THE VICTORY .—
This verse (see above) is parenthetical. It explains why the captain of the Lord's host appeared unto Joshua. The inhabitants of Jericho, though in a state of the utmost alarm, were nevertheless fully on their guard against the children of Israel. The commencement of hostilities imposed a great responsibility on Joshua. Success at the outset was, humanly speaking, indispensable. We may see what defeat involved for him by his distress in consequence of the check at Ai. The alternative was victory or annihilation, for the Israelites had no homes or fortresses to which they could retire. Joshua was therefore encouraged by a visible proof that he was under the protection of the Most High, to be yet farther assured by the marvels that were to follow. The use of the Pual participle with its fullest intensive sense, to strengthen the affirmation of the action by the Kal, is a singular construction. Literally rendered it is "shutting and closely shut up," thus including
συγκεκλεισμένη καὶ ὀχυρομέμη ( LXX ), " clausa at que munita " (Vulg). So also the Chaldea paraphrase. The remainder of the verse strengthens still more the assertion of the state of siege. The king of Jericho, such was his alarm, regarded his city as a beleaguered one, from the mere presence of Joshua and his host in its vicinity.
We come now to the command that was laid on Joshua. And hero we may observe three points.
I. SUCCESS WAS CERTAIN IF GOD 'S COMMANDS WERE OBEYED . God does not say, "I will give," but, "I have given" Jericho into thine hand. Not only has the fiat gone forth, but the work is done, when the soldier of the Lord has made up his mind to obey the Lord's commands. Thus, whatever be the work to which we set our hands, be it public or private, in the world or in our own hearts, so that it be for God, and it is our duty to do it, we must regard our success as assured. Moses hesitated and argued about his fitness for the task laid upon him. Jeremiah shrank from facing the children of Israel with his message of wrath. But the apostles of Christ, when sent forth to conquer the world by no other means than the proclamation of the truth, never stood appalled by the magnitude of the work, but were filled with a sublime confidence that all should be as God had said. So when we go forth to besiege some modern Jericho, let us hear beforehand the voice of God saying, "See, I have given it into thine hand." We have only to ascertain clearly that the duty is laid upon us, that we are not laying a presumptuous hand upon a task which is not meant for us. This done, we may go boldly forward on our way.
II. THERE ARE STRONGHOLDS WHICH WILL YIELD TO PRAYER ALONE . Jericho was taken by no other means than by the seven days' procession. The rest of the cities of Canaan were taken by storm in the ordinary way. But Jericho was the first of them. Thus it often pleases God, when we enter first upon our warfare, to remove some temptation from us in a striking and wonderful manner in answer to prayer. This is to serve as an encouragement to us, as a proof both of His presence and of His power. Many of God's saints can tell of such encouragements, mercifully vouchsafed to them when commencing the struggle against sin, that they might know experimentally for themselves, and not by the report of others, that the Lord was indeed the Almighty. When some work is going on for God in which it is impossible for us to join, we may aid it by our prayers. And those prayers may prove mightier than the feeble efforts of those actually engaged in the work. When those in whom we have an interest are wandering far from God, and it is not our place to instruct or rebuke them, we may pray for them; and many are the souls which have been converted to God through the might of prayer alone. So when the Church of Christ suffers persecution from worldly men, she is not to use worldly weapons in her defence. Let her be steadfast and diligent in her daily offering of intercession and praise, and the walls of Jericho that frown above her shall fall down flat, and she shall divide its spoils.
III. EACH HAS HIS APPOINTED SHARE IN THE ATTACK ON EVIL . Our attack is to be an united and orderly one. No disorderly rout encompassed Jericho, each "fighting for his own hand." There was a fixed order in the attack, in which each had his proper share. The ark of God was carried by the priest; that is, the ministers of religion are to lead the way in public and private intercession for the cause. They blow with the horns of jubilee; that is, they sound the note of war against the evil against which they are arrayed. They stir God's people up to the fight. And when the time appointed has come that the assault haste be made, their prayers, intercessions, exhortations are redoubled; the people respond to their efforts by raising their voices unanimously in the same holy cause; the bulwarks of the stronghold of evil give way; and Israel advances, every man straight before him, to raze it to the ground.
The actual fulfilment of God's commands now demands our notice. We may observe here:—
I. THAT GOD 'S PEOPLE ARE SECURE FROM ALL DANGER WHEN IN THE WAY OF DUTY . From a military point of view, as has been already observed, these dispositions were absurd. To compass the city in this manner was to invite attack. Yet it was done because God commanded it, and no evil ensued. So a Christian is ever safe, however much worldly wisdom may condemn him, if he be in the path of duty. "No weapon that is formed against him shall prosper." We must not mind exposing ourselves to the scoffs and jeers of the profane, the grave remonstrances of the worldly minded, the prophecies of failure on the part of the timid and timeserving, No matter how imprudent our action, according to the world's standard; so long as it be right it will certainly prosper at last. All great movements for good have been branded at the outset as enthusiastic folly. Yet faith and perseverance have succeeded in the end. The walls of many a spiritual Jericho have been brought to the ground by a steady persistence in what was known to be right, however unreasonable it may have seemed to unbelievers.
II. WE MUST NOT BE " WEARY IN WELL DOING ." For seven long days did the strange procession encompass Jericho. Not the slightest effect was produced of any kind till the prescribed task was accomplished. Bishop Hall, regarding the number seven as indicative of completeness, tells us that there are many of our infirmities which we must not expect to overcome till the end of our lives. Not till then will God vouchsafe us the measure of faith to overthrow them finally. Meanwhile we must watch and pray and follow the ark and continue in our round of devotion, until the time comes for God to visit us. We must not be depressed if no signs of progress appear, if, after having encompassed the city six days, and six times on the seventh day, all appears as usual We must patiently wait God's time, and when He announces the hour of triumph, and not till then, we may rejoice that our enemies are in our power.
III. GOD DEMANDS THE ABSOLUTE SURRENDER OF ALL CARNAL AFFECTIONS . Jericho and all it contained was to be utterly destroyed. And so, as far as we are concerned, must all the desires of this lower world be put down. No doubt it was a great temptation to the Israelites (Achan's case proves that it was so) to see so great a store of valuable things doomed to destruction. "To what purpose is this waste?" was a question which must have occurred to many there. So it is a sore temptation to the Christian to see this world's goods within his reach and he forbidden to grasp them. They were intended to be enjoyed, and why should he not enjoy them? Youth seeks after the indulgences of the flesh, after recreations and amusements. Manhood strives after the prizes of this world—power, wealth, honours, rewards. They are innocent in themselves; why should we not possess them? Because they are devoted. This does not refer to pleasures and blessings God has put in our hands. If He has blessed them we may safely use them. But pleasures, and honours, and emoluments for their own sake, things which to grasp at would lead us from the path of duty—these are the spoils of Jericho, devoted to God, which we may not touch. Self denial, simple discharge of duty from conscientious motives, and the consequent absence of ambition or greed of gain, willingness to accept the lowest place, disinclination to accept riches, honours, positions of influence, and authority, unless to decline them would clearly be wrong—these are the characteristics of the true servant of God. He makes a holocaust of all vain desires and selfish motives, and is willing to give up the richest prizes earth can offer, unless God gives them to him.
HOMILIES BY R. GLOVER