We love a good underdog story, tales of unlikely heroes and brave companions striving, shoulder to shoulder, to defeat an enemy. Like King Leonidas and his three hundred Spartans at Thermopylae, the Permian Panthers making their way to the Texas state high school championship football game, two Hobbits scrabbling up the side of Mount Doom to save Middle Earth—the story of Joshua leading the people of Israel against Jericho seems like just such a story.
The people have entered the plains of Jericho after years of wandering. Their heavenly food has ceased, and they’re encamped in the shadow of Jericho’s fortified walls. Yes, they’ve won a few battles on the way, but the odds are stacked against them. Then Joshua gets, quite literally, their marching orders: march around the city once per day for six days in total silence. On the seventh day, march around it seven times with the priests blowing trumpets. If you’ve read any military history, or have even a modicum of sense, these commands from God don’t exactly seem like sound battle strategy.
Here’s the thing: it might be fair to call Israel an underdog with an inexperienced leader using bad strategy—if they were on their own. But that had never been the case. The Lord was on their side, and He declared the battle won before it started: “Look, I have handed Jericho, its king, and its best soldiers over to you” (Joshua 6:2). Their strategy was nonsense if this was a contest of human strength, but it wasn’t. The whole idea was to show that it was God who fought their battles, God who won, and God who should be followed by His people and feared by His enemies.
On that seventh day, as the people followed the priests in marching around the city (an important symbolism of who actually led them into battle) there must have been profound anticipation of how God would fulfill His word. And then the command came, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city” (Joshua 6:16). And the people did with a “great shout, and the wall collapsed” (v.20).
This underdog story was no underdog story. It was a display of God’s power and promise keeping. He declared Himself to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM… The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:14–15), and He did not change once the people entered the promised land. He left no question as to who was fighting on Israel’s side.
Lest we think this is a story of how God used to work or used to win, consider that He also called Himself “I AM” (Exodus 3:14), the unchanging one. So, when the apostle Paul writes in Romans 8, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31), he is writing not only of the past, but also of the present and future. The same God who flattened Jericho is with you and me and all who follow Him no matter the odds stacked against us.