“And the LORD said to Joshua, ‘See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets.’ But Joshua commanded the people, ‘You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.’ And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout, for the LORD has given you the city.’ ‘But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it. But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD.’” (Joshua 6:2-4, 10, 16, 18-19, ESV).
As I was preparing for today’s post, I was considering other situations in scripture where obedience to strange commands was requisite for God’s powerful intervention. The first incident that came to mind was that of Naaman the Syrian.
The narrative takes place in 2 Kings 5, after Elijah was taken up by God. Naaman, on the recommendation of a young girl taken from Israel to be a servant, goes to Elisha to be healed of his leprosy. Elisha offends him by not even coming out to see him face to face and telling him to go to “wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” (2 Kings 5:10, ESV). At first, Naaman refuses because of his perceived slight. But, convinced by his servants, he obeys and is healed.
In John 9, Jesus made mud from his saliva and wiped it on the eyes of a blind man. He then tells him to go wash it off in a specific pool of water. The man does and is healed.
I’m sure that there are many more such stories that could serve to illustrate our purpose here. Sometimes God demands obedience before He will move in power on our behalf. And He also expects obedience after He has demonstrated His power!
Joshua and the army of Israel were faithful to obey the instructions of God and of Joshua…except one man, Achan. Achan took some of the devoted things, that were supposed to be destroyed, and kept them for himself. Verse one of Joshua 7 tells us that, “…the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan…took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the LORD burned against the people of Israel.” (ESV). There’s actually a lot we can learn from this story, like how our actions affect others, but they are lessons for another time. Suffice it to say that, like Adam, the disobedience of one man made everyone guilty.
Achan’s sin represents selfishness in our walk with God. When God has acted on our behalf we can become prideful as though we, somehow, had something to do with it. Our obedience, though required, does nothing to justify thinking too highly of ourselves. “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3, ESV).
I remember looking through my mother’s Bible when I was young and seeing markings throughout it where she had written “If” and “Then.” She explained that these were conditional promises of God. “If” we are faithful to obey the conditions God had established, “Then” He would be faithful to fulfill the promise.
Elisha knew that if he stayed at Jericho, having seen God move powerfully, he would be living in yesterday’s obedience while expecting tomorrow’s move of God. Similarly, when we find ourselves in need of God’s action on our behalf, we make promises to God. Then once we have been given that for which we asked, we renege on our side of the covenant.
When God reveals His will to us, either by the Bible or some other means that lines up with the Bible, we need to be obedient to that immediately. It is only as we learn to obey God without question that we will be able to get past our fleshly responses to things and walk humbly with God’s power working on our behalf.
Blessings on your week!