So when the trumpets sounded, the people shouted. When they heard the blast of the trumpet, the people gave a great shout, and the wall collapsed. The people charged into the city, each man straight ahead, and captured the city.
I. The first thing demanded of the people of Israel is A GREAT ACT OF FAITH. It was no slight exercise of faith to believe that the sounding of the sacred trumpets would suffice to overthrow those massive walls which rose like impregnable ramparts around the city. It was necessary that the besiegers should rise above all the merely material aspects of the situation, and endure, as said the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews, "as seeing him who is invisible," and relying wholly on His word (Hebrews 11:27).
II. This faith is not a mere feeling of trust; IT INVOLVES ALSO A POSITIVE AND PERILOUS DEED. The Israelites are not to wait in inaction the working of a miracle on their behalf; they have a direct command to obey. The ark is to be triumphantly borne, sometimes to the stirring sound of trumpets, around the walls of Jericho, from the top of which the enemy might take deadly aim at the besiegers. Thus, for Israel to believe is to obey; it is to act in spite of danger. This is the faith of which it is said that it "overcomes the world" (1 John 5:4).
III. THIS FAITH FINDS A RESPONSE IN THE MIGHTY GRACE OF GOD. That grace delights in sovereign manifestations. In the exercise of His absolute freedom, God has often chosen "things that are not to bring to nought things that are," (1 Corinthians 1:28), thus magnifying His grace by the very disproportion between the results and the apparent means used to effect them. What power is there in the sound of a trumpet to shake the solid foundation of a city wall? Can its shrillest blast make the massive granite tremble to its fall? God will show that the power is His alone; that Israel's confidence must be in no arm of flesh, but in Him only. Undoubtedly He does often make use of those natural means which are of His own appointment, and His grace is not in the ordinary course of things opposed to nature. Religious life is not magic, but those grand manifestations of Divine sovereignty which are called miracles bring us into immediate contact with the sovereign power of God from which all blessed influences flow. Let us not forget, moreover, that there is a distinction to be observed between what may be called the creative period of the religion of redemption, and its subsequent stage of preservation and development. The current of the new life must first hollow out its channel, before it can pursue its even way between the banks of a defined course. Hence with regard to miracles, there is a great difference between the age which saw the first beginnings of Christianity, and our own day, which is an era of development only.
IV. The fall of the walls of Jericho before the blast of the sacred trumpets is an apt symbol of THE TRIUMPH OF SPIRIT OVER MATERIAL FORCE. The sacred trumpets accompanied the songs of Israel, its hymns of worship raised to the true God. It was this glorious truth of the one living and true God which finally subdued the Canaanitish nations. Mens agitat molem. Mind moves matter; it always triumphs over material obstacles. Force can avail nothing against it, because it is itself the power of God. Primitive Christianity saw the citadel of paganism fall before it. All-powerful Rome fell prostrate when the gospel trumpet sent forth its sonorous voice into the midst of a down trodden and decaying world. Thus, also, in a later age did the fortress of Romish superstition crumble into ruin before Luther's hymn, which embodies the whole spirit of the Reformation. The hymn on justification by faith was like Israel's trumpets to the Papal Jericho. "Believe only, and thou shalt see the glory of God" (John 11:20). - E. DE P.
The wall fell down flat.
I. Consider, then, this fight of faith; and first of all mark THE FOUNDATION OF THE FAITH whereby Jericho was overthrown. It was a well-founded faith, for it rested altogether on the Word of God. "What are the marching orders?" This is the only question faith asks; if it is convinced in regard to this, it can command mountains to be plucked up by the roots and cast into the sea. As it was in the siege of Jericho so is it in the siege of Mansoul. All must be done in faith, or nothing is done to good purpose. Faith asks, What has God commanded? And the answer is clear as day: "Preach the Word." "Testify of Me." We have something more to do than to defend the faith, or to apologise for the gospel; we have to prophesy over the dry bones, knowing that in the power of that Word they will rise up an exceeding great army.
II. Think also of THE TRIAL OF HIS FAITH. The whole thing looked like child's play. The means seem to human wisdom utterly, ridiculously inadequate to the end in view. Even so in our days faith is tried. What, it may be asked, are you to preach, preach for ever, to do nothing but preach? Again, it must have been a trial to Israel to wait so long. If going round Jericho is to accomplish the work, surely once round is as good as a thousand times. If one shout will lay the walls flat, why not shout the first day, and make short work of it? To try every mode of presenting the gospel, so as to reach the conscience and influence the life of those who hear, but never to see any good result therefrom; to labour in some degraded district to elevate the masses by the leverage of the gospel, and to see them sink back like dry sand into their congenial degradation; to teach in the Sabbath-school with earnestness and diligence, and never have the assurance that One soul is savingly touched; to train up the children in the family with careful pains and earnest prayers, and yet to find their hearts wayward and prone to evil — all these are sad and trying experiences under which the heart is apt to sink discouraged and to ask, Is this gospel the true power after all? For a cure to such faintness let us remember Israel. Perfect victory comes soon or late to every soul who works in the energy of God's Spirit as God directs. Not only the walls of Jericho but mighty mountains are beaten small by the worm Jacob. Still another part of the trial of Israel's faith must have been the thought of what their enemies had been saying and thinking. Say what we will, the opinions and thoughts of our fellows have an influence over us, and cause either gratification or discomfort. One of the severest trials to the faithful witness of Christ is his critics. Some of them are unfriendly, and their aim is to destroy his influence. Some of them are friendly; and their purpose is to extend his influence. If he is a foolish man, weak in faith, he will be spoiled by either of them. He should try to get all the good out of them that is in them; and if there is no good in them pay no more attention to them than the Israelites did to the men of Jericho.
III. As we look at Israel in its march round Jericho we also see a good example of THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH. We have need to imitate these warriors, and to remember that faith without works is dead. Faith develops itself in and by docility. We can attain to victory, the Divine blessing can rest on our labours, only as we work according to the Divine plans, only as we obey His revealed will.
IV. We have stiff further in the conduct of Israel before Jericho a display of THE COURAGE OF FAITH. Faith is brave as well as obedient. Displaying its banners in the name of the Lord, it can run through a troop, and overleap a wall. Faith never underrates difficulties; faith never despises danger; but obeying God, it never quails before them, even when it is most exposed. Walking in the path of obedience, it knows that the Lord will preserve it from all evil, and therefore its heart never fails.
V. THE PATIENCE OF ISRAEL'S FAITH is also plainly shown. The faith of these warriors was enduring as well as courageous. This was like the finishing of their education so far as patience went. Much mischief is often wrought by that natural impetuosity which rushes forward before God has prepared the way, even as much ground is often lost by that lack of patience which faints in the day of adversity, and gives in before the work is done. Only by patient continuance in well-doing are great things accomplished.
VI. Though the faith of Israel was strongly tried before Jericho, still it was not without true ENCOURAGEMENT. Faith can always derive strength from some quarter: it can live where all else would die. The command of God would encourage Israel. No word that He speaks is vain. Also the very way in which they marched would strengthen their hearts. They marched as God's people, with Jehovah's priests in their company, bearing the sacred ark of God's strength, before which all the might of man is weakness. The sacred number seven, moreover, interwoven with their work, showed that there was order and completeness in the task set before them, even though they might not be able to discover them.
VII. Think, lastly, of THE TRIUMPH OF THIS FAITH. Nothing in Jericho was left alive. Thus perished the enemies of Jehovah. Israel's victory was complete. Behold in Jericho two things — the might of man, as revealed in these walls and towers and stalwart soldiers; the wisdom of man, as shown in their watchfulness, their care and precautions. Behold also two other things — the foolishness of God in that aimless marching round the city; the weakness of God in the sound of these rams' horns, in the shout of these soldiers. See the effect; the walls are a ruin, Jericho is burned with fire, the place is desolate. Learn therefore that the weakness of God is stronger than men, and the foolishness of God is wiser than men.
(A. B. Mackay.)
I. IN CHRISTIAN EXPERIENCE. If Egypt represents our conflict with the world, and Amalek our conflict with the flesh, the seven nations of Canaan represent our conflict with the principalities and powers of wicked spirits, who resist our entrance into the heavenlies, and our practical realisation of what Christ has wrought for us. Who is there amongst us that does not know, or has not known, of something — a cherished indulgence, a friendship, a pernicious entanglement — reared as an impassable barrier to the enjoyment of those blessed possibilities of Christian experience which are ours in Christ, but which for that reason seem beyond our reach? That thing is a Jericho. Now it cannot be the purpose of God that anything, however deeply rooted, should shut His redeemed ones out of the heavenly places, which are theirs in Christ — even though it should be the result of their own sin, or mistake, the heirloom of early indiscretions, the entail of trespass off the narrow path.
1. Be still. The hardest of all commandments this. That our voice should not be heard! That we should utter our complaints to God alone! All this is foreign to our habits and taste. As death is the last enemy to be destroyed in the universe of God, so is the restraint of the tongue the last lesson learnt by His children. "Be still," saith God, " and know that I am God. I will be exalted," &c. And that soul may well be still and wait which has learnt that the Lord of hosts is beside it, and the God of Jacob is its refuge. To that Friend it hies to pour out its secret agony. In that home it nestles as in the covert of a great rock, sheltered from the blast.
2. Obey. As in this story so in grace, there must be co-operation between God and man. Only God can remove the difficulties that stand in the way of an entirely consecrated and blessed life, but there are commands and duties which it is incumbent on us to fulfil. In some cases we are withholding obedience that we should give at once. There are things which we ought to do which we are not doing. And there is equal danger in doing more than we should — endeavouring to scale walls which we are told to encompass; shooting before the word of command has been uttered; making the circuit of the city oftener than the once each day prescribed by the Divine ordering. It is so hard to feel that we do more by doing less; that we save time by resting quietly in our tents; that it is vain to rise early and late take rest, because He giveth to His beloved while they sleep.
3. Have faith. Look away from all your preparations, and even from your God-commanded acts, to God Himself; and as you do so your difficulties will melt away, that stone will be rolled from the mouth of the sepulchre, that iron gate will open of its own accord, those mighty walls will fall down fiat. And it shall come to pass that the obstacle which threatened to make the best life impossible shall minister to such an unfolding of God's very present help as shall furnish fuel for praise in all coming years.
II. In CHRISTIAN WORK. The apostle speaks of strongholds that had to be cast down, and of high things that exalted themselves against the knowledge of God; and asserts that he did not war against such things according to the flesh, and that the weapons of his warfare were not of the flesh, but mighty before God for the casting down of strongholds, and for the bringing of every high and proud thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. Our only hope is to act on strictly spiritual lines, because we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with the wicked spirits that lie behind all that is seen in this world of men and things. If we can overthrow the dark spirits that abet and maintain, we shall see the system which they support crumble as a palace of clouds before the wind. Let us be pure and holy, giving time to heart-searching in the presence of the Captain; let us lift up the sacrifice and work of Jesus; let us blow the gospel trumpet of alarm and summons to surrender; let us be much in silent prayer before God; let us cherish a spirit of unity and love, as the tribes of Israel forgot their differences in one common expedition against their foes; above all, let us believe in the presence and co-operation of God, and we shall see the old miracle repeated, and the walls of Jericho fall down flat.
III. IN THE STORY OF THE CHURCH. This capture of Jericho is surely capable of being read as a parable of things that are yet to be. We know that the world lieth in the power of the wicked one. It has long boasted itself against God, with its mighty walls and gates, and it would seem as if the time will never come of which psalmists and kings have sung and spoken in rapturous phrase. In the meanwhile the various tribes of the Church of Christ have been perambulating about the walls, subjected to much derision and mockery, though sometimes a sickening premonition of approaching judgment must steal upon the hearts of the votaries of worldliness. For nearly nineteen centuries the circuit has been made, the trumpet-blast uttered, the testimony maintained. And surely the seven days have nearly expired.
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
1. You will observe that the work to be done by Israel was universal. There was a place for each one to occupy. The men of arms were to go round the city, and with them the priests were to march also. Both the ecclesiastical and the military castes should be represented here. They must neither of them sit still. God would have His people work universally.
2. But, next, He would have them work in His own appointed way. They are not to go in a scramble — in a boyish race; there must be the soldiers in their troops, the priests in their array, and then again, the men of war to bring up the rear. God would have His people work according to His own revealed will. If I go upon a tour I do not expect to see certain sights which have been guaranteed to me by my friend, unless I agree to follow the little chart which he has mapped out for me. I cannot expect to have that sublime view of the Alps if I refuse to climb a certain spot and stand there and view the glacier and the snow peak glittering in the sun. And I cannot expect to have God's blessing in my ministry and in the Sunday-school class unless I keep to "It is written," and in all things have a tender conscience, and am jealous of myself lest I err.
3. Then, again, remember, they encompassed the city daily. So does God call His Church to work daily. The wheel must revolve again, and again, and again: it is that perpetual motion of industry which produces wealth, and it must be the ceaseless energy of our zeal which shall produce spiritual conquest.
4. Nor have we exhausted the metaphors with which our text supplies us, for surely we may add that God would have His people work in faith. We are told that, "by faith the walls of Jericho fell down." Is the preaching of the gospel a power? If you think it is not, never try it again. Is the gospel mighty to save? Will the gospel come out victorious? If you have any doubt slink back to your cowardly repose, but let the man whom God sends never doubt. If you have achieved no successes, if after fifty years your trumpet of jubilee was exceeding small, if after fifty years it was something like a ram's horn that had not been bored, and could not make any noise at all, yet still go on; your time for shouting has not come yet, but your time for compassing the city is always present. Go on with it, go on with it, and God will not permit you to end till you have won the victory. So let us notice once more under this head of work, they worked with patience and courage, God kept this people labouring in the presence of difficulty. Sometimes we get into the habit of shutting our eyes to difficulty; that will not do: faith is not a fool, faith does not shut her eyes to difficulty, and then run head foremost against a brick wall — never. Faith sees the difficulty, surveys it all, and then she says, "By my God will I leap over a wall"; and over the wall she goes.
II. GOD WOULD HAVE HIS PEOPLE WAIT. The delay must have sorely tried the faith and patience of the Israelites. There are a great many brethren who seem to be perfectly satisfied to rest at ease, but men of war do not generally seem to be of that temperament. When I was in the military prison at Dublin I observed a form of punishment there. Men were carrying large shot. A man took up a large shot and carried it to the end of the yard, and he afterwards had to pick that shot up and bring it back again. I said, "How is it you do not let them take all the shot to that end and pile them up there?" The officer said, "We used to do so but it was no use, for when the fellows had piled them up they felt they were doing something, but now we make them carry the shot from one end of the yard to the other, and then back again, and back again, and they feel they have to work hard and do nothing. That is always miserable work to the soldiers." Many of our soldiers at Sebastopol made bitter complaints at not being led to battle. And you will often have heard young military men say, that they hate the inactivity of peace, they want to be doing something. Now these men of war were kept for six days marching round and round the city, and they must have felt themselves to have been doing very little all that week. Though as men of war we would rather come to close quarters and see more done, yet as men of God we must keep to our posts of duty, and learn how to wait. Besides this, what rendered the waiting so very galling was (what must have struck their reason if it did not assail their faith) the utter desperateness of the ease. How could they hope to win that city by simply going round and round? "Give me a good ladder," says one, " a rope-ladder and a couple of good irons at the end of it; just let me hear the clank upon the top-stone, and I am your man to lead the ' forlorn hope,' and there are fifty thousand of us to follow, and we will soon have Judah's standard waving on the top, and make the sons of Jericho know what the sons of Abraham can do." But no; they must just march round the place till they have compassed the city twelve times. And so there are certain spirits apt to say, "Could not we do more by adopting these methods and such other expedients?" Now we know that God has His reasons for making us wait. It is for His own glory we doubt not. We know that all things work together for good, and, we believe, it will be ultimately for our profit. When I have read some masterly tragic poem, and verse after verse has dwelt upon the horrible portion of the tale, did I wish it shortened? Would I have the author leave out one of those dark verses? Not
I. God is writing a great poem of human history, the subject is the victory of truth, the destruction of Antichrist. Let the history be long. Who wants it shortened? who wants a brief story on so exceedingly interesting a subject as this, from so great an Author?
III. GOD WOULD HAVE HIS PEOPLE WIN. The victory is very sure, and, when it comes forth, very complete. Nothing could .be more so. It may be very sudden also, and it will be very glorious. But we shall get nothing by it, for when Jericho fell, nobody gained anything except to offer it unto the Lord; so that we have to persevere in disinterested service, just toiling on for the Master, remembering that when success comes it will all be His — every single atom of it — the glory will be to Him and not to us.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)I. THE LESSON OF SELF-CONTROL. "Ye shall not shout" was perhaps a hard order to the enthusiastic young soldiers of Joshua. Yet by putting the seal on their lips and withholding arrow and missle they became victors. How grandly do the annals of biography illustrate this duty of controlling one's spirit! Under the clouds of aspersion, maligning of motive, slanders, and jeers that darken the sun of truth, a good man is often called to fight in the shade, to walk wearily and monotonously the round of duty in silence and in patience. He who endures the contradictions against himself is like the disciplined soldier who stands in the ranks, seeing the cowardly ruffian approach, pistol in hand; he receives death calmly rather than break ranks, fire without orders, or disobey commands. There are trying positions in life when we must wait silently till we see the whites of the enemy's eyes, or hold the linstock from the touch-hole even while the hostile broadsides crash through our ship's timbers. This hard and severe discipline makes noble characters and turns the common man into a hero. It infuses in the soul the right kind of fear — fear for the noblest, fear lest we fail in obedience to what ought to be obeyed.
II. THE LESSON OF PERSEVERANCE. Jericho, the walled and apparently impregnable fortress, is but a symbol of foes in the heart and evils in the world. The conflict is lifelong. God calls us to what seems slow, tedious, patient methods. Sometimes He seems to shock all worldly sense and maxims by His providences, which make even His children, for a time, a by-word, a shaking of the head and wagging of the tongue to the ungodly. The intrenched evil spirits laugh. Sometimes there is a kind of enemy that cometh not forth but by prayer and by fasting. Abstinence and silence are laid upon us. Behold the Jericho in us — habitual faults, hereditary vices, bosom sins. Behold in the Christian's warfare-opposition of science, falsely so called, in philosophy, in criticism, in infidelity, in war, in intemperance, in vice, these are Jerichos that appear impregnable. The difficulties seem walled up to heaven. Nevertheless, we are well able, with God's help, to possess the land and to take every city.
III. THE POWER OF FAITH AND ITS GAIN BY EXERCISE. This tax on Israel's courage — compelling men of war, whose yell in charging is part of their offensive power, to make silence a weapon — was laid on them for the strengthening of their faith. The whole affair appeared irrational. But to those loyally obedient to the command of a leader inspired of God, their act was in the finest strain of reason. The method selected, the means employed, were those of the wisest and bravest; for Joshua, their leader, was a tried man. Nor, without neglecting means, are we to think that the same means employed by others, even mighty men of old, will serve us without faith.
(W. E. Griffis.)I. THE SITUATION OF THE ISRAELITES AT THIS TIME. The wilderness is behind them. They are standing on this side Jordan within the borders of the long wished for Canaan. But though in Canaan, the land is not yet theirs. A powerful nation is in possession of it, from whom they have still to take it if they would occupy it. And how are they to take it? They are without military resources of any kind. And have we not shadowed forth here the condition of many of God's servants in our world? your own spiritual condition perhaps at this moment? As you look backward you can see that much indeed has been done for you. But now what is your situation? You are ready to say, "Almost as bad as it was at first. We thought we were saved for ever, but we see now that our salvation is but begun. Not only is heaven itself far off, but all that is heavenly and spiritual: it is yet to be won. And how is it to be won? We know not. We have as many difficulties before us as we have escaped, or more: and we are helpless as children."
II. THE TOWN THESE ISRAELITES HAVE NOW TO TAKE.
1. It is a strong place. Oh, what a picture of Jericho within your hearts! Men of the world look on their souls as what we may call an open country. Talk to them of the holiness of the gospel and the happiness of the gospel, they never feel that there is anything within them which shuts these things out of them. But what do some of you think? or rather what do you know? If you are taught of God you will answer, " We know this — our whole soul is entrenched against Christ and His salvation. It is covered all over with fortresses which shut Him out."
2. It was a frontier town also. God gave them, you observe, a most formidable difficulty to overcome the instant they set foot in Canaan. And so it is in the spiritual life. Severe conflicts, we say, are for the aged Christian; heavy trials for the man who has first borne light ones: the Lord deals gently with those who are inexperienced in His ways. And this is quite true. But yet it frequently happens that the servant of God has some one great difficulty to get over in the very outset of his course.
III. THE MEANS BY WHICH THESE ISRAELITES TOOK THIS STRONG CITY.
1. They were means which God had appointed. We no more know how to master Satan or our own evil hearts than we know how to control the sea or direct the clouds. The Lord therefore gives us instruction in all things. Our real wisdom is to be mindful of our ignorance.
2. These means seemed most unlikely to succeed. So, too, in the spiritual warfare. If we would have the strongholds of Satan pulled down in our hearts we must expect God to give us many strange commands, and deal with us often in a very strange manner. When we look to Him for strength He may answer us by making us feel our weakness; and when we are determined to be zealous and active, and take our enemies by storm, He may say, "Your strength is to sit still. In returning and rest shall ye be saved."
IV. THE PROBABLE REASONS WHY GOD APPOINTED THESE STRANGE MEANS TO OVERTHROW THIS CITY.
1. A simplicity of obedience was certainly one thing this event was intended to teach these Israelites. God's commands, be they what they may, must not be trifled with. We are not to sit in judgment on them; we must obey them.
2. A simplicity of faith was also inculcated here. God loves to be trusted as well as obeyed. He delights in the confidence of His people.
3. The people were taught, too, by this transaction the importance of a patient waiting on God. He consults our good, not only in the things He gives us, but in the day and hour in which He gives them. They are not always ready for us the moment we wish for them. We must generally wait for as well as seek them.
4. And one thing more Israel must surely have learnt here — to give glory to God. And now let me speak to three classes of persons.(1) To those who are in a situation like that of these Israelites while besieging Jericho- such as are warring with some powerful evil which keeps them from the enjoyment of some spiritual good. You want that sin vanquished, and so does God; but He wants more. He wants all sin vanquished in you, and you made meet for His heavenly kingdom.(2) Others, it may be, have just gained such a victory as this. You are even now rejoicing over some bosom-sin which the Lord has enabled you to overcome. Happy are you! Never build that vile Jericho again. Never suffer it to be built. Watch over its ruins lest they should unawares be raised up. And this also I would say to you — rejoice still in the ruins of those guilty walls. Look forward to other victories. If bought with a Saviour's blood, you are destined to be conquerors still, and " more than conquerors," triumphant conquerors, through Him they loved you.(3) But there may be some to whom all this is a riddle. "Seek to enter in at the strait gate."
(C. Bradley, M. A.)I. THE CITY WHICH WAS TO BE TAKEN. How vainly they reckon who leave God out of their calculations! When He is with us no opposing host can harm us; but when He is against us no earthly walls can protect us.
II. THE MEANS BY WHICH IT WAS TAKEN. These were very peculiar.
1. There was no natural fitness in the means to produce the end designed.
2. The means employed were such as would provoke the ridicule of the besieged.
3. The means employed produced no effect whatever for six days, nor even on the seventh, until the shout was raised at the last.
III. THE DISPOSITION THAT WAS TO BE MADE OF THE CITY. It Was to be accursed or devoted to God. The Israelites in destroying the inhabitants of Jericho and the Canaanites generally were but the instruments in God's hand of carrying out His sentence. Lessons:
1. Retribution, though long delayed, comes at last. God's judgments have leaden feet, and so they come slowly; but they have iron hands, and so they strike deadly when they come.
2. Faith does what God says, and asks no questions.
3. At the sound of the trumpets of the priests the walls of Jericho fell down. By the preaching of the gospel the strong holds of sin and Satan are to be overthrown.
4. Let us not be impatient of results when we are doing God's commands.
5. Success in our working for God is His doing, not ours, and so the whole glory of it should be given to Him.
(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)
I. TO TRY THE FAITH OF ISRAEL.
II. TO GIVE A PLEDGE THAT GOD WOULD FIGHT FOR HIS PEOPLE.
III. TO SECURE ALL THE GLORY TO GOD.
IV. To SHOW THAT JUDGMENT WOULD BE SURE TO FALL ON THE DEVOTED CANAANITES.
(C. D. Marston, M. A.)John McNeill.)
British Weekly Pulpit.(A Sermon to Children): — What do we mean when we pray for the Church "militant here on earth"? We mean the fighting Church — the Church on the battlefield of the world. Christians are God's army, and every one — men, women, and children — must try to show that they are good soldiers of Jesus Christ. What do you think is required of a good soldier?
I. First of all he must be BRAVE. It has been said that an English soldier or sailor never knows when he is beaten. The word coward does not seem to go well with the name Briton. But there's a better sort of courage than that of a fighting soldier; that is, the courage of a Christian, which enables him to do right at any cost; which enables him to bear sorrow and insult and loss for Jesus Christ's sake. We all like to hear about acts of bravery like that of the boy ensign, Anstruther, who at the battle of Alma planted the colours of the 23rd Regiment on the wall of the great redoubt, and then fell, shot dead, with the colours drooping over him like a pall. But the courage which is thought most of in heaven is the courage to do right. The child who is brave enough to say "No" when he is asked to do wrong; the boy or girl who can't tell a lie to escape punishment; the schoolboy who is brave enough to say his prayers with a whole bedroom of companions laughing and jeering at him — these are the heroes whose names are written in God's Book.
II. What else must a good soldier be? OBEDIENT. Can you remember any one mentioned in the Bible who was a very tall, powerful, brave soldier, and yet not good soldier, because he was disobedient? King Saul. If you really love the Lord, you will keep His commandments. A soldier must not do what he likes, but what he is ordered to do. Between you and the Paradise of God there lies a long journey, the enemy's country, where the devil and his angels will fight against you; but don't be afraid, only be brave and go forward, and follow Jesus your Captain, and you will be able to say, as Paul said, "Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ."
(British Weekly Pulpit.)
(S. E. Bushnell.)I. GOD CAN USE THE FEEBLEST INSTRUMENTALITIES TO ACCOMPLISH HIS PURPOSES. If ever feeble instrumentalities were used, surely it was now. Feeble instrumentalities! God has often worked that way, and does so still. You remember proud Naaman! Many a time He has used the little girl, the little child, to bring men to acknowledge Him. What happened when the little child was born into your home? In the first place, it became the anchor which held the mother to her home as never before. But it did more than this. It was the connecting-link which bound together father and mother, husband and wife, in a closer bond of affection and oneness than the marriage ring. The ring was the beginning of the union, the coming of that little child was the completion of the union. Nay, it did more than this even. Impressed by the fact that the little one would look to you for guidance in matters of the soul and the better life, were you not forced to think how you had neglected such matters yourself, and for the child's sake, as well as your own, you were driven to the Cross to seek salvation? Such things have often happened, and we trust they may again. The Cross of Calvary was a feeble instrumentality. The preaching of a crucified and risen and glorified Saviour has often been regarded as a feeble thing. And yet, by the foolishness of preaching, God has won for Himself many thousands of the bravest and noblest champions of His cause.
II. GOD WANTS ALL INSTRUMENTALITIES TO FIGHT AGAINST THE FORCES OF SIN. Look at ver. 9. It shows us that all the hosts of God were in that procession. God wants all, and the battle needs all. Armed strong men — men of courage, confidence, faith — let these pass on in front. Let them lead us in the battle. Priests, ministers, teachers — let them fall into line. And then the rereward — the people. God wants all! He wants you, and the cause needs you. Do you say you can't carry arms? You are timid, and possess but little or no strength? What of that? There is a place for you; see that you fill it. You can sustain and encourage those who are in front, and you will best do this by filling your place in the ranks. Do you say you can't preach? Do you tell us that it is impossible for you to take the pulpit or mount the platform, and address your fellows in eloquent words? You can support and pray for those whom God has called to blow the ram's horn and bear the solemn and sacred ark of the covenant of the gospel. You can march, you can share the conflict; God has a place for you.
(Chas. Leach, D. D.)
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)1. Was it not of the nature of discipline that the men were to have arms, and yet were not to use them? It is hard to have the weapon, to see the thing that is to be done, and to know that the proposed thing could be done by the use of the weapon, and yet to allow it to remain in disuse. This is part of the continual discipline of life; this is what we are all called upon to do to-day. We do not use all our faculties; sometimes we have almost to strip ourselves of our distinctive faculties, or to let them lie in disuse, and to be doing everything by doing nothing. This is part of a deeply-planned scheme of education. This is how Jesus Christ Himself conducted His own life in the sight of men. He did not use all His faculties; He did not call into requisition all His resources; He was quiet when He might have been restless, calm when He might have excited a tumult which would have had all the effect of an unexpected and irresistible storm. When one offered to defend Him, He said, "Nay, not thus; thou dost not understand the spirit of the kingdom; thinkest thou that I could not now pray unto My Father, and He would send twelve legions of angels, which would look all these petty enemies into dismay? We must not use all our resources. We have the strength, but do not resort to the tyranny of using it. Some things are to be accomplished by submission, patience, meekness; knowing the righteousness of the cause, we await the issue with imperturbable calm. But what a lesson this is to those who are impatient! Life without discipline is life without dignity.
2. Was it not, further, of the nature of discipline for the men to be in the midst of plenty and yet not touch it? (vers. 18, 19). To keep men back from things which they could so easily use and and so naturally appropriate, and to remain in comparative poverty in the very midst of abundance, is not easy. When we do not want the things, it is no trouble to let them alone; but when they are round about us, urging themselves upon us, and are almost clamorous in their appeal that we should appropriate them, to stand in their presence as with folded arms, and look upon them, not with contempt, but with a judgment that values them, yet with a conscience that will not appropriate them, is an attainment in religious manhood which we must not expect to secure without long training. This is part of the mystery of providence. Here it is that character discovers its quality. We are in reality what we are in critical circumstances. It is the exceptional hour that is the key to the lifetime. "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."
3. Is it not in the nature of discipline to be in great excitement, and yet not to express it? "And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout" (ver. 10). The instruction seems easy. Obedience under such circumstances would be most difficult, Who can keep down excitement — honest and honourable excitement? To shout under such circumstances as are described in the text is natural. Inborn instincts may be profaned, and the very voice of God within the soul may be mistaken. The whole kingdom of heaven is hindered in some instances because people will not hold their tongues. God knows when His people should shout, speak, pray, work; the distribution of parts, functions, duties, is with God. Here we clearly see that much detail must go before great results. It is not for us to take this work out of the Lord's hand. Be patient in the detail. It seems a long time since we began going round this awful hell. It seems to be encroaching upon us, rather than we seem to be encroaching upon its heat. Travel on! It is the fifth day; to-morrow is the sixth day; and the day after is the seventh day. "The Lord shall suddenly come to His temple." "I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven." How quickly he falls!
(J. Parker, D. D.)
They burnt1 Corinthians 10:20, 21).
The silver and the gold.., they put into the treasury. —
(C. S. Bushnell.)
1. It was wonderful continency in the soldiery, now wanting all things of country provisions, by their so long wandering in the wilderness.
2. Jericho was the firstfruits of that cursed country, so must wholly be devoted to God, and offered up a whole burnt-offering.
3. The hungry soldiers might have been so glutted with the spoils of this rich city that it would in all likelihood have made them fitter for idleness and luxury than for marching forward in a martial conquest of Canaan.
4. The whole army being thus admonished by the prohibition of their expected prey, might understand that the conquest of Jericho was accomplished solely by the almighty power of God, and not by any of their prowess and valour, as was afterwards done in subduing all the other cities.
5. This severity was exercised upon this city at their first landing in Canaan, to strike the greater terror upon the other Canaanitish cities, which they had to conquer, and, if possible, to bring them to repentance and submission.
Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
Cursed be the man... that riseth up and buildeth
1. Partly because He would have it a perpetual remembrance of His goodness and merciful dealing with His people, passing over Jordan and coming freshly into Canaan; for we are all subject to forget. If this city had been built again, the memory of it would have been forgotten; but lying all waste and desolate, the passers by would ask the cause — as God speaks of His own people — "What is the reason that this city lies thus?" And then it would give them occasion of speaking of the mercy of God to His people. And likewise it would give occasion to speak of the justice of God against the idolatrous inhabitants, whose sins were grown ripe.
2. And likewise it was dedicated to God as the firstfruits. Being one of the chief mother cities of the land, it was dedicated and consecrated to God as a thing severed; it was to be for ever severed from common use. There are two ways of severing things from common use: one by way of destruction, as here the city of Jericho; another by way of dedication, as the gold of Jericho. God would have this city severed from common use, as a perpetual monument and remembrance of His mercy and justice.
3. And likewise for terror to the rest of the inhabitants; for usually great conquerors set up some terrible example of justice to terrify others. Now, this being one of the first cities after their passing over Jordan, God would have the destruction of it to strike terror, together with this sentence of a curse, upon all that should build it again for ever.
4. And then that this terrible sentence might be a means to draw others to come in to God's people to join with them, and submit, and prevent their destruction, seeing how terribly God had dealt with Jericho.
( R. Sibbes, D. D.)I. Let us listen to THE CURSE PRONOUNCED. Such an act of destruction was clearly directed in that law which Joshua was to ponder day and night. It was the first city that Joshua had taken, and he was bound to act according to the directions laid down by Moses (Deuteronomy 13:15-18). Joshua therefore had no choice as regards Jericho. Other conquerors, for their own pride and self-glorification, have ordained that fair cities should be levelled with the dust and their sites sown with salt. Thus was it with Troy, Carthage, Sidon. Joshua did this as he did all things, in obedience to the Divine command. Jericho was "cursed before the Lord," i.e., from God's presence and by His sentence. But did this dreadful destruction serve any good purpose? Yes, truly. Here we have sermons in stones, far more intelligible and emphatic even than those with which the book of nature is filled. To begin with, inasmuch as they are tokens of a just and long-deferred judgment on wickedness, they sound a loud note of warning to the impenitent. Especially do they display the terrible nature of the sin of idolatry and its consequent evils. Would they not be impressive witnesses against Israel in every evil day of apostasy? And would they not also give encouragement to every faithful heart that strove to follow the Lord fully? Pious souls could read these words writ in large characters on every one of them, "Not by might, nor by power, nor by wisdom, but by faith, is the victory won"; and the practical conclusion was plain: "Faithful to God, you can never know defeat." Thus these stones would also emphasise the truth, that in the greatest triumphs and the most brilliant successes there is no room for pride or boastfulness or self-sufficiency on the part of man. Always these stones would say, "His right hand and His holy arm hath gotten Him the victory." What a stimulus therefore to truthful and healthful effort would these stones become!
II. But the time came when THE CURSE WAS DESPISED. It may seem incredible that a curse so plain, so terrible, so memorable, should be thought so little of, but when we read the Divine record we can clearly trace the causes of this sinful audacity. To begin with, there was a popular cause for this despisal. It was done in a day when Israel's God was forgotten, when spiritual life was very low, when public sentiment was degraded, when open impiety reigned in high places, and only one solitary man stood out an open witness against the evils of the day. The very sins for which Jericho was destroyed were rampant and popular in Israel (1 Kings 16:30-33). How significant are the words, "In his days." There were many bad, but none worse than they. It is also instructive to notice that the builder was a Bethelite. Hiel had come under the full influence of all the evil principles that were rampant. He was born and bred, he lived and died, at Bethel, the metropolis of idolatry, the place in which Jeroboam had set up his calf. There was also a sceptical cause which led to the despising of the curse. Unbelief was at the bottom of Hiel's impious act, as it is the root of every evil work. Perhaps he had reasoned thus. The curse, if there ever was any force in it, must have spent itself by this time. Unbelief forgot whose curse this was. It could not get beyond the lip of Joshua to the will of the changeless and almighty Jehovah. Or perhaps Hiel had said: "It is nothing but an old wives' fable, unworthy of credence; an old-fashioned jingle, without a particle of meaning; an apocryphal curse, to explain an apocryphal miracle: or at the very utmost, granting that it has some historical basis, it can be nothing more than the expression of Joshua's ill-nature and ill-feeling, and therefore is a fossilised manifestation of the narrow, bitter, bigoted age in which he lived. The supposition that it is a Divine proclamation is utterly absurd, utterly inconsistent with the nature of things. It would be neither just nor wise nor loving in God to do so. Such a curse as that does not commend itself to my conscience, reason, or heart, and therefore it is unworthy of credence." Hiel, having stood in the way of sinners, would not be long in sitting in the seat of the scornful. And perhaps the governing and most potent of these concurrent causes was a purely materialistic one. Hiel may have said to himself and others, "You see I am a practical man of business. I am neither a prophet nor a prophet's son. Profit, not prophecy, is my forte. Now look, did you ever see such a splendid site?" (Had Hiel lived in our days he could have drawn up a splendid prospectus for a limited liability building company.) "And what a delicious climate this valley enjoys; even in mid-winter the air is bright and balmy. And see, the building material is lying around, ready to be used. The site can be got for an old song, on account of that ridiculous superstition about Joshua, which has seared so many chicken-hearted noodles. Do you shake your head and say there may be some truth in it? What care I? I see plainly how I can make money out of this. You to your books and me to my buildings, and every man to his own trade." It was not so very difficult then for Hiel to despise the curse of Joshua; even so it is not difficult for any one to despise the curse of the gospel. The spirit of the age, whether as expressed by common talk, or the newspaper press, or current literature, is in favour of such a despisal. There are also sceptical reasons which conduce to the same end. The record which contains this curse is old and not trustworthy, say some. The curse is decrepit and antiquated. The edge of the sword of judgment is blunt and its blade is rusty. The Lord is slack concerning His threatenings. We are too enlightened and liberal nowadays to believe in these things. But perhaps the great reason why men will not take heed to this curse is because they are so absorbed in the things of time and sense that they can think of nothing else.
III. NOW NOTICE THE FULFILMENT OF THE CURSE. Hiel was full of his great life-work. The plans have been drawn, the trenches have been dug, the stones arranged and prepared, multitudes of labourers engaged. There is to be a grand opening ceremony at the laying of the foundation stone; therefore the members of his family and his numerous relations and friends flock from all quarters. It is a most auspicious occasion. But in the midst of the ceremony his firstborn is seized with a sudden sickness; he falls in a swoon, and is carried away from the crowd. But by and by a messenger with a sorrowful countenance returns and whispers into Hiel's ear, "Abiram is dead." It was a terrible blow, in this hour of his father's triumph to be cut down. But perhaps, his friends would say, the excitement of the ceremony was too much for him. He had never been very strong, and was complaining for some time, and this must have been heat apoplexy, a Sunstroke. But though Abiram's death was a great interruption, the work must be carried on all the same. At last it is all but finished. There is nothing left but the putting up of the gates. Absorbed in his great undertaking, he has been able to drive away ominous thoughts and what he calls superstitious fears I But there is growing on him, as he nears the completion of the work, a nervous anxiety that he cannot drive away. On one thing he is resolved — there shall be no public ceremonial at the closing of the Work, as there was at the commencement. He will superintend the putting up of the gates himself, and not permit any of his children to be present. As he was thus busily occupied at the finishing touch of his great work, a messenger arrived in hot haste from Bethel, fourteen miles distant, with the doleful news, "Segub is dead." Thus was the curse of Joshua concerning Jericho fulfilled. Learn from this how faithful are God's words, the terrible as well as the gracious. No jot or tittle of His truth ever fails. His word may remain in abeyance for many years, but the lapse of time can never destroy its vitality, " The Word of the Lord endureth for ever." See also how infatuated is unbelief, Every blow hardens rather than softens. Behold also the bitter fruits of unbelief. Pleasant and profitable Hiel thought his work would be; perhaps this very speculation was more for his children's benefit than for his own; but the solemn narrative teaches that there can be no lasting profit for us or ours if we run contrary to God's Word, if we deny His will.
IV. But we can turn to a more grateful scene, and consider THE REMOVAL OF THE CURSE. Jericho was rebuilt in disobedience to a command, in defiance of a threatening, and at the awful cost of the builder's children; yet it was not demolished. God had better things in store for it. His prophets and His people were permitted to dwell there, and though there was much theft was pleasant and attractive in it, it was an uncomfortable residence. The curse seemed to hover over it and linger within its Walls (2 Kings 3:19-22). Thus the curse of Joshua is removed. Strange cure this; the old curse met by the new cruse; the old word of judgment removed by the new word of healing. "Thus saith the Lord, I have healed these waters." How strange that the salt of the new cruse should abolish the bitterness of the old spring — passing strange. Yet can we not here see the symbol of higher truth? Can we not see Jesus and His salvation in this strange action of that prophet so like Himself? Each human being is like Jericho. "The city of Mansoul," "the house we live in," is it not like Jericho, pleasant for situation, fair in its outlook? Our powers and faculties of mind and body, the possibilities of our nature, are all that could be desired; yet the water of spiritual health is naught and the ground barren. We are lying under a curse. But see, the Saviour comes. The wonder-working wood for the bitterness of Marah and the wonder-working salt for the spring of Jericho, both picture that cross and passion by which Jesus has removed the curse. Yes, and the world itself is also like Jericho. Is it not fair and beautiful; most pleasant for situation? Every prospect pleases. But there is a deadly drawback, "The water is naught and the land barren." Death reigns. "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain, waiting." Yes, waiting; waiting the coming of Him who brings healing and life and fruitfulness with Him; to welcome whose arrival all creatures will shout for joy, for there shall be no more curse. His presence will bless us with Eden again.
(A. B. Mackay.)
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