Orderly Worship


Joshua 3-6


Let all things be done decently and in order. – 1 Corinthians 14:40

Be still, and know that I am God. – Psalm 46:10




What strikes me as I read this passage is how deliberately God works. Efficiency experts – excuse me – Business Process Managers would never approve. Moses had delivered a fantastic locker room speech before Game Time in Jericho. The armies were ready to face the enemy. They come to the Jordan River, ready to cross over. They are excited – anxious to see God at work. The first ones over the river could fire the first round on Jericho even before the last people in line could reach the river.


But God tells them to wait there for three days. The Bible never explains why God called for them to wait for three days. But on the third day of encampment, God sent messengers throughout the camp to announce that they cross the Jordan tomorrow.


Now when they had crossed the Red Sea, they were being pursued; there was no time for ceremony. But there were no pursuers at the Jordan. And the ceremony seems extravagant. The Priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant would enter the river first, and it does make sense that God should lead the way. During the three-day encampment, the Ark was in the center of the people. But now, the ark must move to the front – in itself, not an easy task. For God commanded that a path be cleared such that nobody would be within 1,000 yards of the ark as it passed through1. When the ark entered the Jordan, the waters parted, and Israel could pass through.


But the ark stayed in the parted river. Before Joshua would call them out of the river, Joshua ordered that a memorial be built – that later generations could see the memorial, and that God’s miraculous works would not be forgotten. It wasn’t until after the memorial was completed that the Priests were called out of the river.


But there were a few more items to deal with: Israel was behind on their circumcisions – for they were not performed in the wilderness; then, they had to heal; finally, Passover needed to be observed2. Surely Jericho knew that Israel was there. Israel cannot be accused of executing a sneak attack. Walking up to your property line with 2,000,000 of my friends would probably attract attention. And just in case Jericho hadn’t noticed, God commanded that they walk around the city every day for a week.


We are not really told much detail about the culture of Jericho. Jericho was evidently a prosperous but wicked place. Idolatry had replaced God as the center of worship. And it is certain that the unthinkable acts of Leviticus 18 were prevalent (Leviticus 18:24-25).


They were also only mildly interested in national security. Jericho had defense walls (Joshua 6:1), but evidently no means of attack. For nearly a month, Israel was outside the city, and all Jericho did was shut the walls; they made no effort to investigate, interrogate, or in any other manner launch an offense. The walls were their entire security plan. And when the walls fell (Joshua 6:20), Jericho had no means to respond. It’s not even clear that they had a military structure (an army) in place. The battle started and ended in verse 20.


As we read through Joshua 12, a no-army defense structure may have been the way Canaan operated. Whatever anonymity advantage Joshua had at Jericho, whatever element of surprise Joshua used, was wiped out in the single verse of Joshua 6:20 (See Joshua 6:27). There is enough biblical data to determine that the conquest of Canaan was a seven-year endeavor. Yet even in the latest conquests, the nations of Canaan were ill-prepared to defend.


It is difficult to be still in the assurance that God is at work. We have grown accustomed to instant everything, with goals and deadlines. And we have no concept at all of God asking us to be still. There is a whole discipline within the business world dedicated to finding better ways of doing things – to get the production we already accomplish with fewer resources. Their goal is for us to cut down on wasted activity.


But the larger waste of activity is to advise God that you have a more efficient means to accomplish His purpose.


1For the gap to reach 1,000 yards on both sides, a 2,000-yard gap must be cleared. A mile is 1,760 yards.


2The observance of the Passover marked the end of the manna. From now on, Israel would receive food just as anybody else.


After the Passover, Joshua 5:13-15 tells the account of the Captain of the Host of the Lord preparing to fight with Joshua. The language that surrounds this account leaves no doubt that the Captain is God Himself. The study might prove interesting, but we do not need to discuss whether this is a special appearance of God the Father, or a pre-birth appearance of God the Son.


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