The OT Challenge: The Obedience of Joshua

Text:  Joshua 5:13-6:20

Intro:  My friend has a son named Josh.  When Josh was 3 years old, he had a fascination with superheroes.  He talked about them, he dressed like them, and he took every opportunity to “battle” with anyone around—especially his two older brothers.  Josh’s fascination with superheroes went beyond this though.  Josh just knew, deep in his heart, that he was a superhero. One day, Kim watched from her window as Josh marched out to the trampoline in their front yard with a very determined look on his face.  He was wearing cowboy boots, shorts and a cape.  She watched as he climbed up on the trampoline and ran as fast as he could across it, and with arms spread out in the perfect Superman position, he took a running leap off of the trampoline into the air—and did a belly flop on the ground.  That little boy got up, dusted off his belly and knees and climbed back on the trampoline and did it again.  This time when he took a flying leap off of the trampoline, he did another belly flop.  Kim walked out to him as he tried it again and again.  By the time she got out to him, Josh had big, silent tears running down his face.  She gathered Josh in her arms as he said, “I know I’m a superhero! I know I’m a superhero!”  Kim said, “I believe you are a superhero.  I just don’t think flying is your special power. Let’s wait and see how God wants to use you instead of trying to find out for yourself.”   That mommy taught her son an important lesson that day.  Each of us are just ordinary people when left to ourselves.  

This is true for each of the O.T. characters that we have been and will be studying.  They were just ordinary men and women that God used to do extraordinary things through!  Last week, we examined the life of Moses and how he was faithful to live out his call.  This week, we continue our series by looking at the life of Joshua.   

Context:  Our scripture lesson for this morning takes place after the Israelites (about 50,000 people) had been wandering in the dessert for 40 years.  Moses had just died, and Joshua was made the new leader. The Israelites were just about to enter the land that had been promised to them by God.  In order to do so, God instructed Joshua to have the ark go before the people as they prepared to cross the Jordan River. As the feet of the priests, who were carrying the ark, touch the waters of the Jordan, the water simply ceases to flow and the people cross the river on dry ground – just like their ancestors had been able to cross the Red Sea 40 years before.

The Israelites are now camped in the shadow of the walls of Jericho and Joshua is facing the great task of leading God’s people in taking the Promised Land.

Part 1:  The Problem-Joshua worships

But there’s a problem:
Israel has come to take the land of Canaan… and the people of who live there have no intention of just handing it over. The Canaanites are going to fight to keep what they have.  There are giants in the land, and the cities are strong and fortified. And perhaps the most fortified of all the cities of Canaan is Jericho.                                                                                                                                                                               
Slide 1:   5:13-15— 
“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?"  14 "Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord [a] have for his servant?"  15 The commander of the LORD's army replied, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.”

Now I want you to picture this. . .Joshua was out walking alone near the city of Jericho, probably trying to figure out how his people could win this battle.  The walls appear to be impregnable—double walls that were about 25 feet tall with soldiers guarding it all around.  While he was out facing his biggest challenge, Joshua was confronted with the commander of the Lord’s army.  

 Some have questioned who the “Commander” was—an angel, God himself, or the person of Jesus Christ.  Either way, Joshua understood his need of divine guidance and recognized that he was in the presence of God.  Joshua asked him, “Who’s side are you on?”—the Commander said, “neither.”  God wasn’t on the Israelites side, and he wasn’t on Jericho’s side either.  God doesn’t’ choose to bless some and not others—not even his own people.  Instead, we are given the choice to be on HIS SIDE.  

ILLUS: During the Civil War, President Lincoln spoke with a man who expressed the hope that God was on the side of the north in the war.
Lincoln replied: “…we know that the Lord is always on the side of right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and the nation should choose to be on the Lord’s side.”

God isn’t on our side, we need to be on his!  Joshua understood that he had to choose whether or not he would be on God’s side—his response was to fall to his face in reverence.  Joshua knew he was in the presence of God and he worshipped him.  

 Joshua was able to worship in the midst of his fear.
 v.15—Joshua was told to take off his shoes because he was on holy ground—and he did!  Joshua  moved from worship to obedience.  The ground around the walls of Jericho was holy because  God’s presence was there!

Slide 2:  Challenge: When presented with an obstacle, will you choose to recognize God’s presence in the midst of it?

Part 2:  The Battle Plan—Joshua Listens
God presents the battle plan to Joshua:

Slide 3: Joshua 6:1-5— 1 Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.  2 Then the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 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. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in." 

—Have you ever heard of a crazier plan?  It is possible that the Israelites could have made a swift attack on the frightened people of Jericho, scaled the walls, and perhaps, with a substantial loss of life, ultimately won the battle.  But the plan that God presented was very different.   God was teaching His people to trust him instead of trusting their own cleverness and strategies.  

Isn’t our first response always to figure things out ourselves?  When we are faced with trials of any kind, we start to question the reasons.  Then we do whatever we can to make plans to get ourselves out of it as fast as possible.  But, I wonder what would happen if our first response was to stop recognize God’s presence with us and then listen to God’s plan for the situation.  What if we poured over the Word, or spent more time in prayer searching for God’s guidance and wisdom for the situation.  I wonder what “crazy” plans we would hear.  I wonder how much better God’s plan would be than ours?!  

 It doesn’t make any sense, but God was already at work.  Jericho was afraid, it was “tightly shut up because of the Israelites.”  The inhabitants of Jericho were paralyzed with fear.  No one was allowed in or out of the city because they were afraid of the Israelites who were camped outside their walls.  They had heard of their God who led them through the Red Sea, watched over and fed them during their years of wandering in the desert, who had just held back the Jordan River so that they could cross over on dry ground.  

Joshua recognized God’s presence in the midst of his trial and he listened to his voice.  

Slide 4:  Challenge:  When faced with an obstacle will you choose to listen to God’s voice?

Part 3: The People’s Response—Joshua Obeys 

Joshua  6:6-19—The people obey—we don’t know how much Joshua told the people, but he had to at least give them the strategy.  Can you just imagine the reaction of the military leaders, or even the people?  “You want us to walk around the city silently for 6 days?” Or, as they began walking around the city, I can imagine what they must have been thinking.  I also wonder what the people of Jericho must have thought?  When they saw the Israelites advancing that first day, I imagine they gathered their soldiers and prepared to do battle, but nothing happened.  I bet the people were afraid as they heard nothing but the sounds of footsteps as the “army” marched around the city.  However, what we do know is that the Israelites OBEYED!  Scripture tells us that all of the armed men, the 7 priests who carried the trumpets, and the priests that carried the ark of the Lord walked around the city and then went home for the night.  And they did this again for 6 days in a row.   

Slide 5:  Challenge:  When faced with an obstacle will you choose to obey God’s plans—even when you don’t understand them?

Part 4:  God’s Response—God give the VICTORY!!

Slide 6:  And then, on the 7th day, Joshua told the people to walk around the city 7 times without speaking.  But when they heard the trumpets blow loudly, they were to shout as loud as they could.  

Look at Joshua 6:20 with me-- 20 When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.

Look at how God responded to his people’s obedience!!  It is important to point out that it was God’s power, not the shouting or the marching of the Israelites, that knocked down Jericho’s walls.  The people were simply obedient to God and trusted him to fight against the city in His own way.  When they obeyed God, God did something amazing!  God gave them an incredible victory!  Not only did they win the battle, but they completely destroyed the city.  To this day, Jericho has never been able to be rebuilt. It lies in ruins.   It reminds us and the people of Israel of the extraordinary event that took place on that day.  

Joshua obeyed not only the battle plan but also the instructions the Lord gave them in the moment of victory.  He protected Rahab and her family, honoring the promise of the two spies.  He ordered the people not to take any “spoils” of war that were supposed to be destroyed.  And, Joshua gathered the silver, gold, bronze and iron in the land that would be sacred to the Lord.  Joshua obeyed, and he led the people in obedience!

This story of Jericho reminds us that God delights in giving his people the victory when we move beyond our own plans to a complete trust and obedience!  When we submit our will to God’s will and surrender everything to Him, it is then that God is able to do miraculous things in us and through us!     

Conclusion:  What are your Jericho’s?  What are the greatest challenges that you are facing?  What are the areas in your life where you are most vulnerable?  Or, what areas of your life have you built a wall around to protect?  Is it a struggle with doubt?  Is it a hard time taking God and His Word at face value?  Is it a struggle with an unforgiving spirit?  Is it resentment and bitterness toward someone who has betrayed your trust?  Is it a struggle with illness that is getting the upper hand?  Is it the loss of a loved one?  Is it a struggle with an addiction?  Is it a relationship with a spouse or child?  

I have heard some say, “I would have no problem believing if I saw God work the same way he did in Joshua’s life!”  Let me remind you this morning, that we serve the same God that knocked down the walls of Jericho!  When we choose to be on God’s side live a life of obedience, we can get the victory!   

When Joshua was called to be the leader (chapter 1), God told him, “if you obey me, you will prosper.  If you obey my commands, I will be with you wherever you go.”  Joshua was faithful to do this.  And, at the end of his life, he gave the same challenge to the people:

Slide 8:  Joshua’s Challenge—24:14-15—Choose this day whom you will serve. . .but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord!”  The people answered 

(24:24), “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”

Slide 9:  Challenge:  Who will you choose to obey?