Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 22. Faith without Fruit
Heb 11:30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days.
The story of the taking of Jericho is one that exemplifies repeated faith with no fruit until the end perhaps like no other story in the Bible does. Consider God’s instructions to Joshua and then what it must have been like, and then perhaps we can see how that is like so much that happens in life.
First of all God’s instructions: “Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in.” (Josh 6:2-5)
Now observe the stages in that: Stage 1: March around the city once a day for six days, you and all the armed men. Have the ark with you and have seven priests with trumpets in front of it as you go. Stage 2: On the seventh day you are to march round the city seven times with the priests blowing their trumpets all the time until as they complete the last circuit they are to give a long blast on the trumpets and everyone is to shout as loud as they can. At that point the walls will fall down and you can go in and take the city.
Now think about what it must have been like doing that. Day 1 – a sense of excitement. The armed men gather and leave the camp, the Levites are carrying the ark and the priests are out front. Now where is it we’re going? Oh, yes, Jericho, that city on the horizon whose walls seem quite high. March, march, march. We’re getting nearer. My word, those walls look high! Half way round. Ignore the shouts and jeers of the defenders up on the wall and the occasional arrow some optimist sends out. It’s hot out here. March, march, march, back to camp. OK, day one over. Day two: OK off we go again, been there, done it before, we can do it, the defenders are too scared of us, this is a walk in the park. March, march, march. Getting close again. You know those walls are not only high, they must be pretty thick because there are a lot of people up there and they seem to have catapults and other stuff up there. This is a mighty city. March, march, march. It’s hot. What are we doing this for, let’s get back to camp quickly. Day three: Right, come on, I suppose we’d better do this again. It seems a bit of a pointless exercise but, hey, it’s keeping us fit. March, march, march. The more I see those walls, the more I don’t like them, They have windows high up, they seem to have houses built into them, they’re massive. How can anybody take this city. This is crazy. It’s also hot. March, march, march. Back to camp, thank goodness. Day four: Do we really have to keep doing this? What is this achieving? Can’t we just jump to day seven? I’m tired. Look the watchers on top of the walls are even fewer than they were, they find us boring, same old, same old. This daily hike is hot and boring. Day five: Boring! Day six: Boring!! Day seven: the walls are going to fall down? How come? All right, we’ll do what we’re told and let’s see what happens. March, march, march. Circuit one. March, march, march. Circuit two. My goodness, it is hot out here. Circuit three. March, march, march. I’d rather be up on the walls, I’m stinking hot and tired out. Circuit four or was it five. I hope someone is counting. March, march, march. What did Joshua say, “Get ready to shout”? It’s time!
Now I used to have a non-Christian friend who derided this story and said it must have been like when solders have to break-step when marching over a bridge because the vibration of so many boots can set up a shaking that will shake the bridge to bits. That, he used to say, is what must have happened to Jericho. Just a couple of problems about that. First they have been doing it for six days and if vibrations of marching feet were going to shake the walls down, they would have done it long ago. Second if you have to create a great trumpet blast and a shout as loud as possible, it is almost certain they would have all come to a halt and faced inwards to the city. A shout and trumpets wouldn’t have caused the vibrations necessary. But they did and the walls fell and Israel went in and took the city.
Now what warrants my earlier comment that ‘perhaps we can see how that is like so much that happens in life.’ Well, it is very simple. I believe there are many times in life when the Lord asks us to dig in with a particular situation and just persevere, keep on doing the same old stuff until a time will come when suddenly it all changes. The example is sometimes given of a demolition contractor’s wrecking ball, that gets swung against a wall again and again. Again and again nothing appears to be happening and then eventually, suddenly it collapses and comes crashing down.
This repetitious act of faith is challenging. Naaman was told to dip himself in the Jordan river seven times before he was healed of his leprosy. (2 Kings 5:10). He must have had the same thought. I am put in mind of wonderful Christian wives whose husbands are unbelievers and the apostle Peter instructs them, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Pet 3:1-4) Whether it be unbelieving husbands or other unbelieving members of the family or at work, school or college, it is the same; we won’t get them into the kingdom by nagging them.
The Lord simply calls us to day by day remain faithful to Him and express His love and grace and goodness and be there to bless. Day after day passes without the signs of fruit – but remember the wrecking ball, remember marching around Jericho. Faith sometimes is just being constantly obedient to your calling to be a purveyor of love and grace until the time comes when Peter’s other words become applicable: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1 Pet 3:15) If we are revealing God’s love and grace and we are praying for those around us, we can leave it to the Lord for when He will bring down the walls of their resistance and they say, “OK, what must a do to be saved?” Get ready, make sure you have your answer ready.