Jericho represents in many ways the “past” we’ve all tried to leave behind. It’s towering walls and super-fortified military presence in the region of Palestine could even be described as a “strong-hold“. Jericho was definitely a substantial and intimidating structure Israel was confronted with immediately after crossing into the promised land of peace and rest. It would have been a massive barrier to their progress and a seemingly insurmountable goal to overcome, a frustrating symbol of all that they had yet to accomplish…
| strong·hold (noun) /ˈstrôNGˌhōld/
Reading through Joshua we find some basic descriptions of the city of Jericho, but only after taking some time to research the historical Jericho will you find substantial symbolic and significant parallels to the nation of Israel then, and for us today.
–Did you know that Jericho is the “oldest” and “lowest” city by elevation in the world? (link to article here) – Presumed to be symbolic that the beliefs and behaviors common to Jericho/Canaan were as old as sin itself, and it’s location at 900 feet below sea level shows the decline of human nature and morality in a very visible manner…
–Did you know that Jericho was the largest and strongest of the city states in the region when the nation of Israel first approached from the Egyptian desert? (link to bible history article) – Powerful, wealthy, entrenched, influential and pleasing. Jericho was also known by names such as a “sweet fragrance” or city of Palms, the Moon city.
–Did you know that Jericho had a complex and highly prosperous financial empire, based in part on its strategic resources of water and palm trees due to a large oasis it protected? – It’s presence was a reassuring reminder of where one could turn to for financial well-being, for health and for comfort.
–Did you know that the king of Jericho was a self-proclaimed religious and political divine ruler, who was a part of a series of divine rulers common to the area of Canaan known as a “son of el” or “ba-al” later associated with Baal and Ashtoreth? (historical reference article) – It’s leadership and spiritual culture allowed for a “substitute” faith and religion that would not “restrict” its followers from pursuing what they desired. Sexuality and indulgence were not only tolerated, but celebrated in this culture of Jericho and the entire region.
Sorry for all the details… these are just a few highlights, key points, characteristics of our struggles, symbolic issues that haunt us in our pursuit of peace. My connection point for us today is this… for Israel (Old Testament – children of Abraham by blood) and for Christians (New Testament – children of Abraham by faith) the path out of our bondage, out of our old ways, out of the wilderness is through – past and beyond the physical and symbolic barrier of the city of Jericho, and ALL that it’s existence represented to them and to us.
We talk about Christ’s power to overcome all things, we attest to the miraculous strength of Jesus to raise the dead, heal the sick and turn water into wine without much hesitation, but it’s a much more complex issue for us to consider Him actually changing me…. We see and feel all the weight of our chronic and scarred unhealthy lives that make up our collective and broken modern-day manifestation of the church. We quote famous passages of scripture that focus on God’s ability and desire to “heal the broken-hearted, and set captives free”, but we struggle with the reality of what that might mean for today, for “US”.
II Cor 10:3- 5 (ESV) ” 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. 5 We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ“
Could it be that simple?
Could it be that God has made a way for us via Jesus, to cross the desert wasteland of our past, of our broken and bitter histories and re-enter the promise of true rest and contentment? Is there really a way for US to overcome the flesh and our past and our unchanging flaws? One that that doesn’t rely on our own strength of will or personal character or above average intelligence? A way that simply rests gently on our willingness to “obey” His specific instructions on how and when and where to go and be?
Today, would you take a moment and consider the things in your past that seem to constantly ‘re-appear” in your life? Things that could be described as “strong-holds” or patterns of failure in your life that never seem to go away… behaviors that resist your most ardent efforts to overcome.
Write them down! The issues, the attitudes, the emotions that seem to always interfere with your forward faith progress. Consider carefully if they in fact, may be the modern equivalent of the city of Jericho….and that God has a plan, a strategy for dealing with it that will be just as unusual for you as it was for the nation of Israel three thousand years ago….one that holds great promise for us today.
The last post of this three part blog on Jericho… “Going Crazy to Stay Sane” is coming out on friday.
Peace out RTP.