Leaping over walls with God
“Joshua fit the battle of Jericho” it says in a well-known spiritual. As a matter of fact, Joshua did not really fight, he left things up to God. Walls can still be brought tumbling down in the same way nowadays—no matter how high or massive they are.
There were no walls around Jericho, scientists say, who compared biblical with archaeological finds. This is not surprising if you make the mistake of looking in the wrong century, other researchers argue. They have calculated where the snag in the Egyptian calendar is, which was also used in Palestine.
Whether or not the biblical account is historically accurate, the fall of the walls of Jericho symbolises a fundamental experience that people made with their God. That is why people started telling others about it and why history has spread over millennia and still serves as a useful and beneficial reference today.
The way into the promised land is clear
Who of us would not have his or her very own promised land they would like to enter into? A long cherished dream, a deep yearning, or the end of a distressing situation. However, often there is an obstacle blocking our way. It is powerful, threatening, and insurmountable. A fear, a pain, maybe anger.
How do we deal with it? From the Jericho experience we can gather three pieces of advice.
- Don’t start a war. It is true that the people who encircled the city walls at the time were warriors. But it was not a military campaign, but a religious procession. They did not march in military style but encircled the city at a measured pace, the Hebrew basic text says. Not the weapons of the soldiers, but the blowing of the ritual shofar by the priests—a kind of bugle—brought the walls down. As a matter of fact, Joshua had strictly forbidden them to raise even the slightest war cry in those six days!
- Remain true to yourself. The priests walked before the army, carrying the ark of the covenant that contained the two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments on them: it stood for the presence of God. This was an appeal and meant: stick to the basic values which you vowed to defend when you were baptised or confirmed. Stay in fellowship with God. Don’t do anything that could separate your soul from Him.
- Do what you have to do for as long as it takes. For six consecutive days the Israelites encircled the city of Jericho once a day, accompanied by seven priests carrying shofar horns. On the seventh day they encircled the city seven times. The point here is not the concrete number: seven symbolises completeness, perfection in the Bible. The Israelites resolutely walked the path that had been laid by God until the time was fulfilled.
“Great victories are achieved through courage,” someone once wrote. “Greater ones through love, and the greatest through perseverance.” But where do you get the patience you need so suddenly and usually at a time when you feel low and weak anyway. Here we can tap into a source called trust, trust in a force that is far superior to ours, namely trust in God. And you gain trust if you yourself show trust. And who else would we trust but God?
Music: “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho”, Choir and Orchestra of the New Apostolic Church Cape Town, live in London, 2009
Photo: Rafael Ben-Ari/Chameleons Eye