David Jeremiah - The Courage of Faith
Even if they get some of the details wrong, many people in our culture are familiar with the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho. One of the most overlooked facts about how the walls of Jericho came tumbling down is revealed in the biblical text. I'll preach on it in today's message. The walls came down not by strength, but by faith. Hello, I'm David Jeremiah, and my message today is titled "The Courage of Faith". And it's all about the courage Joshua needed in order to exercise his faith, and the courage you and I need to exercise ours. The title of our current series says it all, "Ordinary People, Extraordinary Faith". It's about people like you and me who need the kind of courageous faith displayed by Joshua. We'll explore it together on today's edition of "Turning Point".
"By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days. By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace". Here we are introduced to two characters, Joshua and Rahab. Joshua was a Jewish general. Rahab was a Gentile prostitute. Joshua was a member of the covenant nation. Rahab was a foreigner. Joshua was a conqueror and Rahab was among the conquered. But as different as they were and as diverse as they look in our understanding, the one thing that causes them to show up together in the 11th chapter of Hebrews is they both are rewarded for their faith.
Remember, Hebrews 11 is the faith chapter, where people are put into the hall of faith because they believed God. Let's begin, first of all, with Joshua surrounding the walls of Jericho. Hebrews 11:30 says, "By faith these walls came down". And if you go back to Joshua and the sixth chapter, you will discover in the second verse the promise of faith that was made to Joshua, "And the Lord said to Joshua, 'See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor.'" God told the general that he was going to win even before the war started. It was going to be up to Joshua just to believe God and do what God told him to do, and victory was already in his hands.
How many of you know we've been given a similar promise as God's people? The Bible says, "Yea, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us". Which tells us that if we live by faith as Joshua did, we win. We are conquerors. If we do what God tells us to do, the victory is already in our hands, and we should have confidence in the promise of this Almighty God that we serve. Let me remind you again that all faith is based on a promise from God. Faith is a nebulous thought to most people, but it is a very simple concept. God said it, you believe it, and you act upon it. When you do that, you are exercising your faith. It's not anything more than that, it's not anything less than that. Faith is believing and acting upon God's Word.
Now, the promise of faith to Joshua was, "Joshua, I'm going to give Jericho into your hand". Notice at this point, God doesn't explain how he's going to do it, and that's going to get very interesting. Here is the promise of faith, now here's the plan of faith. In verses 3 through 5 of Joshua 6, we read these words. "You shall march around the city, all you men of war, and you shall go all around the city once. And this you shall do for six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him".
Now, I would love to have been with Joshua when he explained this military strategy to his leaders. I can hear them saying, "We're going to do what"? Now, if you study this carefully, you will notice there are some principles of faith in this instruction. There are actually four of them that I've discovered, let me give them to you. First of all, there's the principle of silence. In Joshua 6:10, God says to Joshua, "Now Joshua commanded the people, saying, 'You shall not shout or make any noise with your voice, nor shall a word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I say to you, "Shout"! Then you shall shout.'" God was telling his people through Joshua that they were to march around the city walls once a day for six days, seven times on the seventh day, while keeping completely silent.
How many of you know that silence is loud? Have you never noticed that? And the longer the silence goes, the louder it is. Now, here I'm going to dig in a little bit here. Have you ever had a misunderstanding with your wife and you're in the car? And maybe you're on a long trip? And all of a sudden, you realize you've just gone 500 miles and you haven't said a word to each other? Now, I wouldn't know anything about that, but I hear that happens, you know. How many of you know silence is loud? And the longer it goes, the louder it is.
God was teaching his people the principle of silence. Can you imagine the thoughts that were going through their minds? I mean, the first day, it maybe wasn't quite so bad. But the second day and then the third, and every time they would come back home at night, they would look up and there were the walls still there. And so, isn't it interesting, they didn't have a chance to share their anxieties with each other on the march. They had to keep all this inside and deal with it individually before God, as God was working in their hearts and preparing them for what he was about to do, the principle of silence.
Then there's the principle of submission. Verses 13 through 15 in Joshua 5 give us some basic information we need to comprehend what's going on here. It says, "And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a man stood opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand. And Joshua went to him and he said to him, 'Are you for us, or are you for our adversaries?' And he said, 'No, but as commander of the army of the Lord, I have now come.' And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to him, 'What does my Lord say to his servant?' And the commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, 'Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.' And Joshua did so".
Now, we often don't remember this part of the story. Before Joshua ever gave orders to his people, he got orders from his commander, didn't he? The captain of the Lord's army met Joshua in chapter 5 so that Joshua, who was the captain of the Israeli army, would know what to do. And just as Joshua submitted to his captain, now the people of God are going to submit to Joshua. There's a chain of command here, and there always is. I dare not tell you to do what God has not told me to tell you to do, and it better come from the Word of God if you're going to be sure. There's a chain of command in our walk with the Lord.
And verse 8 of Joshua 6 says, "So it was, when Joshua had spoken to the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams' horns before the Lord advanced and blew the trumpets, and the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord followed them". Joshua submitted first, totally committed to do God's will before he knew all the details. And here's the question we ask ourselves as we talk about the will of God today in our own lives. Have I ever submitted to God's will even before I have known what it was? We often say, "What's the key to the will of God? How can I know the will of God"?
Well, the first thing you have to do is be willing to do it before you know what it is. Well, you say, "Pastor, that's not rational". Exactly, it's spiritual. That's the way God works. God says, "I want you to follow me. Here's our contract between you and me. Sign it at the bottom". "But Lord, there's no words on the page". "Sign it at the bottom and I'll fill it in later". Whoa, nobody would ever do that in the world today. I mean, we get in enough trouble signing it when we know what's on the page. But God says, "No, I want you to trust me. I want you to sign this document, and I'll fill in the details in due time. But it's important for me to know that you are willing to do what I have called you to do before I give you the content".
The principle of silence, the principle of submission. Notice thirdly the principle of strategy. I want you to get a mental picture of with me of how the Israelites were lining up around the city. First of all, there's no way that almost two and a half to three million people could march around the city at once. I mean, there was a representative group of the Israelites. We're told it was first of all the soldiers, and probably there was a representation from each of the 12 tribes. Out in front of this march were the soldiers, then the priests with the horns, and then the Ark of the Covenant in the middle, and then more soldiers, and then some more people. And there was a definite purpose for this order as they walked around the city.
The formation was designed to strike terror into the hearts of the people in Jericho. We know that the city was locked up tight, and that the people in Jericho were already afraid of the Israelites because of what they had heard. And then one day, this guy's walking on the wall of Jericho, and he looks out and he sees this group marching toward the city. It didn't look like much, and they were carrying this big, old, odd box right in the middle of their parade on the shoulders of some of the paraders. And they march around the city once and they leave. And they come back the next day at the same time, and they march around, and go home. And you can't hear a word except the footfall of them marching, no sound from their mouth, no words between them.
And then the seventh day comes and they show up early. And on this day, they march not once, but seven times around the wall. I got to tell you folks, this was psychological warfare. And they were talking, "What are these crazy Jews doing? They're marching around our city, they're not saying a word, anything. What are they up to"? And already the battle was falling into the hands of the Israelites because they had brought such terror into the hearts of the inhabitants of Jericho.
And finally, there's the principle of spirituality, don't miss this. In the middle of this parade, the people saw this huge box being carried on the shoulders of the priests. They didn't know that God was teaching his people the mighty lesson that at the center of every victory is the Lord God himself. Because you see, the Ark of the Covenant was placed at the very center of the parade to show everyone that God was in the midst of his people. The Ark of the Covenant was the one piece of furniture from the tabernacle and the temple that, more than any other piece of furniture, represented the presence of Almighty God. The Ark of the Covenant was a holy piece of furniture. You can read the story of what happened when it was mistreated.
So, right in the middle of the march, the soldiers, a few people from the priests and the horns, and then this big Ark of the Covenant on the shoulders of the people as they marched around, followed by some more soldiers and more people. And what this said to the Israelites was make sure you keep God in the center of your parade. Make sure you keep the presence of God focused in your thinking. God will give you victory if you keep him in the place of honor, if you keep him in the place where he belongs. And we must never forget today, men and women, that our only hope for power in our church is wrapped up in the presence of the almighty among us.
Just as the Ark of the Covenant was in the center of the parade, let us covenant together as the people of God to experience God at the center of our worship. We will keep God's presence through worship and the study of his Word and the understanding of who he is in this church. When God is the center of what we do, we are on our way to victory. If we move him to the perimeter and we get caught up in all of the market driven stuff that's going on in the name of church today, we have no reason to believe that God has any interest in what's happening when we gather together. But when we put God at the center of the parade and when they say, "What's going on over there"? Well, God is at work. God is at work among his people.
Then let me give you some of the precepts of faith. The promise of faith, the plan of faith, the principle, and now here's three things I've learned already from Joshua and his entrance into the hall of faith. Number one, God's ways are not man's ways, amen? Isn't that true? God's ways are past finding out. Don't ever stereotype God. Don't ever say, "Well, God, you did it that way for them. Why can't you do that for us"? He's not obligated to do for you what he's done for someone else. He's got a better plan for you. Don't be running all through your life thinking, "Well, God, you did this for them. Why don't you"... 'Cause God has something else for you. If you get so fixated on what he's doing for someone else, you'll miss what he wants to do for you. His ways are past finding out, so just accept them as they come, and know that God comes with his ways. God's ways are not man's ways.
Number two, God's weapons are not man's weapons. God can take down a city with trumpets, voice, and marching. God can take Gideon's army of 32,000, pare it down to 300, and go and win the war. The Bible says that the weapons have to be different because we fight a spiritual war. 2 Corinthians 10:4 says, "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds". God's ways are not our ways. God's weapons are not man's weapons. God's work is not man's work. Joshua 6:16, "And the seventh time it happened, when the priests blew the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, 'Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.'"
And the victory truly was the Lord's, and it was accomplished by faith. And that's why you read in Hebrews 11:30, "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled seven days". And that's why Joshua got his name in that chapter. He believed God to do something extraordinary. And in his faith, God accomplished the task. But I've left some time to tell you about the other person in this story, this woman by the name of Rahab. The first part of this lesson is Joshua surrounding the walls of Jericho. The second part is Rahab living on the wall of Jericho. The thing that unites these two people, apart from their faith, is the wall. When Joshua was preparing to fill God's commandment to conquer Canaan, he sent two spies into the land of Jericho to check it out.
I know you know this story, but let me refresh you. Once the two spies entered the city of Jericho, the Bible says that God led them to a house of a woman named Rahab. According to the Bible, Rahab was an Amorite. Notice, hold onto that term, she was an Amorite. She also was a prostitute. The Bible calls her a harlot, which is the Bible's nice word for a prostitute. Rahab hid the spies in her condo on the wall and even lied to the king in order to protect them. And so, while faith was being expressed outside the wall of Jericho during the seven days, faith was also growing in the heart of one unlikely woman, who lived on the wall that was about to come down. Hebrews 11:31 says, "By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace".
Now, how did that happen? Notice the confession of her faith. What you may not know about Rahab was that God had been working in her heart before Joshua ever got near the city of Jericho. She has now hid these two spies in her house at her own risk, and the Scripture says, Joshua 2:8-11, "Now before they lay down, she came up to them," they were up on the roof of her house. "And said to the men, 'I know that the Lord has given you Jericho, the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us". I guess so, they've just watched this thing happen, or they're watching it happen. "And that all of the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you".
How did she know that? "For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt. And we have heard what you did to the two kings of the Amorites". She had relatives among the group that Israel took out right across the river. "Who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you," now watch this, "for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on earth beneath".
Rahab heard the report of the great victory of Jehovah God, and she became a believer, the confession of her faith. Now, the covenant of her faith. In Joshua 2:12 through 14, and 17 through 21, we learn that Rahab was willing to take care of the two spies. But she asked them for something in return. She said, "In return for not revealing your business here, I want you to take care of me when the judgment comes on this city". The two men said to her, "If you will not tell of our being here, if you will protect us, when the judgment of Jericho comes, we will protect you. We want you to hang a scarlet cord in the window on the outside of the wall of the city. When we see that cord during the judgment, we will protect you and keep you alive".
Now, notice the completion of her faith. Joshua 6:16 and 17, let me just read the story. Joshua said to the people, "Now the city shall be doomed by the Lord to destruction, and all who are in it. Only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent".
Verse 22, "But Joshua had said to the two men who had spied out the country, 'Go into the harlot's house, and from there bring out the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her.' And the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had. So they brought out all her relatives and left them outside the camp of Israel. And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father's household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho".
I don't care where you are today, this is one great story. When Rahab was spared from destruction, listen to this, the story's not over. She was absorbed into the nation of Israel, and she married a Jewish man by the name of Salmon. And we read about Salmon in Matthew chapter 1, verses 5 and 6. Look at this verse up on the screen, "Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab". Now, begot means they had him as a son. Salmon and Rahab had Boaz as a son. And Boaz married Ruth and they had Obed as a son. And Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king. And David the king begot Solomon. Rahab believed God, she had faith in what she knew to be true from what she had heard, and God had given her the faith to believe.
And now, this woman of ill repute, forgiven of her sin, is merged into the line of descent that runs all the way from her son to the Son of Almighty God, the Lord Jesus Christ himself. If you don't get anything else out of that, let me tell you something. No matter how low you've been, there's no limit to how high you can go. If God forgives you and cleanses you of whatever it is you have done that has caused you to be separated from him, he can lift you up and honor you as he did this woman.
So, let me ask you this question. Is there any reason why you shouldn't trust Jesus Christ as your Savior? You say, "How do I do that"? The same way, by faith. Faith is believing what is taught about Jesus Christ. Faith is not waiting until you have a feeling. Faith is making a decision. There came a day in Rahab's life when, having heard what she heard, she decided it was true and she believed it. So, what's keeping you from putting your trust in him today? Make the decision.