Summary: How The Battles of The Lord are to be won.
The Siege of Jericho
One of the first principles of war is to search our, discover and overthrow your enemies strategic strongholds. There are certain geographical locations the control of which can mean the difference between winning and loosing battles and ultimately the war itself. Thus when the allied forces landed on the beaches of France it was vitally important that they identified the bunkers from which the German army controlled the coast-line and overthrew the troops who occupied those bunkers. Once they did that they beaches would then be in the control of the allied forces and more troops could be brought across the channel to France from when they could then make inroads into the rest of German occupied Europe. Hence whilst every battle to regain occupied territory is important there are some that are absolutely vital if the campaign is to succeed.
As we have seen in our studies thus far in the book of Joshua, the children of Israel, God’s covenant people, have entered into the land of Canaan, that land that God had promised to them. However whilst they were in the land they did not at this point possess the land. In order for them to enter into the experience of the full enjoyment of their promised inheritance it was necessary for them to confront and conquer their enemies who occupied that land.
And this evening we enter a new section of the book of Joshua, a section which begins at 5/13 and goes through to the end of chapter 12 in which we have the record of how the people of God applied themselves to the task of overcoming their enemies and taking possession of the land.
And the inaugural battle, the battle for Jericho, was indeed a most important battle in many ways. It was a vitally important from a Tactical point of view. Jericho stood at the foot of the Western Hills of Canaan. If the Israelites were going to control the crucial area of the hill country from which they could then begin to fan out into the rest of the land, then they were going to have to take the fortress city of Jericho which lay at the foot of the Hills and then that of Ai which lay further up the mountainside. So the battle for Jericho was crucial from a Tactical point of view. It was also crucial from a Morale point of view. This would be the Israelites first experience of conflict. Defeat here would have serious negative repercussions upon the people, probably causing them to despair and turn back. They certainly wouldn’t be in any mood to have another go at taking the city of their first attempt failed. It was also vitally important, from a Spiritual point of view in that, as we are going to see, it would be a real test of their faith in and obedience to God. Failure to take Jericho would result in them being unable to take possession of the land and thus unable to enjoy the blessings which lay before them.
Although this passage records actual historical events which took place over 4,000 years ago, you will discover that there are spiritual principles contained within this narrative which far from being bound to and applicable only to that generation of God’s people transcend the boundaries of time and of culture and are still relevant and applicable to us, God’s people today.
Lets look at this narrative then together. The first thing I want you to notice with me this evening is
1) The Enemy Stronghold Israel Faced: that had to be conquered
As I have already intimated in my introduction, Jericho was the first occupied city that Israel encountered in her campaign to take possession of Canaan. As far as cities go it wasn’t a particularly big city. Archaeological investigations have unearthed the city boundaries and we are reliably told that in area it probably covered no more than eight acres of land and contained somewhere around 20,000 people. But although it wasn’t a large nor hugely populated city it was nevertheless a well-fortified city with a strong military presence. In keeping with the custom of cities which were located close to borders of other lands, Jericho was built to withstand invasion by enemy forces. It was surrounded on all sides by two walls of defence. The first was about twelve feet high, the second built about fifteen feet back from the first and running parallel with it the whole way round the city was over 30 feet high and the two walls were joined together by large pieces of very smooth polished stone running at an angle of 45degrees from the lower wall to the higher. This of course not only made it extremely difficult for enemy soldiers to get from the outer lower wall to the inner wall it also made any who tried to do so easy targets for the archers within the city. Here and there around the wall there were huge gates which were the only means of entrance or exit from the city and these gates were reinforced with iron and once firmly secured from the once closed, it was extremely difficult for enemy forces to penetrate the city. In human terms, once closed up against a siege from hostile forces, Jericho was impregnable. It was a formidable stronghold. And yet Israel had to conquer this city if they were going to enjoy the blessings of their inheritance. And when they came to the city they found it, not with its gates open welcoming them in, but with its gates firmly shut with the intention of keeping them out. The inhabitants of Jericho had no intention whatsoever of making things easy for the Israelites. They had no intention of surrendering their city to these people. The Battle for Jericho had to be fought, the enemy had to be attacked and destroyed, the city had to be taken if the blessings were to be enjoyed.