Joshua 6:15 – The King's March
On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times.Joshua 6:15
Have you ever studied a cross section? Maybe a mountain range with its layers, or an engine and its parts? It's a good way to learn how things work. In Joshua 6 we have a kind of cross section. God teaches his people how life is going to work in the Promised Land. It's not always going to be like Jericho, with the walls just falling down on top of themselves. But at Jericho the LORD makes things undeniably clear: we live by his power and his grace.
The Israelites are in a time of transition. They have lived in the wilderness for forty years. Where there was manna every day. Water from the rock. Their shirts and sandals did not wear out. Life is going to be different in Canaan. They are going to have to grow up, you could say. They will have to fight, and work the land. They will learn what it means to live within God's covenant, with its promises and demands. They will be tempted to worship the gods of the Canaanites, to trust in them.
But then there is Jericho. God first makes clear to them his awesome power. Life in the land is his gift. They can, they must, trust him. The Israelites are camped on the plain before Jericho. The oldest city on earth, it's been called. A beautiful oasis. It's also the guardian of one of the main ways into Canaan. The city was heavily fortified. In fact, the city itself was fairly small, just seven acres. It's more of a fortress, a large castle – walls six feet thick. Jericho was the Fort Knox, the Minas Tirith of Canaan. A symbol of her power, her (supposed) invincibility. We read in Joshua 3 that the harvest had just happened. So the people of Jericho have plenty of food and water. The spring was actually inside the city.
Now here come the Israelites: a bunch of slaves, the children of slaves. What do they know about war? All they do is march around the city, once each day for six days, in complete silence, except for the blowing of ram's horns. And then seven times on the seventh day. Did the people of Jericho laugh at this strange group with their strange rituals? Did they think they were just going around in circles? Not likely, actually. In those days, do you know who would go on ceremonial marches like this? New kings. New pharaohs would march around a fortified wall as part of their coronation. In Canaanite myths, Baal is said to do something like this to assert his dominance.
It's not really the Israelites who are busy marching around, but the ark, and through the ark, the LORD himself. The Israelites and the people of Jericho knew what was going on here, with that ark circling the city each day. The only question was, was this just an empty boast? Was there truly a new king who was strong enough to bring his people into a new land?
In this sacred march, in the fall of Jericho, the LORD makes clear to his people what they need to live in his Promised Land: his authority, his kingship. That's what we have in Jesus Christ, too. His ministry also begins with authority. He drives out demons and devil with but a word. He forgives sin, saying to it, "Be gone!" His miracles are miracles of authority, his words are words of authority. And at Good Friday, Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost, we have Jericho fulfilled. Mighty walls come falling down, apart from the slightest nudge we might give – walls of sin and misery, death and devilish power. Truly a promised land has been opened up to us, though we are former slaves.
And these Jericho's are a sign of what we all may enjoy, even thousands of years later. We are called to live within a new covenant, with its promises and demands. We are given new life where we are called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. But let's look back, to Jericho, to Easter. It is the same resurrection power we enjoy! The great King's authority will be worked out in our lives, even when it might not be as obvious as Jericho or Easter morning. Let's fight the good fight every day. Let's look to the King of kings in confidence. Then we will also look to him in worship, for the new life he has established for us.