Jericho provides powerful insights into battling spiritual strongholds. While the battle belongs to God, praise and consecration brings our victory in Him.
But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the Lord: they shall come into the treasury of the Lord. (Joshua 6:19)
The story of the fall of Jericho is ‘up there’ with the wonders of the Exodus and the promised land. It’s the manifestation of the power of God and is as stirring as the parting of the Red Sea and God’s voice thundering from Mount Sinai. It stands out, though, with a peculiar and sobering slant of curse and judgment which can be difficult to understand. As a metaphor of the sinful life, Jericho is a good choice. I discovered that it was close to the Dead Sea, which has the lowest elevation on earth at 423 metres below sea level. This puts Jericho as the city with the lowest elevation. The parallel to spiritual death and of us at our lowest point, steeped in sin, is obvious. But why was the rebuilding of the walls cursed if we look in the context of a new covenant of grace?
Jericho was the first battle for the promised land.
To fully understand the purpose and severity of the curse, we need to explore the significance of Jericho. The physical and spiritual details of this first battle provide insight into the spiritual life of us as believers. What we need to remember here is that the promised land was just that. It was promised. This meant beyond a shadow of a doubt that it belonged to the Israelites because God gave it to them. Technically, it was theirs, but it was occupied by people not of God. It was occupied by the enemy. In other words, the Canaanites had right of ownership through occupation. For the Israelites to actually live in the promised land, they had to first oust the enemy and take ownership. This entailed an extended campaign, but the taking of this first city established some significant principles that governed their lives from then onwards.
The taking of Jericho reflects the first battle in our Christian walk. It is the moment when the new or spiritual man, together with God, takes occupation of our ‘promised land’ – the promises of God under the new covenant. The Exodus reflects the cross, our deliverance from slavery – salvation. Jericho reflects the ‘working out’ of our salvation – living in the promises purchased and given through salvation. The first point to take note of here is that there is still territory occupied by the enemy. Our spirits are saved, but that salvation still needs to manifest in our lives as we systematically take back the ground the enemy has taken. The nature of battle is that the victor 1) takes control of the territory and 2) enslaves the people. Simply liberating the people doesn’t mean the territory is automatically restored. It has to be taken back one battle at a time.
The battle of Jericho belongs to the Lord.
This is both humbling and encouraging. It’s humbling because we have to realise that we cannot face the giants in our own strength. But it’s encouraging because it teaches us that God can and will. It also teaches us that He will often do it in ways we least expect, another reminder that it’s all about Him and not us. The critical factor here is that Jericho was fully fortified. To all intents and purposes, it was impregnable. The enemy had raised up mighty walls and dug in, secure in their ownership by occupation. In practical terms, it was unassailable. This reminds us that our spiritual strongholds – those things that keep God out – aren’t matchstick houses. They’re real and powerful, they have been built over a long period, and no ordinary assault has any hope of tearing them down. Conventional warfare has no chance of success against spiritual strongholds.
What emerges is that God does not expect us to simply sit around. While we don’t have what it takes, we still have to participate. The problem is that the participation He demands is often the last thing we expect. Whether it makes sense or not isn’t the issue – obedience is. The message is that if we want to take back the territory, we must be obedient. We must be surrendered and willing to do what God commands through His Word. Like some of those original spies, we can simply give up when faced with what seems impossible. Or, like Joshua and Caleb, we can look at the enemy and his impregnable defences and believe that God is more powerful. When we’re prepared to step out and be ridiculously foolish in humble obedience, God reveals perfect wisdom and power. Our response to Satan’s armoury is that our God is omnipotent.
It took spiritual weapons to defeat Jericho.
In the flesh, the Israelites could have concocted all kinds of futile strategies to take Jericho. The cost in human life would have been enormous, and even then, there was little hope for success. The same applies to our Jericho walls. The first thing God did was to raise up someone on the inside. Incongruously, Rahab the harlot is, in some ways, a type of the indwelling Holy Spirit. She was committed to working out the purposes of God. The Holy Spirit’s task is the same, and He does this by searching out the weaknesses and bringing them to light. He provides information and spiritual wisdom and discernment. The ways and wiles of the enemy are known to Him, and He works actively against the powers of darkness from within. Our ‘man on the inside’ is a powerful ally who works constantly to defeat the enemy with and for us.
To understand the need for spiritual weapons, we must first understand that strongholds or fortresses that are raised to keep God out are spiritual. They are built from sins, bad habits, wrong thought patterns, and ingrained emotional responses. These are forged over time and become incredibly resilient. At first, they allow the enemy entry. Over time, they entrench the enemy within and provide protection for working of darkness. They trap us inside with the enemy with no apparent hope for escape. Each time we try to break through by our own efforts, we only seem to raise the walls a little higher or make them a little stronger. Constant defeat creates the perception that nothing can bring them down. What we don’t realise is that our responses and reinforced negative thoughts are the spiritual glue that holds the walls in place. Satan uses us to entrench his position.
Jericho can be defeated by praise.
As part of our participation, God demands that we wield only one weapon – the spiritual weapon of praise. We underestimate the magnitude of praise in our spiritual arsenal. The reality is that it can be the most powerful weapon in our arsenal. Praise accomplishes a number of things that aren’t visible in the natural. First, it brings the presence of God because He inhabits or is enthroned on the praises of His people. When we praise God – and especially as a sacrifice of praise in the face of adversity – we can believe absolutely that He will immediately be present. When God is present, He is also active. Our praise stirs God to action on our behalf. He manifests the things we praise Him for. When we praise Him as all-powerful, as an example, He presences Himself as all-powerful. God’s presence and response is directly related to our praise.
The second truth is that praise protects us from the enemy. To praise God is to surrender self. We stand before the enemy in God’s power alone, not in ours. Our praise is essentially a declaration that we cannot but God can and will. When self is absent and God is present, our weaknesses and vulnerabilities have no relevance. The enemy has no power to wound or attack us. In the presence of God, we are clothed in the robe or righteousness of Christ and the blood of the Lamb. Thirdly, our praise reminds the enemy that the power of God cannot be resisted. Our God is all-powerful and is in control of everything in heaven and earth, including the devil and his cohorts. Finally, our praise increases our faith. It takes our eyes off the impossible and focuses on the God of all things are possible.
Jericho must be destroyed and never rebuilt.
Today’s verse highlights a beautiful truth if we can only take hold of it. God commanded that everything and everyone in Jericho be utterly destroyed – with the exception of the ‘treasure’ it contained. That treasure is you and I. Like the gold and silver, we are consecrated to God and so are brought out of the destruction of the stronghold. He brought down the walls so that the treasure could be His, consecrated to Him alone and for His purposes. The message here is that there must be nothing left to defile what is precious to God. There must be no lingering trace of the old inhabitants to lay claim to what God calls His own. Every brick and stone raised up to separate God from what is His must be torn down. The stronghold of the past must be annihilated.
When we understand that we are a treasure consecrated to God – one He is willing to do battle to liberate – we see the significance of the curse spoken over Jericho’s walls. Spiritual strongholds are raised up against God. They create separation and alienate Him from those consecrated to Him. Where God has waged war and defeated the enemy, we must never raise those walls again. He intends His people to live in the promised land, a place of no separation where nothing hinders our relationship with Him. What is significant here is that what God Himself has torn down, no one should raise up again. To do so means we place ourselves back under the curse of sin and death. God alone is our stronghold. The things of the world have no relevance to a treasure consecrated to God and held safely in the palm of His hand.
Living beyond the ruins of Jericho.
We serve a gracious, loving God who is quick to act when we praise Him. It’s true that our Christian walk is a series of battles to take back the ground God has promised us. We constantly face our giants and discover remnants of the old life before salvation that must be destroyed. The ruins of Jericho are our constant reminder that in all our spiritual battles, God is our power for victory. The walls are torn down and will remain so if we live in praise and worship, continually giving thanks for the victories achieved and those still to come. His promises are ours, and as we learn to live in them, one at a time, we can be sure that His power and grace will remain with us. He brought down the walls of our Jericho, and He will be sure to finish the work He has begun.
Lord of all, our mighty, omnipotent God, we thank You that You have given us a lasting reminder of Your power and grace to those consecrated to You. Help us to listen the voice of the Spirit within and to be quick to obey. Reveal the traces of our strongholds that need to be destroyed. Empower us to constant praise and to give You the glory for each victory. Thank You that we are precious in Your sight, and that You are willing to fight to set us free and keep us free, living in the promises You have given. Your presence, Lord, is all we need.