take the city. The words “the wall fell down flat” means “God put the walls where He wanted them.”
The fall of Jericho is an encouragement to God's people to trust the Lord's promises and obey His instructions, no matter how impossible the situation may appear to be. You and I may not capture a city as Joshua did, but in our everyday lives we face enemies and high walls that challenge us. We face the great temptation today as God’s people to lean upon all the fleshly weapons and religious methodologies to accomplish the work of God. We have gotten caught up into doing God’s work like the world does its work. And the result is spiritual defeat.
At the beginning of this story God said to Joshua, “I have given into thine hand Jericho.” At the end of this story Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the LORD hath given you the city.” This isn’t my battle or yours. It is God’s battle. And while we are privileged to carry arks, march, blow trumpets and shout, let’s never forget, God is victorious (1 John 5:4).
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