By J.R. Miller
The city of Jericho was at the entrance to the promised land. The people had now crossed the river--but Jericho stood as a great iron gate into the promised land, and the gate was shut. They could not safely go round the city and leave the hostile stronghold behind them. It was necessary, therefore, that Jericho should be captured before they could advance.
This is a parable of many situations in life. Each man's own natural heart is a Jericho--which is the key to all his life and to his destiny. Nothing can be done in the conquest of the man--until his heart has surrendered. So long as Satan holds the key--none can reach any part of the man's being. Hence God asks always first for the citadel of our life. "Give Me your heart!" is His call. When He has this, all the life is open to Him.
It was a strange military procession which marched around Jericho one morning. We can imagine the people of the city looking at it from the walls with wonder. They could not understand the movement. Probably they laughed at the unusual procession--a few soldiers, then some priests with rams' horns, then more priests carrying a chest on their shoulders, then a few more soldiers. This marching column made no attack on the city, did not try to batter down the walls, only walked around it--and then returned to their camp. It really was not a military procession at all. Yet there was tremendous power in it.
But what was the use of calling out the men to make this daily march about the walls of Jericho? Since God was to give the city into their hands without any fighting on their part, why should they be called to do anything at all? For one thing, by doing the seemingly useless thing they were commanded to do, they showed that they believed in God. If they had not marched around the city--the walls never would have fallen, and they would not have taken Jericho at all. The Lord's part waited for the people's.
While all blessings come from God, we have something to do before they can be given to us. God gives us harvests--but we must til the soil, and sow the seed. God has given us salvation--but we must have faith in His promise and must show our faith by rising up and beginning to follow Christ. He will give us victory over temptation--but we must put on our armor and go against temptation, as if the victory altogether depended upon ourselves. Every promise of God has its condition, which requires us to exercise faith.
The march about the city was in silence. That was about the hardest part of the command to obey--to keep perfectly quiet all the time as they marched about the walls. There was to be no conversation on the way, no noises or shouting, until the work was finished. There are several suggestions here. We should not do our exulting when we are only halfway through with our battle, still less when we are only beginning it. We would better save our breath for struggle, until the work is finished.
Some people talk so much at their tasks--that they cannot do them well. Some people boast too soon, when the victory is not yet assured. Then there is, in general, much value in training one's self to keep quiet. Words are good in their place, if they are fit words, right words--but there are times when eloquent silence is infinitely better than the most eloquent speech.
The command to march silently also required self-control. The men must have wanted to talk a great many times as they went on--but their lips were sealed and they suppressed the words they were inclined to utter, and controlled their speech. We ought to have our speech so thoroughly under control--that we shall never say anything rashly. Then we shall be able to check the angry word that flies to the door of our lips so quickly, when we are hurt in some way by another. We never can estimate the great value of any self-discipline, which results in perfect self-mastery. It is for lack of self-control that many of our battles are lost and many defeats are suffered. He who can rule his own spirit--is greater than he who captures a city.
There was a meaning also in the trumpets which the priests carried. The blowing of these trumpets may fitly represent the utterance of the gospel message as the Church of Christ goes forth to conquer the citadels of sin. This spiritual army carries no weapons of earthly warfare. "Put up your sword," was the Master's command to those who were fighting with the sword. His marching-order is: "Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation." Not by the thunder of cannon and the rattle of musketry, will He have us subdue the fortresses of sin--but by the trumpet-blasts of the gospel of peace. The means ordained may seem inadequate to the end to be accomplished--but it is not by might nor by power--but by the Spirit of God, that the work is to be done.
There is something else to be noticed here. Close behind the priests blowing the trumpets, came the ark of God. This was the symbol of God's presence, the real power by which the overthrow of the walls of Jericho was accomplished. God's hand did it. We have the same secret of power in all preaching of the gospel. When Jesus commanded His disciples to go out and win the world for Him, His promise was: "Lo, I am with you always." We need not fear to go against the strongest powers of sin. We have only to utter our message, and the power of God will break down the walls.
For six days this procession moved in silence about the city, going round the wall once and then returning to their camp. These daily marches put the faith and patience of the soldiers and priests to the test. There seemed no possible good in such idle circling around the city. There were no indications, either, of any results, as day after day passed. The fortified walls frowned down upon them no less defiantly than at the beginning. There were no suggestions of surrender from within, indications that the courage of the garrison was wavering or weakening. Some of the brave men in the lines must have longed to make an assault on the walls. They wanted to be doing something soldierly. It was hard to restrain their enthusiastic patriotism. This marching around the city seemed like child's play. Yet day after day they had just the same seemingly useless thing to do. At length, however, patience had its reward.
In all our Christian life we need to practice this lesson. There is a great deal of dull monotony in all duty. It is the same routine over and over again, not for days only, or weeks, or years--but for a lifetime. Then there are many good works which it requires a long time to complete. That is the way character is built. It is not the growth of a night. It is not the result of a decision, a choice, a determination. We cannot merely will ourselves into a beautiful manhood--we can only grow into it, slowly, patiently.
A genial author has given us a new beatitude, "Blessed be drudgery," telling us that we get all the finest things in our character and life out of the dull routine of the drudgery we too often despise. At first there is no apparent impression made, no visible result achieved, and it seems vain to try any longer. But perseverance wins at length. Had the people of Israel wearied of the monotonous and unavailing march about Jericho, and at the close of the fifth or the sixth day given up--all would have been lost. The Divine command, was that the city should be compassed about seven days, and anything short of that would not have received the promise, for it would have shown a failure of faith. Success depended upon continuance to the very end.
So it is in all Christian life and work. We must persevere unto the end. We must carry our work through to the close-if we would succeed in it. Many things fail in our hands because we tire and give up too soon. "He who endures to the end--the same shall be saved." Spurts amount to but little; it is the steady stroke and the long pull that at length come in ahead. The strongest wall yields to the pounding that never intermits.
The silence was broken at length--on the seventh day. Of course, it was not the shouting that knocked the walls down. Joshua says plainly: "The Lord has given you the city!" The shouting was part of the obedience of faith on the people's part, just as the marching round the city was. If they had not shouted the wall would not have fallen. They obeyed God, and He did as He had promised to do. Before the walls fell, these Israelites shouted in rejoicing over a victory that God was going to give them.
The story of the saving of Rahab is very interesting. It is a story of faith. The spies had told her of the promise of God to the Israelites--that the country of Canaan would be given to them. Rahab believed what they told her, and showed kindness to the spies; indeed, saved their lives. Then she asked a pledge from them that they would show kindness to her when they came to capture the city. The men promised. She was to fasten in the window of her house on the wall--the scarlet cord by which she had let them down that they might escape. They would know her house by this sign and would spare her and her family. The men kept their promise, and Rahab was spared. We find her name in the first chapter of the Gospel by Matthew in the genealogy of Jesus. Thus faith was highly honored. Its splendor shines down through all these long centuries. Faith is always blessed and always honored.
We may get a lesson from the devotement of the spoils of Jericho. Nothing was to be touched, everything belonged to God. It is a great sin to take what has been devoted to the Lord, and apply it to our own use. An eagle swooped down upon an altar and carried off a piece of flesh, flying with it to her nest. But a coal from the altar had clung to the flesh, and this coal set fire to the nest, consuming it. So was it when one took of the spoil of Jericho, which had been devoted to God. A curse clung to the stolen treasure, and it destroyed him who took it. So it is always when we appropriate to ourselves what should be given to God--we get a curse with it!