May 2, 2007

Making walls fall down

On Saturday our seven, nearly eight-year-old grandson was tossing a plastic version of Darth Vader around on a string. I asked him how school was going and got the usual “fine” so added, “And what is your favorite subject?”

He quickly responded with, “Bible.”

I asked what he enjoyed the most about Bible and be gave me a list that began with “Joshua.”

This little fellow may not realize it yet, but the stories of the Old Testament often illustrate realities in the New Testament, and the story of Joshua is an important one. Joshua is a type of Christ, a shadow or signpost that points to the One who was to come.

His story begins with the Israelites led out of bondage in Egypt by Moses. All of them lived under the Law, which included the Ten Commandments and many other rules and regulations, and most of them rebelled against their leaders. Joshua was one of two men who showed a desire to be obedient. He was leadership material.

However, the Law was a problem for everyone. Moses himself illustrated the reality that no man could keep it. Towards the end of their journey to the land God promised them, he hit a rock when God told him to speak to it, and as a result was not allowed to enter the land.

Joshua was given the responsibility of leading the people in Moses’ place. Joshua’s name is also translated ‘Jesus” and by taking over from the one who represented Law, he became a type or shadow of the coming Christ. In leading the people into the Promised Land, he depicts how Jesus leads us into the kingdom of God.

But first Joshua must defeat a key city, Jericho.

Jericho was a fortified city on the top of a steep hill. It had a double ring of walls. The outside ring was 6 feet thick, the inner was 12 feet thick. Timbers laid across the walls supported houses built above them.

God told Joshua to have his army march around this city six days, and then on the seventh, after marching around it seven times, they were to blow their trumpets and shout.

What a bizarre battle plan, but Joshua did what he was told. “So he had the ark of the Lord circle the city, going around it once. Then they came into the camp and lodged in the camp.”

After doing this six days, they marched again on the seventh day seven times. Then they blew their trumpets and shouted, “And it happened 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, and they took the city.”

Some think this is nonsense, a fable, but archeologists have found the city, its walls fallen just as the Bible says. Some assume Jericho fell because the marching triggered an earthquake, or the walls were faulty, yet this doesn’t fit with the findings in the ruins.

Whatever the evidence shows, the type or picture is clear: the man who depicts Jesus and His work of leading His people into God’s promises, did it in a way that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. It is the same with Jesus who showed mighty power on earth yet He allowed those who hated Him to put Him to death. What kind of plan is that!

To experience the victory, those under Joshua needed to trust him totally. They needed to do exactly what he said, no matter how absurd it seemed. By their obedience, they saw a total collapse of that which prevented them from entering the land.

Jesus asks us to confess our sin and admit our utter failure to be godly before Him. He asks for humility and trust in Him, not in our own ideas, our ‘good’ works, or any such thing. By our obedience, we will see a total collapse of the power of sin—the very thing that prevents us from enjoying the abundant life promised by God.

But don’t forget the ark. The ark represented the past faithfulness of God. God had led His people this far and the tokens of His faithfulness were in that structure. When they marched around the city, they carried the ark with them. This was not their own effort. God was there.

Those who come to the Joshua/Jesus of the New Testament are not coming empty-handed. We cannot fight our way into God’s promises with our own works (remember, even God’s people of the Old Testament were basically rebels) but we must bring into this foray the faithfulness of God. He has made the promises. He has offered His grace and mercy. He is the one who forgives and gives victory. No walls can fall down without the power of God. March as we might, we cannot defeat our sin, the sin that keeps us from His promises and out of His kingdom.

As our grandson grows, I pray that he will continue to love the Bible and the story of Joshua, and that he will one day make the connection between the battle of Jericho and his own battle against sin. In making that connection, I pray that he will not trust ‘law-keeping’ or even his own efforts to march around Jericho. I pray that he will realize that the Law is only there to make him realize he needs Joshua/Jesus, not Moses, and it must remain behind when he enters God’s promised kingdom.

I pray also that he will understand and accept that the only way into all that God has for him is through that bizarre way of salvation invented by God and offered through His Son. I trust God that the story of Joshua will remain a favorite, but eventually, Jesus will conquer his heart.

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