Gems from Jericho: Learning to Overcome
The city of Jericho is thought to be the oldest continually inhabited city in the world. During the time of the book of Joshua, Jericho was the most heavily fortified city in all of Canaan. It was believed to be unbeatable. Jericho was built on a hilltop with a series of walls and earthen embankments for fortification. A twelve to fifteen feet retaining wall was at the base of the hill with a twenty to twenty-six feet tall and six feet wide lower city wall on top of that. The total height of this construction was the equivalent of a four story building. Then an earthen embankment sloped up to the upper city wall whose base was forty-six feet above the plain below. This upper wall was also twenty to twenty-six feet tall and six feet wide just like the lower wall.
If you stood at the bottom of Jericho’s defensive walls and looked up it would be like looking at a ten story building!
The first battle the Israelites were to face was against this monster of a city. On paper and in reality, Jericho seemed impenetrable, but God miraculously tells the Israelite army how to overcome the impossible ten story high walls of Jericho. While the battle of Jericho is a popular story in children’s Bible story books and Bible class, there are some valuable lessons that we can learn from the Battle of Jericho to help us overcome the problems that loom above us as well.
Seek Out Others Who Know the Lord
Before the Israelites even cross into the Promised Land, the city of Jericho is already weighing on Joshua’s mind. He sends out two spies to scout what awaits the Israelites on the other side of the Jordan River and instructs them to pay special attention to Jericho. (Joshua 2:1) Joshua knows that Jericho will be a huge challenge. The two spies encounter Rahab the prostitute as they enter the city (she would have lived in an apartment in the lower city wall pictured above). Rahab hides the spies from the king of Jericho and later tells them that she believes God can easily deliver Jericho into the hands of the Israelites. She asks for the spies to remember her help when they destroy the city, and she helps them escape. When the two men return to Joshua, they quote Rahab almost word for word about the certainty that God would give the land to them. (Joshua 2:11, 24)
I don’t know how those spies felt when they first laid eyes upon the fortified city of Jericho, but I can only imagine that they felt it was an impossible task to tackle a city with its immense defensive walls. Amazingly, they find a believer in a most unlikely person, a Canaanite prostitute. But her words encourage them and fortify their faith that they will be able to accomplish this great task God has set before them: to conquer Canaan. When we encounter trials and difficulties in our lives, it is always important to surround ourselves with people who will encourage our faith and strengthen us with their words. We should seek out these people who know the Lord and lean on them when problems appear on the horizon.
Face the Problem with Confidence
God doesn’t leave Joshua in the dark about how to deal with Jericho. In Joshua 5:13-6:5, He sends the commander of the army of the Lord to lay out a plan of attack for the Israelites. The opening words from God are these, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.” (Joshua 6:2, NIV) The city of Jericho’s defeat was a sure thing before God even tells Joshua what to do. When we encounter trials and difficulties, we can also be confident that God has the victory in hand. He knows how it will end. He knows that the outcome will be for His glory. We can be confident that the Lord is in control and face the problem directly without fear.
Follow God’s Word for Success
The heavenly messenger proceeds to outline God’s plan of attack: marching. I’m not sure what Joshua expected, but I doubt that marching around the city as a battle plan ever entered his mind. Nevertheless, those were God’s instructions. March around the city once every day for six days, on the seventh day march around the city seven times, and then when the priests blow a long blast on the trumpets, everyone should shout and the walls would fall down. Joshua makes a point of telling the Israelites to not make a peep until the seventh day when they are to shout. (Joshua 6:10) He knew that the battle would not be theirs if they did not do exactly as God said.
While God does not audibly speak to us today, we can know what He wants us to do when we face a problem. The Bible tells us that “everything in it was written so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) The Bible provides examples of others who have faced enormous difficulties in their lives, but stayed faithful to God. The Bible encourages us to pray when we suffer (James 5:13) and to bring our requests and petitions before God (Philippians 4: 6, 7). The Bible also reminds us that our focus should be on our heavenly reward (James 1:12). If we seek our solace and direction from God’s word on how to conquer problems, we will never be steered wrong.
Recognize the Glory of God
As we know, the Israelites followed God’s instructions and the massive, impenetrable walls of Jericho came tumbling down with a shout and a mighty God. After this battle, the fame of Joshua spread throughout all the land of Canaan (Joshua 6:27). Joshua’s faithfulness and defeat of Jericho brought glory to God and the Canaanites knew that a powerful deity was with the Israelites. Others will see the work of God in our lives as well. When we hold fast to our faith and win our personal battles, God will be glorified. People will see that we serve a mighty God. They will know that we are different in our response to trails and problems. In my opinion, the most powerful result of knocking down the walls of a personal Jericho is that we can then help and encourage others as they encounter the same. In 2 Corinthians 1:4, the Bible tells us to “comfort those in trouble, with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” What a testimony to the glory of God when we can go to others and be their wise council as they need it!
The beauty in the story of Jericho is the ability of God’s people to overcome against impossible odds. A believer in God who was discovered in the middle of a foreign land; a battle that was decided before the first step the Israelites made around Jericho; a city that seemed impregnable was defeated with the simplest of battle plans; a tale that spread far and wide of the power of the Almighty God… These events laid out in the book of Joshua, teach us today that the formula for success, to be one who overcomes, is the same formula that will work for us today.
By: Chelli Guthrie
Historical information about the city of Jericho comes from: