In Hebrews’ Hall of Faith, Israel’s Patriarchs stand tall, along with Moses, a towering leader after whom has come no other like him until Messiah Jesus.
Now, the writer turned to those early pioneers in the land, representing the tribes of Israel and faithful converts, men and women of faith who forged the way in taking possession of God’s promises in the Promised Land.
By faith the walls of Jericho fell after they had been encircled for seven days.Hebrews 11:30 (NRSV)
Joshua was born under Pharaoh’s edict to throw infant Hebrew boys into the Nile. He lived during the worst of the slavery and hardships his people endured, experienced the plagues God brought down on Egypt, his family slaughtered a lamb during the very first Passover, and he followed Moses, along with the twelve tribes, through the Red Sea and into the wilderness.
Joshua saw with his own eyes God’s pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. Joshua heard with his own ears God’s thundering voice coming from out of the cloud on Mount Sinai. He gathered manna every day and ate it, drank from the water God caused to spring miraculously from a rock, stood with the people when Moses brought the ten commandments down the mountain, written in God’s own hand.
Joshua was there when God covenanted personally with the people of Israel. Joshua was Moses’ constant companion and prayer partner throughout all those wilderness years, and given command of Israel’s armed men.
Joshua was one of the twelve spies Moses sent into Canaan, and only Joshua and Caleb came back excited to claim the promise of Canaan.
Chosen of God
So it was, as God showed Moses the beauty of the Promised Land, the aged prophet asked the Lord to appoint someone to lead the people.
The Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand upon him; have him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and commission him in their sight.
You shall give him some of your authority, so that all the congregation of the Israelites may obey.“Numbers 27:18-21 (NRSV)
And God was with Joshua!
Empowered by God
—”No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you;”God to Joshua, Joshua 1:5 (NRSV)
Joshua took in every word of God!
- God’s command to be strong and courageous.
- God’s instruction to meditate on God’s word.
- God’s caution to never depart from the scriptures.
Being a man of action, Joshua immediately acted on God’s words. This became his signature as well as his challenge to the people, found at the end of his biography,
“Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living;
but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”Joshua 24:15 (NRSV)
Obedience to God
Under Joshua’s command, God prompted
- Successful Reconnaissance: Two spies scoped the land, and met Rahab, who was instrumental in the defeat of Jericho (Joshua 2)
- Steps of Faith: The people crossed the River Jordan, now needing to trust God with every step, for unlike with the Red Sea, the river’s waters parted only as each step was taken. (Joshua 3)
- Circumcision: Joshua oversaw the circumcision of every man and boy in this second generation, once again instituting the mark of God’s covenant. (Joshua 5)
- Solid Food: Manna, God’s bread from heaven, fed the people all forty years in the wilderness, but now they had entered the land, it was time for them to take hold of God’s greater gift, a reprise of God’s gift to the first human beings, to till and tend the Garden of Eden. This solid food was for the mature, representing a lot more work in gathering, harvesting, preparing, and then the necessary replanting, fertilizing, tilling, and weeding.
- Secured Inheritance: Having conquered the major cities, subdued the local peoples, offered up to God all that had been placed under the ban, Joshua now oversaw the allotment of land to each tribe, clan, and family. The people (at least symbolically) came into permanent possession of their inheritance from God—though there were many areas still inhabited by Canaanites, and this proved to be a continuing problem for Israel. (Joshua 13)
The Israelites did not perfectly take possession of the land, there were setbacks, there were times of sin and of God’s judgment. Yet, in due time the Hebrew tribes developed quite a reputation as conquerors, and YHWH as their Unconquerable King. The Lord miraculously won battles for God’s people again and again, pelting the enemy with hail, causing time to stand still, giving Israel astonishing victories in the face of overwhelming disadvantages.
Against incalculable odds, God grew a nation out of this small band of second generation refugees, whose enslaved parents had fled from their captors in Egypt.
Victorious in God
The iconic story of God’s victory over Jericho was a triumph of faith.
God had come personally to Joshua in the form of the Angel of the Lord, to prepare him, and through him all the people of Israel, to stand completely in faith, trusting God for supernatural victory.
Jericho was one of the chief cities in Canaan, therefore the best defended, yet this was the first place God led the Israelites to take. The biggest fortress, the most sizeable stronghold, of them all!
Here was God’s strategy: Every man, woman, and child in all the tribes of Israel would march around the entire perimeter of Jericho’s walls. The priests would lead the way, carrying the Ark, symbolizing God’s very presence with them. They would do this every day for seven days. On the seventh day the priests would all blow their horns, the people would shout and in a mighty feat of God’s earth-shaking power, Jericho would collapse.
In confident expectation, the people did everything as God commanded, and just as God had promised, Jericho crumpled to the ground.
So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpets, they raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat!
So the people charged straight ahead into the city and captured it. Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys.Joshua 6:20-22 (NRSV)
For the writer of Hebrews’ audience, this would have been an important part of the story, to trust in faith that God would provide even when all the people, livestock, and treasure of that great city were put under the ban and, as it were, translated from earthly to heavenly through the portal of death (via the sword), then set afire as a massive altar of sacrifice.
For us today, distanced by thousands of years and an immeasurable cultural divide, it is hard for us to conceive of a God who would permit such horror, let alone command it.
We can only take comfort in trusting in God’s character, God’s wisdom, righteousness, love, and goodness.
Perhaps it was for this reason, for the sake of a later audience, that God prompted the writer to name Rahab as a hero of faith. For not all died in the destruction of Jericho.