18. The Mode of Warfare.
"Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God." — 2 Peter 3:12.
The action of Israel, as the army of God, begins immediately after the command is given by the Prince of the host of Jehovah. Up to this point the Book of Joshua describes God's work in bringing His people into Canaan, and giving them of its food preparatorily to their active service in war. So the establishment of the Christian in grace is of necessity antecedent to his being an effective soldier of Christ. God's work for the believer must be rested in, and His work in him must be unhindered, before the soldier of Christ is fit to fight for Him. A child of God, doubting his sonship, or engaged in spiritual struggles with himself, is not an effective soldier for Christ. He may wear the uniform, but he is unable to take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, and wield it in the might of the Lord, for, so long as "I" is the burden of the soul, offensive warfare is impossible. "The things that I would, I do not; and that I would not, that do I," is the expression of inward struggling to be free, and a proof that the standing in Christian liberty, without which spiritual conflict cannot be waged, is still not enjoyed.
Again, if Christian liberty be known as a matter of faith, through grace, there must be holy living in order to maintain spiritual conflict. A right state before God is requisite, as well as faith in our being blessed in Christ. Subjection to God and obedience to the Scriptures are necessities for true Christian warfare. We must walk with God if we would war for God. Suppose the Spirit who indwells us is striving with us because ways are not pleasing to God, could we be truly contending for God at such a moment? Impossible. There may be a semblance of true conflict in such a case, but it will be but the semblance. Christian soldiership demands that there should be both faith in what God has wrought for us and a yielding to His working in us.
Both the blessing of the believer in Christ and the healthy state of the Christian's soul, as seen in the types and figures of our book, are preliminaries to the active warfare which now opens up. The passage of the Jordan showed us, in figure, the believer's entrance into the heavenly places, and Gilgal likewise figured his true place of liberty; while the partaking of the feast of the passover, of the unleavened bread, and the corn of the land, proclaimed true feeding on Christ; and upon these great realities came the vision of the drawn sword and the commands relative to the overthrow of Jericho.
It would appear that Joshua gave his orders to Israel immediately upon receiving them from the Captain of the Lord's host. Faith is equally balanced in its energy and patience, for faith is simply carrying out the mind of God. To the priests the word of command was, "Take up the ark"; to the armed men, "Pass on and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the Lord."
Soldiers of Christ, our Lord, in heaven! Let us stir up our souls to faith. The Lord has promised the victory as He promised it to Israel. They believed Him, "by faith the walls of Jericho fell down." Faith grasps God's strength; "all things are possible to him that believes." Let the soldier of Christ, at his Lord's bidding, go forth to fight for Him, and let him be as assured of victory as was Israel, before whom, the ponderous walls fell down flat.
Soldiers of Christ stir up the soul to courage! Christian courage tells upon adversaries as nothing else does. Christian courage is the first-born son of Faith. Again, let us stir up our souls to hardness. Warriors do not fight upon feather beds, nor stretched at ease in arm-chairs, and the Christian soldier must expect hardship. Moreover he must not entangle himself with the affairs of this life, but please Him who has called him to be a soldier. Life's duties must be honourably performed, but we are forbidden to entangle ourselves with them. There are many "indispensables," as they are called, which are really entanglements, and which a Christian, zealous for Christ, learns to discard. He cannot afford to be occupied during the few hours of active service he is called to on earth, with things which once engrossed his thoughts and time. Like the racer, he lays aside every weight. Weights and entanglements are sore hindrances to Christian service. Anything that keeps the mind busy, to the exclusion of Christ's interests, should be suspected.
In Christian conflict, the armed men ever go on in the front, the gathering host make up the rear. God has always His front-rank men — men able to use the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; men, too, who expose themselves to Satan's attacks.
A good soldier loves his profession, and a true Christian soldier loves Christian warfare; it is his joy, his delight, to take pleasure in hardships and weariness. He enjoys what feather-bed Christians regard as self-inflicted penance, or as unnecessary trouble. Forward, ever forward, is his cry. It is no burden to him, but rather his happy service, to spend and to be spent for his Lord; it is heavenly rapture to him when sinners are made captive for Christ, when Satan-bound souls are loosed, and pass from death unto life, from the power of Satan to God. Idleness and ease are a distress to the one who is fired by eternal prospects, energized by the Holy Ghost, and constrained by Christ's love. "Woe is me if I preach not the gospel," is his reply to the countless efforts to damp his ardour and to quench his zeal. Eternity, eternity, he whispers to himself, when his weary body almost resents carrying out the orders of his soul. Such a spirit marks the front-rank men. May God bring Christ's soldiers to the front and especially may the young Christian, who reads this page, be fired by the prospects of eternity, and be filled with holy zeal the entire period of his short life below.
Expectation is the offspring of faith, small expectations are born of small faith; but where God is before the soul, expectation of blessing exists, and result follows. We do not say immediate result is always visible; but working for God without expecting Him to bless, is like sowing seed without looking for the harvest, or firing at a fortress without hoping to hit it.
An army without faith in its leaders is sure to be discomfited. Without faith in their Lord, Christ's soldiers strike no good blows. Alas for the pointless, aimless, self-satisfied routine which goes by the name of fighting for God! Such parade duty is not warfare. The untutored eye may consider both very much alike; however, when men fall down wounded, and cry for mercy, we know it is not the effect of mere human energy, but the work of God the Holy Ghost.
Joshua gave orders for the day only: "Pass on, and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the Lord." So all work of faith is day by day work, step by step progress; and this is the only true and happy way of living for God. In the happy satisfaction that they had obeyed God, Israel's first day ended; a comfort which we trust may be ours each one daily; and as to the rest, let the men of Jericho think as they please.
Early in the morning of the second day Joshua arose, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. A fresh fact is now presented, and one which is of practical moment. The seven priests "went on continually and blew with the trumpets." No voice was uttered by Israel, and the only sounds the army gave forth were the continual tramp of its many feet and the loud and penetrating blast of its trumpets — the grand herald notes of the Kingdom of God. We may fairly assume that such a mode of warfare, such a continual trumpeting, was to the men of Jericho, shut up and secure within their defences, as consummate folly as is the joy of the gospel to the infidel world. A huge army, betaking itself to marching round a strong city, and ever giving out such joyful sounds, was, to the eye and ear, fanaticism. No casting up of mounds, no construction of battering rams, no scaling ladders, nothing but the trumpets of jubilee! And what their blasts meant, the men of Jericho knew no more than does the world today understand the joy of the acceptable year of the Lord, and of the coming Kingdom of Christ.
The notes of our trumpets of jubilee like those of Israel are few and simple: "Christ is coming!" "Christ is coming!" But they are joy-notes, uttered from the heart, by true souls who long for the Lord and His return. Let the world man its great walls of infidelity and superstition, let it boast in its improvements and development; Christ is coming! Let reasoners say, since the fathers fell asleep all things continue as they were; Christ is coming! Let scoffers cry "Fanaticism!" Be the life-answer of the Christian, to all the arguments of unbelief, these notes of love and joy, Christ is coming!
The priests — the men whose service on this earth was the worship of Jehovah — blew the trumpets. So the joyful sound comes from worshipping souls. The doctrine of Christ's coming may exist in the mind, but joy in His coming arises solely when the love of Christ is sweet in the heart. Such is true testimony. The testimony of Israel to Jericho, through the priests going on continually, was one long jubilant sound. The force which lies in true Christian courage has already been spoken of; but true Christian joy is almost as great a witness of God's presence. Israel could not help singing their joy-song at the Red Sea. They were free, their chains were gone, and their fears were buried with their oppressors in the deep waters of their deliverance. Neither can the soul, brought into the knowledge of perfect salvation in Christ, abstain from joy — yes, exuberant joy. And a healthy thing it is for older Christians to renew their youth in singing to the Lord, Who has triumphed gloriously, in company with such as have just been brought by grace to God. As the stiffness and self-occupation of old age melt away in the presence of the simple joys of children, so do dryness and coldness in older Christians disappear in the presence of the joy God gives to the new-born babe in Christ. True, too true, Israel's song at the Red Sea died away into wilderness murmurings; but there was no dying away, no cessation of the joy-notes of the jubilee trumpets all the seven days — all the perfect period of Israel's compassing of Jericho.
This joyful sound was not merely a song of their own freedom, but the continuous witness that the powers of evil were about to be overthrown, and that God's kingdom should come. The obedience of the silent host, and the continual sound of the trumpets proclaiming the acceptable year of the Lord, offer a very suggestive contemplation for Christian soldiers. Israel struck the blow that overwhelmed Jericho by blowing the trumpets.
The seventh day was marked by especial zeal and sevenfold energy. "And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times." We cannot doubt that this scene looks on to the end, to Israel's future, and the world-kingdom of our Lord. It takes us on to the circumstances of the Book of Revelation — to the approaching end. But in view thereof we may well stimulate our souls to renewed zeal and fresh patience. Patience is stamped upon the mode of Israel's warfare — that peculiar patience which goes on till God's time of victory arrives. "Persistency" is a word every Christian needs to have inscribed on his banner. There is a sevenfold, a perfect, trial of faith for the soldiers of Christ in the path of obedience; and the nearer the day, the more the need of earnest toil for the Lord. The nearer the end, the more call for diligence.
The power of Satan cannot be overcome save in divinely-given strength, and, whatever the zeal and the fervour of God's saints, prayer is their constant need. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance" (Eph. 6:18), is what God enjoins upon the soldier of Christ.
The shout of victory will soon be heard! The Lord will give the word, and then the defences of evil will fall before Him. When men shall say "Peace and safety," then sudden destruction will come upon them. In the prospect of that day, let every man go up straight before Him; for there is too much of following leaders, and too little of simple obedience to the Lord, among the soldiers of Jesus Christ. Men crowd on one another's steps, and the nobleness of individuality is lacking, few daring to brave the sneer of being peculiar in doing each his own duty in obedience to the word of the Lord.