What walls need to come down in your world? Perhaps it’s a wall of division. Perhaps it is an addiction. Patterns. Habits. What impossible obstacle is keeping you from fully living for God. As we face transitions in life, obstacles can get in the way.
Impossible walls are long odds. The Canaanites built Jericho as a gateway fortress to their land. Invading enemies must deal with the great walled city. You could not bypass it. Maybe you have sins of the past which keep catching up with you and until you deal with them, you are going to live a life of excuse making, holding back. Jericho could not be ignored if the people are to ever find the peace of the promised land. Yet it was impossible.
The walls were a combination of walls retaining a hillside with a wall on top, the hillside ascending and another thick wall…a 20 foot wall, a 20 foot wall and another 15 foot wall… In addition there was a spring inside the city so water would never be an issue. In addition the harvest had just been taken inside the city (Joshua 3:15). With plenty of food and water, Jericho could have held out for several years. Long odds for such a fortress to be taken. God can overcome the long odds….have faith, that’s all he’s asking. Faith is putting feet on what you believe and marching around even with impossible odds.
A factor that holds us back from marching around impossible walls ~ Looking foolish. What a strange plan God gave Joshua and the Israelites. Try hearing the story of the Fall of the Walls of Jericho through the eyes of a child. In my younger days of Sunday School the march around the walls was created, the wonderful pictures. the plan sounds more like the half time show of a football game: March around the field 7 times, blow the horns, do a twirl, shout a victory cheer. As a kid I imagined marching around with the people of Jericho for no other reason than God said to do it; and it was fun; and it made me smile. Josh 6:3-5 is the choreography: march six days, with the Ark, seven priests, seventh time blow the horns, shout and conquer…
March for God before the impossible walls come down and you may think you look foolish. Why are you going to church? How come you are no longer _________? How do you over-come looking foolish: enjoy it like a child. Becoming a Christian is much like having a second childhood. That reminds me, months ago Dottie told me she would like to contribute to the church by fingerpainting. Charlena, Linda, use her, or maybe she could teach a group of adults… Start being obedient to God even when facing an impossible wall and people are going to think you are a nut, “quit talking about Jesus,” they might say, but by the time you get to the seventh time around the city they will figure out you aren’t going anywhere…
Two keys to help when you feel foolish in doing what God says to do:
1) God said he was going to give them the city. READ Josh 6:2. Note the past tense: “I have delivered.” Not “I will deliver.” God speaks of Jericho as having already been defeated. God is saying, “It’s a done deal. Those walls are coming down. It’s just a matter of time.” That shouldn’t surprise anyone who believes in God. He speaks and it is done. In a real sense, the battle was over before it was started. God promised to deliver the city, and he made good on his promise. Anybody who turns to the Lord is saved. It’s a done deal. Peace is yours. Start marching around the wall keeping you from complete peace and it’s done. You may look or feel foolish, but his promise is certain. You want peace? It’s yours. Start marching around the obstacle that is keeping you from peace.
2) God put himself in the middle. For those of you who were here, remember a few weeks ago the Triple AAA God. God is ahead of us, among us, after us. The Ark was the representation of God himself. Listen to Josh. 6:4 READ. Look foolish for God and he’s with you. The ark represented the very presence of God with his people. Putting the ark out front was like God saying, “I’m leading this parade.”
Impossible walls only tumble when God is leading the parade. Robert Morrison, an early missionary, was a passenger on a ship to China. One day the captain asked sarcasticly: “What do you think you’re going to do? Convert China?” “No,” came the quiet reply. “I don’t think I’ll ever convert China. I think God will.” That is the faith that brought down the walls of Jericho. That is the only way impossible walls will fall in our lives: “I won’t, but God will.”
God can do anything, anytime, anywhere of his choosing. Amen. But he seems to want us to engage with him through that hard thing called perseverance.
One person said, “It takes two wings for an eagle to fly. If an eagle were to try to fly with just one wing he would only spin around in circles on the ground. The same is true with many people who are trying to soar spiritually on their faith, but have not added patience. These just keep going around in circles, getting more and more frustrated and kicking up a lot of dust.” (Rick Joyner).
Patience. Perseverance. God did not make faith in the form of a magic wand in which we point the wand at the impossible wall and God is at our beckon call to make it fall down instantly. God wants to engage our hearts through perseverance, patiently marching seven times around the wall. Read Josh 6 and you’ll see the activity of the people day by day… like hiking on a trail miles away high on a ridge and you can see the lake over several ridges off in the distance, knowing you will go down, up, down, up and down once more. The people know the walls will come down and the city will be theirs, but they patiently march for 7 days, 7 days of getting weary, 7 days of looking foolish, yet 7 days of being led by God, 7 days of walking in faith knowing God has already given them victory. Keep marching, knowing the peace of God is yours because he has promised us, and the perseverance helps prepare you and shape you. If you read the rest of Joshua 6, you discover that God’s promises include activity.
Why did the Wall Fall. The people acted in Spite of Doubts. A great definition of faith: Faith is belief plus unbelief and acting on the belief part. Everyone agrees belief is involved in faith. You have to believe something before you can have faith. If you go to a doctor, you must believe he can help you. Before you step into a plane, you’ve got to believe it can fly.
Some people stop their definition of faith as belief plus nothing else. Faith to them is pure 100% belief without any doubt. That might work if you never do anything. But in this world it’s hard to arrive at 100% certainty. You hope the doctor can help you, but you could get worse. You hope the plane will hold you up, but a disaster could happen. People who truly believe faith means 100% certainty are paralyzed because doubt is always mixed in with our belief!
If you are waiting for absolute certainty before you act in faith, you are going to have a very short walk with God, seldom taking any risks. Consider the big decisions of life. You have an opportunity to go to school. But it’s been a while since you have been to school. You have fears you can do the work, fears you can pay for it, fears it will help improve yourself, and you don’t even trust yourself that much. So you are stuck. When you survey your friends, you guessed it, some say go for it and other say it will be a waste. At night you lie awake tossing and turning, first going one way and then another. You don’t have 100% certainty and you don’t know of any way to get 100% certainty. Your prayer to God for a lightning bolt from heaven to give you 100 % assurance never comes. You hope, you pray, you seek guidance, but 100% assurance is elusive.
God told Joshua and the Israelits that the walls would fall down, but they still had to do the marching. That’s “acting on the belief part.”
What is faith? In the big decisions of life, faith is not waiting for 100% certainty. Faith is wavering between belief and unbelief, doubt and assurance, hope and despair, and finally, hesitantly, acting on the belief part. Back in 1983 when Sally and I packed everything we owned into a U-Haul and started down the road to California for me to study to become a pastor, and within half a mile down the freeway the U-haul started swaying back and forth, believe me, my faith that we were doing the right thing was pretty small.
Many people think “living by faith” means staying in the “Belief” column until you get certainty. That’s not “living by faith;” As one person called it, that’s “stalling by faith." Living by faith means acting on the belief part. It means taking a step of faith, however small, however halting, however unsure of yourself you may be.
Can you imagine the scene as the Israelites marched around Jericho? Thousands line up the first day to march around the city. The odds are long. They must have felt foolish. Yet God was before them and the promise of victory gave at least a measure of assurance. Nothing happens the first day. Don’t tell me there were not doubters among the crowd. The next day and the next and the next, nothing, nothing, nothing. The perseverance as the people anticipate victory surely fluctuates between belief and doubt. On the 7th day, on the 7th trip around the city, the horns blow, the people shout, nnd in one miraculous moment, “the walls came a tumblin’ down."
That’s how faith works. Surely there were doubters? /critics. Probably some complaining. These are real people who are tramping around in the hot sand day after day. Don’t you think there were some folks marching around looking obedient but had a healthy dose of skepticism? But they did it. That’s “acting on the belief part.” And when they took the step of faith, God honored it and the walls of Jericho.
The real battle of Jericho was not with the Canaanites. The real battle was in the hearts of the people of God. Faith is to act on the belief part when facing impossible walls. The odds may be long, the fear of looking foolish may pull you more into the skeptical side of the equation, the fear of having to persevere and not see instant results tells your brain to not risk it. Yet God says he is with you, and God says the victory is already yours. Faith doesn’t mean you get rid of all doubts, it only means you act on the belief part. Faith is obedience even though there is always an element of doubt. March forward in faith, knowing the impossible walls will come a tumblin’ down.
Note: As I keep considering this message, another point I might have developed a little bit is that faith often a group response to God. The Israelites were faithful together. ~ Pastor Carl
The following is a note from http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/cm/v21/n2/the-walls-of-jericho that gives more details about the actual construction of the walls of Jericho, with an illustration below of a reconstruction of the wall.
"The mound, or “tell” of Jericho was surrounded by a great earthen rampart, or embankment, with a stone retaining wall at its base. The retaining wall was some four to five meters (12–15 feet) high. On top of that was a mudbrick wall two meters (six feet) thick and about six to eight meters (20–26 feet) high.4 At the crest of the embankment was a similar mudbrick wall whose base was roughly 14 meters (46 feet) above the ground level outside the retaining wall (see diagram). This is what loomed high above the Israelites as they marched around the city each day for seven days. Humanly speaking, it was impossible for the Israelites to penetrate the impregnable bastion of Jericho.
"Within the upper wall was an area of approximately six acres, while the total area of the upper city and fortification system was 50% larger, or about nine acres. Based on the archaeologist’s rule of thumb of 200 persons per acre, the population of the upper city would have been about 1,200. However, from excavations carried out by a German team in the first decade of this century, we know that people were also living on the embankment between the upper and lower city walls. In addition, those Canaanites living in surrounding villages would have fled to Jericho for safety. Thus, we can assume that there were several thousand people inside the walls when the Israelites came against the city."