So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor.
– 1 Peter 5:6 –
Moses had passed . . Joshua was the new leader . . 40 years of futility in the wilderness for the nation of Israel was in the rear view mirror . . and the road ahead would ask for nothing less than all the faith and courage God’s people could find: water, walls and warriors would all appear to be directly in the way of finally settling in Canaan.
The water? The overflowing Jordan River in Springtime. The walls? Jericho, the most fortified and well-armed city on the West Bank. The warriors? All those Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites.
But along with all the problems that lay ahead in Israel’s path was a much repeated promise from God, “I will be with you . . I will not fail you or abandon you.” Joshua 1:5
On the heels of the miraculous crossing of the Jordan, which likely took as many as 30 days to complete (roughly 2.5 million Israelites) and occurred no more than five miles from Jericho, God’s promise of presence, protection and provision for victory would be reaffirmed by the Commander of the Lord’s army who appeared before Joshua and said, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors.” Joshua 6:2
Add one not so small wrinkle: Joshua was tasked with the mission of instructing the entire Jewish nation to go in circles for 7 days – even worse, the 7th day would require 7 more laps around Jericho. It is one thing to find yourself in the spin cycle in the middle of the wilderness for 40 years, but now God was asking Joshua and the entire nation of Israel to go in circles around the enemy’s front door.
Add even one more wrinkle: the very act of marching was designed to be an act of worship by all the Israelites to God and God alone, signified by the order to assign 7 priests to the sole duty of marching just ahead of the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant and blowing on ram’s horns (referred to as the Shofar in ancient times) while every man, woman and child kept themselves in absolute silence.
Reverse course? Not a chance – the Jordan had closed up and was at peak flow – forward in faith was the only option.
Day 1 – not a word spoken, only the blowing of horns, no sign of God’s intervention, just one big lap around Jericho.
Days 2 through 6 – exactly the same.
By Day 7, the Israelites, especially Joshua, were realizing that while God’s greatest victories and breakthroughs are signaled by a reassuring Divine promise – they also come tethered to God’s greatest tests.
What Kind of Worship Is God Looking For On The Unfulfilled Side of Victory?
So often we ‘categorize” worship in the life of a Christian as a corporate event at a local church, but our times of deepest and most undiluted worship are typically far removed from a programmed environment. How we “sing our song” on the unresolved side of a major life challenge is God’s chosen chapel, if you will, for the soul.
Elijah & His Servant – The Test of Fervency – 1 Kings 18
A drought had decimated Israel for more than three years in the wake of the rise of perhaps it’s most evil ruler ever – Ahab, who stooped to unparalleled levels of darkness with much inspiration and coercion from his wife Jezebel.
But the promise of provision came from the Lord to Elisha – rain is coming.
Mt. Carmel would prove to be the classroom for this exam – 450 false prophets of Baal had been exposed and put to death, but not even a hint of rain was to be found in the sky.
Elijah would turn to the Lord in prayer on the top of Carmel and then ask his servant to go and look towards the sea to determine if rain was coming . . but to no avail. This process would repeat 6 more times and somewhere in the process, the servant had to begin to feel as though he was doing nothing more than going in circles. Only on the 7th time did the servant notice a tiny little cloud. A “terrific” rainstorm soon ensued – the drought was busted.
The Worship Test? God was looking for fervency in prayer – fervency that can only be demonstrated in relentless perseverance and pursuit of the throne of God when nothing in our circumstances resembles breakthrough.
The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
– James 5:16 –
Naaman & The Jordan River – The Test of Humility – 2 Kings 5
Aram (modern day Syria) was an enemy to Israel in the time of Elisha, but Naaman Commander of all Aram’s military, and a highly lauded warrior at that, had a health condition that superseded political matters. Leprosy looks for solutions in unusual places, and thanks to a Jewish servant girl, Naaman made his way to Israel seeking healing from the Prophet Elisha.
Problem, Naaman had become infatuated with his own success and authority and thought he could buy a miracle from God. No wonder he was insulted by Elisha not even making it to the door to personally hear his request – instead, Elisha’s messenger pointed Naaman towards the Jordan where he would need to wash himself . . you guessed it . . 7 times.
No prominent military commander is ever going to be comfortable with receiving directions that lead to a virtual spin cycle – even worse if the circle you take leads to the unimpressive muddy Jordan as compared to the fresh mountain-sourced clear-water streams back home
The Worship Test? God was looking for humility – humility that can only flow from a life that comes to an utter and complete place of surrender to God’s ways, at God’s time, in God’s place.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
– James 4:10 –
Joshua, The Israelites & Jericho – The Test of Trust – Joshua 5
The Bible is plum-full of examples of where talking can lead to trouble: Adam & Eve talked their way into sinful rebellion – the Scribes and Pharisees murmured against Jesus and His disciples to the the point that they talked their way out of the Kingdom – 10 of the 12 spies commissioned by Moses talked a nation into 40 years of wandering.
Can you imagine where runaway conversation might have led the circling Israelites after Day 1 . . or how about Day 6, knowing that nothing has happened and tomorrow means more of the same times 7.
The Worship Test? God was looking for trust – the kind of trust that wouldn’t even think of flinching in His presence or scrambling in fear to take matters into one’s own hands.
“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”
Sing Your Song
You likely have discovered that God’s most trying tests can cause you to feel like you too are doing nothing more than going in circles. but His tests are not the kind of tests that are designed to break us . . but rather bring us into a time of pure worship . . the kind that brings us close to the very God who is jealous for our whole heart.
On the surface, singing our song on the uphill side to victory may seem like your life has been reduced to the senseless blaring of a ram’s horn, but the melody that reaches heaven and pleases our Father is one whose notes are marked by relentless, fervent prayer, humble surrender and a still soul that has learned to lean on God alone.
Once we have embraced that song in our dry season, in our time of affliction, in our time of battle . . we unlock the key to experiencing His “right time” (1 peter 5:6), and His unmistakable “right time” is when our song changes to a shout . . not a shout of desperation, panic or fear . . but a shout of victory . . victory that will forever remind us that life this side of heaven is about far more than simply . . going in circles.
When the people heard the sound of the rams’ horns, they shouted as loud as they could – suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed.
– Joshua 5:20 –
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