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Battles to Big to Fight; Walls to Big to Climb

June 10th 2012 by Joel Schultz

Today we begin a sermon series on the congregations top ten favorite Old Testament Bible stories. Today's message comes from Joshua 5&6 - Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. We all face a big and powerful enemy, but we face that enemy the same way Israel did... with the Lord's help. Read or listen to find out more...

Bible Story Sermon Series – Joshua & Jericho – “Battles Too Big to Fight; Walls Too Big Too Climb” – Joshua 5:13-6:21, 24-25 – June 10, 2012 I love the story of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. It is a great picture of God’s victory over His enemies for His people. We even see in this man Joshua a picture/a foreshadowing of our Savior Jesus.

Israel – God’s chosen people – had been in slavery in Egypt for about 400 years. They cried out to the LORD for deliverance and so when the time was right, when the sin of the Canaanites had reached its full measure, God sent Moses to deliver them from slavery.

Chased by the enemy, Moses led them to the Red Sea. God caused them to pass through the waters and Pharoah’s army was destroyed. God then leads them to Mt. Sinai. There they were consecrated to the LORD – set aside as His people and for His service. He would be their God and they would be His people. And they all together with one voice promised – “we will serve the LORD.”

So Moses goes up on the Mountain to meet with God and he is gone a long time and the people thinking that he must be dead turned away from the LORD – they sinned by worshiping other gods.

While this story is not an allegory where we are Israel, this story does point ahead to the LORD’s deliverance of you and me. Think how similar our story is to Israel. We were also once in slavery – slavery to sin and death. God also knew we needed deliverance from these enemies, so He sent His Son, Jesus, into this world to destroy sin and death and the power of the devil.

Through Him sin and death are destroyed and He brings us through the waters of Holy Baptism. Baptized into His name we are consecrated to the Lord – sins are washed away – we belong to Him – we are set apart to worship and serve Him. Several Christian churches even have a ceremonial rite – confirmation – were we stand at the altar and essentially make the same promise as Israel – “We will serve the Lord.”

BUT, so often we turn away. We fail to do as the Lord desires – to worship Him alone, to serve Him and His church, to follow His commands. Our sin is always before us – sins of thought, word and deed. Many even completely turn their backs on their promises to Love and Serve the Lord alone.

But with the Lord there is forgiveness. For those who repent of their sins and turn back to the LORD – if we confess our sins then God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Martin Luther urges us to daily turn from sin through contrition and repentance and let the old sinful nature be drowned once again in the waters of Baptism so that the new man created in Christ Jesus can arise to live before God in righteousness and purity.

And so, Israel repented, the LORD relented, and their sin was forgiven. The LORD then led them to Promised Land – to Canaan – to the land promised to Abraham’s descendants. And sadly that would mean that all the Canaanites, young and old, must be destroyed. This is not a picture of a mean God. On the contrary, He was slow to bring judgment on the people. At the time of Abraham there were still Canaanites who knew and served the LORD. But now their sin and apostasy had reached full measure. Their hearts were hardened and they would no longer come to faith – that is only something God can know. So, the LORD who is merciful but also just, would mete out an immediate judgment upon these Canaanites.

Moses sends out 12 spies to check out the land. Joshua and Caleb said “with the LORD’s help we can take the land.” the other 10 spies said “no.” “The people are giants. Their cities are fortified. “We can’t do it!” And the people joined in saying no.

Well of course they were right in saying they couldn’t do it. But they had forgotten that the LORD was on their side and the God who swallowed the Egyptians in the Red Sea was more than capable. But the people had no faith as they faced big giants and strong walls. Well, God again forgives them, but the consequence is that no one except Joshua and Caleb would enter the Promised Land.

So, they spent the next 40 years in the wilderness. Now, in our story today, 40 years have passed, Moses has been buried, and God sends His people through the waters of the Jordan into the Promised Land. They are reconsecrated as God’s people – they are devoted to worshiping and serving the LORD.

The first city marked by God is Jericho. It is one of the strongest cities – 2 walls one 6 feet wide the other 12 feet wide, both 30 ft. tall – and strong gates. The Israelites, although they had several hundred thousand men were not warriors like the Canaanites and they had no experience laying siege to a city like Jericho. Joshua must have been wondering how they could do it. Perhaps he was even praying and asking God how He would do it.

Then at the beginning of our text, God appears. He reminds Joshua that it is the LORD’s battle and the LORD will win the victory. God lays out the plan – march around Jericho 1 time/day for 6 days (perhaps a reminder of creation) and on the 7th day (presumably the Sabbath day the day of worship) 7 times. And on this day, the day of worship, at the sounding of the seven trumpets and the shout of the people, the LORD gave them victory.

Now why seven days of marching? God gave them 7 days to test and strengthen their faith at those walls. God wanted Israel to completely rest their faith on Him. The Lord wanted their faith in Him to be increased so that they might know without doubt that the LORD is the one giving the victory! The writer of Hebrews in chapter 11 stresses the faith aspect of this victory. He writes: “By faith the walls of Jericho fell.” Their faith led them to accept God’s promised victory.

And the walls fell and everyone and everything was destroyed or given to God. This is a picture of the judgment for sin on the Last Day. Unbelievers will go to eternal destruction. But this is also a picture of God’s mercy and grace, for God saved Rahab the prostitute and her family because they came to faith. And through this Joshua, the Israelites are saved from their enemies and brought into the Promised Land.

Again, this story points ahead to the deliverance of you and me. We needed a Savior from our enemies – sin, death, devil. His name is the same as in our story. Joshua is the Hebrew name for Jesus – meaning the LORD saves. He came into sinful world to save us sinners. On the cross He suffered and died the death we deserve for our sin. And as He burst from the tomb our enemies are destroyed – sin has no power – hell has no power – Satan has no power.

Even though the enemy is defeated, he still causes trouble in this world. Jesus even tells us this in John 16:33: “In this world you will have trouble.” We face big, imposing walls all the time. Walls that are too big to break down and too tall to climb. Satan’s temptations to fall into all kinds of sin like adultery, lust, greed, anger, hatred, sinful habits, addictions, lying, cheating, stealing. We face walls of sickness and disease, unemployment, self-doubt, despair, depression, family struggles, divorce, and the like...

But as with Israel, these battles – these walls – belong to the LORD. He fights for us. He promises to be with us at every pressure-packed moment. And He even uses these walls for our good – to test and strengthen our faith.

Again, the Good news – We do not battle and face the imposing walls of life alone. God is with us. Luther’s hymn A Mighty Fortress is one of my favorite hymns and one of the most comforting. Luther pictures life as a battle and in the old days the army that held the field of battle and didn’t retreat was the clear winner. Listen to how Luther describes the battle: “(2)With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected; But for us fights the Valiant One, Whom God Himself elected. Ask ye who is this? Jesus Christ it is, Of Sabaoth Lord, And there’s none other God; He holds the field forever. (3) Through devils all the world shoulf fill, All eager to devour us, We tremble not, we fear no ill; They shall not overpower us. This world’s prince may still Scowl fierce as he will, He can harm us none. He’s judged; the deed is done; One little word can fell him” (LSB 656 vv. 2&3).

The LORD provides strength to stand against temptation or the means to escape it. The LORD is with us as we face problems at work, at home, and at play, giving us the strength to stand. But God does not only fight on our behalf. In Christ Jesus, He has already gained victory over Satan, over our sins, and over every other enemy that threatens in this life. The outcome may not be what we expect but the battle belongs to the LORD. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but fear not, I have overcome the world.”

We have forgiveness for every lost battle. And we have the assurance that the final battle IS won through the Savior’s death and resurrection. Therefore, Paul writes: “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …. in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:34,35,37,38). Amen.

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