************ Sermon on Hebrews 11:30 ************


By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman


This sermon was preached on May 28, 2017


Joshua 5:13-6:21
Hebrews 11:30
"By Faith the Walls of Jericho Fell"

Introduction
"Ask great things of God. Expect great things of God. Attempt great things for God." That's a paraphrase of something I read a number of years ago but could not find this past week.

"Ask great things of God. Expect great things of God. Attempt great things for God." This is what we have been seeing as we have looked at the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11. This is what we have been seeing as we have looked at Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses' parents, Moses, Joshua and Caleb.

And yet, as is only proper, our real focus is not the heroes of faith themselves. Rather, our focus is Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. He, above all others, was a man of faith as He faced the horrors of life on earth, including the cross and the grave.

"Ask great things of God. Expect great things of God. Attempt great things for God." Today, we see this kind of faith again as we look at the walls of Jericho.

You all know the setting of our Bible reading. It is 40 years after Israel left the land of Egypt and crossed the Red Sea. The original generation was a bunch of whining, faithless complainers. They rebelled against God. They rebelled against Moses to the point that he sinned and was kept from entering Canaan. They worshiped a golden calf. They committed adultery. Even though they witnessed firsthand God's mighty acts in Egypt, at the Red Sea, and in the wilderness they were scared of the giants and the walled cities of the Promised Land. God was not pleased with most of them. Their bodies were scattered over the desert (1 Cor 10:5). God swore they would never enter His rest. They were not able to enter Canaan because of their unbelief (Heb 3:18).

In our Bible reading from Joshua, the people of Israel are again at the border of the Promised Land. Standing in the way is the city of Jericho -- with its walls, its king, its army. Its walls are high and wide. Its army is mighty. Its king is ready to face any enemy. To enter and conquer the Promised Land the children of Israel have to first destroy this city and its army. Our text tells us this was done by faith.
(Heb 11:30) By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.

I Faith's Object
A Our first point is faith's object. In Whom is faith put? Who is the object of faith as Israel marched around the walls of Jericho?

Our Bible reading starts with Joshua. He was a little nervous the night before Israel was to attack Jericho. He went for a walk. Maybe he needed to be by himself. Maybe he wanted to pray. Maybe he was trying to think things through. He looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. "Are you for us or for our enemies?" Joshua does not know whether the man is a friend or a foe.

"Are you for us or for our enemies?" That's a crucial question when you are faced by a man with a sword in his hand. If he's a friend you have nothing to fear; if he is an enemy you must prepare to fight.

B "Are you for us or for our enemies?" (vs 13). Do you notice the man's strange answer? "Neither!" Neither? That's not an answer! Joshua wants to know: Are you a friend or a foe? Do I have to fight you or shake hands with you? "Neither."

"Are you for us or against us?" "Are you for us or for our enemies?" As far as Joshua is concerned, it is us against them, Israel against Canaan, Joshua against the King of Jericho. If that is really the case, then Israel does not stand much of a chance of winning. It is the Canaanites who are skilled, trained warriors -- not the Israelites. It is the Canaanites who know how to handle swords and spears and shields -- not the Israelites. It is the Canaanites who know how to do siege warfare -- not the Israelites. Don't forget, the Israelites are but a tribe of ex-slaves with no military training. The little bit of fighting they have done has all been in the open desert. This is the first time they face a fortified city. And, they have neither the experience nor the equipment to engage in siege warfare.

C "Are you for us or for our enemies?" "Neither, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Do you realize this tells us whose battle it is? It isn't Israel's battle against Jericho and Canaan. It is God's battle against Jericho and Canaan.

"Are you for us or for our enemies?" "Neither, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Do you realize this tells us who are the opposing generals? It isn't Joshua who is in command. It isn't Joshua who issues orders and plots strategy. It isn't Joshua who leads Israel. Not at all. The real general is the "commander of the army of the LORD."

"Are you for us or for our enemies?" "Neither, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Do you realize this also tells us Israel's place, Israel's role? It is not a case of whether the man is for or against Israel. Rather, it is a case of whether Israel is for or against the Lord. It is the Lord's fight, it is the Lord's battle, so who is on the Lord's side? Who is in the Lord's army? Israel's role is to be but a part of the Lord's army, and just a small part at that; after all, in the Lord's army there are also thousands upon tens of thousands of angels. Israel is but one of many weapons or tools the Lord can choose to use in battle; after all, in the Lord's arsenal there is also wind and rain, hail and snow, heat and cold, earthquake and lightning, disease and plague, drought and flood.

"Are you for us or for our enemies?" "Neither, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Do you realize what Joshua is being called to do? He is being called to faith. He is being called to trust. In God. In God's plan. In God's army.

So the object of faith is the Lord. The Lord Almighty. The Lord Who has proven Himself faithful time after time. The Lord God Who made the heavens and the earth. The Lord Who covenants with His people and forgives His people and loves His people.

II Faith's Obedience
A Our second point is faith's obedience. Yes, it is the Lord Who defeats the city of Jericho. It is His army that does the fighting. But God makes it known His power is tied to certain actions by His people. By faith, the people have to complete those actions. Listen to what faith's obedience requires:
(Josh 6:3-6) March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. (4) Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets.
Faith's obedience requires one thing of Israel: that they march around the city of Jericho. That's it. That's all. Doesn't seem like much. March. March. March... March thirteen times around the city.

B Think about this. Doesn't this seem like a very foolish way to attack the city of Jericho? March?! Shouldn't they fight? Shouldn't they be doing something other than walk in circles? Shouldn't they be building ladders and battering rams? Shouldn't they be building siege machines? Shouldn't they be using catapults to smash down the walls? Shouldn't they be tunneling under the walls to try and sneak into the city? Shouldn't they be trying to collapse the walls? But faith's obedience submits to the will and plan of God. Faith's obedience marches when it is told to march.
(Heb 11:30) By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.

God's ways may not always seem wise and reasonable to man. When Naaman suffered from leprosy He was angry when he was told to wash himself seven times in the muddy water of the River Jordan. During Israel's drought Elijah was commanded to stay with the poor widow of Zarephath who would supply him with food though she was down to her last meal. When David was given the opportunity to lay a finger on King Saul, he refused though Saul was trying to kill him.

"The foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength" (1 Cor 1:25). That's what Paul writes to the church at Corinth. Our Bible reading is another instance where God made foolish the wisdom of the world. Paul says the Gospel is the same way. Christ crucified is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.

Faith's obedience is required for those walls of Jericho to come down even though what is required sounds dumb and foolish. And, faith's obedience is required of us as well. In a world where everyone puts me first, Christians are called to love others. In a world where people pursue things and treasures, Christians are called to seek first the Kingdom and its righteousness.

III Faith's Discipline
A Our third point is faith's discipline. Discipline, self-control, is required of Israel as she marches around Jericho.

Did you catch what God commands Joshua to say to Israel? In that time and place it was strange and scary and alien and weird and bizarre:
(Josh 6:10-11) "Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!" (11) So he had the ark of the LORD carried around the city, circling it once. Then the people returned to camp and spent the night there.
The next day the same thing. And the next day again. And the next day... They marched around the city in silence.

Soldiers back then didn't march in silence. Especially not in front of the enemy. You make noise. Lots and lots of noise. You make noise to scare your enemy. You make noise so your blood starts pumping and your adrenaline surges. But Israel's soldiers are commanded to march in silence. Thirteen times around the city in total silence while the trumpets blare and blast.

You know the soldiers on the walls of Jericho didn't keep quiet. You know they yelled insults and taunts. You know they screamed and yelled. You know they used noise to scare the Israelites.

B Faith's discipline requires silence on the part of Israel. Now, this is a people that couldn't keep quiet. This is a people who always talked and complained. This is a people who talked before they thought. This is a people who couldn't keep silent even if their lives depended upon it.

Joshua tells them, "We are marching around Jericho. We are marching around Jericho for seven days. We are march around Jericho thirteen times. And we are doing so in silence." Their natural, sinful inclination is to argue with Joshua. "Joshua, you are crazy. You want us to keep silent? Listen to their insults. We have to taunt and yell back."

So Israel marches by faith. Israel marches in silence. Israel exercises self-control.
(Heb 11:30) By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.

By faith. Meaning also faith's discipline.

Sometimes, maybe I should say many times, we also need silence before the Lord. This makes me think of what was written by the prophet Habakkuk:
(Hab 2:20) But the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.
There is a time to shout. But there is also a time to be silent. As Ecclesiastes says, there is a time to be silent and a time to speak. There is a time, my brothers and sisters, to be silent before the Lord. To be in awe of Him and His power and His majesty. That's one of the reasons our worship always begins with a silent prayer. That's why Israel was told, by faith, to march in silence.

IV Faith's Patience
A Our fourth point is faith's patience. Patience is required on the part of Israel. A waiting on the Lord.
(Heb 11:30) By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.

"March," says God. So the first day they march. "March," says God. So the second day they march. "March," says God. So the third day they march. You get the picture. Every day they march. Then comes the seventh day. "March," says God. So they march around the city. "March again," says God. So they march around the city a second time. And a third time. And a fourth time... Seven times in total on the seventh day for a total of thirteen times they march in faith.

You know, of course, that it makes no difference to God how many times Israel marches around the city. God could have made the walls fall down the first time already. Or the second time. Or the third time... God was teaching Israel something. God was teaching Israel faith's patience. God was teaching Israel to wait upon the Lord.

B Israel was not a patient people. Barely out of Egypt by a few miles and a few days and they were already complaining about water and bread and how they missed the leeks and onions and cucumbers of Egypt. No, this was not a patient people. This was not a people willing to wait. This was not a people willing to follow the Lord's timing. "Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him," says the Psalmist (Ps 37:7). "Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay," writes the prophet (Hab 2:3).

Do you remember when Abraham was not satisfied with the Lord's timing? He was promised a son so he and Sarah used Hagar. He was promised a son and he tried to adopt his own manservant. Moses, too, took matters into his own hand and failed to wait upon the Lord and was barred from entering the Promised Land.

We need faith's patience, my brothers and sisters. We need to wait upon the Lord. As we wait for the second coming. As we wait for justice. As we wait for answered prayer. As we wait for every knee to bow and every tongue to confess Jesus Christ is Lord.

V Faith's Anticipation
A We end with faith's anticipation. For seven days the people are marching in silence. Thirteen times the people march in silence. Notice the next instruction:
(Josh 6:5) When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.
So what happened: the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, the walls collapsed, and every man charged straight in and took the city.

Notice, the Israelites shouted before the walls fell down. The Israelites shouted with the expectation that the walls would fall down. The Israelites shouted with the expectation of victory. The Israelites shouted with the expectation God was about to do a miracle.

B Faith anticipates victory. Faith anticipates answered prayer. Faith anticipates that God is faithful and will do what He says:
(Mk 11:24) Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

(Mt 7:7) "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Each of us has a Jericho in our life. Maybe it is a broken relationship, a wayward son or daughter, a drug or alcohol problem, a long-term disease. Remember Joshua, remember Israel, and take courage. Anticipate the final victory that is ours in Christ. Rest assured that the final victory is already ours.

Conclusion
"By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days" (Heb 11:30). The walls of Jericho were high and wide. Yet, they gave no security against the God of Israel.

I hope you see the wondrous power of real faith. I hope you see how Israel was able to accomplish what otherwise would have been impossible. I hope you see that, by faith, "all things are possible with God" (Mk 10:27). And that, by faith, "I can do everything through him who gives me strength" (Phil 4:13). I hope you see that with God weapons more dangerous than the walls of Jericho can be removed by a faith with obedience, discipline, patience, and anticipation.
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