Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.” – Joshua 6:1-5
As Israel enters the Promised Land, we see a pattern that gets repeated three times: (1) The LORD commands Joshua; (2) Joshua commands the people; and (3) The people carry out the LORD’s commands. Would that this were always the pattern with the people of God! Regretfully, even in the book of Joshua we will begin to see this pattern break down.
We sometimes speak of Israel’s conquest of the Promised Land, but that is potentially misleading. As today’s passage makes clear, Jericho is given to Israel by the LORD. Adolph Harstad writes:
The chapter dramatizes the Gospel of justification by grace alone and through faith alone. The divine Commander in 5:13-15, probably a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ, is the agent who grants God’s people the victory that will be carried out in chapters 6-12. Joshua, representing the people as their head, simply falls on the ground, worships, and listens for the Commander’s Word. Likewise, in Joshua 6 the people will simply hear the Word of the LORD – spoken to them by “the servant of the LORD,” Joshua – and receive the inheritance as they believe the word and act upon it.
The primary focus on 6:1 is on the heart-melting fear that Jericho has before Israel. That dread has led the city to take great measures. The city is closed to outside business. The seeming impregnability of the city may be a secondary focus. The city takes radical steps because it is aware that this is no ordinary enemy. The people know that the LORD has done miracles for the sake of Israel and fights for them. Against other enemies Jericho’s defense system would seem sufficient. The LORD’s words to Joshua in 6:2 show that the primary emphasis of 6:1 is on the fear and psychologically defeated condition of Jericho. I tis clear from the previous chapters that it is the LORD who has produced that dread in the Canaanites. Now in chapter 6 it is the LORD alone who will give victory over the well-protected city. What do the best of human defenses avail before the LORD? As Rahab, now barricaded inside Jericho, had confessed, “The LORD, your God, He is God in heavens above and on the earth below.”
The LORD’s words in 6:2 show Joshua that he should see walled, gated, and inaccessible Jericho as already defeated. This may be surprising to Joshua as he looks at the city. Note the contrasts that evoke surprise by their juxtaposition. The city is “closed up and ensconced” with her “king” and “strong warriors.” Near these words is the calm assurance of the LORD, “See, I have given into your hand Jericho.” The fall of Jericho is as good as done. The picture is like that of the boy David before the champion Goliath. Jericho stands there with its wall, swords, spears, javelins, and reputation accumulated over hundreds of years. In spite of all appearances, God’s people can expect certain victory because He has declared it. Like David, when Israel acts “in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the hosts of Israel,” the human strength of enemies is futile weakness. …
Why has the LORD planned the seven-day ritual that He commands in 6:3-5? Why not save a week and cause the city to fall now? Part of the answer lies in exercising the faith of Israel. The walls will collapse by the work of the LORD, but He wants Israel to rest on Him completely in faith before he hands over the gift. Just as the days on the banks of the flooding river forced the people to place all confidence in the LORD before the miracle, so now during seven days of marching around might walled Jericho, the LORD will take away any confidence the people have in themselves and direct all their faith upon Him. The author of Hebrews stresses the aspect of faith in the coming victory:
By faith the walls of Jericho fell, having been circled for seven days.
The obedience of the Israelites to the LORD’s commands will show their faith – a faith the LORD will build up during the seven days of spiritual and physical exercise. Their faith will them to trust God’s promise of victory.
MEMORY WORK – Shorter Catechism Q/A 30
Q. 30. How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ?
A. The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.