The ancient city of Jericho had a long-standing history by the time the people of Israel began the conquest of the Promised Land. Archaeological studies have uncovered several layers of occupancy; the oldest showing that Jericho was originally settled sometime before 9600 B. C. Walls were added to the city by 8000 B. C. Due to its strategic location, this walled city was destroyed and rebuilt several times before Joshua and his army set eyes on it. By Joshua’s time the “wall” was actually a double wall. The outer wall was an earthen embankment stabilized by a 15 foot stone wall topped off by a retaining wall which was about 6 feet thick. A similar wall encircled the city itself and housed businesses and homes on the inside. You can still see the remains of this massive defense system when you visit Israel today.
The Book of Joshua opens with the transition of leadership from Moses to Joshua. Joshua was the perfect candidate. He had already forayed into the land once before (Num. 13:1-33) and in spite of the negative report of 10 others from his reconnaissance mission, he believed the Lord would fulfill His promises and give the land over to them. He was also a skillful warrior and served as Moses’ right-hand man throughout the wilderness wanderings. As any good leader would do, Joshua sends out spies to get a better assessment of Jericho and its fortification. The spies are able to enter the city undetected but their presence is discovered and they seek refuge from an unlikely source, Rahab, an innkeeper with a questionable reputation (Jos. 2:1-21). Once the danger has passed the spies return to Joshua, but not before promising Rahab protection from the destruction that will follow after the city falls.
After diligent scouting and the observation that Jericho was sufficiently fortified, one would expect a different battle plan than the one Joshua receives from the Lord. In fact, one would expect another episode like the one at Kadesh Barnea where the size and prowess of the “natives” overwhelmed the attraction of abundant food and a pleasant land on which to live (Num. 14:1-38). But this time there is no mention of insurrection or complaint. Instead, men prepare themselves for battle- or shall we say the “battle that never was”! I’m sure there were question marks on both sides. The Israelites must have wondered how the circular march and blowing of shofars was going to topple a massive earthen wall, and a double one at that. I’m sure the occupants of Jericho must have wondered what this crazy army thought it was accomplishing by marching around the city and playing “music”. But archaeology proves what the Bible claims- the wall came down. It really came down! Interestingly, one section remained intact. Now I wondered why that happened?! (Jos. 6:1-27)
There have been times in my life where I have felt like I am facing the walls of Jericho. Has that ever happened to you? Sometimes an issue will arise, such as a financial crisis, a serious illness, a desperate situation, which seems insurmountable and impossible to conquer. Those are the times when we feel driven to pray and call out to the Lord for an answer. The Lord does answer but sometimes those answers are a little surprising and we doubt they will work.
I have found that the book of Joshua has several principles which help me to get through those challenges. First, it is beneficial to remember what God has done in my life in the past (Jos. 24:1-13). Secondly, just as the Lord challenged Joshua to be “strong and courageous”, He is asking the same of me (Jos. 1:6, 7, 9). Thirdly, when God commanded His people to obey, the command came with a promise. If they remained obedient, God would reward their faith by going before them and driving out their enemies (Jos. 3:10). And lastly, the Bible is filled with people who saw God do amazing things in the face of insurmountable obstacles. Here are just a few: Ex. 14:5-31; 2 Ki. 6:8-23; Mt. 14: 13-21; 17:24-27; Lk. 7:11-17; Jn. 11:1-44. There was no greater obstacle than the one Jesus faced in conquering sin and death. But the Resurrection proves He was able to overcome what seemed to be impossible (Jn. 20:1-18). There is no Jericho that God cannot break through. If you are facing “a wall” in your life right now, take heart! Thanks to Jesus, that wall is going down!
Ann H. LeFevre, M. Div.
Week of 3/12/2017