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OVERCOMING OUR WALLED CITIES
Intro: The ancient city of Jericho was a very well-built, walled city. History tells us that it was surrounded by 2 massive stone walls. The outer wall was 6 feet thick and 20 feet high. The inner wall was 12 feet thick and 30 feet high. There was a 15 foot guarded walkway between these two walls. From a military standpoint, it was practically impenetrable.
The walled city of Jericho stood as an physical and psychological obstacle between the people of Israel and them claiming the land God had promised them. Before they could move deeper into Canaan, the walled city of Jericho first had to fall.
That ancient city that stood between Israel and victory is a picture of those things that are entrenched and rooted in our lives. It represents the things that prevent us from going deeper with God ourselves. Regardless of how pious you may want to think you are, there are things embedded in your life that hinder your walk with God.
It may be some besetting sin that prevents you from going deeper in the things of God. It may a root of bitterness and unforgiveness that stands between you and Godís best. It may be an old, bad attitude that is holding you back. It could be something from your past that you struggle with day by day. It might be some person that stands larger than God in your eyes. It might be some hurt, some slight you have endured that keeps you from moving forward with God. Whatever it is, that thing stands as a stronghold in your life and it stands between you and Godís best for you. Whatever it is, it has you stopped in your tracks, and you will move no farther until you overcome that stronghold in your life. Before you will ever receive all God has for you, that stronghold must be torn down!
As we consider this pivotal moment in Israelís history, we can find the help we need to overcome our own strongholds. Notice with me the lessons that present themselves in this passage as we talk about Overcoming Our Strongholds.
I. 5:13-15 THERE IS A LESSON ABOUT SUPREMACY
I realized that we looked at these verses last week, but they have much to do with the passage that lies before us today. Let me take just a moment to refresh your minds about the content and context of these verses.
A. There Is A Supreme Person - This individual that Joshua meets outside the walls of Jericho identifies Himself as ďThe Captain of the host of the Lord.Ē This nothing less than a personal, pre-Bethlehem manifestation and appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Joshua came face to face with Jesus Christ!
This speaks of the matter of Salvation. Before we can ever enjoy victory in our journey, we must first commence the journey. The journey begins with salvation. Is the Lord Jesus Christ your Savior today? Has there ever been a specific moment in your life when you knew that you were a sinner headed to Hell and that only Jesus could save you. Do you remember the time when you were saved by the power and grace of God? If it has happened to you, you will know it! When Someone the size of God gets in you, you will be aware of it! Have you had a personal confrontation with the Person of God?
This is just a thought, but notice that Joshuaís encounter with the Lord caused him to bow in worship, v. 14. Did you see that? Your desire to worship says a lot about your relationship to God. Salvation will leave you worshiping, but it will also leave you bowing, v. 14.
B. There Is A Supreme Position - Next, the Lord tells Joshua that He is the ďCaptain of the Lordís host.Ē That is, He is the One Who is always victorious. He is the One Who is walking in victory even before the battle is fought. He is the One Who is in control of all situations. He is reminding Joshua Who really fights the battles!
This speaks of our Sanctification. We must come to the place where we recognize that if there will ever be any victories in our life, they will come about because of His power and not our own. We must understand that we are to yield to His power in every area of our lives and that we are to trust Him to secure the victory for us in every battle we fight. So then, sanctification is our coming to the place where we dedicate our lives to Him and trust Him to bring us to the place of victory. Sanctification is us acknowledging Him to be Lord in every area of our lives.
Is that true for you? Or, are there areas of your life that are off limits to God? Real sanctification knows that He is Lord of all, or He is not Lord at all! It knows that He must be given the Master key to every area of life. Have you come to terms with Who is really in control? Until you do, you can forget about sustained victory, you might as well get used to defeat.
C. There Is A Supreme Power - When Joshua meets this man, there are a couple of things that are strange about their meeting. First, there is the Lordís answer to Joshuaís challenge. Joshua asked Him, ďAre you for us or for them?Ē The Lord answered, ďNo!Ē Thatís really strange! Then, there is the matter of what the Lord tells Joshua to do in verse 15. There he is told to loose his shoe off his foot. Why just one? When Moses met the Lord at the burning bush, he was told to remove both shoes, Ex. 3:5. That sure is strange to me.
However, these two events speak to us about the matter of Surrender. When Joshua asked the Lord if He was for Israel or for Israelís enemies, the Lord said, ďNo!Ē What the Lord is saying is this, ďJoshua, I didnít come to take sides, I came to take over!Ē This is a call for Joshua to surrender to the authority of the Lord in the battle at Jericho. Joshua is made to realize that God, not Joshua, is the power behind the victory that will come.
What a lesson for the church! We must learn that our success and our victory will never be a matter of our own power or ability. God is simply reminding us, as He did Joshua, that He is not here to take sides in our battles, He is here to take over!
Why did the Lord just ask for one shoe? The answer lies in ancient custom. When a covenant was made between two individuals, in which one possessed power to keep the covenant and the other didnít, the weaker individual handed the other individual one of his shoes. It was his way of saying, ďI canít, but you can.Ē This is seen in Ruth 4:6-8. For Joshua, this was a challenge for him to come to the place where he could admit his own weakness and inability to gain the victory. It was a call for him to surrender to the Lord. For us, we need to learn the truth that we canít, but He can!
There are some in this room and you have been trying to fight your battles in your own power and you just keep getting one whipping after another. You need to draw off your shoe, hand it to God and say, ďLord, I canít fight these battles, but you can! I canít win the victories I need in my life, but you can!Ē What I am saying is that we need to come to the place of absolute surrender! To that place where we and all we have are at the feet of God. To the place where we are willing to say, once for all, ďI canít Lord, but You can!Ē
Ill. Notice with me that Joshua is a warrior! When he got down before the Lord, he placed himself in a vulnerable position. He exposed his neck. He placed himself in a position where he could not use his own sword. He placed himself in a position of extreme weakness. He was totally yielded to the Lord! Until we reach the place where we recognize His supremacy in all things, there will never be victory over the strongholds in our lives.
I. There Is A Lesson About Supremacy
II. 6:1-5 THERE IS A LESSON ABOUT SUBMISSION
The second major step in the path toward spiritual victory over the strongholds of life demands confidence in the Lord. There are three areas in which Joshua displayed absolute submission. These need to be true concerning us as well.
A. v. 1-2 He Was SubmissiveTo Godís Promises - Before Joshua goes to battle against the city of Jericho; he is reminded of the Lordís promises to give Israel the victory. There were Past Promises - Josh. 2:9 and there were Present Promises - Josh. 6:2. The past promises reminded Joshua of what the Lord had said He would do long ago. Rahab had known about these promises for 40 years. The present promises reminded Joshua that the Lord had not changed His mind about the matter. God still intended to give Israel the victory in this matter.
As we look at our strongholds today, we may think that we will never see them fall at our feet. May we ever remember that God will always keep His promises! He has promised us the victory, and the victory shall be ours, 1 Cor. 15:57; 2 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:37. Whatever God has promised, He is well able to bring to pass, Rom. 4:21; Eph. 3:20. He did not save you so that you could live your life held captive in some walled city. We have His past promises: Isa. 43:2. We have His present promises: Heb. 13:5; 2 Cor. 12:9.
B. v. 3-5a He Was Submissive To Godís Plan - On the surface, Godís plan for Israelís victory seems really strange. After all, what was really required of Israel to bring the walls of Jericho down? Nothing! When you get right down to it, all they had to do was to follow Godís plan and the walls would fall down flat. What was His plan? Seven priests bearing seven trumpets were to walk before the ark. The priests would blow the trumpets and the people were to walk behind the ark, and the whole parade was to walk around the city once a day for 6 days. On the seventh day, they were to walk around the city seven times and at the end of the seventh time, they were to shout. When this happened, the walls would fall down flat.
Walled cities like Jericho, which were built on hills, like Jericho usually were only conquered after sieges lasting several months. Cities like Jericho were not normally conquered by military might. Nor were they conquered by silent armies marching by for seven days. They were conquered by time, as the people inside the walls were starved to death.
Now that is a strange plan, if I have ever heard one! In fact, from a purely, human and logical viewpoint, this plan is ridiculous! What God does here is remove any idea that victory in this battle will come from Israel herself. God has formulated a plan that must be followed by faith in the Lord, His promises and His power. He wants Israel to know that human efforts will fail, but that Godís plan will prevail.
I think there is a word here for us as we take the time to look closely at what the Lord told them to do.
1. They were to take seven priests. Seven is the biblical number of completion or fullness. Priests are a picture of an advocate, or one who stood between men and God. This is a picture of a complete or perfect Advocate. According to the Bible, the saints have a perfect Advocate. His name is the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 John 2:1. And, as we come against the strongholds of life, He is making intercession for us before the throne of God, Heb. 7:25; Rom. 8:34.
2. They were to take seven ramís horn trumpets. The ram was a picture of Atonement. Remember when Abraham took Isaac to the top of Moriah to put him to death? It was a ram that provided the atoning, redeeming price for Isaac. So, we need a full or perfect atonement. I have already touched on this tonight, but are you sure you are saved? There will be no real, lasting victory over the flesh and the world until you have been saved by the grace of God. When you become a partaker of Godís plan of salvation through the blood of Jesus, you are given the power to enjoy victory over and freedom from the power of sin in your life, Rom. 6:1-14.
3. They were to take the Ark of the Covenant. The ark represents the Lord Jesus Christ in all of His fullness. In the ark was the golden pot of manna, which speaks of His full provisions. Aaronís budding rod was also in there. This spoke of Christís power and His life. The tables of the Law were also there. These remind us that He is the fulfillment of the Law for you and me. The idea is this: in Jesus we find all we need to wage the battle against the strongholds in our lives. He gives us all the provisions we need as we fight. He has all power in heaven and in earth. He gives us power to walk in newness of life. He has freed us from the power and the demands of the Law, setting us free to live for the Father in power and victory.
4. They were simply to take these things and walk with them around the city. God promised them that the walls of Jericho would fall down as a result! In other words, all they had to do was have confidence in Godís plan, walk with the things He had given them and they would enjoy the victory. He wanted them to do nothing but to walk by faith!
Jericho was a city of about 9 acres. It would have taken about 30 minutes to walk around it. So, they got up, lined up and marched around the city and went home. All they did was walk!
What a lesson for us! The secret to living the Christian life, enjoying victory over your besetting sins and seeing your strongholds brought down is this: you canít do it! You cannot live the Christian life! You donít have to live it, Jesus already has! As you yield to His plan, and let Him live through you, you will enjoy His victory, Gal. 2:20. All God wants you to do is to stop trying and just rest in Him. He has already won the victory. We win by doing nothing! By merely being in Him and having absolute confidence in His plan, we enjoy the victory that only He can give.
C. v. 5b He Was Submissive To Godís Power - Israel was about to learn the truth that victory was in the Lord and not in themselves. They were about to participate in the strangest victory in history. For them, victory would come about, not as the result of trying, but as the result of merely trusting God.
Arenít you tired of trying to live the Christian life and failing? Then stop doing both! Stop trying, and you will stop failing! Start trusting! Just learn to rest in the finished work of Christ. Realize that you have no one to please but God. And, if you are in Jesus, He is already satisfied with you!
I am not advocating loose living. Far from it! If you live Godís way, you will be holier than ever, you just wonít have to work so hard to enjoy it. He is the perfect Advocate. He is the perfect Atonement. He is the fulfillment of the Law for us. There is nothing left for us to do, but to rest in the finished work of Jesus and enjoy the trip to Heaven. Why do you think He said ďIt is finished,Ē John 19:30? Because it is!
Far too many folks in are defeated because they are trying to live up to some standard that has been imposed on them by men, when all they really have to do is rest in the finished work of Christ, Matt. 11:28-30. If we will learn to walk in what Jesus has already done for us, then we will receive the victories that He has prepared for us. He has already done all the work. All that is left for us to do is walk!
I. There Is A Lesson About Supremacy
II. There Is A Lesson About Submission
III. 6:6-21 THERE IS A LESSON ABOUT SUCCESS
These verses tell the thrilling story of the victory Israel received at Jericho. Imagine what the people inside the city must have thought! The people of Israel received the fulfillment of the Lordís promise to them. As they did, there are a couple of truths here that I want to mention today.
A. v. 6-15 Success Involved Determination - They simply did it Godís way. They might have been tempted to fight. After all, the people of Jericho were terrified of the Israelites! Yet, they just walked! That is all God said to do!
When you do it Godís way, there will always be victory! When will we ever learn this? It isnít about new means and methods! We donít need a new Bible or a new kind of service. In our personal life, we will try this devotional method seeking His power; or, this kind of prayer emphasis to get on fire for God. We just need to patiently, consistently, and humbly walk with God and carry out His business His way.
When life does not make sense, just walk. When others quit, just walk. When some want to fight, just walk. When some come up with a new method, just walk. You see, obtaining the victory is Godís business; obedience to Him is ours!
He will give grace for a consistent daily walk. ďBut they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint,Ē Isa. 40:31.
B. v. 16-20 Success Involved Dedication - Israel walked around that city 6 days. When they did what happened to the walls of the city? Nothing! When they walked around that city six times on the seventh day, what happened? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! Why? Often, the number six in the Bible represents the number of man, Rev. 13:18. Man can try as hard as he pleases, in his own power, and he will never obtain the victory!
But, when Israel marched around that wall the seventh time and shouted, the wall fell down flat! Seven is the number of completion, or of Godís fullness. Israel kept going in their dedication until they passed from the realm of their own power, into the realm of the power of God! After marching around that city seven times, they would have been too exhausted to fight anyway! When they came to the place where they couldnít, but knew He could, a miracle took place and the stronghold fell down flat! Thatís the point of them shouting before the wall fell down! They were praising God for the victory by faith, even before it could be seen with the eyes! That is what faith is all about, Heb. 11:1. That kind of faith honors the Lord!
Let us remember that victory over our strongholds will come when we get to the place where victory is totally out of our hands and in His alone! When we get away from the realm of our ability and move into the realm of Godís ability; then we will see what God can bring to pass in a life wholly dedicated to Him!
C. v. 21 Success Involved Death - After the walls fell down, the Israelites went into Jericho and killed everything that lived, with the exception of Rahab and her family, v. 22-25.
Does this seem extreme to you? God knew that if the people of Jericho were allowed to live, they would influence the people of Israel away from Him. So, when the walls of that stronghold came down, everyone in the city had to die.
When you come to the place where you can identify the strongholds that are in your life, and God, by His power brings those things down for you; you must rise up and make sure that every trace of those things is forever eradicated from your life! There are some here who need to bring some stronghold or another before the Lord and put it to death! Some things must not be allowed to live! If we defeat them today and donít do away with the root of the problem, that stronghold will rebuild itself in our lives and be stronger than ever. Next time, it will harder to bring down!
Ill. How Samuel handled Agag after the wicked Amalekite king had been spared by Saul - ď32 Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past. 33 And Samuel said, As thy sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal,Ē 1 Sam. 15:32-33. Agag is a picture of the flesh, and for the flesh to be defeated, it must be hacked to pieces. For you to achieve victory over your strongholds, they must die!
The problem with Jericho wasnít the city! The problem with Jericho was the people in the city. They hated God and all He stood for and they had to perish!
Whatever it takes to root out the strongholds in your life, I challenge you to do it today! God will enable you to see those things put to death forever!
Conc: As we think about this passage, I am thankful that God was able to give the people of Israel victory over Jericho. The destruction of those ancient walls was a miracle of epic proportions. But, the removal of Jericho signaled to the Israelites that God was with them and that He would give them victory over all the enemies they would face, if they would simply face them the Lordís way.
That is what He is saying to you today. Have you identified the strongholds that prevent you from going deeper with the Lord? Are you ready to be free of them forever? If you will be, they must be destroyed. The place to do battle with your strongholds is on your knees, before the Lord in humble worship and surrender to His will.
If you are not saved, let me challenge your to heed the voice of the Lord and come before His presence asking Him to save you.
If you are struggling in your walk with Him, there is help in the Lord for you to reach a place of victory in your own walk with God.
There are strongholds in our lives and in our church that need to be destroyed. We need to yield to Him, lay our swords and His feet, acknowledge the fact that we canít but that He can, and follow His plan for victory.