Faith Is the Victory That Overcomes the World
P. G. Mathew | Sunday, January 23, 2005
Copyright © 2005, P. G. Mathew
Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hand, along with its king and its fighting men."
By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.
When Joshua succeeded Moses as the new leader of Israel, God told him, "Joshua, be strong in the Lord and be careful to do everything I have commanded you." We cannot enjoy victory when we do not believe and do what God tells us. Faith means obedience. We cannot say we truly believe if we refuse to obey. Faith without works is dead; it is the devil's faith.
The apostle John declared in his first epistle, "This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith." Faith trusts in the living and true God and in his promises. Faith obeys God's commands exactly, immediately, and with great delight. And people with this kind of faith shall experience victory.
God told Joshua to be strong and courageous. "Do not be terrified," he said, "and be careful to do everything I have commanded you." Before God's people the walls of Jericho must collapse, for this was the promise of God himself. Nothing can stand before God.
As God's people, we have been delivered from our bondage to sin and are triumphant in the victory of Christ. If you are living a defeated life, then listen to the word of God, believe it, and you shall be delivered. It is the destiny of the church to be triumphant. Come out of the caves into which you have retreated. Arise! Though we face warfare, God is with us, and we shall not be put to shame.
Preparation for Victory
God requires us to do certain things before we engage in serious spiritual battle. In Joshua 3 and 4 we read how Israel miraculously crossed the mighty Jordan River. This refers to regeneration. God's people must be made alive by a mighty, supernatural, monergistic work of God. Then Joshua 5 says that all the Israelites were circumcised, which symbolizes baptism. By this, the people were declaring that they were not autonomous, but belonged to God as his covenant people. Thus, they surrendered themselves to God and submitted to him. That is what baptism means - identifying ourselves with the Lord. Then the Israelites celebrated the Passover, which stands for the Lord's Supper, enjoying fellowship with God.
Having done these things, what were the believing people of God to do next? Is there anything required of a Christian? Some people say, "I received Christ and that is the end of it." No! If we are people of God, we have a battle to fight, as our Lord commands us.
In Ephesians 6 Paul tells us, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (vv. 10-12). Notice the repetition of the word "against." We have many enemies - the devil, sin within us, and the world - and we must take our stand against them.
Christians are not to be passive, complacent, and retreating. The Christian life is not a life of ease in Zion; we face conflict every moment until we die. But take courage! The captain of the Lord's army is with us. Joshua 5:13-15 tells us that we are not alone, for God himself is with us. He is with those who submit to his government.
Are you one of his people? Then you will submit to the leadership of the Almighty God. And just as he dried up the Red Sea and the mighty Jordan, so shall he fight against Jericho and all the cities of Canaan. He shall defeat all your enemies, for they are his enemies as well.
Know the Enemy
Let us consider now the enemy that Israel faced. The city of Jericho is located ten miles northwest of the Dead Sea. Called Tell es-Sultan today, it derives its water from Ein es-Sultan, the spring of Sultan. Ancient Jericho was built on approximately ten acres of land, so in the time of Joshua it would have taken less than thirty minutes to go around the city once. It was a mighty fortress with thick, towering walls and gates that bolted to protect its inhabitants, who worshiped the moon God.
But the Israelites were not to fear the inhabitants of Jericho. In fact, the Scripture declares that these people were afraid of the Israelites! Satan wants us to fear our enemies, but we must not believe his lie. Yes, God's people are afraid when they have sinned. But the righteous are as bold as a lion.
The unbelievers of Jericho were terrified by the mighty power of the kingdom of God. In Joshua 2 we see Rahab confiding in the Israelite spies, "When we heard of it [how God dried up the Red Sea], our hearts melted and everyone's courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below" (v. 11). And when the spies returned, they told Joshua, "The Lord has surely given the whole land into our hands; all the people are melting in fear because of us" (2:24).
Not only had God dried up the Red Sea, but he had also recently dried up the mighty Jordan so that his people could cross over. News of these miracles came to the people of Canaan, and in Joshua 5:1 we read, "Now when all the Amorites kings west of Jordan and all the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the Lord had dried up the Jordan before the Israelites until we had crossed over, their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites."
Have you ever thought about this? This is speaking about the church, about those who trust in Jesus Christ. If we surrender to the captain of the Lord's army and obey him, we shall also have victory over our enemies.
Joshua 6:1says, "Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites." Now the people of Jericho were terrified. Having heard of the Lord drying up the Red Sea forty years before, and of the defeat of the mighty Amorite kings, Sihon and Og, then they received news of the latest miracle, the drying up of the mighty Jordan. They heard the Israelites had crossed over and were in the land; in fact, they were standing outside the walls of Jericho.
Unlike Rahab, the king of Jericho would not believe in the Lord and submit to him. Had he done so, I believe God would have saved that entire city. But he refused to surrender. He was trusting in his defenses to keep God out. He challenged God: "You cannot get in here! We have thick walls and powerful iron gates, barred and locked, to keep you out."
Have you acted like the king of Jericho, trying to keep God out of your life? The king of Jericho decided to oppose the heavenly captain of the Lord's army. He had the gates of Jericho shut tightly against the Lord and his people. But the Lord marches on, and he will never be diverted. He goes ever forward; who can resist him? At his coming, the Red Sea divides, the Jordan dries up, and mighty Amorite kings are utterly defeated. How can the gates of Jericho prevail against him? Every opposition must fall before him. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.
The Bible says, "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith" (1 Peter 5:8-9). We cannot successfully resist the devil when we have disobeyed God. Why does the church not enjoy victory? Because we have sinned. Faith means obedience to God's will to the minutest detail. And if we resist the devil while standing firm in our faith, he shall flee from us. "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony" (Revelation 12:11).
The Divine Command
Joshua faced a problem: How could this fortified city with its great walls be defeated? Of course, we can come up with various strategies from our carnal minds. We can consult generals who may tell us, "You could bring a ladder to climb up the wall, or build a ramp up to the top of the wall. Or you could use battering rams to put a hole in the wall, or dig a tunnel underneath the wall and get into the city that way. Or you could always try starving the people to death with a long siege, or use subterfuge to get inside."
But Christians are commanded, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not onto your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6). We are not to solve problems by relying on our own understanding. We must look to God, for he alone is the way. The personal God communicates with his people and will tell them what to do.
What is the way of the Lord? In Isaiah 55:8 God tells us, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." How many times have we listened to our own counsel, or sought counsel from others, but not from God? The way of God seems foolish to the natural man. But to us who believe, it is the power of God unto salvation.
What was God's command to Joshua? "March around the city during the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. When the wall collapses, the people should go up straight into the city from every direction." So we see no ladder, no battering rams, no tunnel, no siege, and no subterfuge - just walking around the city. It sounds like nonsense, but it was the word of the Lord. And when we believe it and act upon it in every detail, we shall have complete victory.
We must listen carefully to our commander's instructions, for this is the Lord's war, not ours. He is the Warrior/Savior who will never leave us nor forsake us. Let us, then, look carefully at his strategy.
It is God who gives the victory. In 6:2 we read, "The Lord said to Joshua, 'See. . . .'" In other words, "Behold! Look at it with the eyes of faith!" The Lord continued, "I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men." What does this mean? That salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Yes, we are called to fight, but it is God who gives the victory: "Joshua, I have given it to you. That is my promise; hold on to it."
Exact obedience is required. God said, "March around the city once for six days." As we said, this would only take about thirty minutes a day. Then he said, "March around the city seven times on the seventh day." We must never try to manipulate, negotiate, delay, or deny the word of God. Faith is obedience to God's commands in all their fullness. We will never taste victory if we do not walk by faith.
We must have patience. We may want to ask, "Lord, I know you are captain of the Lord's army and can defeat Jericho in an instant. You created the whole universe by just speaking. Why, then, do you take seven days to conquer Jericho?" You see, God tests our faith. We cannot tell him how he should do things; he tells us what to do, and we are asked to believe and obey. Then we will enjoy the victory that he achieves in our behalf.
We have to be patient. God promised that Abraham would have children, but it was twenty-five years before Isaac was born. We are by nature impatient, but God wants us to trust patiently as we wait for him to act.
God demands order. We cannot simply march in any manner we want. God tells us exactly how we must do it. First, the armed men with swords in their hands are to go; then, seven priests continually blowing the jubilee trumpets. The idea here is that they are announcing the coming of the king. Next comes the ark, carried on the shoulders of the priests, and finally the rear guard, who again are armed with swords. That is the order established by God, and if we change it, God will be displeased, and there will be no victory.
I hope we can apply this to our own lives. When we are impatient or reject divine government, we shall not see victory.
God demands discipline. God also told the people that they should not speak; there should be absolute silence as they marched around Jericho. One of the most difficult things for humans to do is to keep their mouths shut. James tells us of the impossibility of disciplining the tongue; only the Spirit of God can do it. Yet here these people were told, "You cannot speak even one word." Can you imagine thousands upon thousands of people walking and not speaking one word? Such discipline comes from the fear of the Lord.
The shout of victory. Finally, on the seventh day, when they had completed the seventh trip around the city, the priests were to give a long blast on the trumpets as a signal. And Joshua, the visible commander, would also give a signal, at which time all the people together were to give a great shout. This shout was designed to intimidate the citizens of Jericho, as well as to encourage the people of God. So there is a time to be silent and a time to shout.
This is the shout of victory, as we read in Numbers 23:21: "No misfortune is seen in Jacob, no misery observed in Israel. The Lord their God is with them; the shout of the King is among them." But we find another shout in 1 Samuel 4. At that time Israel was not living in obedience to the Lord, so they had been defeated by the Philistines. So the priests brought the ark into the camp and everyone gave a great shout, but nothing happened. The point is, we can make all the noise we want, but it means nothing unless we are moving in obedience to God's order.
God saves the faithful. God told Joshua what would happen at the sound of that shout: "Then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in" (6:5). Of course, not every part of the wall collapsed; Rahab's section was spared. (PGM) Every time God comes, he comes either to judge or to save. And God had given Joshua divine instruction to save Rahab and all her family.
Do not take what is God's. In verse 19 the people were given specific instruction about the plunder: "All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury." Jericho is the firstfruit of the cities of Canaan, so it belongs to the Lord. God gives a clear warning: Do not steal what is the Lord's.
The Lord will destroy his enemies. Here again God gives explicit instructions: "Kill everything that breathes in the city of Jericho, then burn the whole city." Oh, this is very difficult for modern people to hear. We think that God is always nice and will never do anything but soothe and comfort us. But the same God says, "Kill everything."
So we read, "They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it - men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys" (6:21); "Then they burned the whole city and everything in it" (6:24). What right does God have to do all this? He has every right, for he is God, Lord, Judge, and Savior, and everything he does is just. I hope we will get rid of our wrong views of Jesus. We must tremble before this Christ, the captain of the Lord's army, who stands in our midst with a drawn sword.
Before they crossed the Jordan, all the Israelites agreed to be obedient to the Lord. Is that not also what every Christian says at baptism? The divine demand had been given: "You must do everything that I tell you. Do not turn to the right or to the left." Now in Joshua 1:16-18 we read their response: "Then they answered Joshua, 'Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey your words, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and be courageous!'" This is theocracy. God governs his people, and they say to him, "We will obey."
Where there is faith, there is order and organization. Faith results in unity, not in autonomy, rebellion, disagreement, or negotiation. God's people are to submit to and obey their God and his delegated agents. We see such order in Joshua 6: God spoke to Joshua; Joshua spoke to the priests. He also spoke to the people, and the people did what God commanded through these delegated authorities.
The kingdom of God is on the move, coming to conquer. The King of glory has come to bind the strong man and liberate his hostages, like Rahab. So the people believed and obeyed even when the word sounded irrational, for they knew it was God's word, which is powerful to save.
First Samuel 15:22 tells us, "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams." We will never see victory until we operate on the basis of faith expressed in obedience to God.
Though the Lord revealed everything to Joshua, it appears that Joshua told the people only what they needed to know for each day. This was a test of their faith, but faith is the victory. They believed and obeyed the word that came to them daily. Then they went back to the camp, having circled the city once in the prescribed order, in the presence of the ark. Notice, the ark is emphasized; it is spoken of nine times in this chapter. That speaks about the central importance of the presence of God.
On the seventh day everyone got up very early. It seems the people still did not know what would happen in the end. They were to circle seven times, and at the trumpet blast and at the command of Joshua, give a great shout. They had been told, "the Lord has given you the city," but they did not know how it was going to happen.
This too was a trial of faith and patience. These people had been directed to circle the city a total of thirteen times in seven days. Each time they circled, nothing happened. The walls stood there, mocking them and challenging them to come in. This happened the first day, the second day, the third day, and so on. They marched the eleventh time, the twelfth time - nothing happened. But still they believed.
Faith is the victory! God said it, we believe it, and that settles it. No matter what the scientists and the psychologists and the philosophers say, we believe what God has spoken. So these people did not become weary. They trusted God, knowing that he who dried up the mighty Jordan was mighty to conquer Jericho.
Then, at the right time, at the proper signal, with great discipline, on the thirteenth circling, they shouted. And what happened? To their amazement, the walls collapsed, and each man from every direction went straight ahead into the city. They put everyone but Rahab and her family to death, and burned the city.
What a clear picture of the goodness and severity of God! We must keep both in mind. The judgment of God was long coming for the Canaanites and the Amorites. In Genesis 15:16 God said to Abraham, "The sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure." God allowed hundreds of years to pass for their iniquity to become full to overflowing before judgment. The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, and he gives it to whomever he wills. The inhabitants of Canaan were wicked idolaters who mocked the true God and his laws, which are written on every human heart. Although they knew the true God, they suppressed the truth and refused to worship him who is the Creator. Instead, they worshiped demons and practiced all forms of lawlessness. But finally, the time came for God to judge them.
Paul says to the church in Romans 11:22, "Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness." God is not a teddy bear, a mere figment of our human minds. He is the objective God. And the Bible says, "The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness" (Romans 1:18). Yet the same chapter tells us that in the gospel a righteousness from God is also revealed to those who believe (v. 17).
God is holy, but he is also love. He judges, but he also saves. God saved Rahab and her family because they trusted in the God of Israel. But he destroyed every other man, woman, and child of Jericho because they chose to oppose him and not surrender to him as Rahab did.
We must understand one thing: We cannot successfully resist the captain of the Lord's army. Finally, God will win, and all sinners will be sent to hell forever. Some say, "God loves sinners but he hates sin," as though sin exists outside of sentient beings. But who does God send to hell, sin or sinners?
Yet God also saves sinners. Consider the captain in Joshua 5:13. He has a drawn sword in his hand. Do not try to take that sword out of his hand; it is impossible. But look again at his hands. They are the hands of the crucified Jesus, who received from God the Father the just punishment for the sin of all the elect of God. Rahab was an Amorite, a wicked prostitute. But Christ died for her and for all the Rahabs of the world. She received mercy on the basis of faith while her fellow citizens experienced the severity of God's judgment.
Hebrews 11:30 says, "By faith the walls of Jericho fell." The people believed and marched by faith in God's word. Verse 31 says, "By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient."
The same gospel comes to us today. Instead of "Walk around thirteen times," we are told, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." This sounds foolish and offensive to some people. But let me tell you, only those who kiss the Son, those who surrender to the only Savior, Jesus Christ, shall give a mighty shout.
Faith Is the Victory
What, then, should we do? March on with God. Pray earnestly and study God's word. Live by faith, obeying his commands implicitly. The city of man shall fall, but the city of God shall stand forever. And just as the priests continually were sounding the trumpets, let us continually proclaim the good news of the gospel, that God in Christ has come to save all the Rahabs of our city. Christ died for our sins and was raised for our justification. There is a righteousness of God to be received by faith by the ungodly. Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.
Whose hearts should melt with fear? Not ours, for our sin and guilt are dealt with. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus; therefore we shall not fear. But the hearts of unbelievers rightfully melt with fear, for in spite of their power, fame, and wealth, they live in fear of death every day - not only physical death, but also eternal death.
In Christ, God's people will triumph in life and in death. Therefore, be a Jonah and proclaim to your city that God saves sinners. God shall save his people through you. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.
Acts 18:9 says, "One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision: 'Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent.'" If we are silent when God commands us to witness, we are committing a sin. We have a great obligation to declare the gospel. "'Do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city.'"
Let us live by faith in the word of God. Second Corinthians 10:4 tells us, "The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds." We are not going up against a fortress, but against human minds that are shut tight, refusing to open. But Paul says, "We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ" (v. 5).
In Acts 16 we see a woman named Lydia of Thyatira, a seller of purple cloth, sitting by the river. Her heart was shut tight and bolted, but when Paul preached, God opened her heart to receive the gospel and be saved.
Colossians 2:15 says, "And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." Let us believe this truth that God is speaking to us. Let us add faith to the Scripture, and God will deliver us. By the cross, Jesus Christ has defeated all our enemies. That is why we need not crawl into a cave. We are God's people - the conquering Gideons of this world.
Isaiah 54 tells us the barren shall bear many children, by the miracle of God:
"Sing, O barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband," says the Lord. "Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. Do not be afraid; you will not suffer shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband - the Lord Almighty is his name - the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth" (vv. 1-5).
Let us, then, put on the whole armor of God and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and boldly proclaim the gospel. Let us march on and fight hard, knowing that faith is the victory that overcomes the world. Then we shall see and rejoice greatly in the salvation of the Lord.
Copyright © 2005, P. G. Mathew
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