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The Siege of Jericho

"And Joshua commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout nor make any noise with your voice until the day that I bid you shout, then shall ye shout. ... So the ark of the Lord compassed the city, going about it once, and they came into the camp."

Joshua vi. 10, n.

Israel gave Joshua cheerful, uniform obedience, in remarkable contrast with their habitual murmurings and rebellions against Moses. Many reasons probably concurred in bringing about this change of tone. For one thing, the long period of suspense was over; and to average sense-bound people there is no greater trial of faith and submission than waiting, inactive, for something that is to come. Now they are face to face with their enemies, and it is a great deal easier to fight than to expect; and their courage mounts higher as dangers come nearer. The changed temper was so great that the Epistle to the Hebrews does not hesitate to ascribe "faith" to the ranks that tramped round Jericho for six days, and stormed it on the seventh. Careful reading of the narrative shows that the people were not at first told the purpose of that strange promenade, but learned it only on the last morning. They had to obey, not knowing the reason of the command. These two stages in the incident—the trial of faith and the victory that vindicates and crowns it—are worth dwelling on.

The command comes through Joshua's lips, unaccompanied by any explanation or reasons. If Moses had called for a like obedience from the people in their wilderness mood, there would have been grumbling. But whatever some of them may have thought, there is nothing recorded but prompt submission. The order of march is significant. First came " the armed men " ; then seven priests, making music on their ram's-horn trumpets, that would probably have sounded discord to us; next, the ark, the symbol and token of God's presence, and then a rear-guard. The ark, then, was the centre. The trumpet-blasts were the solemn proclamation of Jehovah's presence, and as if He Himself were saying: "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, that the King of Glory may come in." The grim silence of the marching hosts would make the strange procession the more impressive. For six days in succession they circled the city, speaking no word, though, no doubt, many a taunt was flung from the gazers on the walls, and then, with strange inertia, went back to camp, and subsided into inactivity for another twenty-four hours. According to "Hebrews," faith, though of a very rudimentary

kind, and with very small contents, actuated the host. Therefore they obeyed without question the apparently purposeless command. They believed that Jehovah had spoken through Joshua, and therefore, though it would have been much more pleasant to have remained quietly in camp than to have toiled round the city in the blazing sun, they shouldered the ark, and blew the trumpets, and tramped their appointed march. Now, we do not need to put out the eyes of our understanding in order to practise the obedience of faith, and we have to exercise common-sense about the things that seem to us to be duties. But this is plain, that if once we are sure that God has spoken, unquestioning obedience, whether by passive submission or active effort, must be our answer, if we are truly living by faith.

Further, here we see faith obeying in ignorance of the event. The narrative obviously implies that the instructions for each day were issued on the day, and nothing told of what was to be the issue or of how long the march round was to be continued, until the morning of the seventh day. The day's task was plain, and it was done without knowledge of what to-morrow's would be. Similarly, in the passage of the Jordan, the people were not told of what was to be done, till the morning of the day when the feet of the priests were dipped in the brink of the river. We, too, have to attend to "the matter of a day in its day," and to act strenuously in the present, though ignorant of its issues. Life is like a voyage down some winding stream, shut in by hills which are sometimes sunny and vine-clad like the banks of the Rhine, and sometimes black and grim like an American canon. We look ahead and wonder where the opening is, beyond the next bend. Only when we round the shoulder do we see the blue ribbon of water before us. Since we know so little of the issues, let us make sure of our motives; and since we know not what to-morrow or the next hour may bring, let us fill to-day and this moment with active obedience based on unquestioning faith. We have light enough for the next step. God says: March round Jericho to-day; you will know why some time.

That unquestioning obedience was persistent. A week was not long, but it was a long time during which to do one apparently useless thing, and nothing besides. The march round would not take more than an hour or so, and all the rest of the day was idle. No apparent progress in reducing Jericho was being made, and monotony must have bred weariness before the sixth day. Familiarity with our work tends to make it uninteresting; habit deadens, and presses on us " with a weight, heavy as frost and deep almost as life." It is easy to make great efforts which are to last but for a moment, and which break the tedium of daily routine, but it is the keeping on at trivial duties done yesterday, and to be done again to-morrow, that tests grit and goodness too. We have to persist for the six long days, and turn out, however hot the sun, however comfortable the carpets in the tent, however wearisome and unexciting the march, for "in due season" the signal will be given and the city will fall.