We have been studying from the book of Joshua the principles of Christian victory, release from the bondage of failure and misery in the kingdom of Satan, through the blood of the Cross, and through the Lamb that was slain. This deliverance led us out through the Red Sea, out from the kingdom of Satan into the kingdom of God.
But, alas, in our Christian life we have been far too long on the wilderness journey. There we have known in a measure the presence of God and His victory, but we have known defeats and failures. Many have crossed over Jordan, the place of our oneness with Christ in His death and resurrection, when we have come to understand that He is in us to be our life and to be our victory, and we are on redemption ground.
But the Christian who comes through the wilderness into the land of full salvation discovers to his amazement that immediately Jericho confronts him. How many Christian people have been baffled by this experience! Many have been led to understand that there is a state of grace where they are utterly free from all the wiles of Satan, that there is a second blessing into which they may enter, in which the whole principle of sin and temptation is finished with.
The Word of God and human experience denies such, and any child of God who bases his hope on that kind of experience will live, before long, to be shattered and disillusioned. For he will discover that, though he stands every day of his life and believes that Christ is his victory, before him there is a Jericho.
Jericho to some may be some inner force within his own human personality. It may be some weakness of temperament and weakness of character. Most Christians know that there is a weak spot in their armor. It is the thing, maybe, that we learned when we were children, and has tracked and followed us and often beaten us through life. It may be that the Jericho in your life today is something outside of yourself, an impossible situation in your family circle and in your home life. Is there something that seems to keep you right back from doing what you honestly believe to be the will of God? It stands there and all the time you are conscious that it is holding you back from being the man or the woman that you long to be.
How is this city to be overcome?
What a strange spectacle it must have been for the inhabitants of Jericho to see the Israelites encircle the great fortifications of the city in absolute silence. But the opening verses of the chapter tell us that the people of Jericho were stricken with fear. They had observed something about the spiritual resources of these people that had caused them to be panic-stricken, though their tactics of encircling the wall seemed to be stupid and ridiculous beyond words.
To the Israelites, Jericho still remained the same as they came back to their tents night by night, and on the seventh day as they circled the wall seven times. Then, on the completion of no less than thirteen tours around Jericho, at the command of Joshua the trumpet was blown and the people shouted with a great shout. The walls of Jericho fell down flat, and every man went straight up before him, all converging on the center of the city. Jericho was captured without, in modern terms, a shot being fired.
Has that a counterpart in Christian experience? What does it teach you about the way God delivers His people, about the way He can see you through and beyond and over the Jericho which confronts you in personal life?
How was this city captured? It wasn’t by mechanical means or by human methods. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been compassed seven days. Observe with me carefully one or two things about the faith that caused the walls to collapse. You will notice how their faith was tested. Thirteen times they walked round that city, and they had been given no reason why. At last Joshua commanded them to shout, and at their shout of victory the walls fell down—but for six days they walked around without a sound.
The central feature of the whole procession was the ark of the covenant—eleven times over it is mentioned in this chapter. This was the object of their faith—this ark had been the symbol of their past experiences of the power of God. If you read the chapter you will find that the eleventh verse tells us that “the ark of the Lord encompassed the city.”
“Shout,” said Joshua, “for the Lord hath given you the city.”
Why had they walked thirteen times around that place in silence? It took that long for every one of them to realize that it was utterly impossible for them to capture Jericho except God did it—thirteen big long looks at the enemy, until they all became convinced that they were no match for Him.
Is there a counterpart in our experience? The greatest difficulty in the Christian life is to get to the place where I am prepared to admit that the whole thing is too big for me, and somehow God has got to do it. And I believe that before God entrusts any of His people with a real measure of spiritual power and victory and blessing he brings them to a place where they have surveyed Jericho so long that they have come to see that it is absolutely hopeless. God expects nothing more from any of us all the time than failure; and we spend years trying to make ourselves something other than failures. As long as we think we can do that, the omnipotent resources of God in Jesus Christ are unable to help us.
And another one of the biggest tests in Christian experience is the test of being silent. Oh, how we long to talk about our difficulties to others, to share our burdens with a friend. What a moment in the Christian life it is when the soul comes to realize that our expectation is from God, and the truth begins to dawn that it is not the question of something I get, it is something that I take from God in Jesus Christ who died and who rose that He might give it to me.
That Jericho will stand in front of you until there comes a moment in your life when you understand that Jericho is God’s gift to you in Christ. The victory over it is yours to take, but God will only give it to you when you fully admit in His presence that you are utterly unable to take it yourself.
But I want more especially to give this text its proper context with all the revelation of God’s Word. I would lift it out the narrow realm of the personal and the individual, and to show you the tremendous Jerichos which stand in the way of the people of God. There is the Jericho of sin. There is the Jericho of materialism. Worse than that, there is the Jericho within the church of disloyal Christians, of unconsecrated lives. Surrounding the church of God today and within her walls there stand endless Jerichos which seem to be utterly insurmountable. Maybe we have tried to battle them down with our preaching, with our publicity, with our efforts and our talking, and the Jerichos are still there. Have we gotten to a place of realizing that the Jerichos that confront the church ought to be taken, and only a new visitation from heaven of the power of God in Holy Ghost revival can touch them?
The burden on my heart is this: that surrounding us in Chicago and throughout the world there are Jerichos that stand and mock at our efforts. They laugh at our weak attempts to reach the world in this day, and to complete the task of evangelism to bring back the King. The Church of Christ today is in a desperate situation. She is losing ground rapidly. I am not concerned about what you say of the impact made here and there by the Gospel, I ask you to look into our own lives, look into our own fellowship, and look up to heaven and say, “Lord we are absolutely helpless.”
How do we seek to deal with our Jerichos? Let the lessons of Jericho ring in your hearts. They could afford to walk around those walls, to do the thing that God told them to do, and to be utterly silent, because they knew that God was in their midst.
In those sentences, for the spirit-discerning man or woman, I have exposed the tragedy of 20th-century Christianity. For the lack of the real evidence of the supernatural in the church we cannot afford to be silent, we have to shout. And we have got to join the commercial interests who line up before the radio to advertise their toothpaste and their chewing gum, for the man who shouts the loudest will get the biggest listening public.
The Lord was not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the still small voice. Surely the church is on the wrong foot altogether and we are attacking the situation in completely wrong ways and through wrong methods, when we try to match this spiritual force by carnal expedients. We can only lose out.
Are we truly prepared to give Him the right to change us, or do we love our ways and our methods so much that we dare not abandon them? The answer to the Jericho of Chicago is on our knees, nowhere else. That is not inactivity, that is not passivity, it is linking ourselves in our weakness and helplessness with the omnipotent power of God.
When people get before God and wait upon God, and listen for His voice, and travail in prayer, then the enemy begins to get afraid. Then there will be those here and there who strangely come under what the Old Book calls conviction of sin. That is the thing that is lacking. We seem to imagine today that our religion is simply to be another form of entertainment.
I tell you, a man really sees where he is in God’s sight, there is no other relationship that matters but the relationship with Him. Have you ever stopped to think that prayerlessness in the sight of God in His child is a desperate sin? Oh, nothing can touch Chicago except heaven-sent conviction of sin, and God convicts the world in the measure in which God convicts the church. Has he convicted us?
But I must finish with a note of victory. Every Jericho in the world will fall. I believe it with all my heart.
How did Jericho fall? There were the shouts, there was the sound of the trumpets. Listen to the wondrous words—“the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, and with the trump of God.” The world with all its sin and all its corruption will crumble at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Can it be that that day is nearer than we think? Can it be that before He is coming the Lord is waiting to get His people broken and repentant and humble, in a condition where they can shout for the coming of the King?
Oh, God grant that we will recognize that Jericho is too big, and that the place for us is on our knees. May we get to the end of ourselves, and of our schemes and our ideas, and come to the place where we recognize that we are just nothing, and God must give us victory if it is to be victory at all.
Then we may dare to believe that in a still small voice He will speak to this church and say, “Shout, for the Lord hath given you the city.”
At the sign of triumph
Satan’s host doth flee;
On, then, Christian soldiers,
On to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver
At the shout of praise;
Brothers, lift your voices,
Loud your anthems raise!