The first “stronghold” encountered after the Israelites entered Canaan was a city having massive, high walls which represents strongholds encircling the hearts of people today… strongholds of thinking keeping one imprisoned in iniquity and preventing enjoyment of a life of freedom and fullness of joy Christ came to bring. But before the conquest of Jericho could be considered, several steps would be essential as under the new covenant. First of these would be circumcision of males as none born since leaving Egypt were circumcised (Joshua 5:5). The parallel under the new covenant is that of circumcising one’s heart to no longer depend on human wisdom or strength, but relying on the Holy Spirit to overcome(Romans 2:26-29). It was the same lesson that had to be learned by the Hebrews as they attempted to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem following years of captivity in Babylon.
“Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.” Zechariah 4:6
Under the old covenant, circumcision identified males as sons of Abraham in addition to being a sign of obedience (Genesis 17:11). The battle against Jericho would have to belong to the Lord, not the might of the Israelites. Preparation would not only require males to be circumcised. The Passover needed to be observed before they could begin conquest of the land. After healing from circumcision, Passover was celebrated as a remembrance of their deliverance from Egypt by the mighty hand of the LORD. Jesus tells us to remember His sacrifice for atonement of sins and deliverance from the bondage of a carnal nature and Satan’s kingdom by celebrating the Lord’s Supper. We must not forget from whence we have come, and that continued redemption is dependent on obedience to the will of God.
“For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” Hebrews 3:14
Ready for combat after circumcision and secure in the blood of a lamb free of blemish representing Christ, Joshua neared the city of Jerich and found himself facing a man with drawn sword in hand (Joshua 5:13). Joshua asked the man whether he was for or against Israel, and the man replied, “As captain of the host of the LORD am I now come” (5:14). Joshua, now aware of the LORD’s presence having a heavenly army under His command, fell on his face in worship. The LORD told Joshua, “Loose your shoe from off your foot, for the place whereon you stand is holy” (5:15). These words are identical to those told Moses when he encountered the LORD at a burning bush (Exodus 3:5). Joshua is given instructions for the conquest of Jericho, and is told that victory is already accomplished providing the instructions be followed: “The Lord said to Joshua, See, I have given unto your hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor” (Joshua 6:2). This was in spite of the fact that Jericho was a stronghold considered invincible as well as protected by gods of the Canaanites. Key to its capture, and the strategy for us, is the same. The God of Israel is superior to all gods, for if God be for us, who can stand against us.
Joshua was instructed to have his army march around Jericho once daily with seven priests bearing trumpets of ram’s horns before the ark of the Testimony. On the seventh day, they were to encircle the city seven times with the priests blowing the trumpets. Then after a long trumpet blast, the people were to give a great shout and the city walls would fall. It would be a direct act of God by which Jericho would be conquered through obedient faith in God’s miraculous power. And two other commands were to be carried out. One is that every living thing must be destroyed, “man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword” (6:21). To reconcile this with understanding of God whose character is love and find harmony with NT teaching is not difficult.
Moses had previously instructed Israel to destroy all Canaanites before they ever crossed the Jordan. On several occasions, the same command is repeated by Joshua. Inhabitants of Canaan had given themselves over to moral depravity: there was all kinds of idolatry, cult prostitution, violence, and even burning of children as living sacrifices to their gods. Complete destruction was necessary to safeguard Israel from ungodly influence. God earlier applied the same principle with a flood in the days of Noah and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in the days of Abraham. We’re to remember God does not change. Ananias and Sapphira were struck down after lying about their gift to the church (Acts 5:1-10). God’s wrath and judgment are often deferred under the new covenant to allow for sinners to repent as God would that none would perish (2 Peter 3:9). Still the certainty of consequences remains exactly the same when God’s commands are deliberately ignored. And it is God’s command that His people avoid fellowship with unbelievers under the new covenant as well as the old covenant. Wrong company corrupts (not might but does) good character (1 Corinthians 15:33). Here we need to realize that the apostle does not warn of have ‘contact’ with unbelievers. It is “fellowship” which presents a great danger.
“What fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion has light with darkness…wherefore come out from among them, and be you separate, says the Lord….and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:14,17).
A second command given the Israelites before attacking Jericho was that all in the city of value such as gold, silver and vessels of brass were to be “devoted to the LORD” as the first fruits and placed in His treasury. To be “devoted” (Hebrew herem) means a person or object is devoted either for judgment or service. The principle of herem teaches God may justly destroy those given over to unrighteousness. So it was Joshua warned people that keeping what is devoted to the LORD would bring a curse not only on self but the nation of Israel (Joshua 6:18). Achan’s sin of keeping a beautiful Babylonian garment as well as gold and silver was cause for Joshua’s army being defeated in its next battle at Ai because of sin in the camp (7:5). After it was learned what Achan had done, he and his family were stoned to death at the command of God, his family paying a great price for Achan’s sin.
During thirteen years as a voluntary chaplain in prison ministry, two of the most common causes for recidivism concerned the same commands of which the Hebrews were warned. Failure to separate from old friends (so-called ‘home boys’) who exerted ungodly influence was a major reason for repeating criminal acts after release. God’s warning the Canaanites must be destroyed lest they corrupt the ways of His people went unheeded with serious consequences. It’s no different today that “fellowship” with unbelievers must be avoided by those consecrated to Christ. And greed for material things God calls “idolatry” was also a common downfall for ex-offenders as it was for Achan (Colossians 3:5). In many a case, greed led men I worked with to engage in occupations that held high risk of temptation or ungodly influence, whether directly or indirectly. Does not scripture tell us that love of the Father is not in those having love for the world or “things that are in the world” (1 John 2:15). The latter is one of the most abused of God’s commands. Self-indulgence by those who profess Christ is rampant in America, often at the highest levels of leadership.
At the end of Joshua’s life, the LORD had given Israel rest from seven powerful nations which inhabited the land promised Abraham as inheritance for his descendants: “There failed nothing of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel; all came to pass” (Joshua 21:45). Likewise under the new covenant, God will faithfully fulfill all promises given believers who submit their lives and faithfully obey the will of God. But as was true for the Israelites, we must be faithful to covenant to receive God’s promises. Believers in Christ must stand for truth and holiness without compromise while acting in love toward all who oppose. When Joshua was advanced in years, he called together the elders and reminded them to not associate with heathens who remained in the land nor intermarry, lest they be destroyed from the land given them and perish (23:12, 13, 16). Joshua said to choose for themselves whom they would serve, and said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (24:15). And the people answered, “God forbid that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods” (24:16).