A Great Victory

Chapter 22

The Israelites deeply mourned the passing of their leader, and thirty days were dedicated to special services in honor of his memory. Never, till he was taken from them, had they so fully realized the value of his wise counsels, his parental tenderness, and his unswerving faith. With a new and deeper appreciation, they remembered the valuable lessons he had given while still with them.

While they were filled with grief at their great loss, the people knew that they were not left alone. The pillar of cloud rested over the tabernacle by day and the pillar of fire by night, an assurance that God would still be their guide and helper if they would walk in the way of His commandments.

Joshua was now the recognized leader of Israel. He had been known primarily as a warrior, and this quality was particularly valuable at this time in the history of his people. During their many years of wilderness wandering, he had acted as prime minister to Moses; and by his quiet firmness when others wavered, he had given evidence of his fitness to succeed Moses, even before he was called to the position by the voice of God.

The Israelites were still camped on the east side of the Jordan River, which presented the first barrier to the occupation of Canaan. "Arise," came the message of God to Joshua, "go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel." Though no instruction was given as to how they were to cross the Jordan, Joshua knew that whatever God commanded them to do, He would make a way for His people to carry it out. With this confidence, the courageous leader at once began making arrangements for an advance.

A few miles beyond the river, just opposite the place where the Israelites were encamped, was the large and wealthy city of Jericho—one of the strongest fortresses in the land. This city was virtually the key to the whole country, and it would present a formidable obstacle to the success of Israel. Joshua therefore sent two young men as spies to visit this city and determine something as to its strength and fortifications. The people of the city, terrified and suspicious, were constantly on the alert; and the messengers were in great danger. They were, however, protected by Rahab, a woman of Jericho, who at the peril of her own life, hid them on the roof of her home, which was in the wall of the city. In return for her kindness, they promised her and her whole family protection when the city would be taken.

Orders were now issued to prepare for an advance. The people were to prepare a three–day supply of food, and the army was to be put in readiness for battle.

As they marched, the ark, carried by the priests, was in the forefront. The people had been directed to fall back, leaving an open space of more than half a mile surrounding the ark. All watched with deep interest as the priests approached the bank of the Jordan. They saw them with the sacred ark move steadily forward toward the angry, surging stream, till the feet of the bearers touched the waters. Suddenly, the downward flow stopped; the water above was swept back, while the water below flowed on and the bed of the river was laid bare.

This evidence of divine power working in behalf of Israel was designed to increase the fear with which they were looked upon by the surrounding nations, thus preparing the way for their easier and complete triumph. When the news reached the kings of the Amorites and of the Canaanites that God had stopped the waters of Jordan before the children of Israel, their hearts melted with fear. Unmistakable evidence had been given that the living God, the King of heaven and earth, was among His people and that He would neither neglect nor abandon them.

Joshua saw the overthrow of Jericho to be the first step in conquering the rest of Canaan. Before entering into such a battle, he sought an assurance of God's help. Withdrawing from the encampment to meditate and to pray, he was confronted by an armed warrior. A tall man of imposing appearance, he stood before Joshua "with His sword drawn in His hand." To Joshua's challenge, "Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?" the answer was given, "Nay; but as Captain of the host of the Lord am I now come." The same command given to Moses in Horeb, "Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy," revealed that the mysterious stranger who stood before the leader of Israel was Christ. As Joshua fell upon his face and worshipped, he was given the assurance, "See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor." Joshua then received instruction for the capture of the city.

In obedience to the directions he had received, Joshua assembled the armies of Israel. No direct attack was to be made. They were simply to circle the city, bearing the ark of God and blowing upon trumpets. No sound was heard but the tread of that mighty army and the solemn sound of the trumpets echoing among the hills and resounding through the streets of Jericho. The circuit completed, the army returned in silence to their tents, and the ark was restored to its place in the tabernacle.

The mystery of the scene struck terror to the hearts of priest and people within Jericho. Though many ridiculed the thought that any harm could come to them through these strange exhibitions, others were terrified as they watched the procession pass around the city. They remembered that the Red Sea had once parted before these people and that an opening had just been made for them through the river Jordan. They did not know what further wonders God might work for them.

For six days the hosts of Israel made the circuit of the city. The seventh day came; and with the first dawn of light, Joshua marshaled the armies of the Lord. Now they were directed to march seven times around Jericho and, at a mighty peal from the trumpets, to shout with a loud voice, for God had given them the city.

The watchers on the walls looked on with rising fear as the first circuit ended, followed by a second, then a third, a fourth, a fifth, and a sixth. What could be the object of these mysterious movements?

As the seventh circuit was completed, the long procession paused. The trumpets, which for a time had been silent, now broke the silence with a blast that shook the very earth. The walls of solid stone, with their massive towers and battlements, tottered and heaved from their foundations and, with a crash, fell in ruin to the earth. The people of Jericho were paralyzed with terror, and the hosts of Israel marched in and took possession of the city.

How easily the armies of heaven brought down the walls of Jericho, that proud city whose fortifications, forty years before, had terrified all enemies! The Mighty One of Israel had said, "I have given into thine hand Jericho." Against that word, human strength was powerless.

God would have us remember that He who has all power is our defense. In every emergency, we are to feel that the battle is His. His resources have no limit, and apparent impossibilities will make the victory all the greater. We are never to fear the face of man but are to stand unflinchingly for the right. So long as we put our trust in God, we need not fear; for He who gives us our commission also gives us the assurance of His protecting care.

This chapter is based on Joshua 1–7