Over the next few weeks for our morning message time, I want to tell you some stories. Walter always says “Sit down and tell us a story – it doesn’t have to be true.” Well, these ones are true – although some of them are so fantastic, that you might think I’m just making them up. But they are true, because they are found in the Bible.
You see, the Bible is an amazing story. Its the story of the Almighty, everlasting God interacting with the people that He created. And in the Bible we find a huge variety of different kinds of stories. There is a genre for everyone.
- Romance – Song of Solomon
- Adventure – Judges 6-7
- History – Matthew 1
- War – 1 Samuel 14
- Espionage – Joshua 2
- Documentary – Mark
- Weird Science – Daniel 3
- Fantasy – Revelation
- Thriller – Esther
- Drama – Jonah
- Comedy – Numbers 22
- Poetry – Psalms
- Technical writing – Exodus 25-30
- Sports – Genesis 32
And that’s just a small sampling! The Bible is just full of amazing true stories. So with so many difference genre’s to choose from, where should we start ? Well, I wanted to focus on a genre that the young people especially would really take an interest in. And so, after seeing what games they play, and what kind of things they look up on the internet, I’ve decided that the theme for the next few weeks will be “Great Battles of Bible”.
Cuz there are a lot of battle stories in the Bible. The first fight breaks out in the early chapters of Genesis and the battles rage on right through until the end of Revelation. So we’re going to look at some of those great battles of the Bible and see if we can figure out what God is trying to teach us through these stories.
Why don’t we pray together first, and ask God to show us what He would have us learn today.
Today we are going start with a story that is probably my favorite battle story in the Bible. It’s the story of Joshua and the City of Jericho. Now if you’re not familiar with the story, let me set the stage for you.
About forty year before this, Moses led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt. They cross the Red Sea, and eventually head towards the Promised Land – that is the land that God promised to give Abraham and his descendants. When they get there, Moses sends out 12 spies (including Joshua and his buddy Caleb) to go and scout out the land and the people. The land is awesome, but the people are like giants and the Israelites are too scared to go in and take the land like God told them too. So, God says “Fine, you can wander around the in the wilderness for 40 years until you all die off and your children can go and take the land.”
So that’s just what happens. Now, forty years later, that generation has all died off (with the exception of Joshua and Caleb). Even Moses is gone, so Joshua is now the new leader of the Israelites. They cross the Jordan River and are getting ready for their very first battle. This is where we pick it up in Joshua chapter 6 – verse 1.
1 “Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go out or in. 2 But the Lord said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. 3 You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. 4 Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. 5 When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.”
Let’s pause here. Does that really sound like a great military strategy? Do 13 laps around the city, yell really loud, and the walls will collapse? Just what kind of walls are these? Paper Maché?
Well, in our day & age, we don’t have city walls for defense like they did back then, so we have a hard time understanding what these walls were like. So to help us understand, consider the Berlin Wall.
The Berlin wall, which was constructed to keep people from crossing the border between East & West Germany, was a concrete wall about 10 to 12 feet high and was about 8 inches thick. It was an effective barrier. Before the wall was built, about 3.5 million East Germans defected from East Germany and crossed the border into West Germany. In the 28 years that the wall was standing, only about 5,000 east Germans made the attempt to cross the wall – many of them got shot and killed. So a wall of concrete twelve feet high and eight inches thick was very effective.
So how does that compare with our Jericho wall? Well, actually, Jericho had three walls. You see, Jericho was built on a hill. So at the base of the hill, they had made an outer wall, which was really a retaining wall – built into the side of the hill. This stone retaining wall was about 12 feet tall, but it was backed by solid earth, because it was dug into the hillside. So for all intents and purposes, it was as thick as the city was wide. That’s a pretty good wall. Better than just 8 inches, don’t you think? But wait. That’s not all. On top of that wall, they build another wall of brick. This wall was about 20 feet tall and about 6 feet thick. So if you’re on the outside looking up, you’ve got about 32 feet of wall to scale that is at least 6 feet thick at the thinest part. Then, if that wasn’t enough, there was a third wall further up the hill. This inner wall was another 20 feet tall and six feet wide.
So this place is a fortress. The only logical way that you could ever take this city is to wait them out. Set up camp around the city for a few years and wait until they run out of food. That was about the only option.
But God had another plan. All they had to do is march around the city 13 times the way that God instructed, and when they were all done, to blast their horns and yell as loud as they could. Then the walls would fall down and they could go up and take the city.
Now if you were one of those Israelite soldiers, what would you be thinking as you hear these instructions? You know how the story ends, but these guys didn’t. They never heard this story when they were in Sunday school. All they knew was that they were going up against these Jericho-ians who looked like giants who were in an impenetrable fortress, and Joshua, their new general who is leading them into battle for the first time expects the walls just to fall down on their own after they march around it 13 times. Now tell me, if you were one of those Israelites, what would you be thinking?
Well, regardless of what they must have thought, they followed God’s instructions.
6 So Joshua called together the priests and said, “Take up the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, and assign seven priests to walk in front of it, each carrying a ram’s horn.” 7 Then he gave orders to the people: “March around the town, and the armed men will lead the way in front of the Ark of the Lord.”
8 After Joshua spoke to the people, the seven priests with the rams’ horns started marching in the presence of the Lord, blowing the horns as they marched. And the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant followed behind them. 9 Some of the armed men marched in front of the priests with the horns and some behind the Ark, with the priests continually blowing the horns. 10 “Do not shout; do not even talk,” Joshua commanded. “Not a single word from any of you until I tell you to shout. Then shout!” 11 So the Ark of the Lord was carried around the town once that day, and then everyone returned to spend the night in the camp.
12 Joshua got up early the next morning, and the priests again carried the Ark of the Lord. 13 The seven priests with the rams’ horns marched in front of the Ark of the Lord, blowing their horns. Again the armed men marched both in front of the priests with the horns and behind the Ark of the Lord. All this time the priests were blowing their horns. 14 On the second day they again marched around the town once and returned to the camp. They followed this pattern for six days.
15 On the seventh day the Israelites got up at dawn and marched around the town as they had done before. But this time they went around the town seven times. 16 The seventh time around, as the priests sounded the long blast on their horns, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the town!
20 When the people heard the sound of the rams’ horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it.
Joshua 6:6-16 & 20
Now that is a story! The grandkids of these Israelite soldiers must have heard that story over and over again – and I bet they drank in every word! What an incredible story!
But now what’s the lesson for us? Why did God have that story recorded in the Bible for us to read thousands of years later? What does He want us to learn about Himself?
Well, let I’m sure there are many lessons in here that we could learn, but here’s the one that stuck out to me this week.
God loves doing new things.
Was marching around & yelling the typical method of capturing cities back in those days? No. It was not. This was the first time in history that a city had ever been taken by marching and yelling. And even after it was such a smashing success, it was never done again. Why, because God loves doing new things.
If you read a little further in the book of Joshua, you’ll read that the next town they were to capture, God told them to setup an ambush. Part of the army would draw the enemy away from their town, and then the remainder of the army would come in from behind and capture the empty town, then attack them from behind.
Then in the next battle, God tells Joshua to make a surprise attack and while Joshua is fighting, God makes the sun stand still so they can keep fighting longer. Plus, as the enemy ran away from Joshua, God killed them off with a fierce hail storm!
God doesn’t get in a rut and just do the same thing over and over again. He’s into new things. He’s into surprises.
Just because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever – doesn’t mean He doesn’t love doing new things!
Take a quick glance through the Scriptures:
“See, I am doing a new thing!” Isaiah 43:19
“Sing to the Lord a new song!” Psalm 33:3, Psalm 96:1, Psalm 98:1, Psalm 149:1
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:5
God loves doing new things! He did a new thing at Jericho, and He’s doing new things now.
One of the things that I have been learning recently is that God doesn’t expect my life to be a copy of anyone else. He doesn’t expect me to be Chuck Swindoll. He doesn’t expect me to be George Mueller. He expects me to be Dave Trenholm. God’s doing something new with me. And so His relationship with me is different than his relationship with Chuck Swindoll, or with George Mueller, or even with you.
But so often I compare my relationship with God to others. I have a friend who gets up very early every morning and goes for a long prayer walk. He’s done this for several years now and it has really strengthened his relationship with God. So of course, when I see the impact that this prayer walking has made on him, naturally I want to try it.
But wait a second. I’m not him. I’m Dave Trenholm. The way He connects with God isn’t necessarily the same way I’m going to connect with God.
For me to think that early morning prayer walks are the secret to a vibrant Christian life is as foolish as thinking that marching around and yelling is the secret to conquering cities. Just because God did it that way with someone else, doesn’t mean He will do it the same way for you.
Your relationship with God is unique. He’s never made a ‘you’ before. You’re the first one. So he’s going to do something new with you.
We don’t all come to know Christ in the same way. We don’t all grow in our Christian walk the same way. We don’t all go through the same struggles. God doesn’t give us all the same strengths and abilities. God’s doing something new with you – something He’s never done before.
And I find that very exciting and very re-assuring. I don’t have to get up to pray at 4:00am like John Wesley. I don’t have to have to be the pastor of a mega-church. I don’t have to live my life like any other “great” Christian that I might put up on a pedestal. All I have to do is to listen to God, and do what He asks of me.
That’s all Joshua did. He didn’t call down ten plagues on Jericho because that’s what Moses did. And David didn’t run circles around Goliath yelling because that’s what Joshua did. No, God was doing something new each time. And each time, all that was required was just to listen to God and obey.
Just about three years ago, God asked Heather & I to give up the life we knew – to give up our home, our church family, our jobs – and move to the hamlet of Mirror to help out in a little church there. That was something new. In fact, at first, we didn’t really believe that that was what God wanted us to do. God wouldn’t ask us to do that! But He did. And so we came. And we are so glad that we did! God has blessed us in so many ways because we obeyed Him. Now we couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.
So what’s God asking you to do right now – today?
Maybe He’s asking you for the first time to fully commit your life to Him and let Him call the shots?
Maybe He’s asking you to repent of some sin in your life that you haven’t really dealt with yet?
Maybe He’s asking you to do something extreme – like giving up your career and going overseas help share the Gospel there?
Or maybe He’s just simply asking you to invite your neighbor over for lunch or to spend more time with your kids?
I don’t know – and I guess it really doesn’t matter what it is. The real issue, no matter what He’s asking you to do, is will you listen and obey?
Because I’ll tell ya, when you listen to God and do what He asks – amazing stuff happens. You may not see it at first – remember, the Israelites didn’t see any results for the first 12 laps. But when you listen to God and obey, God comes through every time.