At times around here we share some friendly ribbing about “Biblical numerology.” There are some who put special spiritual significance on the numbers we find in the Bible, and there are others who don’t. Those who do sometimes say that 6 is the number of man. Man was created on the sixth day and six days he is appointed to labor. The Hebrew slave was to serve six years before being released. And then there is the number 666 applied to the unbelievers of the Tribulation. But with that doesn’t 666 become one of the numbers of Satan? Those numerologists might say that 5 is the number of God’s grace. There are five primary types of offerings and the Psalms are divided into five sections. Each of the first dozen numbers, and then many others, have special significance to these folk. 12, for example, is said to be the number of God’s government – 12 tribes and 12 apostles. Many say that 7 is God’s number of perfection, but others add that 3 is perfection to a lesser degree. Can you have a greater and lesser perfection? Apparently some can.
Each of these numbers are open to interpretation. Why can’t I say that the number 7 is God’s number for grace – instead of 5? Didn’t God wait seven days after shutting up the ark before opening the windows of heaven and the fountains of the deep? Were those not days of grace? And didn’t He spare Jericho for seven days while the Israelites circumnavigated her walls?
It is those seven days of Jericho that I’d like you to consider this morning. But in addition to being days of grace, they were also days of testing, witness, terror and revelation.
Like the building of Noah’s ark, the “attack” upon Jericho was according to God’s design. One day shortly after the first Passover in forty years (what is the significance of that?) Joshua was out on the western perimeter of the camp, looking at Jericho’s high, thick walls. He may have been trying to come up with a scheme to bring those walls down, but while doing so his eyes caught sight of a Stranger. “There stood a man over against him with his sword dawn in his hand.” Without the least bit of fear, Joshua stepped toward him asking, “Art thou for us or for our adversaries?” The Stranger replied, “Nay – I am for neither side.” “But as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.” It was holy ground only because God’s presence made it holy.
“Nay” He said. As difficult as it may be for some to understand, Jehovah is above taking sides in the squabbles between people and nations. We either align with Him through obedience and sound doctrine, or we don’t. He doesn’t ever TAKE sides with us per se based upon who we are or how obedient we are. On the other hand, He is gracious towards some, and in this case it was towards Israel. And grace is based upon nothing but the magnificent heart of the Lord.
The captain of the Lord of Hosts, who I believe was the pre-incarnate Son of God, gave to Joshua His will to bring down the walls of Jericho. It involved everyone in the camp of Israel. Four priests were to carry the Ark of the Covenant covered by its heavy protective tapestries. Seven additional priests were to blow trumpets made out of ram’s horns. The armies of Israel were to precede the priests, probably marching in proper rank and file according to their tribes. And bringing up the rear were all the rest of Israel from the old men, to the ladies and children. The folk were probably not in any order, and they stretched away from the city many hundreds of yards.
Joshua was told that every day for six days, the nation was to circle the city. I wonder if he asked, or if the Lord told him it would be all right to rotate the priests every day? That ark with all its gold was probably extremely heavy. He was told that the people were to be totally silent; they were not to chat, to gossip, to slander the Canaanites, or even sing the songs of Zion. Then on the seventh day, the journey around the city was to be made seven times. That might have been a logistical challenge, but obviously it could be done. Since several million people were involved, I am sure Jericho would have been completely surrounded. On that seventh day, when the seventh circle was complete, Joshua would give a command to shout. “And the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every straight before him.” Apparently at that time the Lord also declared that the city was entirely His property. A tithe of sorts. Every man, woman and child therein belonged in one way or another to Him. Every piece of jewelry, every potato, every silver spoon and every pewter plate was God’s.
THIS was Jehovah’s plan of attack, and Joshua was wise enough to follow it to the letter. One foolish man disobeyed, but he must be left as the subject of another message. So this was the plan and these are the facts. Now lets consider those seven days from several different angles, beyond the simple days of the week.
Those were seven days of progressive revelation.
Yes, progressive revelation. As I said, Christ passed on to Joshua His will in regard to Jericho. The Lord didn’t call for a war council, inviting the High Priest and the leaders of the twelve tribes. God gave to Joshua a vision of a great victory; He didn’t give it to anyone else. Certainly others in Israel had hopes and even expectations about the fall of Jericho. But no one knew HOW it would be accomplished.
I have read this passage at least a dozen times in the past week, and I cannot find where Joshua shared the details of God’s plan with anyone. Perhaps he told his good friend Caleb, and maybe the High Priest knew, but it is questionable whether they or anyone else were told about the seven days and the disintegration of the mighty walls of Jericho. The only hint to the people that the victory might not fall on the first day slipped from Joshua’s lips in the initial instructions in verse 10. “Neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout.”
Assuming the nation didn’t know the particulars, on day 1 the people took their places, and upon command the soldiers stepped out, followed by the priests, until everyone was participating. There may have been Israelites expecting the two armies to meet in battle along the wall, but it didn’t happen. There may have been others who imagined cracks forming in the wall then spreading apart until their warriors could go rushing in. There may have others who pictured the city gates opening to reveal Canaanites under a white flag of truce, seeking peace. Maybe some calculating mind decided that all the stomping of Hebrew feet would topple the walls. But there was nothing of the kind. There was nothing at all on that first day.
On the second day Joshua again ordered the High Priest to arrange his priests and the generals to arrange their troops. And again Israel obeyed the Lord through Joshua, but again by the end of the day the walls did not fall. The same took place on days 3, 4, 5, and 6. God had ordained a plan which he shared with the pastor of Israel, but to no other. It took time; it took a week, for the will of God to become obvious to the rest of the congregation, and many didn’t get it at all until it was done.
This is the way God usually works – God initially makes His will known to one man. Did Shem or Ham understand what they were doing when Noah told them to start looking for tall, straight gopher trees? The revelation was given to Noah, who as God’s prophet shared it with his family at the right moment. Did the sons or daughters-in-law instantly believe what the old man was saying? For some of them it probably took decades of development and progressive revelation before they saw the vision which God had given to Noah.
How many of Jacob’s family were given the vision of Israel’s captivity in Egypt? It was given to only Joseph – not to his father, his mother, or his older brothers. And not one of them believed Joseph’s report – at least initially. It took a lifetime of spiritual growth in those brothers before they would admit to the revelation of God.
The Lord Jesus, of course is an extreme example, but He is still a good example. He had a vision of souls saved, of an evangelistic church, and of two centuries of Christian service. He told His disciples about various parts of God’s will, but initially they could not see it – WOULD not see it. They fought against it, denying that Christ would be crucified. But over time, they began to see and believe; over time they became a part of the Lord’s revealed will.
This is still the way God operates. He may lay a burden, a vision, a plan upon the Joshua of His church, telling him to get started. The Lord doesn’t call a business meeting, or send a group vision like some magical text to all the members, sharing the details of the Lord’s special will. He meets His chosen leader and gives to that man His will, telling him to put it into motion. It was not until six days had passed before Israel saw the plan, but Joshua had done so from the beginning. Those were seven days of progressive revelation.
They were also seven days of surrender and self-emptying.
Right off the bat, Joshua 6:1-2 confounds both Joshua and us with contradictory logic. “Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in. And the LORD said unto Joshua, SEE, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.” As Joshua looked with toward the city, his eyes could not have seen it as defeated. But Christians are not supposed to look with physical eyes alone. That man was being asked to look with faith, trusting God to keep His word. In the will of God, the city was as good as taken. Believe it !
I personally think that Joshua had no problem in believing the Lord – even at this early point. He was the most spiritually mature man in the nation. He had seen God work from before the crossing of the Red Sea. If God now says that Jericho is defeated, then it is a defeated city as far as he was concerned. But not everyone has that same capacity for faith. And that is one reason the Lord leads the human leader. On Monday morning, or whatever the first day was, the order was given to the priests to take up the ark and the trumpets. The generals ordered their troops into position and the sound of the horns was heard, with everyone moving out. After a few minutes the rest of Israel fell into place, keeping as quiet as church mice. Probably the majority of Israel truly believed that Jericho would fall. But nothing like that happened even as the sun started to go down over the western ridge, and Israel returned to her camp.
The next morning Joshua issued the same orders, and they were repeated by the high priest and the generals. Again there was high expectation among the people, but again nothing happened. On day 3 everything was repeated, but probably a few hearts were filling with doubt – even murmuring. Based on my knowledge of the human condition, I know that by mid-week some were losing their confidence, their faith in the leadership of their pastor. At some point several probably began accusing Joshua of self-promotion, misuse of resources and outright foolishness.
But that was as much a part of God’s arrangement as the fall of the wall itself. God’s people may have faith, but often that faith is accidentally misapplied. Faith in marching, in knocking on doors, in yearly revival meetings, in church programs are not faith in God. Faith in Joshua or Moses, Paul or the Apostle John is not faith in the Lord. Israel needed to loose the confidence they had in themselves, their leadership, their past victories and current service. Like Jonah, like Moses, like Elijah and every other great servant of the Lord, the nation needed to be stripped bare – emptied of everything but faith in the miracle-working God.
Then by the end of the twelfth trip around the city, many in Israel were physically worn out. They had to drag some of the kids around the city. Some were ready to quit; ready to lynch Joshua and elect a man with a lower vision. But Joshua knew that with one more circuit, God would step in and give them the victory. Those were seven days of self-emptying. And there has never been a saint of God who did not need that from time to time – and even often.
But for Jericho those were seven days of grace.
Remember, the world has a general knowledge of our God, and Jericho was no exception. Rahab, who also deserves a sermon of her own – a dozen sermons – told the two spies of Israel, “We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed.” Verse 1 says, “Jericho was straightly shut up because of the children of Israel.” To be more precise, the city was shut and barred because the Canaanites had heard what God had done through the children of Israel. That doesn’t mean they were willing to acknowledge Jehovah, or even to publically admit that the God of Israel was stronger than the gods of the Amorites. But in the light of what they had heard, they needed to protect themselves. And in fact, they felt fairly well protected. “The unbeliever’s defense is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.”
So they stocked the city with supplies for a long siege. They made sure that their wells, tapping into the Jordanian aquifer, were in good order. They shut and secured the city gates and stationed warriors along the walls with trumpets or other devices to fall for back-up. But they did NOT repent or surrender to the Lord. Their hearts forbade it; their religion satisfied them; their government and neighbors encouraged them in their rejection of the general call of God.
Around and around the city marched, walked and shuffled the people of God. They heard no verbal condemnation of their heathen religion; there were no slurs and slander – only silence. There were no unseemly gestures and glaring eyes. I can only hope that the Jerichoans saw pity in the eyes of a few of the people down below.
Isn’t there a picture of Christian evangelism in the work of these seven days? I realize that my teachers at Bible school would roll over in their graves at this – But the greatest evangelists are not the loudest; they are not the most eloquent; they are not the most famous; they are not the most “successful.” The greatest evangelists are those who are the most surrendered to Christ; the most emptied; the most selfless. They are obedient to the Lord, but not with a beating drum drawing attention to themselves. They are filled with the Spirit and thus, if I might put it crudely, they ooze the Holy Spirit. Jericho was forced to recognize that these saints down below were different, unworldly, heavenly.
I can imagine a few within the city looking down on Israel in amazement. They would have been very few, but some might have been trying to dig into the mind of Joshua. Why was there no attack? Why was there no sound except the stomping of feet? This is unheard of. With each successive day, the hearts of some in the city began grow in worry. Yes, they were undoubtedly a minority; because most were laughing at Israel. Were any convicted of their sins before the Lord? Probably not. But that is not the work of the evangelical marchers – they were simply supposed to live in obedience to God before “the enemy” giving the Lord time to work.
As we learn when reading chapter 2, the city had some suspicions about Rahab – the former harlot. The king of Jericho demanded that she produce the spies who from Israel had crept into the city before it was shut up and before Israel crossed the Jordan. People suspected, but could not prove, that she had sympathies toward Israel. But did anyone come to her during the seven days, seeking to know what she knew? I don’t know for sure if her family, whom she saved from destruction, were saved from their sins. What I am saying is that those seven days of evangelism didn’t produce great results. What was the population of Jericho? Whatever it was there may have been only one person saved. But success must be defined by God’s dictionary, not ours.
After not one, but six and nearly seven days of grace, God’s judgment fell on the unbelievers of Jericho. Every man, woman, child, pet and service animal in Jericho died. Don’t sneer and suggest that God is unjust or cruel. The destruction of Jericho is a tiny illustration of what will take place after God’s judgment at His Great White throne – when the dead small and great shall be cast into the lake of fire – the second death. Every one of those Jerichoans had time to repent and submit to God. But their free wills were corrupted by sin, and they chose to continue in their rejection of Jehovah.
Now, I wonder what day this is for you? You who are living in rejection of the Lord and His grace today? Maybe it is day 1 and you have sixty years ahead of you before you die. But perhaps this is your day 6. There is a day of death appointed for you and following that will come God’s judgment.
It matters not what your past sins have been – murder, like Saul of Tarsus, or whoredom like Rahab. If you will cast down your pride, self-righteousness, and works, repenting of everything before God… If you will put your trust the merits of Christ and His sacrifice... even if the wall on which you are standing comes crashing down, God has promised salvation. Salvation before God cannot be found in high walls, lofty Christian service, or high hopes. It is found in only one place – one person – the crucified Lord Jesus Christ. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”