PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
This is a tremendous story of triumph that Joshua marshaled. Jericho was Israel’s first opportunity for a reprieve since their failure to invade Canaan four decades earlier. God was so displeased with their unbelief that He banished them to wander in the desert forty years. They wouldn’t flounder this time because the consequence of that punishment was fresh on their memory. What makes the conquest of Jericho noteworthy is the unorthodox strategy God commanded. He told Israel to march around Jericho once a day for six days. Half the army would lead, while seven priests blowing a shofar followed. The Ark of the Covenant was ensconced next and the remaining militia followed. Other than the tramp of feet and the sound of shofars the entire procession marched in silence. But on the seventh day Israel circled Jericho seven times and at the appointed time erupted into a thunderous shout.
Folks, I never served in the armed forces but I’m wise enough to understand that this isn’t conventional military strategy. From a practical viewpoint, it’s downright foolish! It would have been much more impressive and even intimidating to Jericho for God to have Israel build siege ramps and battering rams for the attack. But God’s techniques aren’t always conventional. 1 Corinthians 1:27 says: “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (28) He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.”
It’s interesting what God meant when He listed these weapons. What that means is, He uses weapons that, from the world’s viewpoint, are foolish, feeble, and “are not”—I like that phrase, “are not,” It’s speaking of things that materially don’t exist! But it’s these foolish, “are not” weapons like faith, praise, the spoken Word, and the Name of Jesus that bring victory!
(Illustration) Awhile back, I read the story of Assad, a Muslim, that converted to Christianity. As you know, the Islamic nations of the Middle East are some of the most antagonistic toward Christians. Assad knew that and being timid, he first shared his Faith cautiously. But there was an evident anointing upon Assad and so the Church officials attempted to ordain him into the pastorate. He wrestled with that offer before accepting it because he knew the possibility of persecution. And sure enough when he finally accepted the pastorate he was harassed. At an unannounced time the secret police barged into his home and hauled him to a Muslim police precinct for interrogation. Assad prayed as he rode toward the authorities: “Lord, you told the apostles you’d give them words to say when taken before magistrates. I don’t want to lie, but I don’t want to incriminate or endanger anyone else.” Then he described how his trust in God overcame his adversaries.
They charged: “You convert Muslims to Christianity!” He responded: “Sir, I don’t convert anyone. We believe that the Spirit of God sovereignly changes people to belief in Jesus Christ. I don’t do it!” The policeman said: “You baptize Muslims.” But the pastor said: “Sir, I baptize followers of Jesus Christ, people who have placed their faith in Him. I don’t baptize Muslims.” After three hours of interrogation, and the Holy Spirit furnishing Assad with each answer, all the authorities could do was say: “Well, we’re going to be watching you.” But the story doesn’t end there. Three years after that episode the Islamic government started cooperating with Assad. They quit intruding on his home and started asking for appointments. They stopped demanding information and began requesting it. See what happened? God took a weak, lowly man and infused him with wisdom to confound the government.
We need to live like we’re conquerors. We need to understand that regardless of our battle that God has predetermined us victory just as He did Joshua and just as He did for that converted Muslim! Let’s look at a passage of Scripture. Turn to Exodus 23.
I especially like what verse 27 says: “I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter.” God promised to terrorize our enemies with “confusion.”
(Definition) That word confusion is interesting. It means “to agitate, trouble, confound; to utterly destroy, make extinct.” If God is willing to “agitate, trouble, and confound” our enemies then why do we struggle with fear and unbelief? Romans 8:37 says, “We are more than conquerors”! Psalm 149:6 shows how Believers should live. “May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, (7) to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, (8) to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, (9) to carry out the sentence written against them. This is the glory of all his saints. Praise the LORD.”
Significance of Thirty Feet
God wants you to know you are no farther from triumph than Israel was when they stood just outside the walls of Jericho. Do you realize, if you could have measured the distance between Israel’s marching men to inside Jericho’s wall it would have been about thirty feet! After traveling forty years and hundreds of miles the only thing that separated Israel from triumph was thirty feet—a wall thirty feet thick. Before I tell you the significance of this measurement let me tell you what happened recently.
(Illustration) About three days before writing this message I was praying in the church sanctuary. Early that Monday morning the Holy Spirit impressed me with a word. It was the directive: “Shout!” Being a Pentecostal I understood my freedom to do that but knowing the mystery of God’s ways I didn’t understand the purpose of this shout. But I obeyed. A few moments later, I opened my Bible to continue my devotional reading in Psalms. I had last read Psalm 99 and as providence would have it the first word of Psalm 100 was, “Shout.” Coincidental? No! If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my walk of faith it’s this: Never underestimate the significance of a Spirit-inspired “word” for “the now.” It can totally transform your life!
The Holy Spirit impressed me to do what Israel did at Jericho. That is: Shout! So, with thick, towering walls before me, I started praising God for His work of triumph. What’s the significance of all this?
- When you’ve obeyed God and marched according to His orders . . .
When you’ve stood your ground and placed your faith completely in Him . . .
When you stand thirty feet from triumph and victory is just in view there’s only one thing left to do—“Shout, for the battle is the Lord’s!”
God commands us to “shout” when we’re on the verge of victory because that shout is the release point that foils the foe, arouses the angels, and secures our success. When you’re thirty feet from triumph it’s not time to turn back, give in, grow weary, or complain. When you’re thirty feet from triumph it’s not time to take anything for granted. It’s time to praise God. And do you know why? Because a shout of praise is one of God’s intangible, despised, foolish, “are not” weapons that Satan doesn’t know how to contravene.
So here’s Israel forty years after their failure at Kadesh Barnea to attack Canaan. And do you think they’ve remembered each day they arose and shuffled through that desert sand? They thought how foolish they were for not fighting the giants of Canaan. So after four decades of being exiled in the desert they reasoned: “This strategy of circling Jericho is ridiculous, but we learned our lesson. We’re going to circle the city, believe God, and on the seventh day shout!” And when they obeyed the walls collapsed and they conquered the city. You see, praise brings triumph!
(Bible Example) And this didn’t happen once in Jericho it happened twice. Two thousand years later Jesus walked through the ruins of Jericho and heard a blind man crying from the roadside—probably not more than thirty feet away. It was Bartimaeus and he was shouting: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd rebuked Bartimaeus and told him to hush. But Bartimaeus said: “Hush? I’m thirty feet from 20-20 vision. I’m going to shout until Jesus recognizes me and heals my blind eyes.” And that’s exactly what happened.
There’s an incredible Scripture in Job 33:26 that corresponds with this. Job said: “He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God’s face and shouts for joy.” In other words, When you’re a few feet from God’s presence it’s time to shout God’s praises!
Zechariah 2:10 puts it this way: “Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the LORD.”
And 2 Chronicles 20 describes how a shout of praise delivered Israel from four alien armies. The prophet positioned praisers in front of Israel’s army and advanced against the enemy. When they did the armies were thrown into confusion and turned on one another! It was such a triumph it took three days for Israel to haul off all the plunder!
There are some here today facing Jericho: Maybe a spiritual stronghold needs demolishing. Perhaps a sickness needs healing. Maybe your finances need reversing. Perhaps a relationship needs mending. Whatever the case, if you sense you’re close to triumph, it’s time to praise God!
(Transition) Let me tell you one more reason to praise God. We know praise flattens walls, confounds the enemy, and routs the oppressor. But God wants us to praise Him because praise is simply what is due His Name!
As the awesome, indescribable, infinite, omnipotent delivering God, He deserves praise! And God levies a serious indictment against men that don’t praise Him. He indicts men withholding praise as criminals! More specifically they’re thieves. That’s because they’ve robbed God of what rightfully belongs to Him—praise!
God’s Word to Zechariah
Let me relate this message to what God is saying to this Church. You remember after 70-years of Babylonian captivity the Israelites were repatriated to their country and God told Zechariah to rebuild the Temple. The task seemed overwhelming, nearly impossible, because those returning were scorned and disorganized. But God would show them how to participate in His plan and claim the victory; and it’s strange! God told the people the culmination of the project would occur as the capstone of the Temple was positioned and the people shouted! They were to shout to that capstone. That’s right. They were to shout to that capstone, about thirty feet high, the words: “God bless it, God bless it.” One version renders it: “grace, grace to you!”
Here they were shouting to a rock. That’s weird! But it was for a reason: there is creative power in the anointed, spoken Word of God. Their shout was saying:
- “Our focus isn’t on human weaknesses; it’s on God who accomplishes the work. “Grace to you, Temple!”
“Our focus isn’t our lack of resources because God can supply the need. “Grace to you, Temple!”
“Lord, We don’t consider the greatness of the task you’ve assigned to us. Our declaration is: “Grace to you!””
We acknowledge with, “A Shout of Praise,” that God’s sovereign power alone works the miracle!
Folks, it’s not time to grow weary when you’re thirty feet from triumph. It’s not time to retreat, make excuses, accept defeat, faint, or abandon ship. Determine you will trust God and let His mighty power to claim your victory!