Joshua 6: Unconventional

Every night on the news, you can hear about how warfare has changed over the years. Quite simply, we’ve come a long ways from the days of swords, spears, battle axes, archers, and catapults when it comes to fighting battles. Nowadays, we have things like machine guns, fighter jets, precision-guided bombs, unmanned aerial vehicles, and satellite imagery, and the vocabulary of war is dominated by terms such as “asymmetric” and “urban.” If Dwight Eisenhower were to examine how we’re fighting in Afghanistan, I suspect he would be amazed. If George Washington were to have inspected Eisenhower’s plans for D-Day, I can only guess he would have been baffled. And if an ancient such as Joshua had checked out either of these men’s wars, he would have been completely puzzled. Each man would have thought to himself, “This isn’t how you’re supposed to fight a war.”

Then again, maybe that wouldn’t have bothered Joshua at all. I mean, when God revealed the plan for the Israelites to take Israel, Joshua surely must have had thoughts such as this. March around the city, blowing trumpets and yelling, and the city’s seemingly impregnable walls would collapse so that you and your entire army can simply march in and take out everyone and everything. It was, in a word, mad.

And yet, it is what God had commanded the Israelites to do.

And when they did it, exactly what God had promised would happen happened. The walls came tumbling down. The Israelites marched straight in. And at the end of the day, what was quite possibly the second strongest strategic city west of the Jordan River had fallen. In spectacular fashion.

It occurs to me that, no matter how you looked at it, Israel’s first battle to take their inheritance was unconventional. It did not follow any of the standards set by any of the battles that had gone before. And quite frankly, this sort of battle was never repeated again. The Israelites would engage in much more conventional warfare starting with the first battle of Ai. But for this moment, the first and probably most significant victory of the entire campaign, things were absolutely, as I said, unconventional.

I think that there are definite parallels between the situation in which Joshua found himself in Joshua 6, and the situation in which we, the Church, find ourselves in 2010. Over the last fifty years and more, the Church has been essentially driven from the public realm. It started off on our part as an innocent desire to be different from the world, but ultimately, it has become nothing short of the complete expulsion of the faith from our culture. Like the Israelites at the end of Genesis, we disengaged from our promised land, so to speak. Like the Israelites at the end of Exodus, we have been exiled, relegated to wandering in a spiritual and cultural wilderness for decades. And like the Israelites at the beginning of Joshua, we are in need of a resounding initial victory to re-introduce ourselves to the world.

But I don’t think that victory is supposed to be what a lot of believers expect it to be. In the past, the Church was able to  simply step up to the mic, and the media listened. The people listened. The leaders listened. And so many believers today have attempted to wage the battle in the same manner. However, more and more, when great and well-meaning men and women of faith step up to the mic, the media, people, and leaders today are simply shrugging us off, to put it mildly. And when we do score a victory, the culture around us rails against it, overthrowing it in court and more.

We can’t win the battle for our culture with the same conventions we’ve always used. If recent history has taught us anything, it must be that, just as it would have been fruitless for Israel to launch an outright assault on the impregnable fortress of Jericho, we cannot launch a frontal assault on our culture. We must, instead, rely on God’s “unconventional” battle plan.

What is that plan? Well, actually, it’s not nearly as unconventional as we might think it is. It involves two steps. The first is to surround our culture with prayer. As the Israelites marched around Jericho that week so long ago, I can’t imagine that they weren’t praying. They prayed that God would provide an opportunity. They prayed that God would provide a victory. They prayed. Rather than stepping up to the mic and issuing some edict for our culture to laugh at, it is time for the Church to shut its mouth and pray.

And the second step of our unconventional attack must be expecting God to open opportunities for us to change lives. It is a fact of life that just about everyone puts up walls around their lives so that they can resist change. But every now and again, something happens so that those walls come tumbling down. A lost job, a broken family, a sudden illness, a dramatic life change, etc., etc., etc., can all open holes in those wall that we believers can enter through to make a real impact on someone’s life. But that doesn’t mean that we have to wait for those events to happen. The truth is that God can also tear down these walls through relationships. In other words, if we deliberately work to establish relationships with the people around us, it will inevitably open opportunities for us to minister. Which will inevitably open opportunities for us to share the Gospel News. Which will inevitably open opportunities for lives to change. Which will change our culture and our world.

You’ll notice that neither prong of this strategy involves press releases or political candidates. It involves engaging the people around us and ministering on a one-to-one basis.

It sounds strange to us today because a phenomenal number of believers would never do such things. We tend to think that ministry is something that people get paid to do, and world changers are people who appear often on the news. But if there is one lesson that we can and must take from Joshua 6 and the victory at Jericho, it’s that we can’t change our world until the walls come down. And the walls won’t come down until we trust God to pull them down. And the victory can’t be won unless we’re there when they do.

So fight the spiritual war which has been raging since the beginning of time, but don’t do it with the broken conventions of the last fifty-plus years.


1 Response to “Joshua 6: Unconventional”

  1. 1 Tristen Ennemuist August 23, 2010 at 3:07 am

    “War” in your blog is a very inflammatory choice of words. It doesn’t really matter how academic your intention, it’s still amounts to a very generalised accusation that non-believers are explicitly warring on religion with the intent to destroy (read: “war”)

    Which isn’t good for the well-being of anyone really.

    The reasons for your faith are your own and you may thank God we live in a society that allows it.

    I hope that’s been constructive feedback.

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