Images of the Savior (4 - The Downfall of Jericho)
In the blessed visions of Isaiah the prophet, we may meet with a coming Messiah more meek and gentle than all men, who will suffer willingly for the redemption of his people (e.g. Isaiah 50:6; 52:13-53:12); but at the same time, we are given glimpses of this same Messiah as a warrior returning from a great slaughter, his robes stained red with the blood of all the enemies upon whom he had been trampling in his fury (Isaiah 63:1-6). From this portrait of the Christ, we may gather that he is uniquely diverse in his altogether excellent attributes, being both humble and approachable to his people, and yet most terrible in the fierceness of his wrath, which he will pour out against all who are not his own; and as we continue in the histories of Joshua, that great type of the Savior, we may see this latter excellency displayed as well in his own biography: for after he had brought his people into the promised land, meekly and humbly passing before them into the waters which flowed from Adam and symbolized the wrath of God, as a type of the Messiah suffering on the cross; then, he showed what terrible things he had in store for all their enemies, when he brought down the walls of mighty Jericho, and spared no one except Rahab the prostitute, but devoted every man, woman, and child beside to utter destruction by the mouth of his terrible sword.
In this event, which reminds us that, however great the many mercies of this gospel age may be, yet there still is coming a destruction of the world that will be dreadful beyond all description, and which will swallow up all who have not bowed to the gentle yoke of Christ, we may find some notable glimpses and images of the Savior, as we now hope to point out; but first, before we discuss the great fall of Jericho itself, we will mention several gospel types that took place immediately after the entrance into the promised land, and before the downfall of that doomed city; for these foregoing details do much to help us understand the precise position that this typical event of devastation signifies in redemptive history to follow.
As we noted last time, when God dried up the waters of the Jordan river before Joshua, and he brought all his people through on dry ground, following in the train of the Ark of the Covenant, which symbolized the Messiah, he was foreshadowing Christ's baptism of wrath on the cross, by which he would bring his people back to the land where God's presence favorably dwells; and it is of great importance, therefore, that the effect which this great event had upon all the great rulers and kings of the land was to throw them into terror as soon as they had heard of it (Joshua 5:1). So also, the rulers of this present age, when they realized what the Christ had done upon the cross, passing through the judgment of God and rising again in triumph, and leading in his train a multitude of redeemed sinners, then they trembled at what had been accomplished, and no more spirit was left in them, for they knew that they had been put to a public display of defeat (Col. 2:14-15; cf. also 1 Cor. 2:8; James 2:19), and that their time was henceforth short (Rev. 12:12). So then, the melting hearts of Canaan's kings foreshadow the recognition of defeat that would overwhelm the demons after the baptism of Christ on the cross and his resurrection from the dead.
Then, several other details mark this event as pointing ahead to the time following Christ's death and resurrection; for first of all, the fact is mentioned that, no sooner had Joshua brought the people into Canaan, than he circumcised them a second time (Joshua 5:2-9). The first generation of the Israelites had been circumcised already, but they had been stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart (cf. Acts 7:51), which is a problem that described many later generations of Israelites as well (e.g. Jer. 4:4; 9:26); and because of their hard-heartedness, they had not circumcised their children, who were about to inherit the land. But although the generation which perished in the wilderness was uncircumcised in heart, yet Moses prophesied of a time when the Christ would circumcise their hearts indeed (Deut. 30:6), a promise which the later prophets pick up on and repeat as well (e.g. Jer. 32:39; Ezek. 36:26-27).
This detail also points ahead to the time immediately after the resurrection of Christ; for at that time, he sent his Spirit to fulfill all the prophecies and circumcise his people in their hearts; and this true, gospel circumcision was the second circumcision that he gave them, and it so entirely replaced the first, physical circumcision, that the former no longer mattered at all.
Now, the second circumcision which God gave his people to replace the first circumcision, by which he made them circumcised in heart and not just foreskin alone, is the covenant sign replacing circumcision, that is, baptism; even as the apostle Paul teaches us so clearly in Colossians 2, saying, â€œin [Christ] also you were circumcised with the circumcision not made of hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ, when you were buried together with him in baptismâ€ (Col. 2:11-12). In these instructive words we may learn that, when the time had been sufficient that the hard-hearted Israelites were circumcised in the flesh only, then God sent Christ to undergo the true circumcision when, as the Seed of Abraham, he was cut off in a bloody death and raised to a new life, in which sin and the law had been put to death; and afterwards, he gave a new, second circumcision to his people, joining them to himself by baptism, so that, having been put to the same bloody death to sin, as it were, they might live in newness of life, the sinful foreskins of their heart having been cut off once and for all. So then, this second circumcision which Joshua provided for the people looked ahead to the second circumcision of Christian baptism, by which we are joined to Christ in his death and resurrection, and made alive in the spirit.
Then, the next event that took place also points ahead to the beginning of the Christian era; for just as the first great Passover was celebrated in the promised land, immediately after the people had crossed over the Jordan, then the Manna which had nourished them in the wilderness ceased at once, and the fruits of Canaan henceforth supplied their every need (Joshua 5:10-12). In the same way, after Christ died and rose again, his Church immediately began to celebrate their second blessed sacrament, the breaking of bread at the Lord's table; and this true fruit and sustenance from heaven began to nourish them alone, and they had no more need of the types and shadows that had sustained them in their time of childhood. For just as the temporary food of manna ceased when Israel entered the promised land, so the temporary feasts and sacrifices that nourished the people before the Christ came were done away with when the true Bread came down from heaven for the life of the world. After this, just as the Israelites began to live on the grain of Canaan, so the Church began to live on the Bread from heaven, which Canaan signified, that had truly come down to give them life. So then, we see the inauguration of both sacraments of the fullness of the times, Christian baptism and the Lord's table, here signified in type as the Israelites entered the promised land; and these things indicate to us that, when Israel first passed over into Canaan, she was signifying to us in a shadowy way what would take place when the Church first entered the heavenly Jerusalem in the train of Christ, who passed over the Jordan, as it were, in his death.
Finally, before we look at the destruction of Jericho, we would do well not to miss the very important visit of the Captain of the Lord's Hosts to Joshua (Joshua 5:13-15). Very few are the occasions, and only at the very important junctures of redemptive history, when the Christ appeared visibly to his people before his incarnation. And this very time, when Joshua had just brought the people into Canaan and was about to make them inherit the land, was one of them. We may notice at least two notable features of this event; first of all, Christ reveals himself to Joshua by this title: the Captain of the Lord's Hosts. Joshua was just about to embark upon the most difficult task of winning the promised land of Canaan by warring against the many hostile nations which dwelt within its borders; but before he sets out, he has the promise that Christ is really their captain, it is he that is fighting for them and bringing them victory and good success everywhere that they went.
Second, the Christ here tells Joshua, just as he had told Moses before him, to take off his shoes, for he was standing on holy ground. Now, ground becomes holy only when this takes place, that the Lord himself is present there; and so, in revealing to Joshua that this was holy ground, he was revealing that this is the land where God's presence would dwell. Joshua may not have seen the Christ in visible form after that; but because the ground was holy, he knew that the Lord was still with him invisibly, fighting all his battles and sanctifying his whole life. This is very significant, because it points ahead to the time immediately after the resurrection of Christ, when he sent out his hosts to win the world from the enemy; and although he had appeared for a time before them and walked among them visibly for thirty-three years, yet he would soon be veiled from their eyes. Therefore, he gives them his sure promise never to leave nor forsake them (Heb. 13:5), but always to be present among them by his Spirit (Mat. 18:20; 28:20; John 14:16-18), so that everywhere they went, they might be a temple of God where he dwells in the world (e.g. Eph. 2:19-22), in order that, not just Jerusalem, but every place might be holy ground (John 4:21-24). As the apostles set out to turn the world into Beulah Land for the glory of the Lord, how impossible the task must have seemed! What could have sustained them but this, that he had appeared to them as the Captain of the Lord's hosts, and promised to be with them, and to make all the earth holy by his very presence, as they took the gospel to the nations?
But enough of those preliminary details, which firmly establish the type of the downfall of Jericho as pointing to the coming era when, after the death and resurrection of Christ, his people should begin their task of capturing the world for him by the preaching of the gospel. Our time now runs short; and so, in brief, let us just mention several characteristics of the downfall of Jericho which teach us what should take place in a later day, when the evil city Babylon finally falls before the trumpet blasts of the gospel of the ministers of Christ.
First, God commands Israel to march around the city of Jericho for seven days, and seven times on the seventh day. This looks ahead to when Christ would command his people to march around the whole world, not with swords or spears, as when the Medieval Church very foolishly carried on the Crusades, but with nothing but the trumpet blasts of the free gospel (cf. Isaiah 58:1; cf. also 2 Cor. 10:4-6). And further, it teaches that they should do so very thoroughly, even as Israel had to encompass Jericho seven times, the number of completion; and also, that as the end draws near, the urgency of taking the gospel to all the world greatly increases, even as on the seventh and last day the city was to be compassed seven times.
Second, the people were not to say a word until the city had fallen and the battle was over; but all they were to do was to blast on the trumpets. In the same way, just as Christ suffered silently and unresistingly, so Christians are to suffer silently and not return evil for evil, but rather commend themselves to God (1 Pet. 2:20-23), and do nothing but give a reason for the hope which is in them (1 Pet. 3:15); and in this way, they blast the gospel-trumpet of forgiveness in Christ throughout the world. And just as the trumpet brought down the walls of Jericho, causing that kingdom to become the possession of the people of the Lord, so when the seven trumpets of this gospel age are finally sounded, the last will be attended by that great proclamation, the blessed shout of victory from all the saints, â€œThe kingdoms of the world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and his Christ, and he shall reign forever and everâ€ (Rev. 11:15).
Third, after the trumpets had been sounded all throughout the city, then the end came suddenly, and the destruction was complete. So, too, when the gospel has gone through all the world, then the end will come (Mat. 24:14), and it will be sudden as birthpangs and devastating beyond belief (e.g. 1 Thes. 5:1-4; 2 Pet. 3:10). The smoke of Babylon, that eschatological Jericho, will arise forever and ever, and all her merchants and princes will mourn and be in torments forever (Rev. 18:1 â€“ 19:3). And just as every man, woman, and child in Jericho was devoted to the destruction of the Lord, so every citizen of that great world city will be put in the place of never-ending curse, which has been prepared for the devil and his angels (Mat. 25:41).
Fourth, as Rahab the prostitute, who had believed the good news of Joshua's messengers, was snatched out from the destruction, so too will many sinners be snatched from the fire by the messengers of Christ (cf. Jude 23); but they who stay in the world's city will be destroyed. Which brings us to our final point that, just as the Lord's brother warned us, friendship with this world is enmity with God (James 4:4): and so if we love the world, and touch the unclean thing (2 Cor. 6:16-18), which has been devoted to destruction, then we too will be consumed. We will see next time (alas!) how one man lusted after the fine things of Jericho, and was therefore destroyed with his family; but if we lust after the world, how can we escape our own eternal destruction with Babylon?
And so I would leave you, dear reader, with a warning and a consolation. The warning is this: that Jericho was not just destroyed, but put under a perpetual curse, that anyone who henceforth built it up would likewise be destroyed with all his family (Joshua 6:26). Does this not teach us that, even today, anyone who would build his life upon the quicksand of this world, and make his foundation all her treasures and pleasures, will most assuredly put himself under the curse of God, and set up his house to have a very great fall (Mat. 7:24-27)? Ah, dear soul, flee from the wrath to come, get out from the borders of Jericho, take not so much as a rearward glimpse, lest your folly become a perpetual pillar of salt to the memory of the lot of the rebellious (cf. Gen. 19:26)!
But the consolation is surpassing sweet to them who are troubled at this severe downfall: for Christ himself became a curse for us (Gal. 3:13), that all who flee to him might be saved from the wrath to come. Do you live in Jericho, have you built your house on the cursed principles of this world's city? Take heart! For such a one was Zacchaeus, a citizen of cursed Jericho (Luke 19:1-10); but the Savior called him out and turned the curse into a blessing and the coming destruction to eternal salvation â€“ and will he not do the same for you, if you run to him for refuge? Then, when he comes to destroy this world suddenly and beyond repair, his terrible appearance will be to you, not everlasting destruction away from his presence, but rather the unspeakable relief of salvation from all your enemies (2 Thes. 1:6-10).
Sinner, flee to Christ from the coming wrath!