… For the LORD has given you the town! Jericho and everything in it must be completely destroyed as an offering to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and the others in her house will be spared, for she protected our spies. “Do not take any of the things set apart for destruction, or you yourselves will be completely destroyed, and you will bring trouble on the camp of Israel. Everything made from silver, gold, bronze, or iron is sacred to the LORD and must be brought into His treasury.” When the people heard the sound of the rams’ horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it. They completely destroyed everything in it with their swords….” (Joshua 6:16-21 NLT)
God has given me the blessing and privilege to work with a number of great leaders throughout my career in business and in ministry. Throughout that time, i have witnessed a wide variety of leadership styles. One of those styles is as a “paradoxical leader”. A leader using that style of leadership believes that a paradox (a self-contradictory statement) is an effective way to create tension within a group or organization from which creative solutions can then emerge. The leader must remain confident despite the ambiguity, messiness and contradiction that can develop in the midst of that tension. The leader’s desired result is direction without directives, authority without control, and a creative tension from which creative solutions will emerge. The idea is that the solution to many problems is somewhere between the two contradictory thoughts, and the creative tension will allow the diverging groups to converge on that solution. It’s a leadership style that can be very challenging for some to work under, but it is also one that can be highly effective.
Jesus Himself is well known for using verbal paradox to communicate truth – “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it”(Matt 10:39 NKJ). “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else”(Mk 9:35). And, “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else”(Mk 10:43-44). But His use of paradox did not point to a truth somewhere in the middle; His paradox underscored the truth. And i would definitely say that there is nothing paradoxical about God’s leadership. He is both directive and authoritative. His truth is absolute, and without contradiction. His instruction through Joshua to the people that day was VERY clear – the Lord had given them the town… and they were to keep nothing for themselves!
So, are those two statements in conflict with one another? God is “giving” them the town, but everything except Rahab and her family, and those precious metals that can be purified by fire and placed into the Lord’s treasury, are to be destroyed. Which means that the Israelites – personally – keep nothing. i don’t know about you but the promise of “a land flowing with milk and honey” evokes mental images of something more than “nothing”.
It doesn’t seem (at least not yet!) that any of the Israelites were bothered by any of this. And as you read the passage, you may not be bothered with it either. So why am i making such a big deal out of it? i’m glad you asked! Because i think that many of us struggle when God’s provision doesn’t align with our expectation; or when His outcome doesn’t match up with what we thought He was going to do. i think that is particularly true of us after we have walked through a long wilderness experience and are now entering into the promise; but the promise doesn’t appear to line up with what we anticipated! It may be that the promise is just now unfolding, but it doesn’t look like what we expected; or, it may be that the newness of the promise is wearing off, and things aren’t quite as glittery as we thought they were. Perhaps that new ____ (you fill in the blank) is not quite as i expected God to orchestrate it to be. Why am i disappointed? Why do i feel like i am being told – keep nothing for yourself?
All things versus nothing. Let’s go back to the Israelites. God had chosen a people. They would be His people and He would be their God. He would receive glory and worship from them, and glory and worship from all peoples through them. He was bringing them to live in a land of milk and honey, so that they might declare His glory among the nations (1 Chronicles 16:24). And He had shown them – as He shows us – that what was for His glory, was ultimately for their good (Romans 8:28-30). God had promised them “a land flowing with milk and honey” – not a land abounding with silver and gold. He would insure that their needs were met so they would be free to worship Him, but not to worship the things of this world. He would also teach them that by laying up treasures for the enriching of His tabernacle that they were in fact laying up treasures for themselves.
So am i disappointed because i have gotten my eyes off of the prize – the “true” prize? Do i feel empty-handed, because i have allowed myself to become distracted by other things and gotten my eyes off of my Lord? Will i be more than content to keep nothing for myself when i remember that my Master is God – and i’m not! All that i have is His! All that i need is Him! He is the Potter! i am the clay. This journey is really all about Him – not me.
And He has created us, called us to Himself and chosen us to be vessels of His honor. Paul writes, “…In a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (2 Tim 2:20-21). It truly boils down to being a vessel for honor versus a vessel for dishonor. A vessel that is wholly surrendered versus one that is not. And that is not a paradox – that is a choice!
God is love versus God is just. We live in a day and time in which it is popular to espouse that God is love therefore no one will perish for their sin. After all, how could a loving God choose for any of His creation to experience eternal death? Peter writes, “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, … [He is] not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9 NKJ). He has made a way through the shed blood of His Son that none should perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). So, what about the Jerichoites? Why were all of them – except Rahab and her family – destroyed? They were destroyed because they had rejected God. They had turned from Him – and literally hidden from Him behind their walls (Joshua 2:9-11). They had consciously chosen to turn from Him – all except Rahab.
Allow me to stop and remind us that there are currently over 6, 000 unreached people groups on this planet, who have little to no access to the Good News of Jesus, and among many of which there is no work currently taking place to provide that access. Billions of people will die and enter into a Christ-less eternity – not because they rejected God – like the Jerichoites – but because they have never heard of Him! God is love, and He is just! And He has sent us to make His Name known. We cannot hide inside our own walls when the truth needs to be told! We must get out of our walls into our neighborhoods, our cities and our world and tell every man, woman and child on this planet about Jesus!
Protective walls versus destructive walls. The very walls that we sometimes build to protect ourselves can be the very walls by which we allow ourselves to be destroyed. The Jerichoites had withdrawn into the “safety” of their walls. Some even stood on the top of the walls in order to better observe the activity of the Israelites. It’s ironic that those who could best see, but were hiding behind the walls, would have probably been the first to perish when the walls collapsed. By the way, metaphorically speaking, don’t hide behind walls of your own making – particularly from God. There is much less fallout from taking down walls than there is from allowing them to collapse. Take down whatever wall you have built between yourself and another person, or between yourself and God, by going to them with a broken and a contrite spirit, seeking or extending forgiveness, and seeking reconciliation. If it is a matter of sin, turn from it, receive forgiveness and break out of the walls. If it is a matter of relationship, be reconciled and break out of the walls.
As you enter into a Jericho moment in your life, remember the words of Paul to the Church in Corinth, “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1Cor 6:19-20 NKJ). Keep nothing for yourself – not even yourself!
(Excerpt from “Lessons Learned In The Wilderness — Possessing The Promise”. For more information about the book see http://www.wildernesslessons.com/Possessing_The_Promise.html.)