TAKING DOWN SPIRITUAL STRONGHOLDS: THE JERICHO MODEL
(c) Copyright 2000 Rev. Bill Versteeg
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 10:1-6
By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you--I, Paul, who am "timid" when face to face with you, but "bold" when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.
The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
This morning, I choose to read this passage about spiritual strongholds from Paul, because the themes that we discover from the conquest of Jericho will be the outline for a series in which we are going to look at on dealing with spiritual battle. Let's turn to
Joshua 5:13 - 6:27
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?"
"Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?"
The commander of the Lord's army replied, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.
Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in."
So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, "Take up the ark of the covenant of the LORD and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it." And he ordered the people, "Advance! March around the city, with the armed guard going ahead of the ark of the LORD."
When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the LORD went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord's covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. But Joshua had commanded the people, "Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!"
So he had the ark of the LORD carried around the city, circling it once. Then the people returned to camp and spent the night there. Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the LORD and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the LORD, while the trumpets kept sounding. So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days. 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.
The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, "Shout! For the LORD has given you the city!
The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the LORD and must go into his treasury."
When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the LORD and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it--men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.
Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, "Go into the prostitute's house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her."
So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel.
Then they burned the whole city and everything in it, but they put the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron into the treasury of the Lord's house. But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute, with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho--and she lives among the Israelites to this day. At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: "Cursed before the LORD is the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: "At the cost of his firstborn son will he lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest will he set up its gates." So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame spread throughout the land.
People of God:
Joshua is the book the pictures for us the victory of the kingdom of God. Israel, having been set free from the tyranny of Egypt, now under the leadership of Joshua, was coming into the promised blessings given to Abraham. The manna was about to quit, they would now eat the fruit of the land. All the blessings of being the covenant people of God were about to be poured out to them. Except for one dynamic, the land was occupied with enemies!
We have come to the place in our study of the book of Joshua that for many Christians starts becoming a little uncomfortable. The main reason is because at this point in the book of Joshua, the conquest of the promised land is a military exercise that involves the defeating and the destruction of enemies. That feels very uncomfortable if your image of God is simply one of love, a father with a nice soft grey beard. Many distance themselves from these apparently brutal Old Testament themes saying that these themes were Old Testament times, they no longer apply regarding them as preChristian or subChristian, or they regard them as exciting children's stories without focusing on the violence and bloodshed.
Let me first deal with the issue of bloodshed. Yes these stories sound severe! No one in the city of Jericho was spared except Rahab and her family, but the severity is justice, the justice of God. In Genesis 15:16 the Lord told Abram that his descendants would return to the land once the sins of the Amorites had reached their full measure. Now, as Israel marched into the land, they were executing the fair judgement of God on its inhabitants for centuries of idolatry and rampant sin.
Some people don't like the obvious violence of these Old Testament stories. After all, why totally destroy cities? Why turn them to piles of rubble? Why not enslave the inhabitants and make the city their own? When we think like that, we have not realized some fundamental truths. First, each one of these cities was regarded as a demonstration of the power of idols. If kings came to power and were able to build a well fortified city, their status was attributed to a spiritual power which they worshiped and which had favoured them. When the nation of Israel came into this land, it was the one true God reclaiming the land that was rightfully his. (Thus the commander of the Lord's Army was in charge, it was his battle!) It was the one true God cleaning all the offensive false gods off of his territory. That is why Israel made no gain from this conquest, the plunder, the city were all destroyed, everything belonged to the Lord.
What we want to do this morning is look very simply at the battle strategy for taking the city of Jericho. There are four themes that I would like to address this morning:
First - notice that Israel was battling from a position of victory. God had delivered them from the nation of Egypt effectively wiping out the military of the most powerful nation at that time. And we have to remember that the conquest of Egypt was a spiritual battle. It was a battle between the magicians and gods of Egypt and the God of Israel. It was a battle between the demons behind pagan worship and the Almighty. The most powerful enemy had been defeated. Israel was marching with this in their memory. "If God is for us, if God can even defeat Egypt, who can stand against us."
As they traveled toward the promised land, their reputation preceded them. Entire cities, like the city of Jericho as we heard through Rahab, (Joshua 2:9-11) were weak and trembling in fear. They built up double walled fortifications for protection. By this passage we discover that the whole city was shut up, no one allowed in, no one allowed out. Their walls of stone keeping them safe as they trusted in their idols for hope, salvation, security from the God of Israel. The mighty walls of Jericho, to God's victorious nation, were to be understood only as demonstrations of fear.
As we look at battling spiritual strongholds, we will find that we fight from victory, and we will be confronted by demonstrations of fear aimed at the advance of the kingdom of God.
2nd. Notice that this story of the defeat of Jericho starts with this strange meeting near the city. Joshua meets a man with a drawn sword and not knowing his identity, asks whose side he is on. And we might expect him to say "The side of Israel" but the response is that he is on "neither" side. Such a strange response when Joshua meets the Commander of the Army of the Lord. And this commander has come to establish the kingdom of God.
Here Joshua is reminded that this conquest is the Lord's battle, it is not Israel's battle. The conquest of Jericho will be the Lord's conquest and the Lord's kingdom, not Israel's kingdom. God is not there to serve Israel in battle, Israel is there to serve God in battle. And Israel will participate in God's victory only to the degree that they follow God's plans and obey his commands.
And so, before this battle, Joshua had to take off his sandals and meet with God, receive instructions that were to be followed to the detail.
So to, we will find that battling spiritual strongholds in the power of God requires that we start by meeting with God. We may have the victory in Christ, but we will only be victorious in battles against strongholds if we fight by God's plans and strategy.
3rd. Most of us know this story from hearing the scriptures when we were young. Joshua by the instruction of the Lord directed the people of Israel to march around the city: first a battalion of soldiers, followed by priest blowing trumpets, followed by the ark, followed by more soldiers and then the people of Israel shuffling quietly. They were to encircle the city 5 days, and then on the 7th day, they would circle it 7 times followed by a shout, and the walls would fall down.
That is the strangest attack plan in the history of warfare. But then again, Israel is not fighting with human weapons, they are fighting with spiritual weapons to pull down a stronghold. The battle was between God and the idols, the moon gods of Jericho. That is why the ark, which signified the presence of the Lord was to go around the city with them. There is one key that I would like to highlight in this perfect march.
That is the trumpets. If you were to survey a concordance on the word trumpet in the scriptures, you would find that trumpets proclaim the presence of God and his kingdom. "God has ascended amid shouts of joy, the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets." (Ps 46) Repeatedly, even in the New Testament, trumpets announcing the coming kingdom and the impending judgement of the Lord. Trumpets proclaim the presence of the King and his kingdom. As Israel march around Jericho, the trumpets proclaimed to the idols of the city that one far more powerful had come to take over the promised land.
We too will find, as we study the battle of spiritual strongholds, that our proclamation, our trumpeting of the kingdom of God is a very significant weapon in our battle. We are to take the sword of the spirit which is the word of God...
Finally, notice Israel's posture. They were acting in a contrary Spirit. Now that may sound abstract . Let me give it some flesh.
Jericho was shut up. Certainly on the top of its walls, it had all the protections that their army could muster: archers, boiling oil, stones, anything to fight off an enemy. And they were prepared for Israel to fight their strategy with a similar strategy: archers, battering rams, whatever the weapons of warfare were at that time.
Notice what Israel does. Rather than getting their adrenaline pumping, putting up their weapons, planning their defensive strategies in battle, this nation of Israel shuffles around the city in their sandals! In their strategy, all of Jericho's tools of warfare are useless. How do you fight a nation when all they are doing is shuffling around? The spirit in which the Israelites acted was contrary to the spirit of defense and warfare that the people of Jericho had. Where Jericho was depending on its moon gods and its walls, Israel was depending on the Lord Almighty to do the battle.
When we look at this last theme, we will find that a major weapon in our spiritual arsenal is to act in a contrary spirit. Paul tells us "For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds."
This is an introduction of the theme of battling spiritual strongholds. We will be referring to the conquest of Jericho a number of times as we take this study of warfare to heart.
Again, I read to you God's will for our lives...
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.