…the people marched around the walls of Jericho
“We trust you’ll take the walls down.”
If I’m not mistaken, I do believe there’s a big football game later today, and since the Super Bowl pregame show is only like 10 hours long let me add to the football festivities. Let’s talk stats using the records of the Elias Sports Bureau. Do you know who played the most seasons in the NFL? The obvious choice would seem to be Brett Favre, but the correct answer is George Blanda. Blanda played 26 seasons. Jackie Slater played 20 seasons for the Rams and Darrell Green played 20 seasons for the Redskins. Do you know who has scored the most points ever in the NFL - Morten Andersen who scored 2,544 points? Who has scored the most touchdowns in his career? Jerry Rice – 208 touchdowns. Do you know who holds the record for most pass attempts without an interception? Bernie Kosar of the Cleveland Browns with 308 attempts! NOW NOT EVERY RECORD IS GOOD! Who was the most sacked quarterback? John Elway was sacked 516 times in his career. Who holds the all time “fumble” record – Warren Moon? Moon fumbled the ball 161 times in his career. But – Len Dawson holds this dubious record. He fumbled the ball 7 times in one game.[i]
Let’s shift gears from football to baseball. Only four players in baseball history have made four errors in a single inning. Bob Brenly of the San Francisco Giants was one of them. Usually a catcher, he was playing third base when he missed four easy stops in the fourth inning. Now what did he feel? Fear, despair, humiliation? Brenly replied, "All of those...After the fourth one, I never wanted to see the ball again. I tried to hide behind the third base umpire a couple of times, but he kept moving.”[ii]
Have you ever heard of the Wallenda Factor? Karl Wallenda spent practically his entire life on a high wire, thrilling crowds with his daring high-altitude act. That all ended in 1978 when Wallenda plunged 75 feet to his death before an audience of thousands in San Juan, Puerto Rico. When Wallenda's widow began to sort out what might have happened, she noted how that recently her husband had become more and more concerned with little details of safety. His precautions became a preoccupation. Instead of all his energies being channeled into performing his act, his purpose had now become how to keep from falling. His tragedy created a new label - the "Wallenda factor." It cautions us to beware of being so afraid of failure that we dwell only on the negatives. While we should be careful, we cannot allow ourselves to become paralyzed by the fear of failure.[iii] John Elway was sacked 516 times but he scored 300 touchdowns.[iv]
Are you afraid to fail? Do you remember the Fear Poll we did last fall? We asked, “What is your greatest fear?” Here are three more answers. “Being assessed and dismissed as worthless, irritating, irrelevant, or needing too much and not worth the time beyond the purpose I can serve in someone else's agenda.” Others wrote “Failure” or “Inadequacy.” I can’t help but wonder if the Israelites felt the fear of failure. Turn in your Bible to Hebrews 11:30. Last week Pastor Reggie had the Israelites asking in faith – God, will you hold these walls of water up! Today they are asking, “God, will you knock the walls of Jericho down! Who needs a Bible today? Just raise your hand and a Bible will be brought to you. Let’s read one verse. Hebrews 11:30! (Read)
Allot can happen from one verse to the next. In one verse we move from Moses to Joshua and from the Book of Exodus to the Book of Joshua. Once the Israelites make their way on dry land what should have taken less than a year takes 40 years.[v] I find it interesting that the Hebrew writer leaves out 40 years of history. But the reason is legit. They didn’t exhibit allot of faith – which is the purpose of this chapter. Look at this map. Moses takes the Israelites across the Red Sea. Michael Armour writes, “...about fifteen months after leaving Egypt, the Israelites struck camp and moved north from Sinai, setting their course toward Canaan.”[vi] Getting to Canaan should have taken months instead it took 38 years. Why? Because 12 men spied on Canaan and 10 were bad and two were good. God wanted them to trust him. Put your faith in me and they collectively said no. According to Joshua 5:4 men of military age[vii] had to die out in the desert before a whole new generation of Israelites could enter the Promise Land.
Can I show you a picture? Do you recognize anyone? That was me 31 years ago. Time flies, doesn’t it? And time goes by for the Israelites. The men die out. The end of Numbers means 38 years have passed since they left Sinai – Moses has died and a new leader emerges. His name is Joshua. Go to the Book of Joshua. My son Sam tapped on my arm one day. I was talking to his Mom, my wife. Sam is asking “Do you know where Jeanna is? Do you know where Jeanna is?” He’s not getting a response, so he says, “Let me dumb this down for you. DO – YOU – KNOW – WHERE – JEANNA – IS? I just looked at him and had to laugh. The Book of Joshua – I don’t want to dumb it down – but simply speaking Joshua is all about entering Canaan – conquering Canaan and dividing of Canaan.[viii] This one verse in Hebrews is explained in Joshua chapters 5 through 7. Find Joshua 6:1a. Why is Jericho such a big deal? Conquer Jericho and you’ll conquer all of Canaan. Jericho was an intimidating city and its walls made it seem impossible to overcome. John MacArthur said, “Some city walls of this period were wide enough at the top to drive two chariots on side-by-side.” Jericho was allot like cities today. Overconfident and doing just fine without God – thank you! Hosea 4:1 says, "There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land.” Hosea was speaking of the Israelites, but it was also true of Jericho! No matter where you live – big city, small town – it’s easy to conclude – in our minds we’re big and tough and can take care of ourselves. I bet God just laughs – because a ½ inch of ice brings a city to a halt. We’re not as mighty as we think we are. The people of Jericho will find this out the hard way. Back again to Joshua 6:1. (Why not? Because these people do freaky things. Their God seems to be with them!) Here’s what God did. Go back 3 chapters to Joshua 3:14. (vs. 14-16) Now do you understand why things are tightly shut up? Let’s keep reading. Joshua gets a message from God. Find Joshua 6:2. vs. 2-10! Do you know what I’d be tempted to shout? This is so stupid! We have an army of 40,000 foot soldiers,[ix] but you don’t want us to use our weapons. You just want us to march and shout? Oh brother. You, Joshua, are certainly NO Moses. Who came up with this brilliant plan? Actually God did. Verse 12 -14 tell us they march around Jericho for six straight days. Joshua tells them not to speak, but I bet that didn’t prevent them from thinking. In VeggieTales fame - Josh and the Big Wall tell us the Israelites get “slushies” tossed on their heads. It would appear to me that it was much worst than that. Think of the inner turmoil these folks might be facing. “We saw what God did at the Jordan River. God parted the river, but these walls are MUCH bigger than a river. What happens if we fail? What happens if Joshua is wrong? These Canaanites will kill us for sure.” Can I ask you something? What determines if a person is a success or failure in this world? Obedience – to choose to walk by faith. There are two judges when it comes to success or failure. Our world/culture and GOD! Culture will give you all kinds of criteria for success or failure. Such as… If one person makes more money than another are they a success and the other a failure? No – not at all. OK. Well, it has to be skills then, right? (Check out this video clip – Chris Chambers) Chris Chambers can catch a football. I can’t – well, not like that! Does that make him a success and “moi” a failure? My friend Church Pedigo told me about Andy’s Burgers Shakes and Fries. Apparently, this 50’s style restaurant is a NC favorite. Andy’s opened up a new location in Locust, NC and to celebrate they created the “A” challenge. I know we are a people who walk by faith, but in this case seeing is believing! I give you the “A” challenge. We’ll stack up almost 50 oz. of meat on a burger bun with at least four toppings. We’ll give you a side of fries and a 24 oz. soft drink. If you can eat it all in 30 minutes or less, then it’s on the house. If you can’t or if you cheat, we’ll happily charge you for it.” You won’t believe this, but allot of people have met that challenge including a guy named Rick Rushing who ate that thing in 7 minutes flat.[x] I can’t beat that challenge. Maybe you can – I can’t. Does that make you a success and “moi” again a failure? Look again at Hebrews 11:30. Now here’s Joshua 6:20. Now who’s missing in the Hebrews 11:30 passage? Joshua! Joshua is not mentioned. Don’t you think he deserves a little press coverage here? I mean I can hear him saying, Abraham is mentioned and Noah and of course Moses but I get nothing. Why? Because the Lord spoke to Joshua. Find Joshua 5:13. When you see something – it no longer takes faith! The Israelites are highlighted here because they took Joshua at his word which is the definition of faith! Do you remember Bob Brenly? The guy who committed four errors in one inning? In that same game he hit a game winning home run in the bottom of the ninth.[xi] He went from zero to hero. So can we. To be a success or failure in this world comes down to this. Be obedient. Put your trust in God and walk by faith! I have failed many times, but that does not make me a failure. If you walk by faith – you never have to fear being a failure! Let’s pray!
[v] John MacArthur, New Testament Commentary, Hebrews, 361
[vi] Michael C. Armour, A Newcomer’s Guide to the Bible, 78
[vii] Joshua 5:4 (NIV)
[viii] Wilkinson & Boa, Talk Thru the Old Testament, 51
[ix] Joshua 4:13 (NIV)