One of the most popular characters found in sermons from the Old Testament for both children and adults is Joshua.
While Joshua was far from perfect, his boldness, faith, leadership, and even recovery from failure not only gave him a spot in God’s “Hall of Faith” in the Book of Hebrews (although not by name — which is interesting), but Joshua was so lionized among the Jewish people that many parents named their children after him. In fact, Jesus is the Greek variation of the Hebrew name Joshua!
And among all of the acts of Joshua, the event that probably stands out the most in his biography is the Battle of Jericho found in Joshua 6. This battle has been the theme of countless sermons, motivational messages, songs, and shows (such as the classing “Josh and the Big Wall” Veggie Tales episode).
Joshua was the successor of Moses for God’s people. He was used to experiencing intense battles, miraculous events, divine intervention, and difficult situations. But Jericho seemed different.
Now it was not just a sea and a wilderness to deal with — it was a heavily fortified city that stood between God’s people, the Israelites, and the “Promised Land.”
Jericho had a massive, impenetrable wall around it that the Israelite army had no hope of getting past, and even if they did, they would have to face an enemy army.
But the Israelites had one major player on their team that Jericho did not: The God of the universe! God had already promised Joshua that
“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life... Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them... Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go... Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:5-9, ESV).
So, following the rather odd set of instructions by God to quietly march around the wall a certain amount of times over the course of seven days with trumpets and lanterns, something amazing took place:
On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city... and at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets... the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city (Joshua 6:15-20, ESV).
Then Joshua and the Israelite army charges through the rubble like a football team busts through a home-field banner and they “devoted all in the city to destruction... with the edge of the sword” (Joshua 6:21). If you do not like violence, you might want to turn your head during that scene.
The Spiritual Meaning of the Battle of Jericho
For the Israelites, this battle was yet another big step away from slavery and toward freedom. For Joshua, this was his first victory as the new, official leader of God’s people. For Jericho, this was the judgment of God on their wickedness and idolatry.
But there are many times that God allows his judgment to fall such as with the flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues of Egypt, and here in Jericho.
These are examples of the foreshadowing of the judgment that will eventually fall on all people that do not repent and receive forgiveness for their sins as Jesus explains in Luke 13:3).
For us today, we can learn the value of faithful obedience to God, no matter how crazy the instructions sound. Because although Jericho was heavily defended, this generation of Israelites had no experience with war, they had no equipment to lay siege to a city wall, and God’s battle plan was to march around the wall behind the priests and the Ark of the Covenant, God gave them a great victory because of their obedience.
The writer of Hebrews highlights the Israelites faith when he wrote:
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days (Hebrews 11:30, ESV).
Years later, Solomon would pen these words from God with examples like this Battle of Jericho in mind:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).
We can also learn some valuable lessons on leadership, teamwork, and courage when looking at this story as an allegory to the spiritual warfare that we face every day in our Christian life.
This battle reminds us that our enemy cannot be destroyed with physical weapons, that God goes ahead of those who are his and fights for them, and that our victory is more than possible — it is promised!
We can be challenged to keep marching no matter how tired we are, no matter how far we have already gone, and no matter how insurmountable the odds seem to be against us.
And we can be encouraged by the words that God told Joshua through the Commander of the Lord’s Army be “strong and very courageous,” to meditate on and obey God’s commandments, and to “not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:7-9, ESV).
But there is one more vital lesson in this story that weaves like a “scarlet rope” into the biblical tapestry known as the “redemptive timeline.” It is this: The Battle of Jericho teaches us about the grace and mercy of God.
How in the world does a story of war, destruction, and bloodshed point to grace and mercy? To see this, we must zoom in to the middle of the story and look at one of the obscure players — a woman from Jericho named Rahab the prostitute.
Because of Rahab’s faith to hide the Israelite spies before the battle, Joshua (whose Hebrew name literally means “God saves”) demanded that her life be spared during the conquest (Hebrews 11:31; Joshua 6:17).
This means that God graciously chose to save the life of Rahab, a woman living a sinful lifestyle within an evil city that some people (probably even us) might assume was un-savable. God gave hope to this woman who had no hope.
If the Israelites had not conquered Jericho, Rahab would have stayed in her broken, painful, and abused lifestyle until the day she died. But it was not just Rahab that was saved, it was her family.
And on top of that, not only were their lives spared, but they were welcomed into Israel’s family, given a whole new life, and would eventually be known as one of several women that stand out in the lineage of Jesus Christ himself! What a beautiful story of redemption!
God’s mission has always been about giving grace to those who do not deserve it (which is all of us). From the day that Adam and Eve brought death onto the human race through sin, God has been involved in the redemption of mankind to deliver us from our sin and give us life.
God Ultimately Saves
That is the gospel. And when we are looking for it, the gospel is evident in every story — from the worldwide flood, to Abraham and Isaac up on the mountain, to the Exodus from Egyptian slavery, to Samson’s death among the Philistines, and to this story of the Battle of Jericho.
Whether you have noticed or not, God has been involved in all of our lives, too. If anyone will “confess with [their] mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, [they, too, just like Rahab] will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
And when God saves us, he does not just deliver us from ultimate destruction, but he welcomes us into his family and gives us a new life.
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Robert Hampshire is a pastor, teacher, writer, and leader. He has been married to Rebecca since 2008 and has three children, Brooklyn, Bryson, and Abram. Robert attended North Greenville University in South Carolina for his undergraduate and Liberty University in Virginia for his Masters. He has served in a variety of roles as a worship pastor, youth pastor, family pastor, and most recently as the Lead Pastor and Planter of Village Church in Churchville, Virginia. He furthers his ministry through his blog site, Faithful Thinking. His life goal is to serve God and His Church by reaching the lost with the Gospel, making devoted disciples, equipping and empowering others to go further in their faith and calling, and leading a culture of multiplication for the glory of God. Find out more about him here.