The Walls Before Our Eyes Will Surely Fall Down
July 12, 2009
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. Today I read to you in the first recitation [out of] The Book Of Joshua. As you know, Joshua is a historical narrative in which [someone] has written down history from Israel. [The history stories] do not conclude in just Joshua, but continue on in Judges, and the [first and second] books of Samuel and Kings. It is one continuous historical narrative put together. The story told ends with the kingdom being destroyed. What does that mean? It means that the persons who wrote them were the ones who experienced the kingdom being destroyed. These writers had put the history of Israel together, the history after [Israel's] entering the promised land.
2. The kingdom was destroyed. But they did not think it was all over. People who think it is over do not put histories together; for, writing them would make no sense. It wasn't over yet. No, instead it would be more important from here on. The very reason they thought that way is because they were looking back over the way they had come. They reviewed why the nation had gone under. They observed that there had been sin in Israel. They observed that there was rebellion against God. Upon observing this, they repented and tried to walk anew. Just looking backward, but not grieving and moaning over it but sensing what they had lost, they tried to live looking forward, believing in God's forgiveness and mercy. These books were written for that purpose. The book from which I read today is the first one in these historical narratives.
3. The Book Of Joshua begins with the people, led by Joshua the successor to Moses, crossing the Jordan River and entering the promised land. They were finally able to set foot on the promised land, the land where milk and honey flowed. But after they crossed the Jordan what awaited Joshua and all was the city of Jericho, an impregnable fort surrounded by defensive walls that towered high. In order to advance forward, they first had to stand up to Jericho. It was as plain as daylight that this battle would reach the most difficult extreme. But they could not pass on by by avoiding it. They had crossed the Jordan. However difficult it might get, they had to handle it and advance. They must stand up to Jericho and conquer it.
4. The persons who wrote this must have seen their own figures overlapping in comparison to that of these figures of Joshua and his group. When a person tries to live looking ahead by believing in God, believing that it is not over yet, believing in God's forgiveness and mercy, when a person tries to live anew looking to the future, he or she will inevitably bump into those who block his or her path. The defensive walls of Jericho that tower high before one's path will appear. Something one must stand up to will surely appear. One must not run away at that time. When [you] make a run for it, it is truly over for [you]. You must stand up to it and conquer.
5. Come to think of it, church history also started out like that. Jesus was crucified and murdered, but it was not the end. The disciples even abandoned Jesus, ran away, and scattered, but it was not the end. They followed the risen Christ and began to walk all over again. Believing in God's forgiveness and mercy, looking forward, they began to walk anew. Whereupon, they came into direct confrontation with a great difficulty. They encountered threats from the Jewish authorities. Persecutions started. The huge walls of Jericho immediately jumped out at them. In a certain sense, this was inevitable.
6. It is the same way for this church and for each one of us here in this place. When we sincerely try to go forward looking ahead and not stand still looking behind, when we try to move forward to the place that God would set before us and we believe God, we will see the towering high defensive walls of Jericho. We should quit already, right? We should give up, right? We shouldn't take any risks, right? It isn't' a very pleasant path, right? You get those kinds of thoughts [when] the walls of Jericho appear before you. Haven't you seen the walls of Jericho right in front of you? But you must not run away from it. You must not look for only the easy way out. To move forward we must stand up to [our Jerichos].
How Do We Do Battle?
7. So, how should we stand up to [difficulties]? What is the [best] way we should stand up to, defeat, and conquer the impregnable Jerichos? From today's passage I can give at least three valuable [pointers] that we must remember as best as we can.
8. First, we should know that it is not us but God who knocks down the walls. We are to believe that this battle is "the Lord's battle."
9. God never said to Joshua, "One way or the other knock down the walls!" First of all the Lord said this to Joshua, "Behold! I will deliver into your hands Jericho, its king and its brave warriors," (verse two). The Lord said, "I," not "You." That means the lead character in the battle is not us but God.
10. It also appears even in the command, "As for seven priests, let each of them carry a ram's horn and lead the ark of God!," which comes in the text afterwards. The ark of God gives expression to the fact that God is with them. All of this expresses that this battle is the Lord's battle. In this manner then, when the fortress gates to Jericho were completely shut, Joshua was first of all required to believe that this was the Lord's battle. Put another way, this means that Joshua was not to turn his eyes first to the walls of Jericho, he was not to turn his eyes on the strength he or anyone else in the group had, but he was required to raise his eyes upward and turn his eyes on the Lord.
11. The Lord says, "Behold! I [will deliver Jericho into your hands]." We too must raise our eyes upward first and foremost. If we don't raise our eyes upward, what we will see is but our own limited abilities. We will only be able to see our limits, our defects, our faults. It is the same for the church as well. If it doesn't raise its eyes upward, what it will see will be just human activity amuck with fragmentation and splits. If we don't raise our eyes to God but moan, "Since I am after all just human, a human to such and such a degree ... ," we will truly wind up being just that. If the church doesn't raise its eyes to God but moans, "Since the church is after all an assembly of people ... ," it will truly wind up no more than a mere assembly of people. I really think so. We wind up exactly as we say. We must first have a raising of our eyes upward. We have got to believe that no matter how solid the walls may be God will knock them down for us.
12. Second, we must discover that God requires of us actions that are based on faith. It certainly is God himself who knocks down the walls for us. Joshua and his group did not need to try their best to knock down any walls. But God did not say "Just wait there and do nothing!" The Lord said the following. "All you soldiers, go around the periphery of the city! Go completely around the city, and continue this for six days! As for seven priests, let each of them carry a ram's horn and lead the ark of God! On the seventh day, go around the city seven times, let the priests blow the horns! When they blow long on the ram's horns, and that sound reaches your ears, let all the people shout the battle cry! After the walls of the city fall down, let the people rush in from their respective positions!," (verses three to five).
13. Assuming the defensive walls did fall down, that would be a miracle of God. God does what humans cannot do. Humans don't need to swap places with God and do what he does. Humans should do what they can. Humans should do what they are supposed to do, by obeying the word of God. We don't need to think only the big [stuff]. What God requires may at times be as little as something trivial, even stupid. For example, like in this scene. What God required was that they just go around the city. They were to keep it up for six days at first. If that's it, [I suppose we] could pull it off.
14. Come to think of it, we often neglect to do these little things. When we say we are obeying God, we are prone to think of just the big stuff, and to top it all off, we groan and say things like, "Ohhh, I can't obey God. I can't do a thing," then we blame ourselves and practically stop doing anything; I suppose there are way too many times [we act like that]. But what God truly requires just may be a small thing, to the degree that, "If that's it, [I suppose I] can pull it off." Using this small thing, God can do something big.
15. Then third, we are never to give up. We are not to give up until we see the work of God. We are not to give up and throw it all away somewhere along the way.
16. Please try to visualize how this event took place. The first day, when they went around it once, cracks, just a little, begin entering the surface of the walls at Jericho. On the second day when they made another go around it, the cracks got bigger. When it was the third day, they could begin to see sections crumbled in parts. If they were going forward in that way, then going around the wall each day must have been something worth doing. But the way the Bible has it, it doesn't seem that they advanced forward in that way by any means at all. The first day, nothing happens. The second day, nothing happens. The third day, nothing happens. The sixth day, not even a sign of anything happening is visible to them. Nothing happens until the seventh go-around on the seventh day is completed.
17. It is also highly symbolical that it says after the seventh time around on the seventh day was complete the walls fell down. In the Bible, "seven" is the number that expresses "completion, perfection." The seventh day [is] the day when it was perfect. It means the day when God's set time had fully come. And when the seventh time around was complete, God's moment had actually fully come. At that time and place God's work happened. That's the message. When the time had fully come, the defensive walls crumbled down.
18. There will also be plenty of times when even though we believe the Lord will knock down the walls for us, and we act based on faith, in reality, it will look to us like nothing is going forward. No matter how much time goes by it looks like the same thing over and over again. It looks as if this will go on forever. But, [listen] everyone, the seventh day comes. Even though it may seem like nothing is going forward for you, God's clock does go forward. The time always comes in full. Believing this, we make a go-around around the walls of Jericho. Ultimately, it's the same whether we are awaiting the second coming of Christ or hoping for the arrival of the kingdom of God. It is written in The Epistle To The Hebrews as well, which was read in our second reading for today. "In order to receive what was promised and to do the will of God, patience is necessary," (Hebrews 10:36). Thus, we will believe, be patient, and continue to go around the walls around Jericho. We will not give up along the way. We will not throw it all away. We will not abandon hope. Until we see the work of God. Soon the time will be full. The time is coming when the walls before our eyes will fall down.