Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Jericho narrative is obedience. Joshua receives instructions from the Lord in verses 3-5; and what instructions they were: march, blow trumpets, and shout. How easy it would have been to question God: “Um, are you sure you haven’t forgotten something Lord?” As a military strategy it is in Monty Python territory! Stunningly, from verse 6 onward we see unflinching obedience: Joshua immediately passes on God’s instructions to the priests and the people, every instruction is carried out, and we know the rest of the story.
Jericho is Exhibit A of the blessings of obedience that we have already read of in texts like Leviticus 26 or Deuteronomy 28. The obedience at Jericho is noteworthy as much for its rarity in scripture, as for the great victory. Why do the Israelites, and we as well, struggle to obey? We know the sin of pride and self-sufficiency run through every human heart, but even with our new hearts and nature as Christians, we often continue to struggle with simple obedience.
Something to Understand:
I believe a good key to Christian living is to understand how intrinsically linked faith and obedience are. To many Christians, obedience is a work of fleshly discipline rather than the outworking of a living, loving, faith in Christ. Consider the following encouragements:
1) Old Testament “Hall of Faith”
In Hebrews 11 we read of many great Old Testament characters commended for their faith, and we see how essential it was to their calling: by faith Abel offered, by faith Noah constructed, by faith Abraham obeyed and by faith he went, by faith Sarah conceived, by faith Jacob blessed, and by faith Moses considered the reproach of Christ greater than the treasures of Egypt.
2) God’s motivating mercies
In Romans 12:1-2, Paul calls the believer to obedience, to offer themselves as a living sacrifice to God rather than conforming to the world. The basis of this is not personal discipline, but an appeal to the manifold mercies of God so carefully expounded from chapters 1-11.
3) Christ’s ultimate example
One way we obey God is bearing his image – to be his imitators, but this obedience comes within relationship and is motivated by Christ’s obedient, loving, sacrifice: “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. (Ephesians 5:2)”
4) Love, not rule, is the context
Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. (John 14:15)” Moreover, John writes: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. (1 John 5:3)” It is this love-fuelled faith that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4).
If you struggle to obey you are not alone! I encourage you to see the bible’s clear call to obedience within the broader context of faith, motivated by Christ’s love and sacrifice, within familial relationship with the Father, and motivated by his very love and mercy!