Holy Land Dispatch - Day Six: "Jericho"
Among the many places we'll be visiting today in our Holy Land pilgrimage, we'll be spending some time at Jericho. Jericho is now officially under the governance of the Palestinian Authority so our guide won't be able to guide us in an official capacity.
When you visit Jericho, you'll get the opportunity to see Elisha's Spring, a spring that once flowed with bitter water, until it was healed by the prophet Elisha (2 Kings 2:21), and you'll probably want to take a photo by the mosaic fountain that is emblazoned with the words, "The Oldest City In The World."
But it's the "Tel" that will take up most of your visit--a large hill with thousands of years of civilization buried beneath it. The story that captures our imagination the most, however, is the one we find in the Hebrew Scriptures in Joshua chapters 5 & 6.
This is, of course, the story of how Joshua and the Hebrew people conquered the great walled city of Jericho without a siege. The text tells us that all they did was march around the city, as God commanded them, and the walls miraculously fell down.
There's a little-known part of that whole story that has always intrigued me. It's found at the very end of chapter 5:
13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
And that's it. The chapter ends right there.
There's no other mention of this strange encounter between Joshua and what seems to be an armed angel, in the subsequent chapter--nor anywhere else for that matter. You're intrigued now, aren't you?
So, what does this teach us? What can we learn from this strange interlude in the Jericho story? I think it speaks to us about how we don't really understand the complexity of reality, and how we tend to believe that the only struggles between good and evil are the ones that take place where we can see them.
There's a spiritual side to these struggles to be sure. The Apostle Paul himself noted that we are not wrestling against "flesh and blood" but against "principalities and powers" who are "in the air," which was an ancient way of describing an expanded view of reality.
Let me break this down. You are not alone in your struggle against the darkness in your life. We are not alone in our collective struggle to resist evil in the world. The God of the angel-armies (to coin a popular Christian song) is on our side.
May this give you great hope and courage today and every day. And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.