Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 1 2019 - Joshua 5:13-6:25 – The fall of Jericho

Joshua has been called to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. It's a large task and he is conscious that the Israelites will face violent opposition from the inhabitants of the land. He was near Jericho, contemplating the difficult task when he looked up and saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. He asked the obvious question; "Whose side are you on? Are you on our side or that of our enemies?"

The answer is surprising; "Neither. I have come as the commander of the Lord's armies." Joshua had to learn that he cannot claim that God is on his side. God does not take sides. God has his own plan and his own agenda. The key question for Joshua is not whose side this warrior is on, but whose side he is on. He will only succeed in the task given him if he submits to God's plan and is subject to the commander of the Lord's army.

This is a hard lesson to learn. Nations constantly claim that God is on their side. Sometimes opposing armies in battle will both claim God as their patron and will seek to ensure his blessing through the words and prayers of bishops or other religious dignitaries. God does not ally himself to human conflicts. He is intent on establishing his own kingdom and calls us to be allied to his agenda and his purposes. Civil religion is the construction of a false god; it is idolatry.

But such errors are not confined to nations as they seek to baptise their own empire-building; the same errors abound among Christians. Churches develop their own programmes and schemes and claim, or hope, God will lend them his support. But God calls us to submit to him not dictate to him.

As individuals we can fall into the same error. We feed our own ambitions and carefully construct our plans and schemes and pray that God will come and bless them. Again, we need to learn to discern the Lord's calling and to follow him rather than demanding his blessing on our schemes.

The Israelites can invade and possess this land of fierce people and fortified cities only by aligning themselves with God's plan. At God's command, the army of Israel marched around the city of Jericho with the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant – the symbol of God's enthroned presence with his people. On six successive days they marched once around the city with the inhabitants watching from the walls. On the seventh day they marched around seven times and then, with a blast of trumpets and a triumphant roar from the army, the walls of Jericho came tumbling down.

The conquest of Canaan points forward to the day of Christ's return, the Day of Judgment. On that day the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of God and of his Christ and he will reign for ever. On that day, all evil and evildoers will be banished as God creates a new society where he will live with his people in a kingdom of righteousness and peace.

Father God, help me to read your word carefully and prayerfully that I may not use it to justify my own schemes but to learn more of your saving purposes. Jesus, I call you Lord. Help me always to acknowledge that you are my Lord and I am your disciple. Teach me what it means to submit to you in all the practical details of my life. Help me to fall in behind you and follow you closely rather than seeking to take the lead and hoping you will follow. Make my heart more like your heart – you do not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. Increase my longing for that day when you will make all things new, when this world will be the world you truly want it to be.

Peter Misselbrook