At that time Joshua invoked this curse: “May the curse of the LORD fall on anyone who tries to rebuild the town of Jericho. At the cost of his firstborn son, he will lay its foundation. At the cost of his youngest son, he will set up its gates.” So the LORD was with Joshua, and his reputation spread throughout the land. (Joshua 6:26-27 NLT)
Before the Israelites showed up, Jericho was known for its walls. Moses himself had told the Israelites, “Listen, O Israel! Today you are about to cross the Jordan River to take over the land belonging to nations much greater and more powerful than you. They live in cities with walls that reach to the sky!” (Deut 9:1). It is believed that the wall around Jericho was in fact a design of three walls. First the mound, or “tell”, was surrounded by a great earthen embankment, with a stone retaining wall at its base. That wall was 12-15 feet high. On top of the retaining wall was a mudbrick wall six feet thick and 20-26 feet high. Then from the crest of the embankment was a similar mudbrick wall also six feet thick that started at 46 feet above the ground level (outside the retaining wall) and also arose an additional 20-26 feet into the air.1 So from ground level these walls projected approx. 70 feet into the air. At a timeframe of roughly 1450 BC, that would have been viewed like we would look at The Empire State Building today – “reaching to the sky”. The builders of the city of Jericho had taken great care and great pride in building a virtually impregnable fortress.
As we have already observed, the citizens of Jericho, including those who ordinarily lived outside of the city, turned to its walls for protection from the advance of the Israelites and their infamous God. Jericho mounted no offensive effort against the Israelites. It is probably true that after watching the Israelites march around the city for seven days, the Jerichoites were pretty well convinced that the Israelites couldn’t see a way to overcome their walls. The Israelites could trust their God; the Jerichoites were content to trust their walls!
Did you ever stop to wonder why God literally destroyed its walls and had the city burned to the ground? Did it require all of that to defeat Jericho? No! Jericho had raised up its city – its walls – to be its god – its god who it worshiped, its god in whom it took pride, in whom it trusted, and who it elevated above the Lord God Jehovah. And the Lord God Jehovah is jealous for His glory. Do you remember the first commandment that He gave to His people? “You must not have any other god but me” (Deut. 5:7). He will not share His glory with anything or anyone! And He was leading His people on a mission to make His Name known to the nations. He would leave no question – no doubt – that He – and He alone – is the Lord God Jehovah. All else is but crumbling dust and ashen embers!
Several years ago i was meeting with the property manager of a high-rise office condominium. We were looking out of his window down many feet below to the top of the steeple of First Baptist Church of West Palm Beach that itself stood over 150 feet into the air. When that church building was built in 1965, the cross at the top of the steeple was the tallest point in the city. It was illuminated so that it could be seen for miles around on a clear night. As we now looked at that dwarfed steeple, the property manager reminded me that architecture – and building height – is a reflection of what a society values. So it was with Jericho. So it is in much of our world today!
But after that seventh day, it was no longer known for its walls, it was known as the city that God destroyed! The walls collapsed to rubble; the city was burned to ash. And it would never be raised again as an affront to a Holy God. That’s why Joshua invoked the curse.
But the lesson here is not solely through the walls of Jericho; it is also through the life of Joshua. The passage says that Joshua’s reputation spread throughout the land. And what was that reputation? “The LORD was with Joshua.” Joshua isn’t remembered for being a great military strategist. He isn’t remembered for being the strongest man – that was Samson. Or for being the wisest man – that was Solomon. As a matter of fact, his leadership role in leading the Israelite people often gets lost behind the visibility of Moses. i can name the wife of Moses and can recite some details about his children, but i can’t tell you one thing about Joshua’s family. But what i do know is – “the LORD was with Joshua.”
Throughout his time serving as Moses’ chief lieutenant, as well as throughout his days as God’s anointed leader of the people, you never read of Joshua seeking his own way, his own fame, or his own glory. Being the leader of a nation of over two million people can be some pretty “heady” stuff. It can bring all of the perks, the pomp and the prestige that is commonly seen expressed through the lives of many who find themselves in the limelight for far less important reasons.
But it was not just fame that he did not seek. Joshua showed no sign of trying to build or prove his own reputation. Obviously i don’t mean that he was a man of ill-repute. He walked uprightly before His God. He was a servant of his LORD, and a servant leader of the people. He sought to honor his LORD in all that he did – not for his name’s sake, but for the honor and glory of the only One who matters. And as a result, the LORD honored him, by making His presence conspicuous upon him. God Himself said, “those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Sam 2:30 NKJ).
As you continue in this life journey that you’re on – whose fame do you seek? Do you want to be known for who you are, or whose you are? Do you want to be remembered for what you did, or for the God that you serve? Do we choose to be a people who place our trust and build a reputation on what we can do – what we can build? Do we seek fame – even modestly – for our own name? Or do we desire to be Christ-followers who are known for the One we follow?
A little further down the road, Joshua was approached by a people that said, “From a very far country your servants have come, because of the name of the Lord your God; for we have heard of His fame, and all that He did in Egypt” (Josh 9:9 NKJ). May our lives magnify the name and fame of our Lord, and His presence be what is conspicuous in our lives.
Your name, O LORD, endures forever;
your fame, O LORD, is known to every generation.
(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.)