Roaring Springs and Matador
United Methodist Churches
June 4, 2000
Rev. Monte Wike, Pastor
“RAISED VOICES, FLATTENED WALLS”
The Effects of Praise, the Success of Small Increments
A Look at Leadership, #4
GREATER TEXT: Joshua chapters 4, 5 and 6.
TEXT: Joshua 6: 16, “And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city.”
I. THE BENEFITS OF TRADITION
A. REMEMBERING THE RIVER
Joshua 4: 5-7, “And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take you up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.”
Recalling successful ventures reinforces future daring. It was essential that the people not only crossed the swollen Jordan, but remembered it. A man from each tribe was asked to wait until all the people had crossed over, and just before the priests were cleared to depart, to enter the river bed and find the biggest stone they could carry and bring it out to the west bank. There the mound of stones would rise above flood level for an everlasting memorial to the wisdom of God and the power of His Word.
Giving thanks for past success is not only common courtesy, but establishes a rhythm, a pattern of gratitude following satisfactory performance. This works for God, churches, fellow workers, families, students, teachers, governments, anywhere there are positions of leadership and followship. Remembering a job well-done, and giving/getting praise for it strengthens the bond and supplies the energy for future undertakings. Praise is powerful, praise is positive, praise is promotional.
B. REESTABLISHING THE COVENANT
Joshua 5: 5-7, “Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised. For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: unto whom the LORD sware that he would not show them the land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey. And their children, whom he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way.”
Not only is remembering and praise beneficial, but so is commitment to a purpose, a covenant with tradition. For the four-hundred years that the people of Israel were slaves, they had been faithful to circumcise week-old males. They kept the covenant, even in captivity. They failed to do so when they wandered forty years in confusion and aimless drifting. They were more concerned with staying alive than staying holy. The older generation died off, the younger generation did not even try to keep the covenant God had made with Abraham.
But once the signal had been given to actually cross the river into the promise land, they had to resurrect the covenant and laws and all males received circumcision. This seems a trivial matter to us today, but it was of vital importance to the Jews, because this was the outward symbolism of their Jewishness. They were not just warriors, but the people of God going into the land God had promised, to live as God directed, to obey his commands and directives.
“Raised Voices, Flattened Walls”, p.2
No matter the endeavor, it is worth while to stop occasionally and take stock of our heritage, to look again at the great under-lying principles upon which we operate. Are we staying true to our goals, or are we opportunists, constantly looking for that which will work or bring gain.
C. THE LAST MEAL OF MANNA
Joshua 5: 11-12, “And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day. And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.”
At the same time, there are some traditions that are not worth keeping, some essentials from the past that are now passé`. They were once useful, now they are pitifully out of date.
This was true of the manna. God had faithfully sustained an entire nation for an entire generation on this simple food. They could not have existed without it, complain and gripe though they did. But having crossed the Jordan, many things became new. Suddenly available to them were the stored supplies of grain of a fertile land and frugal people. They were beginning to enjoy the spoils of conquest in just a day’s time.
Leaders must be quick to discern when something is useful, when it is not. When a tradition should be carried on, when it should be laid aside. When times have changed, and things that were not available at one time suddenly become plentiful. Many churches have failed on this very aspect alone. They continue to feed on yesterday’s manna instead of today’s crop.
II. LOOKING AT A PROBLEM FROM ALL ANGLES
A. THE EFFECT OF FEAR
Joshua 6: 1-2, “Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in. And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.”
Fear is a paralyzer. It halts all progress, rational thinking, and productive activity. It dominates and controls. Jericho was a product of such fear, and it was about to increase. Since the gates had been shut while trying to contain the spies, they had not been opened since. No one could come or go. There was no peace, no commerce, no one traveling. They were worried sick about the attack they knew was coming from the successful Jews. Every messenger who happened to slip outside the walls brought back only the worst news: The flooded Jordan was no barrier to the working of their God. The stored supplies of corn were being consumed by the millions filling the Jordan valley. And now a band of soldiers, and some trumpet-blowing priests, were quietly approaching the city. They could not figure out the reason.
Any leader who works from fear or in fear is doomed to fail. Keeping subordinates in line with fear will never do what encouragement will do. However, fear can be an effective tool to use against an enemy. It can incapacitate him effectively. It can heighten your control over him. It can lead to disastrous decisions and delusions.
B. WALK AROUND THE CITY
Joshua 6: 3-4, 10, “And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets.” “And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout.”
Leadership requires a faceted knowledge of many disciplines, abilities, possibilities, dangers, procedures and outlooks. A leader must be many things, have a general and over-all knowledge of the entire operation, be able to relate his vision and dream to the followers in such a manner that they will be enthusiastic and willing. Nothing accomplishes this better than a walk around the situation. To look at the problem from every angle, to ascertain that nothing is hidden or disguised or unmanageable.
“Raised Voices, Flattened Walls”, p.3
Repeating this procedure is not boring or a waste of time, it was becoming a matter of intimate conditioning, of specialized knowledge, of worrisome presence. Now the enemy was expecting them. Now the walls were top-heavy with curious spectators, and the numbers grew every day. During the six days of circling the city, every avenue of escape was scrutinized, every possible route of approach memorized, and the scarlet thread hanging so proudly and bravely from Rahab’s window recognized.
Nothing seemed to fit the usual patterns for warfare. There were no preparations for a long siege, no battering rams were manufactured, no piles of armaments. Just a mixed parade of armed soldiers, priests of the feared-God seven of which were blowing trumpets, four others bearing a curious box of some kind, followed by a great horde of people walking ominously silent. Just one trip early each day, and then back to camp.
C. KNOWING SOMETHING THE ENEMY DOESN’T
Joshua 6: 5, “And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.”
The enemy could make no sense of the daily parade. They could not understand a war with no visual build-up of materiel and armament. They could discern no plan. They could not possibly have known or understood that their city would fall without an arrow flying, a sword clanging or a shield swaying. Or that God had a plan and relayed it to the people, and they never for a moment doubted or balked. They had seen God at work, they were confident He could do it again.
A plan is a potent weapon. A God-given plan is infallible. Following God’s plan means success for the people. Opposing or altering His plan, making up our own, or working without one invites disaster.
They knew in advance how long the march would be, when to expect the final trumpet blast, when to shout, what the outcome would be. They were informed beforehand, included in the details, part of the plan.
Something else the enemy could not have understood was the silence. The people did not even whisper to themselves, there was no joviality, banter or camaraderie. They marched in absolute silence each trip they made in circling the city. The trumpets were the only noise, more of a tempo-setting than any kind of threat. The reason would become very clear on the seventh trip of the seventh day, when there would come a great, continuous blast of the ram’s horns, and a mighty roaring shout from the people.
III. THE SHOUT OF VICTORY
A. THE IMPORTANCE OF INCREMENTS.
Joshua 6: 11-14, “So the ark of the LORD compassed the city, going about it once: and they came into the camp, and lodged in the camp. And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. And seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually, and blew with the trumpets: and the armed men went before them; but the rereward came after the ark of the LORD, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets. And the second day they compassed the city once, and returned into the camp: so they did six days.”
The story of the fall of Jericho is a study in repetition, progressive and compounded approach, and a final gigantic push at the end. Doing a task again and again is the principle behind the massive moving power of a drop of water. It is the story of our days, of seasons, of marriages, of farming, of success in any venture. Nothing happens without effort, often tedious and repetitious. One may not see an immediate change, may even become discouraged, but when the plan of God is precisely followed, drudgery may become necessary to insure success.
Repetition of an act is a solid Biblical principle. It is called “faithfulness”, “commitment” and “growth”, and is richly illustrated in the story of Naaman, the leper, who had to dip seven times in the River Jordan to cure his leprosy. Jesus often taught the same lesson in a series of parables, especially about the sower, so that repetition would embed the principle. The New Testament has parallel accounts of many of the great deeds of Jesus in separate Gospels, so that understanding could come from several sources.
“Slowly, but surely” is an ageless expression, but still true today. Continuance in an endeavor will bring results. Remaining steady at the job day by day, year by year soon adds up to a life-time of achievement. Twelve times (once a day for six days, six times on the seventh) the city was circled with no visible change in anything, except on that last day, as the parade continued hour upon hot, muggy, hour, there must not have been one soul left in the city proper.
“Raised Voices, Flattened Walls”, p.4
Everyone was perhaps up on the walls, leaning over the edge to see what was going on. God could have easily planned the march just for this, to add weight to the outer edge and help topple the walls. This is not in any means to belittle God’s miracle power, but to make even more sense of His plan. I feel also that the cadence on the last day set up a vibration within the walls that helped to weaken them and make them vulnerable to destruction.
B. A TIME TO SHOUT
Joshua 6: 16, “And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city.”
Shouting is an activity of excitement, either of celebration or of warning. We are accustomed to this at sporting events, think it is proper and necessary. But we are hesitant and fearful of this as a church function, because we feel that God, or at least our neighbor, would be offended. But when we have something exciting, something worthwhile to celebrate, a shout of praise is not only proper, but encouraged. Listed below are some scriptures that illustrate how appropriate shouting is at certain times in worshipping and praising the Lord:
I Samuel 4: 5-7, “And when the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again. And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the LORD was come into the camp. And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore.”
Ezra 3: 11-13, “And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice; and many shouted aloud for joy: So that the people could not discern the noise of the shout of joy from the noise of the weeping of the people: for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the noise was heard afar off.”
Psalm 5: 11, “But let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee.”
Psalm 32: 10-11, 33: 1, “Many sorrows shall be to the wicked: but he that trusteth in the LORD, mercy shall compass him about. Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart. Rejoice in the LORD, O ye righteous: for praise is comely for the upright.”
A shout does not need to be a manufactured thing, like “Two-bits, four-bits...stand up and holler,” it does not require a “shout-leader.” It is most sincere when the entire crowd rises to its feet with some super play at a ball game, and together celebrate the victory. I would hate to think that we have more to shout about from football than from salvation! I am not about to suggest that we all “stand up and holler!” But I will say again that open worship and praise, a swelling anthem of joy before the Lord is some of the sweetest music we could send to His ears!
These faithful, sweaty people had been anticipating this moment of victory for seven long days. It had been promised to them before they started the march. They could feel the excitement building as the crowd grew around the brink of the wall, and the goal of victory was getting nearer and nearer. They had suppressed all talk to concentrate on one glorious cacophony of sound and celebration at the trumpet signal.
C. FALLING WALLS
Joshua 6: 20, “So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.”
How does praise bring down walls? In this case, it was part of the miracle of God combined with the vibration of the march cadence. The shout set up the final tremor of vibrations, that, combined with the outward-leaning weight
“Raised Voices, Flattened Walls”, p.5
of the people, brought the walls down. Not in a collapsed heap, but folded outward like a cardboard box flattens when the ends are unfolded.
Praise loosens the natural inhibitions that people have, the supposed “reverence” and opens up their hearts to the exciting things that God has for them. There was in this story a long time of silence, but when the time of shouting was announced, then it was boisterous and significant. A simple “thanks”, and a memorial pile of stones may be sufficient at times, but it does not begin to express the joy after forty years of wilderness wandering and the first real conquest in the new land!
Praise is not inward, but outward. It is expressive, not inhibiting. Exactly like a smile will beget another smile, praise will beget praise, joy will produce joy, a shout will celebrate victory.