Joshua 6: The ‘Battle’ of Jericho
The gospel message can be summed up in the words, ‘In my place condemned He stood; sealed my pardon with His blood.’ He’s done it all for us! We find that in the history of God’s people, from Adam and Eve being provided with garments, the provision of the Ark for Noah, the rescue of Lot, God providing for Joseph, Jacob and family, to the land given to the Israelites, as promised.
The amazing thing in Joshua 6, the Battle of Jericho, is that there was no battle! God gave Jericho into Joshua’s hands. In the New Testament, in Hebrews, we read the wall of Jericho fell down by faith, it was the Lord who did it all, ‘By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.’ (Hebrews 11:30).
Joshua 6 is a wonderful narrative of a great victory – the grace of God working and the powerful judgement of the Lord. Jericho was not a particularly large city, about 7 acres in total. It was a strong fortress. It was shut up, secure, no-one could go in or out, ‘Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in.’ (Joshua 6:1).
This was a classic siege. Jericho was on the road to the mountains. It geographically affected the tactics; if Israel was to capture the hill country, it needed to defeat Jericho. Joshua’s strategy began and ended with the Lord. Yes, there were armed men, but they were followed by priests carrying huge trumpets, not swords. The trumpets were the ones used to announce the year of Jubilee throughout the land – the presence of God’s kingdom. The Ark of the Covenant was prominent as they were marching, behind which were armed men and the people. The people’s whole focus was centred on the power and presence of God.
When we think of the cross of Jesus Christ, how could a man, bleeding and dying, destroy the dark powers of Satan? How could the cross destroy sin and death? In Joshua 6 we see an example in what God does again and again in the history of redemption. Our weapons are not swords, it is our humble Christian testimony of our broken and fragmented lives lived in unity with Christ. Our great weapon is prayer. God takes the foolish things of this world and confounds the mighty and strong.
The salvation of Rahab. How was Rahab delivered? ‘But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.’ (Joshua 6:25). She was saved because she hid the men who Joshua had sent. She didn’t merit salvation, ‘You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way.’ (James 2:24-25). Rahab demonstrated her faith in the amazing promise the spies had brought her. She was brought out with her faith (Joshua 6:23).
Because she was unclean she was set outside the camp, then brought back in because she was now clean, fully part of the people of God. In chapter 2 it seems as if the spies knocked on a door and there, by chance, stood Rahab. Rahab herself explained that this wasn’t the situation (Joshua 2:10). She had heard of Yahweh, the eternal God of great deeds. The citizens of Jericho had heard of what the Lord had done but only Rahab believed and wanted a sure sign. She pleaded for God to have mercy on her.
David, in Psalm 51, also pleads for mercy, ‘Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!’ (Psalm 51:1-2). Rahab’s family was the only family to turn in faith, that He might show mercy on them. If you appeal to God’s grace you can be saved, the arms of the Lord will welcome you. Rahab received mercy from a gracious God.
There is something deeply disturbing about what happened to the city of Jericho. The people were slaughtered – women and children. Only gold and silver were taken out for the treasury of the Lord. The scriptures have set this up – it’s not covered up, it’s spelt out in detail. It’s a totally righteous judgement. Jericho was ‘shut up’ (Joshua 6:1). If the city opened up its gates and pleaded for mercy, then mercy it would have received. But the people’s hearts were hardened and would have nothing to do with God. The worst judgement – hell’s eternal agony for all who reject Him. When we see our Saviour crying out, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27:46), we begin to appreciate the depth of the righteousness of God.
When Christ comes, this is how it will be: when Jesus heals He restores. He will utterly destroy everything that stands in His way. The wall of sin is broken down by the cross. We live in gospel days. Today is the day of salvation. But death is near. People are interested in the materialistic things of this world, but the judgement of God is coming, there is no escape. We long for our friends to take hold of the promises of God. We must pray that they might be rescued from the coming judgement.