15: When God Follows Man

Every man and woman was made with this purpose in mind: 

God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Gen 1:28 

God took a man and gave him a wife and a family. He grew his family into a nation and now comes the first battle to obtain the land. The call is of God. The miracle of life is of God. And this battle along with the strategy is of God. Each man must choose, do we play along or do we set off on our own? Are we more like Rahab or more like the kings of the Amorites or the kings of the Canaanites? The Bible came with a promise to overcome the darkness and evil in the world. 

You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known THE SACRED WRITINGS WHICH ARE ABLE TO GIVE YOU THE WISDOM THAT LEADS TO SALVATION through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 ALL SCRIPTURE is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for EVERY GOOD WORK.  2 Timothy 3:14-17 

Every word and every story in the Bible, when heard and then understood can deliver us from a life of futility and vanity. As you will see Joshua 6 is no exception as Schaeffer paints some of the background here. See if you can identify the moment when God follows man and what that might mean today.

What follows are fragmentary pieces of Francis Schaeffer’s commentary Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History picked out for my own edification and direction. I am interested most in finding the conditions God gave for taking and possessing His land. Also, what can we learn from this story of conquest? To go to the start of these lessons click here.

Jericho, Achan and Ai

This is the story of Jericho. To appreciate its force, we must deliberately put ourselves into the frame of mind that we are looking at space-time history. These events were real happenings; these people were real people, and the book of Joshua portrays the people involved with psychological depth.

Likewise, the geography is real space-time geography. It is especially important for us to picture the geography of the promised land because we are now studying a period of war. Geography has always been important in warfare, even more in those days than in our own. In warfare armies try to take the commanding points, especially the peaks of mountains, because from there they can control the roads, the rivers, the railroads or whatever may be the main way of transporting supplies.

We can think of three campaigns in World War II in which geography affected tactics. When the Germans entered France, their tactic was to drive a wedge into the middle of France and then expand in both directions. When the Greeks were fighting the Italians, the Italians took the plain and the Greeks took the hills. As a result the Greeks controlled the situation, even with less well-armed forces. The English smashed strongholds first and then fanned out into weaker areas. If we combine these three tactics of warfare, we have a picture of the God-given strategy for Joshua’s campaign to take the land.

Let us consider, then, some of the geography of the promised land. Standing at the Jordan River, which flows down into the Dead Sea which is far below sea level, one sees in the west steep hills which rise quickly from the valley. Gilgal was somewhere on the river valley, between the river and Jericho. Jericho controlled the way of ascent into the mountains. At the head of the ascent was another fortress, Ai. The descents and ascents were made by old riverbeds which had carried the torrents down these steep hills. Swiss mountain climbers understand this well because the oldest roads and trails in the Alps follow old riverbeds. These are steep because the hills are steep. From a military viewpoint, the old riverbeds in that day were exactly what the railroads were up through the Second World War. If the Israelites were going to capture the hill country from which they could control the rest of the land, they would have to press past Jericho, which controlled the lowest part, go up the ascent, and take Ai. Then they would be on top of the hill country, able to expand their wedge and control the various parts of the country from here.

God’s Strategy Against Jericho

First, the Israelites had to defeat Jericho. Through archaeological digs we have a better idea of what Jericho was like than those who read the Bible in years past. Jericho was not a big city; it was only about seven acres in its entirety. What it really was was a fortress—a very strong fortress prepared to resist siege.[1]

Joshua did not take the city merely by a clever, human military tactic. The strategy was the Lord’s.

Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in. And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and its king, and the mighty men of valor. And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns; and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up, every man straight before him. And Joshua, the son of Nun, called the priests, and said unto them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD. And he said unto the people, Pass on, and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the LORD. (Josh. 6:1–7)

The people were to march for six days around the city, going around it once each day with the priests leading the way. On the seventh day everyone was to march around the city seven times. Then the priests were to blow the rams’ horns and the people were to cry out. When this was done, God said, the walls of the city would fall down flat, and everyone could ascend up “straight before him.”

Since Jericho was a small city, as was normal for the walled cities of that time, the Israelite army was large enough to completely encircle it. So by the time the first troops had marched around the walls, the last troops would just be starting. On the seventh day when the army cried out and the walls fell, all that the soldiers would have to do is march straight ahead to the center of the city and thus capture it from all sides at once.

“You won’t even have to scale the wall, “God said. “Every fighting man will be able to draw his sword and march straight forward. You will take the whole city with one blow.”

Joshua’s Obedience Revealed Joshua’s Faith.

And it came to pass, when Joshua had spoken unto the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns passed on before the LORD, and blew with the trumpets; and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them. And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rearward came after the ark, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets. And Joshua had commanded the people saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout. So the ark of the LORD compassed the city, going about it once; and they came into the camp, and lodged in the camp.

And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. And seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD, went on continually, and blew with the trumpets; and the armed men went before them, but the rearward came after the ark of the LORD, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets. And the second day they compassed the city once, and returned into the camp; so they did six days.

And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times; only on that day they compassed the city seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city. (Josh. 6:8–16)

Because of the promise of God, because of his experience over the past forty years, Joshua expected the walls to fall. So “Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city.” They had marched for six days in complete silence, but now they were to shout. When the fighting men did shout, the walls fell down and the men marched in.

Was this a direct act of divine intervention? Or did God simply use a principle of vibration, the principle which explains why an opera singer can break a glass by hitting the right note? We do not know, because God has not told us, but it does not matter which is the case. This was God’s strategy, and there was a complete miracle in what occurred. God had made a promise, God had given the strategy, and the victory was accomplished.

At this particular moment Joshua remembered Rahab. All this time Rahab had been sitting in her house, surrounded by the power of the Amorite king. Now her deliverance was at hand. On the basis of the promises she had been given, in faith she had felt safe. Now she was to experience her safety in the midst of judgment. “The city shall be accursed,” Joshua said (Josh. 6:17). “Accursed” represents only a part of what this word means. The Hebrew word means both “accursed” or “devoted” (that is, given to God”). Here it clearly means the latter: “The city shall be devoted, even it, and all that are in it, to the LORD; only Rahab, the harlot, shall live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.” In this way, Joshua gave the command for her protection.

Joshua’s commands to the people make clear that the city was devoted:

“But as for you, only keep yourselves from the devoted thing, lest when you have devoted it ye take of the devoted thing, so would ye make the camp of Israel accursed, and trouble it. But all the silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are holy unto Jehovah; they shall come into the treasury of Jehovah” (Josh. 6:18, 19, American Revised).

The city of Jericho was a sign of the first fruits. In all things the first fruits belonged to God. Jericho was the first fruits of the land; therefore, everything in it was devoted to God.

The tithe, the first fruits, goes back at least to Abraham. It is another continuity which stretches through the Old Testament to us in New Testament times (in the sense that the New Testament commands proportional giving). Just as Abraham brought his tithes, so Jericho was to be the first fruits.

As Jericho was being overrun, Rahab’s great moment came.

“But Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot’s house, and bring out from there the woman, and all that she hath, as ye swore unto her. And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel” (Josh. 6:22, 23).

Here Rahab became completely identified with the people of God. Just as Noah went into the ark and was safe in the midst of the flood, just as Lot was led out of Sodom, just as the Israelites in Egypt marked their houses with the blood of the Passover lamb, so Rahab, on the basis of her belief, was safe in the midst of the judgment of the city of Jericho.

The city was totally burned (Josh. 6:24). It was neither spoiled nor plundered. Nothing was removed. Everything was burned as it stood because Jericho was devoted to God. Utensils and jars stayed in the houses. The grain remained in the grain pits. To give themselves stores during siege, the inhabitants of Jericho had carved huge grain bins out of the center of the rock on which the city stood. Since the Israelites simply burned the city, the fire scorched the top of the grain while the rest remained. As a matter of fact, such grain from very ancient times has been found, has been planted, and has grown.

Joshua gave a prophecy about what it would mean to try to build the city again:

“Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city, Jericho; he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it” (Josh. 6:26).

Later in the Old Testament we find that it was rebuilt, and with just such a tragedy as Joshua prophesied, but we will not deal with that here. (See 1 Kings 16:34.)

Questions & Notes

  1. Jericho was not a big city; it was only about _________ acres in its entirety. What it really was was a _________ .

These questions are from The NIV Serendipity Bible.


1. When did you discover what it meant to be on God’s side and take direction from Him, rather than having Him serve you on your side?

2. What crazy battle plan is the Lord calling you to carry out? How will you persevere in that? Who else is on the Lord’s side with you in this?

3. What walled-in area of your life are you still protecting or hiding behind? How secure do you feel behind that wall? How could God give you victory over those walls if you would follow his ways?

4. How has your life been spared, even redeemed, thanks in part to someone else’s faithful response to you and their Lord?

Click on the “Joshua and the Flow of Biblical History” tag below to see all the posts in this series. To go to the start of this series click here.