“When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet,
when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed;
so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city.”
Earlier this year, I heard Bianca Olthoff (IF:Gathering 2015) speak on the story of Joshua 6, wherein the Israelites conquered the heavily fortified city of Jericho by marching around the city’s wall. Bianca stated at that the Israelites who marched around Jericho were obedient and didn’t doubt or grumble. But I’m not sure that’s scripturally accurate. The account in Joshua 6 doesn’t tell us one way or the other, but we could surmise from this group’s past behavior (on the banks of the Red Sea, out in the wilderness, and on and on) that at least some of them were grumbling and doubting—even if only under their breath or in the privacy of their own hearts.
And I’m not sure that’s necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes we can obey through our doubt and grumbling. I feel like, at times, this is the truest form of obedience. When we recognize that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9), and we follow without knowing where He will lead us, that is true obedience. When we confess to the Lord in humility, “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24), that is true obedience. When we accept suffering graciously, in spite of our utter confusion (Job 42:1-6), that is true obedience.
When you understand why and you have full faith, it’s easy to obey. How much more meaningful to obey when you don’t understand, when you have only a mustard seed of faith? I think that’s more likely what was going on beneath the walls of Jericho. And I imagine that’s what often goes on in our own lives. And when we feel defeated and hopeless, we too can respond like so many of the saints have before us. We can doubt, grumble, AND obey.
They answered Joshua, saying, “All that you have commanded us we will do,
and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things,
so we will obey you; only may the LORD your God be with you as He was with Moses.
Anyone who rebels against your command and does not obey your words
in all that you command him, shall be put to death;
only be strong and courageous.”
We’ve been studying Joshua lately, and I’ve been trying to focus on new angles that I may not have noticed before. In the passage above, that angle came as I read “Just as we obeyed Moses…” I quickly flipped back to the preceding verses to make sure that I was properly attributing the quote. And I was—it was the Israelites that made this claim, without batting an eye. I wanted to yell, “Blasphemy!” Seriously?! Just as you obeyed Moses?
And how was that, exactly? By building and worshipping a golden calf? By whining and moaning all through the desert? By questioning Moses and God at every turn? By threatening to have Moses replaced as your leader? By refusing to enter the Promised Land for fear of its inhabitants? By failing to put your trust in God, no matter how many times He proved himself faithful?
Just like that, huh? I can only imagine Joshua’s response to that.
I could sit in judgment of the Israelites all day long, but you know what? God chose them as an illustration of humanity. And that means that many times, the way that I obey God turns out to be just as the Israelites obeyed Moses, which is not very well. So, to me, this passage was a reminder of grace—the grace God had for the Israelites and the grace that He continues to show me. Grace is often described as unmerited favor. And it is just as unmerited for me, and for you, as it is for anyone else. When we forget that is when we begin to place ourselves in a judgment seat that belongs to God alone.
May we view ourselves rightly, that we may also rightly view those around us.