When Moses stood before the burning bush, God was clear: the ground was holy because He, God almighty, was there. Likewise, when Joshua stood before the heights of Jericho, the Lord was there and the place was holy.
God’s holiness is the primary context for understanding the destruction of Jericho. Joshua’s commission to devote to destruction the whole of the city came from God Himself (Joshua 5:14-15). Indeed, even the manner of conquest reinforces the theme of God’s holy sovereignty: Israel was not to conquer by human might, but by the observance of the Sabbath principle. Seven times they marched around the city, not with taunts, but in silence. They were not doing battle; God was.
On the seventh day they marched around the city seven times. In prime position was not the commander Joshua, nor the fiercest warriors, but the priests and the ark of the covenant—a sign of God’s presence with them. Joshua might have easily used the words uttered by King Abijah, “Behold, God is with us at our head, and His priests with their battle trumpets to sound the call to battle against you” (2 Chronicles 13:12), or the words of the prophet Jeremiah, “the Lord is with me as a dread warrior” (Jeremiah 20:11). It is a fearful thing when God goes to war.
I get a bit uneasy at the thought of all that happened there at Jericho. Why was the judgment so fierce? We might be tempted to weigh these events on human scales, but our sinful hearts are all too eager to make light of sin. A holy God can make no such accommodation. Nevertheless, God had been patient. Despite the frequent abominations of idolatry, child sacrifice, gross immorality, occultism, and witchcraft, He had waited 400 years to execute judgment on a wicked people (Genesis 15:16).
The inhabitants of Jericho knew who God was (Joshua 2:8-11; 5:1), but apart from Rahab, they were unwilling to acknowledge their sin and His holiness. If God spared Nineveh in the days of Jonah, could He not also spare Jericho? Yet each day, when Israel marched, and the shofar sounded before the walls, the people of Jericho stayed within their ramparts.
Jeremiah declared, “Also I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Hearken to the sound of the trumpet.’ But they said, ‘We will not hearken’” (Jeremiah 6:17). Jericho would not hearken. They were obstinate in the face of a holy God. The fall of Jericho was a sobering warning: God is holy. He does not trifle with sin. Though He is gracious and patient, when men persist in unrepentance, there comes a day of judgment.
I am grateful for the conviction this passage brings. Like Rahab, we live in an idolatrous culture, and we are not sinless. But if we have put off the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, if we have been buried with Him in baptism and also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, then our hearts may rejoice in thankfulness for His abundant mercy (Colossians 2:11-12). Like Rahab, we have been saved alive in Christ (Joshua 6:25).
Oh, what mercy that God, the holy almighty One, would spare even us!
Written By Caleb Faires