Tr 17b Ev “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and the walls came tumbling down.” So the Negro spiritual celebrates one of the best known stories in the Bible. The Israelites led by priests sounding the trumpet, marching round the walls of Jericho which finally, by God’s mighty power, crumbled to the ground.
The OT does indeed contain wonderful stories asnd episodes fo which this is one. Surely there is more than a grain of truth in it for the Israelites clearly did reach and conquer the promised land and they must have defeated the city of Jericho in order to make progress.
To understand the capture of Jericho we should go a few stages back to when Moses was alive. For Moses had already defeated two important kings – Sihon, king of the Ammorites and Og king of Bashan. Sihon’s capital was at Hesbon and his domains lay to the east of the Dead Sea. He refused peaceful passage to Moses and paid the price, for Moses and the Israelites attacked and defeated him and took all his lands. They caught him at an unlucky moment for he had recently expanded his kingdom in the war against the Moabites but had not had time to establish sure control. As for Og, king of Bashan, he was a larger than life character in every sense of the word. Renowned for his enormous bulk, he had a massive and specially constructed iron bedstead to lie on – the Daniel Lambert of Bashan. He also was attacked and defeated, the Israelites picking off the kings one by one. All of this is important because reports of the Israelites rapidly spread to surrounding Kingdoms and cities like Jericho. Here was an invader with fearsome and highly skilled troops who had already defeated mighty kings and nations. Moreover they were rumoured to have a supreme deity on their side who was invincible. No wonder foreigners were afraid, no wonder the morale of those in Jericho was low. There had been thorough preparations for the capture of the city. Spies had been sent and looked after by a woman of dubious morality called Rahab. Seeing which way the wind was blowing she helped the Israelites escape by a rope over the city wall. The time was ripe for invasion. The military tactics were unorthodox to say the least – marching round the wall blowing a trumpet for several days and then uttering a mighty shout. Or were they also unorthodox. For if fear was the name of the game there can hardly be any more effective tactics than these. The Israelites did not have conventional siege equipment but they did have skill and cunning and were convinced of the protection of almighty God, the commander of the Lord’s army. The inhabitants hearing the enemy, learning more about them, fearing them, their morale ground ever lower and lower. When finally all or part of the wall crumbled they were easy pray. Joshua fought the battle of Jericho and won it by the walls tumbling down. Walls, no doubt crumbled with decay and complacency collapsing aginst the new force of God’s people. We too erect walls round ourselves. Walls that insulate us from others, that seek to keep our assets and resources for ourselves and ourselves alone, walls that try to contain our thoughts so that we are not disturbed by ideas from God’s Holy Spirit. Walls of complacency and pride and selfishness, like Oscar Wilde’s famous story of the selfish giant who walled himself in a garden of perpetual winter so that no one else could enjoy it until at last seeing the error of his ways he let the spring in and the children and the birds and bees and the garden came full of love. God does not use conventional battery equipment to breach our walls. He uses the persistence of his presence, just like he used the persistence of the presence of the Israelites in that brief siege of Jericho. The trumpet of worship heralds his presence and love, the love shown to us by Christ, can melt down all that stands in the way of us and God. May we be open to the love in our lives and let the fresh air of his presence invade all that is cold and dark. May our surrender be not defeat but victory, victory that enters us into our promised land, the land where God and his love dwells for ever. Amen