In discussing a couple of specific battles found in the book of Joshua, as God leads his people into the land promised to their ancestors, we’re focusing on where victory wasn’t found for the people as they began to move. We’ve already watched as they were prepared for these battles by some less-than-conventional means (like here, for example). And as we’ve watched the battle of Jericho unfold in Joshua 6, we’ve also seen that victory wasn’t found in the miraculous event of the city’s fortified walls collapsing.
Neither was victory found in conquest.
Now, you may find yourself thinking, “Isn’t that what they DID? Didn’t the Israelites conquer Jericho by crushing the military protecting the city and destroying the town?”
15 On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. 16 The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! 17 The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. 18 But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. 19 All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the LORD and must go into his treasury.”
The proof of conquest for the people of Joshua’s day was walking away with the possessions of the conquered people; in many ways, the aim of conquest was to assimilate the good and powerful aspects of a civilization into your own. The conquering people would proudly display the valuable, often sacred artifacts of the conquered party as a badge of honor and evidence of the victorious army’s great strength. By destroying everything about the town and preserving precious metals in the Temple treasury, the Israelites are giving up evidence of their conquest and, thus, of their superiority.
In my understanding, God is again calling his people to be humble: by having the Israelites operate in this way, they would be unable to brag of what they had done. It’s as if God is again reminding them that they were not the ones responsible for the victory enjoyed.
I wonder how many times we have wanted some area in my life ‘conquered’ so that we would be able to build up our own name. Admittedly, I have not always faced the difficulties and obstacles in my life with humility, but hoped to overcome them so others would see how great Jeremiah Gómez really is.
How often have we wanted to win the next battle at work and climb the corporate ladder so others will finally see how smart we are and how much work we do? To overcome family issues so others will recognize how much of a ‘good’ spouse, parent, sibling, or child we really are? Or to find financial freedom so we can have all the stuff that better demonstrates our success?
The Israelites, it seems, needed to learn and practice humility in the face of obstacles. It’s a tough lesson that we need, too, but it’s one that will bring us to a place of greater confidence in the God Who Never Fails and less in our own design or desire.