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MARCHING FOR A MIRACLE
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Based on Josh. 6:1-21
We don’t sing Onward Christian Soldiers marching as to war very much any more, for we seldom see the relevance of being soldiers of the cross fighting the forces of darkness. Marching seems irrelevant also, for even in the military world the real force is now in the air and on the sea. The firepower of missiles and bombs makes marching to war less vital. But the fact is, marching has been the key to effective warfare all through history. George Washington won the war for Independence by much marching.
On one occasion when the British were strung out over 12 miles Washington asked his war council what they should do. General Charles Lee urged them to wait, but younger men urged him to attack. Washington took the counsel of the younger men, and his Continental Army marched out of Valley Forge onto the trail of the British. The pipers lit into Yankee Doodle, and the sergeants called out marching orders. With precision the American forces marched against a superior foe, and they dwell them such a blow that the British never again underestimated their American opponents.
There was much marching yet to do, but Washington motivated his men to never stop marching until they forced the British to surrender and leave this land free and independent. If you study the history of warfare, you will discover that many, if not most, of the great victories that have changed the course of history were decided by the marching men. In our age the march has been the key to victories in the civil rights battles. Martin Luther King Jr. changed the history of our nation by means of marches.
In 1965 black people in Alabama could not register to vote. King led a large group marching to the courthouse to register. He and 2 thousand other blacks were put in jail. When a black man was shot and killed by a state trooper, King called for a march to the state capital in Montgomery. Governor Wallace forbid such a march, but King defied the order. The state police attacked the marchers and sent 70 to the hospital. King did not back down, but he ordered another march. This time 400 white ministers, priests and rabbis from all over the United States joined the march. One of them died in the march, and the nation was shocked. President Johnson and the courts got involved, and congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Marching won for blacks the right to vote without being hampered, and that victory has changed the whole complexion of government in the U. S. Ever since that victory, marching has been a means by which the masses get their message out to the world. If enough people care enough about an issue to march it is a powerful witness for their perspective.
As we look at the march around Jericho that led to the opening victory in Israel’s conquering of the Promise Land, we see that the march was basically just that-a witness. The march did not have any military value, for it did not take the marchers anywhere but around the city. It did not give Israel the advantage of a surprise attack, for it was done in broad daylight with the enemy watching. From a military viewpoint this was the most futile march in the history of warfare. It may have been a great idea for a parade, but it was worthless strategy for taking a walled city. The enemy, no doubt, had a good many hearty laughs at Israel’s war games. It was more like entertainment as they watched the march and listened to the trumpets. The daily parade had to be the talk of the town, and everybody in Jericho had to have seen it at least once. You can just imagine the mockery the citizens of Jericho hurled out at the marchers.
It was probably very embarrassing for fighting men to march around the city instead of building battering rams, catapults and ladders, which was the normal preparation for taking a walled city. It was not that it was a hard task to do, for Jericho was only about 9 acres of coverage, and so it took only about 25 to 35 minutes to march around it. These people had been marching for 40 years in the wilderness, and so a half hour a day for one more week was a snap. But the question is, why could God want His people to march like this when it was obvious to all that it had no effect on the situation? The answer to that question is what makes the march for Jesus a relevant activity for Christians in our day. Why does God want His people to march? First of all because-
MARCHING IS A MEANS.
I think we often view God as a superman who goes around doing marvelous things and solving problems as an individualist. If you look closely at how God actually operates in history, you see He is really more like the Lone Ranger with his trusted companion Tonto. God does not enjoy working alone. He likes companionship and cooperation. He desires that men work with Him to accomplish His goals. Only Jesus could die for the sins of the world, but He gave the task of taking this good news to the world to His disciples. He could have fed the 5 thousand with no help, but He used the lad’s lunch, and He used His disciples to distribute it. Every chance He got He used some means to achieve His miracles so that the natural and supernatural were linked as partners.
God used the womb of Mary to bring His Son into the world, and it is almost always His method of working to use some natural means as a basis for miracles. Jesus did not make wine out of thin air, but He used the water that was present. He did heal at a distance using no means but His divine power, but usually He used a natural means of conveying His power. He used the laying on of hands, the mud and spittle, the washing in the water, or some other physical means. Why? It is because Jesus is in His very being a combination of the natural and supernatural. He represents the way God is as a being who delights in the combination and cooperation of the two. So God uses means to do His will. He could bypass all means, and sometimes He does, but usually He uses means to achieve His goals. This gives man an opportunity to be partners with God in doing the miraculous. This was the case with the march around Jericho. It is was God giving man a role in His miraculous plan. God wants to make it a joint venture.
We have no idea what marching for Jesus will achieve. We may not see any walls fall at all, but it will bear witness to the world that lovers of Jesus are alive and well, and they are not ashamed to let it be known. It could be a means by which God changes lives, and that is why we do it. We want to be available to God as a means He can use to make a difference in the world.
If you see a beautiful and fruitful garden, you know somebody has put a lot of time and labor into it. Only God can make the seeds grow and bring forth the pleasure-giving flowers and food, but it will not happen if man does not do his part. Almost all the beauty in civilization is a combination of the labor of God and man. Cooperation is the name of the game in beautifying the city. If you take man out of the picture, and have no watering, fertilizing and weeding, you will soon see how true Augustine was when he said over 1500 years ago, “Without God man cannot. With man God will not.” God is a user of means, and men are His major means, and the marching of men is one of those means. It is one of the ways we cooperate with God to make a difference.
Vincoe Paxton was a missionary nurse in China many years ago. She saw so many people die for lack of modern medicine and surgery. Later she served as an army nurse in Europe near the front, and she saw many American boys brought back from the brink of death by means of advanced medical knowledge and equipment. She realized how the grace of God works through human means. An American boy of 20, who suffered a serious head wound, said to her, “But for the grace of God I wouldn’t be here.” She reflected on that and wrote this paragraph: “He did not know the long combined efforts of the United States Army Medical Service: The batallion aid man who found him in the mud and snow; the litter men bearing his dead weight on their shoulders; the doctors and medical soldiers at the batallion aid stations who had given him supportive treatment; the ambulance drivers traveling with headlights reduced to the slits of cat eyes in the total blackness over treacherous roads; the hospital where he was operated. He could not go back to the test tube the lecture room, the wheels of American industry and transportation, which had placed these scientifically trained minds, skilled hands and carefully prepared medical supplies at the front. He didn’t know of these things. “By the grace of God,” he called it. And of course he was right.”
God’s grace is not just a matter of luck, but it is directly related to man’s recognition of the importance of means. If man does not devise means by which he can cooperate with God, but just sits and lets God do it on His own, he will rob himself of the power of God. God is a user of means. He used pagan powers to punish Israel, and also to liberate them and get them back into the Promised Land after their exile. God is using means to achieve His will all the time, and most answers to prayer come through human agents as
God often uses strange and unlikely means to achieve His goals. This march around Jericho is a good example. What good is such a march? It is meaningless in itself, and useless to achieve the goal. It is of no value for the miracle, but it provides the context of obedience in which God is delighted to do the miracle. You might say the march was of no value, but if Israel would have said this is nonsense, and if they refused to march, it is not likely the wall would have come down. What is likely is that they would have been marching in the wilderness for another 40 years until the next generation would have learned to cooperate with God and be willing to become a means by which He could accomplish His purpose.
Marching does not do any miracles, but it provides God with a means by which He can work miracles for His glory and man’s good. That is why Christians are marching for Jesus around the world. They are marching as a means. They are making themselves available to God to be a means by which He can give the kingdom of God a victory over the kingdom of darkness. The second thing we want to see is-
MARCHING IS A MEASURE.
It is a measure of faith. There is only one reference to this event in the New Testament, and it is in the great faith chapter. Heb. 11:30 says, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for 7 days.” What if they would have said after 5 days, “This is stupid. It does no good. Let’s take the weekend off and stop this ridiculous parade of folly.” There were, no doubt, people saying something just like that, for they were experts at complaining and griping about what they did not understand.
God tests the faith of His people and all people by asking that they do things that are not of any obvious value. If they are obvious, it does not take faith. If you can see any logical connection between obedience and the end result it is not a test of faith. You have to believe God will honor your obedience even if it does not make sense. Naaman, the pagan army commander, had leprosy, and by the grace of God a little Jewish girl, who had been taken captive, told him about the prophet Elisha who could cure him. After much negation Naaman finally a got message from the prophet that said he should go and wash 7 times in the Jordan River and He would be healed. Listen to his response to this prescription, which to him was as meaningless as trying to conquer a city by marching around it. “But Naaman went away angry and said, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than any of the waters of Israel? Couldn’t I wash in them and be cleansed? So he turned and went off in a rage.” (II Kings 5:11-12).
Fortunately for him he had some servants with more light and less heat, and they persuaded him to do what the prophet said. He did it, and he was healed. He was right, of course, for 7 dips in the Jordan had nothing to do with healing leprosy. If it did, the whole world of lepers would be lined up at the Jordan. The prescription was not what healed him. It was his obedience to the will of God. His servants had the faith to believe that God could use this means to heal their leader, and their faith was honored with a miracle. God used this simple means to achieve a marvelous healing. Had he not used the means, he would not have been healed.
The marching of God’s people around Jericho was the same as that dipping in the Jordan. It was a measure of faith. And so it is with every march for Jesus. All we can do is go by faith that God can use such a powerful witness to break down some walls that keep people out of the kingdom of God. We march by faith because we know God can use every means to do a marvelous work in the lives of others. The essence of faith is action, which pleases God. Heb. 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” With faith it is possible, and that is what this march around Jericho did. It pleased God that His people would obey His command and get involved in cooperation with Him. When God is pleased with His people, they are rewarded by His blessings. All their victory, wealth and joy in the Promised Land came to them because they marched in faith.
An Eastern story tells of the king who proclaimed that when his new highway opened the one who traveled it best on opening day would receive a purse of gold. Everyone asked, “What does it mean to travel it best?” Each according to his own interpretation made preparation for the contest. Some came on horseback and others in chariots. Some came as runners to travel it on foot. Each was doing their best to travel best. At one point in the road there was a pile of stones, and each contestant complained that this hazard was left on the kings new highway. It was a sorry sight, a disfigurement, and an obstacle they complained as they passed by the heap of rough stones.
Only one runner stopped to clear the road of that pile of stones. Under them he found a purse of gold coins. The king’s servants brought this man to the king and he announced that that bag of gold belonged to the finder. The man exclaimed, “There must be some mistake!” “No,” said the king.” “The prize was for the one who would travel my new highway best. The gold is yours, for he travels best who makes the way easier and safer for those who come after.” He pleased the king by doing what the king wanted done, and he was rewarded accordingly. So it was with the march around Jericho. It pleased God, and they were rewarded with the victory. We always win the victory when we are willing to be a means by which God can work His will in the world.
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