30 It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.
Hebrews 11:30 (NLT)
Welcome to the twenty first installment on my study of faith from Hebrews 11. This time we are in the next generation after Moses. The generation that left Egypt except Caleb and Joshua had died with Moses. Joshua took over the leadership from Moses to lead the next generation of Israelites to take the land promised by God. Hebrews 11:30 credited the Israelites for marching around a city called Jericho and caused it to crush down. It does not give further details on this. Therefore we have to refer to the book of Joshua.
This is the background story. Since the Israelites left Egypt, they faced various battles because they were attacked. All those battles were on open ground and the Israelites managed to defeat all their enemies. Jericho was the first walled city they encountered and it stood in the way of their inheritance. What is so special about the walled city?
One of my interests is to study ancient warfare especially warfare at the pre-gunpowder era. Before the use of guns, fortified walls were the best defense against invaders. Nations defended their territories by building thick and high walls around their cities. When they were attacked, all they need to do was to drop stones on their enemies. The high walls gave the defenders the advantage of height. Their arrows can fly further and the stones they drop can cause more damage. The walls enabled relatively few defenders to hold off a much larger invading force.
The invaders will have to innovate to capture walled cities. The fastest way to do that was to use innovations like catapults, siege towers and battering rams. The Israelites did not have those stuffs. They lacked the technology to take down the city. The other way was to surround the city to cut off its supplies. That would require a huge logistic base. The Israelites could not afford that either. So, it seemed that there was no way forward. They had a problem that was beyond their natural capacity to solve.
Have you felt the same way? I am sure you have some natural talents and you have overcome some problems before. However you are now faced with some problems that is beyond your natural ability to solve. You hit the dead end. If you are in this situation, I have good news for you. God is able and willing to help you to overcome your problems. You only have to believe. You will need to activate your faith.
Joshua and gang could not have the technology nor the logistic to take the city. They had to rely on God. This is what God told them to do:
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.”
Joshua 6:1-5 (NLT)
Let me summarize that in point form:
Joshua and his fighting men were to march around the town once a day for six days.
Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn.
On the seventh day, march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns.
After the priests gave one long blast on the rams’ horns, 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.
That was not all. There was one more condition to be kept throughout the six days.
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!”
Joshua 6:10 (NLT)
Joshua told his people not to talk. This instruction was not from God but from Joshua. God never forbid the Israelites not to talk in Joshua 6:1-5. Joshua added in this instruction himself. Why would he do that? Let me try to unravel this mystery.
21 The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.
Our tongues have the power of life and death. Joshua must be afraid that his people might talk negative that could adversely affect their faith. After all, if you think of the instructions from God, they do not sound logical. Don’t you find it too simple? March around the town for 6 days and shout on the seventh? What if those folks drop stones or hot oil on us? I live in a government flat and I always make sure I don’t walk below people’s windows because I don’t want to have killer litter to fall on my head. So, it is not difficult for me to understand the risk they face when they obeyed those instructions.
Surely, those folks who were told to march around the town would have negative thoughts as they marched. Joshua, by the wisdom of God, must have predicted that and therefore removed their freedom of speech for that duration. He did not want them to talk negative. Victory was at stake. He knew that negative words would affect their collective faith and cost them their victory.
What can we learn from him? When you are in a difficult situation and you are unable to speak positive words, keep your mouth shut. Even if you cannot stop yourself from thinking negative, the least you can do is to restrain yourself from speaking them out. Why? When you use your tongue to talk negative, you activate the power of death. The bad situation that you are facing will only get worst. Learn to hold your tongue.
So, they walked around the town with their mouths shut and with priest carrying the Ark at the front. Why priests? Prophets are God’s representatives to men. They speak God’s words and tell us what God wants to tell us. Priests are the opposite. They are men’s representatives to God. They intercede for us, representing us before God. They are on our side. This is why when Jesus walked on earth, he was a prophet because he spoke God’s words to us. When he was risen to heaven and seated at the right hand of God, he is now our high priest. He represents us before God the Father. He is always on our side to make sure that we shall always have the best deal no matter what happens.
The priests were involved in the march to ensure the connection with God was there. They carried the Ark, which represents the presence of God. God was with them during the march. When we are faced with huge problems, we must involve the presence of God. The worst thing we can do when faced with huge problems is to give up praying and confessing. If we do that we will be cutting ourselves off from the one who has the solutions to our problems.
On the seventh day, after the priests blew the horns, the Israelites shouted as loud as they could and the walls of Jericho collapsed. Please note that they shouted before the walls collapsed. In other words, they shouted in faith. Being in faith means we thank God in advance for answering our prayers before we can see the manifestation of it. This means we must believe we receive what we ask for when we pray.
24 I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours.
Mark 11: 24 (NLT)
The Israelites obeyed God by acting in faith. God solved their problem for them. The walls of Jericho collapsed without a single casualty from the Israelites. The Israelites charged into the city and took over it. They had a great victory.
In Hebrews 11:30, God honored them for their faith. God wants us to live in faith and he wants us to use our faith to overcome our problems. No matter what problem you are facing now, may it be financial, health, relationship or anything else, God desires to solve them for you. He wants you to live by faith because only when you are in faith, you are opening the doors for him to come into your life and overcome all your problems for you.