Text: Joshua 6
Proposition: The way of faith moves in obedience to the unseen commands of the Lord Jesus Christ as He directs our steps, overruling the advice of our eyes.
Introduction: This morning we are going to look at a story that some might call Crazy Faith. It’s the account of an event that happened in the latter part of the Bronze Age, around 1400 BC. The setting is in the Jordan valley, some 900 feet below sea level at an oasis called Jericho. (Slide 1 ) A natural spring created a haven of palm trees in the midst of a hot, rock ridden Jordan valley making Jericho one of the oldest cities in the world. This city was built into a substantial fortress by the Canaanite kings. (Slide 2) Though it would only take about an hour to walk around the outside of entire fortress, the whole city was built up on a huge hill. (Slides 3, 4, 5) At the base of the hill ran a retaining wall around the city, about 20 feet high and on top of that another wall of red brick about 12 feet high and 6 feet thick. Once over this wall the ground sloped steeply upwards for about 150 feet where another 12 foot high wall stood. In between these two walls was where the poorer people lived, the outcasts and the prostitutes. On the top of the hill, inside the upper wall was where the main city of Jericho resided, about 2000 people when times were normal. But in this time of siege both lower and upper Jericho would be packed, possibly upwards of 6000 people or more. There have been archaeological digs at Jericho in the 1920’s, 50’s and 90’s confirming this structure, digging down 20 feet or more they have found that the ruins were burnt, they have even found numerous large clay pots about 20 gallons in size still full of grain. The city was not abandoned, it was defeated and destroyed. That’s the archaeological sketch of Jericho, a Titanic in its own day. Now let’s look at something that is current to this day, to your life and to my life, let’s talk about faith. The thing about faith is that it is only as good as the object it is invested in. You can have all the faith you want that the ice on a pond in late March will carry your weight and be safe to walk on but if the reality is that it is only a quarter of an inch thick, then all the faith in the world won’t keep you above water. Faith is only as good as the object or person it is invested in. This brings us to Joshua 6 where a conversation about faith is in the making. Joshua the commander of the armies of Israel has encountered another person who has identified Himself as the Commander of the army of the Lord. From what we discovered at the end of chapter 5, I would say this is a theophany, an appearance of God in the tangible form of a man. In this conversation we see not only how the fortress of Jericho will fall but more to our day, what the way of faith looks like. Have a look at Joshua 6.
I. When God Speaks About Faith He Wants Us To See What He Sees.
The LORD is speaking with Joshua, the two are standing not far from Jericho and it’s quite possible that He turns and points to Jericho as He says to Joshua, “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king and the mighty men of valour.” Is Jericho a formidable city to God… not when you compare it to say a super nova or a spectrum of galaxies or the power in an atom or the complexity of a genome. No, as the LORD sees Jericho it is not formidable to Him. He invites Joshua to see Jericho as He sees it, a city already defeated, a battle already won, a foothold in the land already secured. That’s what Jericho was, the first step to taking possession of this land promised by God more than 500 years earlier to Abraham. It’s why the LORD uses the past tense when he invites Joshua to see what He sees… “I have given Jericho into your hand…”. The outcome is not a question mark, it’s an exclamation point! In other words God doesn’t wait and respond to the will of man, He moves in front of our understanding setting the direction and He moves with our understanding wanting us to see what He sees. So is it just a defeated Jericho that God wants Joshua to see, and not only Joshua but all Israel by as well? No, what God wants us to see is the way of faith that all relationship with God is built upon, to see what He sees and believe Him.
II. When God Describes Faith Its Way Seems Counterintuitive.
That word ‘counterintuitive’ literally means ‘counter to your intuition’, against that which you sense is the best way to go, against the pull of your gut decision. In the situation before us Israel has an army of about 550,000 men, they could use any of the military practices of the day, siege it, lay up a ramp of earth next to it or just storm it. Instead God calls Joshua to a strategy that is against all his reasoning. It goes against the very way he’d do it…but then again so was the way they crossed the Jordan or the circumcising of an entire army just 10 days earlier on the outskirts of Jericho. Faith in God it seems has many steps, we just seem prone to forget the ones we’ve already taken. Faith is a call to trust in God’s wisdom, it tests our will as to which way we are going to go. The way of faith is often counterintuitive to us… If your enemy takes your cloak give him your shirt also, if he asks you to go one mile go with him two. In Proverbs 16:25 it lays it out like this, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” That’s counterintuitive, it seems like the right way to do this is my way but God has a different way for me to go, it involves faith. To put the ark of the covenant into the assault plan, exposed to the enemy, that was counterintuitive; to have priests blow trumpets for seven days; to have the army just march around the city, no jeers, no taunts, no arrows… that was counterintuitive. Here’s the crazy faith part, Joshua doesn’t hesitate. Perhaps it’s because he saw what God was after, the importance of believing God, even when it seems weak or foolish. Believing God has always been the starting point to knowing God. It’s not believing in His people or the church or the history of the church, it’s believing in God, believing what He said about sin and death and the way through that by taking refuge in His Son, Jesus Christ.
III. When God Leads Us By Faith We Only Get To Move One Step At a Time.
For six days they marched once around the city and then returned to camp. Nothing changed except maybe the jeers and laughter of the people inside Jericho grew louder. The seventh day they circle the city seven times and then … “when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him…”. Excavations show that both the upper and the lower walls fell outward, (Slides 3, 6,7), the six foot thick red brick wall that was on top of the retaining wall crumbled outward and the debris created a ramp up over the retaining wall. So when it says the people ‘went up’ that’s how they were able to scale the retaining wall. Israel had circled the fortress of Jericho 13 times, they had opportunity to see for themselves how impossible it was yet God made a way. You’ll remember from Joshua 2 that Rahab, the prostitute who gave shelter to the spies from Israel, had a house on the wall, probably the lower wall. Archaeologists in their excavations found one portion of the wall on the north side of the city still intact. Possibly this was how Rahab and her family survived. Joshua sends the same two spies to go and find her and those with her and bring them out from the judgment that was about to fall on the entire city. Did Rahab know how it was all going to work out, did she have any assurances other than her faith? It was one step at a time for her. Even getting her family to come and stay in her house where they would be saved was an act of faith for them all. A prostitute who became known as a great woman of faith even to being in the lineage of Jesus Christ… faith isn’t for the wise or the rich or the spiritual, it’s for those who know they have a need that can’t be met anywhere else, it’s for those who recognize the existence of sin in themselves and believe God that He has sent a Savior for that very purpose. But it is always just a first step that God invites us to believe. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
Sometimes that will seem like crazy faith, God inviting us to see what He sees in us, even our sin. Sometimes that crazy faith will seem counterintuitive, your gut response is not to believe, not to trust God and yet you know the ways God has showed up in your life in times past. Sometimes crazy faith only lets you move one step at a time, all the answers aren’t on the table, yet. The final outcome is still to happen, but this is the next step. Believe God, that He is, that the only way to a right relationship with Him is in His righteousness because ours is critically damaged by sin. Believe that He responds to those who earnestly, diligently seek Him and His reward for such crazy faith will be beyond your expectation and imagination. Believe in Jesus, the Savior who knows where you are, He knows who you are and He is faithful as He was to Rahab, on a day when judgment is all about. Crazy faith, it’s your next step.