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In the Shadow of the Walls - Shepherd of Hope

“Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses”  – Joshua 1:3

 

Ever come to a tall impregnable overwhelming wall of circumstances? Have you ever faced or felt like you faced a devilishly dark force, an insurmountable obstacle, or an impregnable fortress? Have you ever come to a mountain too high, a valley too low, a tunnel with no light at the end of it? Songs have been written about such situations. Some would sing, “Ain’t no mountain high enough” to keep us from our desired objective.[1] But the reality of life often shoots down such pipe dreams. Have you ever felt there was a wall separating you from someone or something you needed to get to? Is there any rhyme or reason for such walls? Is there a purpose for them? Why does God allow such walls? Walls may indeed cast a shadow in life; they may deter us. But walking in the shadow of such walls can lead us to truth and victory.

Walls are used by God to teach us a precious principle of victorious Christian living. The Bible contains what are called types and shadows. Historical events recorded in the Bible have a broader application to life. Events of the Old Testament are, “our examples” (1 Corinthians 10:6). The word “examples” (Greek typos) means a stamp, a scar, analogy, a shape, a sampler, a model, a figure, a form, a print, a pattern. The details of historical events provide a pattern for life; principles to live by. For instance, the historical Exodus provides us with a picture of salvation. Egypt is a type and shadow of a more personal deliverance from the bondage of sin. Egypt is a type of the world where we live in slavery to sin. Moses was a type of deliverer, a Christ figure, sent by God to show and provide liberty to those enslaved. The Red Sea is a type of baptism that symbolizes moving from death to life.

If we walk further in this shadow, we discover God has a destination and purpose for us in this world. God told Abraham to get up and go, “to a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1). As the historical narrative continues, we discover this is a bountiful Land. It’s a Land of promise. It’s a Land with boundaries (Genesis 15:18-21). It’s a Land where God provides. But it is also a Land that requires we fight in faith to take it.

The broader application is that God has a Promised Land for us. After we come out of our Egypt, God has a promised land, a place or purpose in life for us. It isn’t our final eternal destination; it isn’t heaven. There are wars to be fought in this Promised Land and there are no wars in heaven. No, this Promised Land is a geographical destination historically, but spiritually, personally, it is a place where we live victoriously in the power of the Lord.

Alan Redpath in his book Victorious Christian Living explains how in the sixth book of the Bible, in the book of Joshua where the conquest of the Promised Land is recorded, there is a deeper truth, a broader truth, a pattern and principle to be considered that if grasped, leads us to victory in life. He writes:

“Full blessing in the Christian life is not bestowed except to eager, hungry people who press in to receive it. True, God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, but the blessing is in heavenly places, and these are places to which Satan has access, and where he can still cast all his fiery darts. God does not bless His child unless He sees him eager for the blessing. He does not pour out of His fullness on a plate, as it were, and invite us to help ourselves at a low level of expectancy. He desires every one of His children to press in against all the assaults of the enemy, that we may lay hold of that which is our inheritance in the Lord Jesus Christ, knowing that every foe we shall ever meet in that battle already has been met and conquered by our Joshua.” [2]

God “desires every one of His children to press in against all the assaults of the enemy, that we may lay hold of that which is our inheritance in the Lord Jesus Christ.” And to do that the greatest lesson to be learned is to trust the Lord.

The first time God’s people, led by Moses, came to the outskirts of the Promised Land, a dozen spies were sent in to scope out and reconnoiter the Land. They found everything the Lord had told them about the Land. They saw firsthand that this was, “a land flowing with milk and honey,” was true (Exodus 3:8, 17; 13:5; 33:3). This Land was a lush, fruitful, prosperous and bountiful Land, and more.

It’s the “and more,” that stopped them in their tracks. For in that Land there were also adversaries. There were giant’s in the Land. There were giants so big that they felt like grasshoppers in comparison (Numbers 13:33). There were grapes the size of bowling balls and rivers of life-giving water but the shadow the giants cast fed fears that overcame their faith. Ten of the twelve therefore, gave a negative report to the people upon their return. Only two, Joshua and Caleb, had the right perspective. Joshua stepped up and said, “If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into the land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey’” (Numbers 14:8). But the people sided with the majority report and rebelled against God’s purpose for them. They refused to enter the Promised Land.

The cowardly faithless people brought God’s judgment upon themselves. They would be barred from the Promised Land. When they heard that and how they had disappointed the LORD, they immediately changed their tune and attempted conquest on their own only to learn another significant lesson, launching out in conquest without the LORD only leads to defeat (Numbers 14).

Joshua and the next generation of God’s people would have to wait some forty years before entering the Land. Moses too would ultimately be barred from the Land for letting his temper get the best of him. He was guilty of misrepresenting God to the people (Numbers 20:7-13). But faithful Joshua (and Caleb) would eventually enter the Land. Sometimes, because of others, we have to wait to reach God’s destination for us.

When the faithless generation died, along with Moses, Joshua was called upon by God to take the lead in the conquest of the Promised Land. This was no small task. In fact, it was overwhelming for Joshua. Moses is seen even to this day, if not the greatest of Israel’s leaders, close to it. Joshua had always been able to watch and lean on Moses and follow his commands. Now Joshua was alone, with God. It must have struck fear in this man of faith.

But God didn’t leave Joshua in his fears. God didn’t give up on him. God reassured Joshua. “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses” (Joshua 1:3). The Lord encouraged Joshua. God put courage right down in the depths of his heart. God infused him with courage saying, “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5). With these words God reminded Joshua that Moses wasn’t in and of himself a great man, it was because God “was with” Moses that made him great. Someone has said, “One with God is a majority.”

Joshua was still intimidated by the daunting task before him. He was fearful. He was discouraged. That’s why God kept telling him, “Be strong and of good courage” (Joshua 1:6, 7and 9). This conquest was a faith challenging mission. Conquest of our Promised Land can be intimidating. Conquest requires risk and it therefore requires faith.

God then gave him a great key to victory. God instructed Joshua, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8). God gave Joshua something more powerful than any sword, more powerful than battering ram, to lay conquest of the Land. God gave Joshua His word. The word of God remains the greatest weapon in the arsenal of God’s people to this day. God’s word is powerful and sharper than any sword (Hebrews 4:12). God’s word lights our path and shows us the way (Psalm 119:105). God’s word nourishes our soul and spirit (Deuteronomy 8:3). God’s word tells us about God Himself and provides the light of His will for conquest in life (Hebrews 1:1-3).

Joshua set out leading the people of God toward the Promised Land. Their first obstacle was the Jordan River, swollen to impassable levels by the rains of the season. But that too was according to God’s plan. God uses obstacles to build faith. God taught them faith in that the Jordan was dried up for them to pass “as the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan” (Joshua 3:13). They had to take a step of faith to pass through and move onward. And so, by faith, they stepped in, and they crossed the impassable Jordan. Do you have a Jordan River to pass in your life? Do you have something that requires you take a step of faith to pass through? There’s a lesson for you to learn if you do.

But this was only the beginning. This was just a test of bootcamp. Now the conquest of the Land must begin. And the first mission conquest of the Land was a city called Jericho. Jericho was formidable. Jericho was imposing. Jericho was BIG. Jericho LOOKED impregnable. Jericho cast a long, long shadow. Joshua and the people must have wondered, in the long shadows of Jericho, just how these walls would be brought down.

What was God’s plan? God told Joshua, “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor” (Joshua 6:2). But when God said “See!” all they saw was those big imposing walls of this mighty city. And to top it off, even God referred to the army defending the city as “mighty men.” As they looked at each other, they took comfort in God’s reassuring words, “I have given Jericho into your hand.” God must have a mighty tactic, and heaven-sent strategy to defeat this sizeable adversary. “Surely, He will blow us away with His plan,” they likely thought or spoke to each other.

What was God’s plan?

  • Joshua 6:1–5 (NKJV) – Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. And the Lord said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.”

That city was bottled up like a can of sardines and they needed a can opener. They needed fire from heaven, an earthquake, thunder claps and lightning bolts. They needed everything the LORD Almighty, the LORD of hosts could give them. So, what did the LORD say to Joshua? What was the strategy to overcome this mighty fortress of the pagan mighty men? “March.” March?! Yes, march, walk around Jericho. “But they’ll be able to shoot at us from the parapets!” “We’ll be vulnerable, not to mention laughingstocks!” This probably wasn’t what they expected. God’s plans are seldom what we expect.

Joshua received those marching orders, relayed them to the army of the Lord, and they marched. One time around each day for six straight days they marched around Jericho. The inhabitants of that city might have at first been intimidated and fearful. Word of how the Israelites and their God had conquered Egypt had reached this great city of Canaan. That’s why they were bottled up inside the city. It must have been a bit confusing to both those inside as well as those outside these mighty tall walls. Why? Why this marching?

March they were commanded to do and march they did. And on the seventh day, according to God’s plans, they marched even more, seven times around the city as a matter of fact. Then the shofars were blown and the army shouted, just as God ordained. And you know what, those walls came down! It was an incredible victory.

Now let me ask you a question that maybe you’ve always wondered about. It’s a question I’ve pondered myself. How did those walls come down? Was it the sonic vibrations of the blowing trumpets and shout of the people? Did the army of God stomp their feet as they marched and shook the walls down? Was it an earthquake? Was it a mighty wind? What brought those walls down? I believe it was none of these things. What was it?

Before we answer that question, let’s ask another one. Why did God have Joshua and people walk around that city so many times? Why did God have the people march in the shadow of the mighty walls of Jericho? Why? I believe it was to show them the impossibility set before them. I believe God had them march, not so much to intimidate the inhabitants of Jericho, but to intimidate His own army. God wanted His leader and His army and His people to realize in their own strength conquest was impossible.

God does that you know; He has us walk around a “wall,” something that’s impossible to breech or overcome in our own strength, but maybe we don’t yet realize that truth. He has us walk until we’ve walked any and every trace of self-confidence out of our system. Each circuit around those walls males them seem bigger and bigger. He has us walk out any pride or self-reliance. He brings us to the end of ourselves. He brings us to a place where we look up at those big walls, and look down in defeat. But then He raises our gaze, up, up, up TO HIM! He works total surrender to Him and total trust in Him as He walks us around the walls. Then we learn to look to Him for solutions to problems and answers to life’s questions. God walks us in the shadow of the impossibles in life until we learn we will have to totally surrender to Him and totally rely on Him. He brings us to a point where we realize, “neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

So how did the mighty walls of Jericho actually come down? Godless sceptics speculate some natural unmiraculous means brought the walls down. But we know better. Context and chronology are very important in Biblical interpretation. At the end of Joshua 5, the chapter before the battle of Jericho, there is a scene in Joshua’s life that provided him and provides us with the key to victorious Christian living. At the end of Joshua 5 it recounts:

  • Joshua 5:13–15 (NKJV) – And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” 14 So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” 15 Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.

Who was that mighty Commander of the LORD’s army? Who was this Commander that Joshua felt compelled to fall at His feet and worship? Who was this Commander whose presence brought holy ground? This was Jesus. This was a Christophany; a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. Jesus will one day come for His bride (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). And then He will come with His army to conquer this earth for “Thy kingdom come” (Revelation 19). But until then HE comes to bring down the tall walls in our lives.

The New Testament tells us that the “Rock” that provided water in the wilderness on the way to the Promised Land, was a type of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4 with Exodus 17:5-7). It was Jesus the “Rock” who smashed and brought those tall Jericho walls down. And it is Jesus who will bring our walls down. Joshua learned, and we learn, as we walk in the shadow of the walls, our only hope of victory is in the LORD. In the shadow of the walls, we learn, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Right now, in our country there’s a lot of talk about walls on our borders. There is merit to such walls to protect us. But the walls have to be balanced with compassion for the needy, the victimized and the hurting on both sides of the wall. There are a lot of political walls of propaganda, deceit, political maneuvering, hate, corruption, lust for power, and pride. Yes, there are tall walls of politics that are severely and deeply dividing us. Walking in the shadow of those walls makes us realize we can’t bring them down or set them up. We have to realize we need One more powerful for such a task. We need Someone to guide us in balance between protection and providing with compassion. This nation is going to crumble without the Commander of Heaven. I pray we learn this in the shadow of the walls.

There are other walls, more personal walls. There are walls of debt, walls of defeat, walls of loss. There are walls of addiction and unholy habits. We walk around such walls and the pressure of guilt builds. We walk and grow to accept our helplessness. We might even get to the point of despair. But then, in our smallness, in our weakness, we admit, these walls will only come down if our Commander brings them down for us.

There are walls of illness, of hurt and genuine victimhood. There are walls others erect in our path. They are tall walls too. They are impregnable. They are built by mighty demonic warriors that are smarter, stronger and more savage in their defense of their walls. We are beaten down by the tramp for the LORD around such walls. It’s only when we turn away from ourselves and too the LORD that we discover, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9a). And then we will shout in victory, “In my infirmities and imperfections ‘the power of Christ rests upon me,’ praise the LORD!” (2 Corinthians 12:9b).

There are relational walls. Some of the tallest most staunchly resistant walls are laid with relational bricks. Such bricks are hard and difficult to break through. They are thick and heavy; too heavy for us to move or break through. Marital walls of division cast a long shadow. It often takes a long walk around such walls for pride and resentment and hurt and the lust to be right to be laid low. The LORD will keep you walking in the shadow of such marital walls of division, staying put, until you realize the insurmountable size. He will keep you circling until you repent and in humility realize only He can bring the walls of separation down.

Maybe the LORD has you walking in the shadow of walls that separate you from your children, or from your parents, or some other family members. Maybe there are walls separating you from people who were once your friends. The LORD will let you walk around and around until you are overcome with the height and thickness and insurmountable nature of the particular wall in your life. He’ll have you walk. He’ll order you to walk. He’ll order you to walk and keep walking until you learn the lessons to be learned in the shadow of the wall.

But then, He’ll bring you to a seventh day realization, a wonderful day, a day when you give up and give in to Him. He’ll bring you to a day when you turn to Him in surrender. That seventh day is a day of rest. It’s a day when you rest in Him. It’s the day when you accept that the walls are way beyond your capacity to bring down. It’s the day when the light goes on in your head, and a fire is kindled in your heart. It’s a day when, in the Spirit, you shout to the LORD because those damned walls are coming down! They’re coming down not because of you, but because of Him. That’s the greatest lesson of life on this side of heaven. Then the size of the wall won’t matter. “For with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37). Yes, then you will shout. Then you will praise. Then, the walls will come down.

Let us pray. Let’s pray we receive such wisdom as we walk in the shadow of the walls in our life. And let’s pray we find victory with the Commander of the LORD’s army, Jesus Christ. Let’s pray that for each other. Remember, with the LORD, “Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you.” In Jesus’ name. Amen!

[1] https://genius.com/Marvin-gaye-and-tammi-terrell-aint-no-mountain-high-enough-lyrics

[2] Alan Redpath, Victorious Christian Living, (Grand Rapids MI: Baker Book House, 1955. Republished by Calvary Chapel Publishing, Costa Mesa CA 2007) p. 24.

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