This week’s treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson (for June 26) is written by Matt Schantz, director of organizational development with a national building supply company in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
God Gives the Victory (Joshua 6:2-4, 12-20)
By Matt Schantz
Jericho, known as the “City of Palms,” is considered both the world’s oldest city and—at 850 feet below sea level—the lowest. This elevation also makes it one of the hottest places on earth.
I had the opportunity to visit Jericho a few years back, and frankly, was delighted to leave. Biting black flies were coming at me from all directions. Apparently, those pests love the heat! The city is currently under Palestinian control so it is not easy to visit. Still, many pilgrims find their way there from all over the world, wanting to see the first city defeated by the Israelites upon entering the land God promised them.
A Strange Plan
The Israelites were to march around Jericho once daily for six days and then seven times on the seventh day. On their final march, they were to blow trumpets and shout. Not a great plan, really. It sounds quite bizarre! But give Joshua credit, 40 years in the desert had taught him well; he understood the battle was not his to fight, but belonged to the Lord.
Trusting in God’s provision, the Israelites followed this strange strategy and marched around the city. Just as God’s messenger had predicted, Jericho fell as the Israelites shouted. Joshua 6:20 says, “The wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in.” Jericho, a fortified city, might have been able to defend a mere breech in the wall, but its residents were not prepared for the total disintegration of the city’s defenses. This amazing victory further confirmed God’s presence was with Israel.
Our Battle Today
Like the Israelites, contemporary Christians are called into battle. Ephesians 6:12 reminds us we face stiff opposition, fortified defenses, and difficult struggles. But our opponents are different than those faced by Joshua and the Israelites. Our enemy is unseen. Ours is a spiritual battle, not one of flesh and blood. Far too often I forget this fact.
I look at what is going on in our society and become angry at a political and socioeconomic system run amuck. Apparently I’m not the only one. I hear a lot of militant talk these days from believers urging the targeting of politicians, the overturning of legislation, and the boycotting of companies that violate their standards. Still others fling mud at certain political parties and attack ideologies with great vigor, somehow assuming this is part of God’s battle plan.
These folks may be right. It certainly is appropriate to speak out against the sin that surrounds us. My concerns lie with the arrogance and judgmental spirit that seem to accompany these discussions. The tone of the rhetoric often carries an intellectual and theological smugness, making me wonder what unbelievers really hear when Christians sound off against society.
The Lord’s Battle
In our desire to confront the deeds of darkness, is it possible we have forgotten the true nature of the battle we fight? It is a spiritual battle, first of all, not political. It is heavenly, not earthly. And while we are called to participate, in reality it is God’s battle.
God left no doubt who was champion on the day Jericho fell. Perhaps we need to be reminded once more. Then maybe we would do less shouting at the darkness and more crying out to God on our knees. Maybe we would sign fewer petitions and do more petitioning of our heavenly Father for his mighty hand to move in our land. I know it sounds like a bizarre plan, but so was marching around a wall with band instruments.
I am not suggesting passivity—we still have to show up in the public square. But if we had a greater measure of humility the world might actually see God in us, instead of just a bunch of angry folks who want to get their way. I’m afraid our message of love and redemption is often lost in the obnoxious demeanor of the messengers. If we would put our trust in God’s faithfulness, rather than our own argumentative prowess, I am confident that walls will come down, affording us more opportunities to witness than we could ever achieve on our own.
So as we confront evil, we need to remember the lesson Joshua learned thousands of years ago: The battle belongs to the Lord. He alone has the ability to redeem the world he created. And while he has invited us to participate in this great drama as ministers of reconciliation, there should be no mistake how the battle will be won. Prayer meetings may never draw the attention of the talking heads bellowing on our airwaves, but I’m certain the former will have more lasting impact in the battle we face.
A warning is tucked away in verse 18, “But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them.” This verse hints at what will happen next. In the midst of the battle for Jericho, Achan took some of the devoted things, bringing God’s judgment upon himself and his whole family. It serves as a reminder that our sin not only affects us, but also those we love. It also shows that a great spiritual victory can be quickly tarnished by a single selfish act.
As a friend recently reminded me, “We are all one step from stupid.” Or as the apostle Paul put it: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
*Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, unless otherwise indicated.
|HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS|
|June 20: Psalm 98:1-6|
|June 21: Isaiah 25:6-10|
|June 22: 1 Corinthians 15:50-57|
|June 23: 1 John 5:1-5|
|June 24: Psalm 20|
|June 25: Joshua 5:10-15|
|June 26: Joshua 6:2-4, 12-20|
ABOUT THE LESSON WRITER: Matt Schantz has been a campus minister and church planter, and now serves as director of organizational development for a national faith-based building solutions company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He loves to read, eat ice cream, and play driveway basketball with his wife and four kids.