“Overcoming Life’s Immovable Obstacles” Joshua 5:13-6:20 Every so often in life we run into the proverbial immovable object – something or someone who is unyielding job, new boss, family, financial situation, health issues. We just can’t get past it – blocks our progress. Barriers will come up - can stop us in our tracks. We can shrink back in frustration, complain, get a lawyer, a divorce, undermine, criticize, whine, gossip, or beat our head against the wall. Obstacles are inevitable for Christians. Life is always a struggle for the believer. God’s way is not the world’s way. As long as we live in the world we will have conflict. Our faith is our only solution to the immovable obstacles of life. Joshua 5:13-6:20 looks at how to overcome these situations. The people are encamped on the plains of Jericho after having crossed the Jordan. Now they run into the immovable object. We all have to face… I. Life’s Strong Obstacles Joshua 6:1 Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. The oldest city in the world. We need to understand; these walls were… A. Formidable massive, stone walls could accommodate 2 chariots, overwhelming, staggering to contemplate (circumstances). B. Impenetrable frontier town, heavily fortified, sealed tight as a drum. No one went out and no one came in. (Relationships). C. Unmovable houses built into the walls. No way around and no way to budge it – had to be faced (personal responsibilities). City was virtually impregnable. From a human point of view an impossible obstacle. In life we run into our own Jerichos. Something blocking our way – stopping our progress in doing what God has called us to do. What do we do? Whatever our natural response is you can be sure God has something else in mind. Something we never would have thought of requires us to step out in faith according to God’s strange strategies. Overcoming immovable objects always… II. Begins with Worship vs.5:13-15 Joshua is walking alone near the walls of the fortified city of Jericho wondering how his people can win the battle. He is trying to figure out a strategy to overcome the high walls. He: A. Get Alone with God 13Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Friend or foe?” Whose side are you on? 14 “Neither,” he replied, (ball games) “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” This was a “Christophany” an appearance of Jesus before His incarnation. Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, the first step in overcoming immovable objects in our lives is regular time alone with God. Not just talking; God is not a waiter to take our orders; but listening through the Bible and His still small voice speaking to us. 2 B. Be Open to God’s Direction 14…Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” Joshua realized that the Lord is right here with us if we are open to Him. We can talk to Him. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. He is the Captain, the Commander in Chief, the One who gives the orders and then gives us enough strength to live one day at a time. Joshua realized his need for divine guidance. When the Lord appeared he fell down and worshipped. We need to humbly listen and then… C. Be Prepared to Obey 15The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. Joshua knew who his leader was God Almighty. Joshua had learned to move beyond worship to obedience. Obedience is the sign of whether or not one’s worship is authentic. The rhythm of his life was to fall down, worship, listen and then obey. Once the mind of God was indicated there was nothing more for him to do than to obey. Pride can take over so easily. If we are not humble we will fall on our face. We miss out on so many of God’s blessings for us because we refuse to obey what His Word says. God is our leader, and He goes with us into battle. We all need to fall on our faces, acknowledging His holiness and supreme leadership and determine to be obedient regardless. Then don’t be surprised by… III. God’s Strange Strategies vs.6:2-20 God’s instructions; people were to carry the Ark around the city. That’s it! Rather strange approach. A. Requires Obedience 2Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. Huh? All he could see was a heavily fortified, imposing, dangerous obstacle. 3March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.” Have you ever heard of a crazier military strategy? It doesn’t make any sense which is the reason God came up with it. Demanded obedience; embarrassing to Israel – “not how you do city conquering.” Complied exactly with God’s instructions. God has a way of turning everything upside down. God is teaching us to trust Him instead of using our own cleverness. God minimizes human, prideful, self-confidence. They didn’t add anything or leave anything out. They simply obeyed. Notice: seven days, 7 priests, 7 trumpets, on 7th day seven times symbol of the Holy Spirit of God. God’s plan was for the people to do nothing more 3 than a few symbolic acts to show them and the Canaanites how powerful He was. God has strange strategies for our Jerichos too. We need to obey what God has told us: bless/curse, pray/abuse, turn cheek, share the Gospel, honor God with resources, love spouse, sexually pure, anger without sin contrary to conventional wisdom. Stop trying to come up with some clever rationalizations, trying to prove that God’s teachings are out of date and He doesn’t really know what is best. Following God’s strange strategies… B. Requires Persistence 6So Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the LORD and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.” 7And he ordered the people, “Advance! March around the city, with the armed guard going ahead of the ark of the LORD.” 8When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the LORD went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the LORD’s covenant followed them. 9The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. 10But Joshua had commanded the people, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” 11So he had the ark of the LORD carried around the city, circling it once. Then the people returned to camp and spent the night there. 12Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. 13The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the LORD and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the LORD, while the trumpets kept sounding. 14So on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days. Six days of the same thing. Appeared to be a religious pilgrimage around the impregnable walls of Jericho. Holding weapons but not using them, hearing the trumpets but not responding. First day – exciting, 3rd day boring – imagine conversation. Looking foolish in the eyes of the people of Jericho. We want to do something quick & dramatic. God says: “Keep doing what I’ve told you to do.” God doesn’t do things the way we do. We lose faith block power. The walls fell by faith - result of people marching around. Faith always looks foolish in the eyes of the world. God’s strategy: II Corinthians 10:3-5 For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. 4The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and 4 we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. The real battle is not against our obstacles but in our mind. We tend to argue with God. He encourages our honest prayers but in the final analysis God knows what is best. We are better off saving the energy spent fighting Him, trying to convince Him that we know better that He does; and put that energy into obeying. Will we trust God and continue to obey over the long haul? When we do we experience: C. Success Through Radical Faith Joshua obeyed and led the people in obedience. 15On 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 people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! 17The 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. 19All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the LORD and must go into his treasury.” 20When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city. Joshua followed God’s strategy for battle but also the instructions the Lord gave in the moment of victory. He gave safety to Rahab, honoring the promise of the two spies. He ordered the people to keep themselves from particular objects that were to be destroyed so as to avoid trouble that would come upon them. He gathered all the silver, gold and vessels of bronze and iron which would be sacred to the Lord and which were to go into His treasury. 20When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the people gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city. Walls fell! Obstacle dealt with. Success through radical faith! Question #1: “What is the Jericho or what are the Jerichos in your life?” Make a list of those points at which you are most vulnerable. What are the temptations? Points of spiritual warfare? Is it a struggle with doubt? Is it a hard time taking God and His Word at face value? Is it a struggle with an unforgiving spirit? Is it resentment and bitterness towards some who has betrayed your trust? Is it the illness that is getting the upper hand? Is it the loss of a loved one? Is it a struggle with an addiction of some kind? Is it a struggle relationally with a partner or 5 child? Is it a struggle with emotions that are confusing? Is it a struggle with the overbearing power of someone who is trying to control you? Question #2: “Are you letting God conquer your Jerichos for you?” Is He being allowed to wage the battle or are you doing it in your own strength? Is it His strategy or yours? The story of Jericho reminds us that God is in the business of giving victory to His obedient people when we move beyond our own clever plans to a straightforward trust and obedience. Hebrews 11:30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days. It was the Ark of the Covenant representing the presence of the Lord, not human energy that carried the day. It is when we admit our own vulnerability and let go of it, turning it over to the Lord, that we have the spiritual empowerment sufficient for the greatest Jericho the most immoveable object in our lives. We need to be honest; we need to admit our area of weakness and let go of it, allowing God to work in our lives, doing what He wills. This will take patience: God works in unseen ways and sometimes victory takes a little longer than we desire. Question #3: Are you willing to follow God’s strategy, be obedient, faithful, trust even against the immovable obstacles in your life? Will you step out in faith?