Day 27  Joshua 5:13-6:27 ... Strange Tactics

The Israelites’ abysmal failures in the Sinai Desert can be traced back to a simple matter of disobedience.  Despite unmistakable divine guidance-a dark cloud and a pillar of fire led them each day-they insisted on choosing their own way over God’s.  Would the new generation respond any differently?  Once they had crossed into Canaan, God tested the Israelites’ new resolve to follow him, and it must have strained their faith to new limits.

As for the residents of Canaan, who had long heard about the Israelites’ plan to conquer the Promised Land, they braced for the worst.  Citizens of Jericho, the first city in the invaders’ path, barricaded themselves behind stone walls and awaited the feared onslaught.  But how did the vaunted Israelites spend their first week in Canaan?  They built a stone monument to God, performed circumcision rituals, and held a Passover celebration-not the sort of behavior you’d expect from a conquering army.

The incidents recorded in Joshua seem specially selected to strike home the point that God, no one else, was in charge.  Just before the battle of Jericho, a supernatural visitor appeared to Joshua to embolden him and remind him of the true commander of this military campaign.  And the bizarre tactics of the Israelites in besieging Jericho left no doubt who was really in charge.  An army could hardly take credit for victory when all it did was march around in circles and shout.

Jericho was probably a center for the worship of the moon god in Canaan, and so the destruction of that city-like the Ten Plagues on Egypt-symbolically announced an open warfare between the God of the Israelites and the region’s pagan gods.  Although measures against the Canaanites may seem harsh, the Bible makes clear that they had forfeited their right to the land.  As Moses told the Israelites, “It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you” (Deuteronomy 9:5).  and, as the story of Rahab shows, Canaanites who turned to God were spared.

Point to Ponder: Do you ever feel foolish or strange when following what you are convinced is God's plan for you?