Hebrews 11:30- By Faith The Walls Of Jericho Fell- Part 2
Two weeks ago we considered Hebrews 11:29 which says, “By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned.” We discovered that we may not take our faith seriously but God does. We want life to be a cake walk but God will often take us down a path where we encounter trials that will challenge us to exercise our faith. Because of this God changed His plans so that the people would have to exercise their faith as they stood on the bank of the Red Sea. He put them in a hopeless situation so that they would learn to rely on Him alone (2 Cor. 1).
The faith that God’s people displayed was meant to be displayed in their lives every day from that point on, however, they did not exemplify that type of faith. They saw so much but it profited them so little. They experienced miraculous things but they never learned to live by faith in God. Instead they bore fruit of faithlessness, sin, idolatry, double-mindedness and complaining.
After they crossed the Red Sea God led them to Horeb where they received the Law of God. Then they were led to the edge of the Promised Land and on their journey the LORD tested them but they did not display faith. As a result, the LORD was disappointed with them and He disapproved of the fruit that their unbelief produced. Their faithlessness was a reproach to God and so for the next forty years they wandered in the wilderness.
Review- Hebrews 11:29-30
Last week we saw that the LORD used Moses to disciple the next generation who would enter into the Promised Land. Every day for the next 40 years, for the next 480 months of his life, and for the next 14,600 days Moses would diligently fulfill his calling to encourage Joshua, and Caleb, and that next generation to live by faith.
Discipleship is a life long commitment to God concerning yourself and others. Moses displays this commitment during these 40 years, these 480 months, these 14,600 days. Many others have displayed this type of commitment to discipleship. We see this commitment in David and Solomon when Solomon says in Proverbs 4:1-4, “Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction, and be attentive, that you may gain insight, for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching. When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, ‘Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.’”
Peter displayed this type of commitment towards discipleship in 2 Peter 1:12-15, “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to sir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.”
At Community Church we use ‘The LifePlan’ to help disciple others. We emphasize six biblical characteristics that are present when we are on the discipleship pathway.
We will be training disciple-makers (Matthew 28:19-20)
We will be helping disciples train in godliness (1 Timothy 4:7-8)
We will be helping each family be a love and truth center (Colossians 2:6-8. John 13:34-35)
We will be distributing the grace of God by serving one another (1 Peter 4:10)
We will be families on mission (Matthew 28:19-20)
We will be teaching the consequences of not obeying Jesus (Luke 6:46-49)
Today we will see that Moses’ labor to make disciples was not in vain. Because he taught that next generation to live by faith in God they entered into the Promised Land and they remained faithful to the LORD all the days of their lives (Joshua 24:31). That next generation excelled where their parents had failed. They lived by faith and pleased the LORD and the reproach of their parents was taken away from them.
Today’s Sermon- Hebrews 11:30
Our text today is Hebrews 11:30 and it states, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.”
Honestly, there is nothing about this story that makes sense to our natural minds. To begin, I would like to ask and think about two questions.
How could a strategy like the one that is described in Joshua 6:1-5 conquer a city like Jericho?
How could this people who has wandered in the wilderness for forty years conquer the mighty men who were inside this well fortified city so quickly? Jericho had been preparing for an invasion like this for a very long time!
First, How could a strategy like the one that is described in Joshua 6:1-5 conquer a city like Jericho?
We discover the strategy that they would use in Joshua 6:2-5 which says, “And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.”
Cities like Jericho were only defeated after the city had been surrounded by an army for years. By cutting off their resources over enough time even a great city like Jericho would run out of food and water and then sickness would weaken the people and slowly decimate the population of the people who took refuge in the city.
This is what happened to the capital city of Samaria when it took Assyria three years to conquer it.
This is what happened to the Northern kingdom when it took the Babylonian army two years to conquer it.
Secondly, how could a people who has wandered in the wilderness for forty years conquer the mighty men who were inside this well fortified city so quickly?
The type of army that strikes fear into the hearts of people and wins decisive battles is described in Isaiah 5:26-30. However, the army that God has put together to enter into the Promised Land looks nothing like the army inIsaiah 5. That army is terrifying and they are described in this way,
“He will raise a signal for nations far away, and whistle for them from the ends of the earth; and behold, quickly, speedily they come! None is weary, none stumbles, none slumbers or sleeps, not a waistband is loose, not a sandal strap broken; their arrows are sharp, all their bows bent, their horses' hoofs seem like flint, and their wheels like the whirlwind. Their roaring is like a lion, like young lions they roar; they growl and seize their prey; they carry it off, and none can rescue. They will growl over it on that day, like the growling of the sea. And if one looks to the land, behold, darkness and distress; and the light is darkened by its clouds.
God tells his people that they are walk quietly around this city for seven days. They are not to taunt the people in Jericho. They are not to speak a single word to them in those seven days. How exactly is this plan going to strike fear into the hearts of Israel’s enemies?
And the type of army that intimidates the people is like the general of the Babylonian king who came to Jerusalem and said, “Then the Rabshakeh stood and called out in a loud voice in the language of Judah: “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: ‘Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand. Do not let Hezekiah make you trust in the Lord by saying, The Lord will surely deliver us, and this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ Do not listen to Hezekiah...And do not listen to Hezekiah when he misleads you by saying, “The Lord will deliver us.”(Psalm 42- Where is your God?)
The LORD has given His people a very strange strategy to win a war, and despite the fact that Israel did not look and sound like a terrifying army, they responded in obedient faith to all that the LORD had spoken to Joshua. We read of this in Joshua 6:12-17, “Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days. On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times”
It has been estimated that if all of the fighting men of Israel, 600,000 men organized in many rows, it would take about an hour and a half to walk around the city. They would do this every day for six days and then return to camp.
If those estimates are accurate then on the seventh day they would walk around the city seven times and it would take them about ten and a half hours. If they began at 6 AM, the march would last until about 4:30 PM that afternoon.1 The people obey all of these things by faith and on the seventh day, after they had walked around the city all day seven times, Joshua commanded them to shout and the walls of Jericho fell down flat.
An entire city can be overrun by an opposing army when just one of its massive gates is breached, but here all of the walls around the city of Jericho fall down flat before the people of Israel. As a result, Israel went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city (6:20).
I would like to highlight one part of this story. Hebrews 11:30 has taught me that faith in God is more important in achieving victory than any other thing we could engage in. Psalm 20:7 speaks of this, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God”. 1 Timothy 4:8 says, “...for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” This is a winning strategy for God’s people.
Earlier we wondered how a plan like this would succeed?
We wondered how God’s people could achieve victory over the mighty men who were inside the city walls?
We may not have questioned these things if God’s people looked like the other armies who conquer other kingdoms. We would not have doubted if we would have been given a better plan. And yet, the city quickly fell and the people were defeated by faith.
For forty years Moses had discipled God’s people to live by faith. Moses did not spend those 40 years, those 480 months, those 14,600 days training them in military tactics and in how to be the ultimate fighting force. Moses gave them the Law of God and taught them how to live by faith.
How much of what is called ‘discipleship’ today is truly this type of discipleship?
How much of what we are taught today will help us to live by faith in the Word of God?
How much time do we devote to true discipleship when compared to all the other things in life?
Because Moses had discipled them to live by faith this generation was a very peculiar people. They did things that were so strange.
For example, when they came to Jericho they did not build large battering rams to break the gates of the city. They did not construct tall ladders to scale the walls of the city. They did not do anything that a conventional army would plan for and implement.
Instead, they devoted their time to spiritual things. For example, they were told by Joshua to consecrate themselves for the LORD (Joshua 3:5- Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.”). Before they left the wilderness to possess the land God’s people took time to confess sins and perform everything that the Law of Moses had prescribed for them to do. They wanted to make sure that they were right with the LORD.
Then after they crossed the Jordan they did more peculiar things. For example, They took the time to make a monument to remember what God had done as they crossed the Jordan. (Joshua 4:8-9- And the people of Israel did just as Joshua commanded and took up twelve stones out of the midst of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, just as the Lord told Joshua. And they carried them over with them to the place where they lodged and laid them down there. And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day.).
After this the LORD commanded them to make flint knives and circumcised all of the people who had crossed over the Jordan. Because of this they had to wait in enemy territory to recover before they could do anything more (5:2-7- At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time.” So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the males of the people who came out of Egypt, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness on the way after they had come out of Egypt. Though all the people who came out had been circumcised, yet all the people who were born on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised. For the people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished, because they did not obey the voice of the Lord; the Lord swore to them that he would not let them see the land that the Lord had sworn to their fathers to give to us, a land flowing with milk and honey. So it was their children, whom he raised up in their place, that Joshua circumcised. For they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way.).
Because they faithfully did this they received a blessing from the LORD. The LORD says to Joshua in 5:9, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.”
Oh, how great it is to be free of such a weight (Hebrews 12:1-2- Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.)
Finally, while they were encamped at Gilgal they kept the Passover on the plains of Jericho. After having done these things the LORD appears to Joshua with a drawn sword in His hand and says to Joshua, “Take off your sandals, from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” (5:15) Then the LORD tells Joshua that He has given Jericho into their hands, with its king and mighty men of valor. Then he proceeds to tell Joshua what their instructions were. All that the LORD had commanded the people did by faith.
As we consider these things we begin to see that Hebrews 11:30 takes a picture, a single snapshot, just one moment in the lives of these people who had been faithfully serving the LORD through consecration, obedience, circumcision and observing the Passover.
By in large, this generation was a faithful generation of believers (Joshua 2:31- Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the Lord did for Israel.).
And yet, despite all of these things this generation also fell short of the glory of God. This faithful generation still failed to please God perfectly. (Hebrews 12:1-2 Look to Jesus!)
We discover this as we read in Judges 2. There the LORD shows up again and says to Joshua and the people, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers, I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done?” (2:1-2)
When the people hear these words they raise up their voices and weep, they sacrifice to the LORD, and then Joshua dismissed them to take possession of the land (2:5-6). They return to their inheritance and raise their families but we read these words in Judges 2:10, “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that He had done for Israel.”
This generation who had received such a great inheritance through the discipleship of Moses had failed to disciple that next generation after them. How are we doing at discipling ourselves and others in the faith?
Let me close with three applications for us to consider. First, after having seen how this faithful generation fell short of the glory of God I hope we are less prone to look to ourselves for assurance and confidence before God.
Even the most faithful among us will stumble and fall. Therefore we need to look to Jesus and His current ministry on our behalf. We have all fallen short of the glory of God but are justified freely by grace (Romans 3:21-26). The LBC reminds us to place our hope and confidence for our salvation in God alone. It says in 17.2, “This perseverance of the saints does not depend on their own free will but on the unchangeableness of the decree of election, which flows from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father. It is based on the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ and union with Him, the oath of God, the abiding of His Spirit, the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace. The certainty and infallibility of their perseverance is based on all these things.” Oh what comfort even the least among us can have if we will look away from ourselves to these things!
Second, I hope that we are reminded of the importance of our own personal discipleship which will prepare us for the things in this life and in the one yet to come. The things of this world often attempt to squeeze out this priority. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and all of these other things will be added unto you.”
Third, I hope that we have come to appreciate the need for discipleship in our generation. Without this ministry it will be said, “And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that He had done for Israel.” Without this ministry the author of Hebrews would say to us, “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.” (5:11-12)
Who is discipling you? Who are you discipling? If you are interested in doing these things then Community Church has pathways for this to be done. Where are you on the discipleship pathway?
Are you training disciple-makers
Are you helping disciples train in godliness
Are you helping each family be a love and truth center
Are you distributing the grace of God by serving one another
Are you a family on mission
Are you teaching the consequences of not obeying Jesus (Joshua 2:2-5)
1David E. Thompson, Exposition of Joshua, p. 61