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ACTS OF FAITH IN JERICHO – Hebrews 11:30-31

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on April 27, 2016 under PM Bible Study |

PM Home Bible Study Group; April 27, 2016

Hebrews 11:30-31

Theme: By faith, not only did the people of Israel conquer the city of Jericho, but one of its believing citizens was spared.

All Scripture is taken from The New King James Version, unless otherwise indicated.

In Chapter 11 of Hebrews, the writer has been supporting a couple of important propositions to the people of God—first, that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1); and second, that without faith, it is impossible to please God; “for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (v. 6). He is stressing these propositions for a very practical reason. He is writing to a group of Jewish Christians who are being tempted—through persecution—to abandon their faith in Jesus; and he is encouraging them not to give up but to stay true to their faith in Jesus to the very end.

To support these important and practical propositions, he reminds his Jewish readers of the rich heritage of examples that God has given them, through the Old Testament Scriptures, of the great heroes and heroines of faith who believed the promises of God and who endured at great cost—looking confidently to the promised reward. And in reviewing these examples, he now comes to those that are to be found in the story of Joshua’s conquest of the ancient city of Jericho.

Jericho was a very ancient city—still in existence today. God had given His people the command to cross the Jordan River from the east and to go in and take possession the land that God was giving them; and conquering Jericho would have been a strategic first-step in that enterprise. It was the gateway city into the whole rest of the land of Canaan. It would be important to remember that, by this time in the history of the people of Israel, there had been a long, wearisome journey of 40 years in the desert because of disobedience. Their former leader Moses had died; and his younger assistant Joshua had just been given leadership over the people. Humanly speaking, the important conquest of this mighty, seemingly-impenetrable, well-fortified city of Jericho would have been impossible. But it was done—and done by faith! And what’s more, it was done in such a way as to wonderfully display God’s grace even to the Gentile people who would believe on Him and also trust in His promises.

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Note first how we’re shown . . .


A. Verse 30 says, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days.” The story of how this occurred is told to us, in great detail, in the first few chapters of the Old Testament book of Joshua.

1. For many years, the story of the deliverance of the people of Israel from their bondage in Egypt had been heard by the people of the land of Canaan. The harlot Rahab—whose story we will examine a little later—told the spies from Israel about the talk that was going around in Jericho:

“I know that the Lord has given you the land, that the terror of you has fallen on us, and that all the inhabitants of the land are fainthearted because of you. For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath” (Joshua 2:9-11).

And it was on account of this fearfulness that we’re told, “Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in” (6:1). A large wall encircled and protected the city—one that, in strictly human terms, provided an impenetrable defense against the armies of the people of God. But because it was God who was fighting the battle for them, those walls would come down.

2. But the method the Lord would use in bringing them down involved an utterly unconventional military strategy—one that would leave the armies of Israel completely dependent upon God by faith. The Lord told their commander Joshua:

"See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him” (6:2-5).

There is great symbolism communicated in this act. In the Bible, ‘seven’ is the symbolic number of completion; and the campaign involved seven priests blowing seven rams’ horns, in seven days—with the seventh day involving seven circuits around the city! Clearly, God is promising in this a complete and decisive victory. But humanly speaking, what army would ever devise such a military strategy as this and hope to survive?—let alone conquer? This was an all-or-nothing act of faith. If God did not move His hand on their behalf, then the armies of Israel would surely be slaughtered. But they—with Joshua in the lead—believed the promise of God and went forward “by faith” in obedience.

3. The Bible tells us that Joshua commanded the people to do as the Lord had instructed; and so they did. They would rise up early in the day, form a line, and march around the city once. The men of the army who bore arms would take the lead. Seven priests would follow—each blowing a rams horn continually as they walked before those who carried the ark of the covenant. Then another rear guard, bearing arms, would follow behind. No one said a word throughout the march of this strange parade; but they simply circled once around the city with the horns continually blowing. And then, at the end of their single day’s march, they would return and lodge at their camp. They did this same thing every day for six days. Can you imagine, by the way, the psychological effect that this would have had on the people of Jericho? And yet, can you also see the grace of God being shown to them?—giving them time to repent and turn to the God of Israel for mercy with each day’s march?

4. They made this march six days as usual. But on the seventh day—about the dawning of the day—they circled the city seven times. And at the end of that seventh circuit around the city, when the priests finally blew the trumpet, Joshua commanded the soldiers of the army to shout, “for the Lord has given you the city” (v. 16). We’re told;

So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and donkey, with the edge of the sword (vv. 20-21).

B. How could such a thing happen? How could these impenetrable walls fall without the armies of Israel doing anything but marching, blowing horns, and shouting? As the writer of Hebrews tells us, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they were encircled for seven days.” What a spiritual lesson this has for us! We, of course, don’t seek to knock down literal walls, or attack literal cities. It is not our place, in fact, to war against ‘flesh and blood’. But rather, as the apostle Paul tells us elsewhere;

. . . the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ . . . (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

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This is a dreadful story of conquest, and of God mightily acting for His people against their enemies But the remarkable thing is that the same story also gives us an example of God’s mercy and compassion toward sinners who—“by faith”—act on His promises. It’s here that the writer of Hebrews reminds us of . . .


A. Immediately after telling us the story of this great conquest, the writer takes us back to a time earlier in the story and affirms to us, “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace” (v. 31).

1. This particular story begins with the recollection that the people of Jericho were in a state of hostility toward the people of Israel. Even though—as we learned from Rahab earlier—the people of Jericho knew of the character of God’s work through the people of Israel, they did not repent and turn to the Lord. Instead, they intensified their defenses against Him and His people. Joshua sent two spies out secretly; instructing them to view the land, “especially Jericho” (Joshua 2:1). As they went, they came to the house of this harlot named Rahab. This was, no doubt, strategic; because a lot of people probably minded their own business whenever they went out to “Rahab’s Place”. And we can be sure that these two men of God went only for the lodging.

2. But word had gotten to the king of the city that spies had come from the Israelite camp to spy out the city. He commanded Rahab to bring the men out that had come to her place—perhaps assuming that that’s the first place such strangers would go. But she told him;

“Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they were from. And it happened as the gate was being shut, when it was dark, that the men went out. Where the men went I do not know; pursue them quickly, for you may overtake them.” (But she had brought them up to the roof and hidden them with the stalks of flax, which she had laid in order on the roof.) Then the men pursued them by the road to the Jordan, to the fords. And as soon as those who pursued them had gone out, they shut the gate (vv. 4-7).

Many people have read this story and complained, “She lied!” And it’s true that she did. But we’re not told that God had blessed her for lying, but rather had rewarded her for her faith. As we’ve already seen (in verses 9-11), she heard the stories of what God had done for the people of Israel; but unlike her fellow citizens, she placed her faith in God’s promises to Israel, and sought His mercy. After the men had laid down upon the roof of her house, she went up to them and told them so. And by faith, she made this appeal:

‘Now therefore, I beg you, swear to me by the Lord, since I have shown you kindness, that you also will show kindness to my father’s house, and give me a true token, and spare my father, my mother, my brothers, my sisters, and all that they have, and deliver our lives from death” (vv. 12-13).

The two spies promised to do as she requested—on the condition, however, that she told no one of their work as spies for Israel.

3. Rahab’s home was built into the city wall. And later that night, after the gates were shut, she let the two men down from the window of her home in the wall by a cord, and instructed them to go to the mountains and hide for three days while she misdirected their pursuers. But before they left, they said;

“We will be blameless of this oath of yours which you have made us swear, unless, when we come into the land, you bind this line of scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you bring your father, your mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household to your own home. So it shall be that whoever goes outside the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be on his own head, and we will be guiltless. And whoever is with you in the house, his blood shall be on our head if a hand is laid on him. And if you tell this business of ours, then we will be free from your oath which you made us swear” (vv. 17-20).

She agreed to this; and they went their way while she bound the scarlet cord around her window.

4. So; when the event that we read about in Hebrews 11:30 occurred, we find that the armies of Israel kept the promise that was made by the two spies. It must have been that among the walls that fell, the wall that contained the home of Rahab still stood. The armies went forward to conquer:

But Joshua had said to the two men who had spied out the country, “Go into the harlot’s house, and from there bring out the woman and all that she has, as you swore to her.” And the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab, her father, her mother, her brothers, and all that she had. So they brought out all her relatives and left them outside the camp of Israel. But they burned the city and all that was in it with fire. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father’s household, and all that she had. So she dwells in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho (Joshua 6:22-25).

B. As the writer tells us in Hebrews 11:31; “By faith the harlot Rahab did not perish with those who did not believe, when she had received the spies with peace.” Her peace was with God by faith, and thus with the people of God. And how wonderfully much this was so! It turns out that it was from her that King David was born; and eventually the Lord Jesus Himself (Matthew 1:5). She became a great example of faith in the New Testament. Pastor James wrote of her as an example of faith that is put into action through works; saying,

. . . was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way? (James 2:25).

She is a great example of what the apostle Peter said when he was in the household of the Roman centurion Cornelius:

“In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:34-35).

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May we learn from these two stories the lesson that our God responds to faith in His promise—whether it be the faith of a mighty army at His call, or of a humble sinner who believes.

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