“The city shall be doomed by the Lord
to destruction, it 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” (Joshua 6:17)
The words in today’s Scripture were uttered by Joshua, in
approximately 1400 BC. He was the man who previously was the secretary and
assistant to Moses, the human deliverer of Israel from slavery in Egypt. At the
moment of this verse the armed men of Israel had marched around the city of
Jericho for six days, blowing loud ram’s horns as they had been told by the
Lord. It was now the seventh day and Joshua was revealing God’s intention for
the city. Jericho was to suffer “destruction, (for)
it and all who are in it.” At the word of the Lord
through Joshua, on the seventh day the armies marched around Jericho seven
times, the people of Israel “shouted with a great shout”
and “the wall” of Jericho “fell
down flat,” enabling Israel to march right into the place and destroy it.
And note that those who died at that agonizing moment in time included “both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with
the edge of the sword” (Joshua 6:20-21).
I don’t know about you, but I would be unhappy if the walls
around my life fell down and a horde of whoever they are, marched in and killed
everybody I love, including my “sheep and donkey”
(if I had any) and perhaps my goldfish and then - me. That’s what happened to
the men, the women, little boys and girls, and yes, even the infants of Jericho.
They were killed.
John Robertson told of a little “drummer-boy”
who was part of Napoleon Bonaparte’s army, as the French troops sped over the
snowy Alps on their way to the sun-lit plains of Italy. The little boy was suddenly
caught by an avalanche of snow and was swept into a crevasse. He found himself
alive and unhurt on a ledge within the crevasse. Far above him, the soldiers
continued along a zigzag trail up the mountain. They looked back, but feared
Napoleon more than they cared for the boy. The command was “Onward,” and on they went.
The boy still had his drum and started playing the “relief call” which was heard by hundreds of the soldiers.
Napoleon was told what had happened, but his response was, “March on!” The boy saw that the soldiers were winding up
the mountain, further and further from his location. Understanding there would
be no rescue, he stopped drumming the relief call. A few minutes later, the
soldiers heard him beating out his own funeral march. The marching soldiers
wept; and as the story was told around campfires in later years, they wept
My oldest son and daughter-in-law have two beautiful sons,
and both of them are intelligent and full of life. They also have Duchenne
Muscular Dystrophy. At the least, it means that these two incredibly wonderful,
gifted boys are not going to have anything like the life that most others in the
world take for granted. And they’re a symbol for me of so many other little ones who
suffer in this world.
We’ve been praying for Robbie, an intelligent, interesting
boy who needed a heart transplant at age four. The transplant lasted ten years
and recently, after a wait, he had to have another one. Somehow, he now has
cancer, and things don’t look good at all. What is this all about? What did God
have in mind in relation to the infants of Jericho and that little drummer boy?
What does God have in mind in relation to my beautiful grandsons? I’m sure the
infants of Jericho were beautiful as well. And what about Robbie? Does God not
hear our prayers? Does He not care? Is He able to save and heal?
All of us know, underneath, that God is real. Even the ones
who label themselves as “atheists” or “agnostics” know that He is. They look at
the pain and suffering in this world and recognizing that God is loving, gentle,
kind, and since He is also all-powerful and able to do anything, they tell
themselves He doesn’t exist. Otherwise children would never die.
A big part of our problem is focus. God’s focus is on
faith, hope and love. Our focus is on self-reliance, a successful life and
conditional love. God has in mind that we will have faith in Him to the extent
that we will trust Him utterly no matter what happens, a hope that is based in
God and nothing else, and love to the incredible extent that we put the needs of
others ahead of ourselves. But we value self-reliance, a hope for a successful
life here on earth, and a conditional love, in which we extend love to
those who are beautiful in mind and/or body; those who are nice to us and those
who are successful in life.
There is something interesting in the Old Testament that is
often overlooked. It has been typical to see God’s judgment only, and miss His
mercy on Jew and Gentile alike. For example, in the same context where God told
Abraham that he would have many descendents and the land would belong to him
(Genesis 15:5,7), He also said that the man’s descendents would “serve” others and be afflicted for “four hundred years” (Genesis 15:13). It actually turned
out to be “four hundred and THIRTY years” of
slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12:40) and the reason Abraham’s descendants were not in
the land is interesting: It was because “the iniquity of
the Amorites (was) not yet complete”
(Genesis 15:16). In other words, for the next four hundred or so years, there
would still be some among the Amorites (the principal occupiers of the land) who
had faith in the Lord. As long as faith in God existed among them, they would
not be destroyed.
Faith is a strong message in the destruction of the city of
Jericho. As we see in our Scripture for today, “Rahab the
harlot,” the Gentile prostitute, would live, whereas others in the city,
including men, women and children were to die. And not only Rahab, but her whole
family would be spared as well. It’s because “she hid the
messengers” of Israel when they came to spy on Jericho (Joshua 6:17). And
why did she hide these foreign spies instead of turning them in to the leaders
of her people? It was because she BELIEVED in the Lord. That’s what it says in
Hebrews 11:31 – “By FAITH the harlot Rahab did not perish
with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.”
And her faith was such that God blessed her by placing her into the blood-line
of the Messiah. She married Salmon of Israel. God loved her and her faith so
much that their child was to be Boaz, who would be the grandfather of King
David, the human ancestor of Jesus Christ (Matthew 1:5).
Children unfortunately suffer all over the world. Like
those in Jericho, the French drummer-boy, my grandsons, and Robbie. The Lord not
only loves them, but He also is pleased with them. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me…
for of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14). Children have a
deep capacity for faith. When things go wrong, the Lord is with them. When they
leave this world, they go to be with the Lord.
Father, like Rahab and like the little children, I trust
in the Lord. In Jesus Name. Amen.