Theme: Silence and Obedience
This week’s lessons teach us how Israel was going to achieve their victory over Jericho, and what things God wants from us as well.
SCRIPTURE: Joshua 6:11-16
So he caused the ark of the Lord to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp. Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days. On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.
There are several things the Lord told them. The first is that they were commanded to be silent. This is what Joshua told them in verse 10: “Do not give a war cry. Do not raise your voices. Do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout.” Now, I don’t know how they did that. Can you imagine the difficulty there would be ordering a march of that scale without saying a word? It’s virtually impossible for a family of four or five to do this. And they were not just to do it once. They were ordered to march around the city of Jericho once each day for six days and seven times on the seventh day. Yet as difficult as that seems to us, the Bible says they did this very thing in obedience to God’s command.
During all this strange silence of the Israelites, I can’t imagine that as they went around this city day after day that the defenders within the walls were silent. Maybe the first day they were. They must have watched by their walls in awed silence at this vast host of invaders silently encircling their city. They must have wondered, “What is this army up to?” What a bizarre situation that must have looked like: a silent city defended by silent soldiers surrounded by a silent army. It must have been the strangest military invasion in history.
But I find it very hard to think that situation would have lasted. After the circling was completed on the first day, the people went back to their camp, leaving the defenders on the walls scratching their heads. The next day when Israel’s army came out and repeated the process, the taunts probably would have begun: “What do you think you’re doing? You certainly don’t think you’re going to conquer our city by marching around it, do you? Are you afraid to fight? Come on up here on the walls. We’ll show you how to fight.” That’s the sort of thing that must have been shouted from the walls. And still the army of Israel just marched silently around the city.
This is something you and I have to learn to do in spiritual warfare. One of our problems is that we are always talking. That’s our problem with one another. Somebody has a problem, and we can hardly wait till they finish saying what their problem is so that we can give advice. Even in normal conversation, we interrupt the other person because we want to say what we want to say. We do it with God too. And it has been observed that if we don’t do it verbally, we do it mentally. When we read the Word, we don’t pause to hear what God will say. We are not silent because our thoughts are still churning around. But we have to learn to be silent in the presence of the Almighty to hear Him speak. You might see where this study is going. There are battles for us to fight, and part of the preparation for those battles is learning how to be silent and hear God.
The second thing is obedience. The people had to obey God’s command. I suspect that it is probably because of the faithfulness of the people in obeying the commands of God relayed to them through Joshua on this occasion that the people are commended for their faith in that great eleventh chapter of Hebrews. In verse 30 we are told, “By faith, the walls of Jericho fell down when the people had encircled the city seven times.” What does that mean? It means that obedience is a part of faith. There is no faith without obedience. The Lord told the Israelites what to do about Jericho, and they obeyed. That was an exercise of their faith.
What is it that God primarily wants of us? What is it that God most delights to use? Is it our native ability or talents? No, people can have great natural ability and talents, and squander them just like the prodigal squandered his father’s possessions. Is it a bold and public profession of faith—those who can stand up and loudly say what they believe? No, many people have said, “Lord, Lord,” to Jesus and have perished not doing what He says. Is it an attractive appearance or personality? To look at those who are popular in evangelical Christian circles today, you would think that’s what God uses. Is that what God wants? No, we remember that Saul stood head and shoulders above all his fellows. And yet, he didn’t finish his course well. He did not obey, and therefore was eventually removed from his position by God. Do you remember what the prophet Samuel said when he rebuked Saul for his disobedience? He asked the fallen king a question: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?” And then Samuel answered his own question: “To obey is better than sacrifice. And to heed is better than the fat of rams.” What does God most delight to honor? The answer is, obedience. That’s what God looks for in His people. And it’s through our obedience that the walls of our Jerichos fall.
1. Why was it necessary for Israel to be silent as they marched around the city? What important theological truth did this command bring out?
2. When we think of what God wants from us, even in evangelical Christian circles the temptation exists to look to other things in people besides obedience. What are some of these abilities or character traits? How much similarity exists between them and what the unbelieving world values in people?
KEY POINT: What does God most delight to honor? The answer is, obedience. That’s what God looks for in His people. And it’s through our obedience that the walls of our Jerichos fall.