Saturday, February 4, 2012

Joshua 6:2-3, 4b, 12-20b
At the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, "Shout! For the LORD has given you the city."
—Joshua 6:16

6. The LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have handed Jericho over to you, along with its king and soldiers. 3. You shall march around the city, all the warriors circling the city once. Thus you shall do for six days with seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, the priests blowing the trumpets." ... ,
12. Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. 13. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the LORD passed on, blowing the trumpets continually. The armed men went before them, and the rear guard came after the ark of the LORD, while the trumpets blew continually. 14. On the second day they marched around the city once and then returned to the camp. They did this for six days. .
15. On the seventh day they rose early, at dawn, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16. And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, "Shout! For the LORD has given you the, city. 17. The city and all that is in it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live because she hid the messengers we sent. 18. As for you, keep away from the things devoted to destruction, so as not to covet and take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel an object for destruction, bringing trouble upon it. 19. But all silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are sacred to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD." 20. So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpets, they raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat; so the people charged straight ahead into the city and captured it.

How many songs have the word Shout! in the lyrics? There is the Isley Brothers' "Shout!" a completely different "Shout” by Tears for Fears, and "Twist and Shout" by the Beatles, to name a few from pop music. There are a number of contemporary Christian songs that "Shout!"; "Shout to the Lord/' /'Shout to the King," "Shout for Joy," and more. The precedent is certainly biblical, as we see many songs with shouting in the book of Psalms, including Ps. 47, 66, and 81. You can hardly write the word shout! without the exclamation point after it. It is more than a simple crying out; to shout is to proclaim victory and triumph. The shout is a sound of celebration. In our passage from Joshua, it is also a weapon of war. Each time we gather for worship, we have the opportunity to re-create the shouts that we read about in Joshua—shouts that can break down walls, and bind us more closely to God and to each other.

The Lord approaches Joshua and reiterates that the land has been handed over to him as a gift of God. But Israel must go into battle, and they have few options for attacking a walled city like Jericho. Jericho was ready for Israel to attack it. Israel employs none of the typical military strategies; instead, Israel marches around the city. The point is clear: Israel cannot win without God's help.

The details of the march sound much like the ritual worship of Israel. Priests who performed the sacred rituals are present at this battle. They carry the Ark of the Covenant, God's presence, and seven priests continually blow rams' horns. They march around the city once and return to camp each day for six days. On day number seven, they march around the city seven times. The number seven indicates perfection and shows disciplined obedience to the Lord's lead.

On the seventh day, Joshua shows his confidence in God when he tells the people to shout. Shouting in war indicated that the battle was over. The people yell, then the walls come down; all the credit for victory belongs to God. God's strength is shown in lsrael's weakness.

The concern of this text is not whether the Israelites should be warring with the people around them. Instead, it is concerned with Israel's faithfulness to God. The tribes of Israel constantly face the temptation to serve themselves and make false gods. In the life of Israel, there can be only one ultimate concern, serving the Lord God. As the walls fall down, the soldiers are forbidden from taking anything for themselves. Any gold, silver, or bronze is to be dedicated to the Lord and placed in the treasury. In fact, everything in the city—people, bricks, mortar—must be killed and broken, leaving complete annihilation and destruction. Why? These remain as a monument to all who see to remind everyone that God is victorious.

The people must remember that God occupies the only place of honor in their lives. The Lord is concerned that if any of the things that the soldiers covet are preserved, idolatry will creep into Israel's heart. All that honors God is preserved, notably Rahab, who hid the spies because she recognized that the Lord was superior.

It may be problematic for us to think of God as the author of this kind of violence. Many times in history, people have used God as justification for their wars. The book of Joshua makes no apologies, because the Israelites had no problem justifying this kind of war. Their only question was: "Can we win?" The real point of Joshua is that the Israelites cannot do anything without God's help. They depend on God for their survival and they want to remind themselves to depend on God.

The story of Joshua was useful to the Israelites particularly when they were taken into exile. They meditated on God's past faithfulness, so that they might gain confidence that God would bring them out of exile.

Are there times when you have wanted a particular victory that could come only at the expense of someone else's defeat?
What are some of the problematic issues or questions raised by this story of total conquest?
How does this text shape our understanding of who God is? Does it shape our view of war?

Victorious God, we know that in Jesus Christ you have conquered everything, including war and death. Yet wars and death still plague us today, including those fought in your name. Help us to be peacemakers and reconcilers, to shout for your shalom and healing in the places that are divided and wounded by war. Fill us with your Holy Spirit so that our shouts can bring down the walls of injustice that surround us today. Fill us with the hope that comes only from Christ, and help us to share that hope with a world that is so desperately in need of it. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Compiled from The Present Word and Congregational Ministries Publishing is not liable for for the content of this Bible Study and Blog.

From The Present Word © 2011 Congregational Ministries Publishing. Used by permission.

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