“Now you’re just being silly.”
We’ve all probably been told that, or something like it. “That’s foolish.” “You’re being stupid.” “Now that’s what I call dumb.”
Sometimes we do things or say things that make no sense to someone else. They certainly would not do it or say it and believe it. Of course, many times the things some people tell us are a good deal more “colorful” than the short list above. Whatever the circumstance, we know what it’s like to act in ways that other people think makes no sense. Many times, of course, they might be right. None of us is immune from saying idiotic things or making dumb choices. But, every so often, the thing we are doing that makes absolutely no sense to other people makes perfectly good sense to us. In those moments, it can feel like we’re trying to communicate with beings who do not live on the same planet.
When Joshua marches his army up the hill to the ancient city of Jericho, they do not attack the city. They do not start building catapults and ladders in order to attack the city. Instead, Joshua orders the army to just walk around the city. As they marched around it, the army was silent. Only the Hebrew trumpets (ram’s horns) could be heard. Then, to Jericho’s surprise, the Hebrews walk off back down the hill. The next day the same thing happens. The army marches around the city once and then goes back to their camp. They do this for six days. On the seventh day, the army circled the city once. Twice. Then three times. Four times. Five. Six. And, after circling Jericho one more time, the whole army suddenly broke out in loud shouting. And, as you might have heard, at that moment, the walls of the city collapsed. And the city Jericho was conquered.
Many times, God’s commands would make good sense. Be honest when you make promises. Be respectful toward your folks. Do not steal from your employer or run around on your spouse. It is easy to understand how following those rules will save you from a boatload of problems. They help people live successful lives. At other times, though, God tells us things that outsiders will see as absolute foolishness. Give your hard-earned money away. Give up your career plans so that you can tell people in Tanzania about Jesus. Go up front in church and ask to be pushed under water while a lot of people are watching. In things like these, we all have relatives and people we know who absolutely think obeying those things would be foolish.
Jesus once told the crowd, “Beware if everyone says good things about you.” (Luke 6:26) To paraphrase it for this Jesse Tree reflection: If everything you do makes good sense to unbelievers, you are probably not living like God wants you to live. It does not matter if something God asks does not make sense to us. Maybe what happened at Jericho was that seven days of marching somehow loosened the walls and the sound waves of the shout just naturally, within the always-true laws of physics, just happened to be the right frequency and volume to make the walls collapse. Or, maybe it was entirely a supernatural act of God. The important thing is that, even if it made no sense to the Hebrew army, they still did just what God asked. When you ask a soldier why he is doing guard duty around a certain house, the correct answer should be, “Because those were my orders.”
When the people of God trust the Word of God enough to follow the commands of God, whether they seem reasonable or silly, then we will see the fortresses and walls of the enemy crumbling. Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war. With the cross of Jesus, going on before. Christ, our royal Master, leads against the foe. Forward into battle, see His banners go!
Materials: Building blocks (not Legos); two little standing people figures; a marble or other small round ball heavy enough to knock over the wall.
Build a wall on a table. Make it at least one foot long (longer if you have the blocks) and make it at least a foot high. Put one of the two figures standing “behind” the wall. On another part of the table (about the same distance away from you but not at all near the wall) put the paper with “GOD” on it on the table and put the second figure on the paper on top of the word. It is possible this object might not always work as intended if (1) the child rolling the marble is unable to hit the wall or to hit it with enough force to make it tumble or (2) happens to roll the marble the second time and it actually hits the second man. This is less likely if (1) the wall is tall, but not very thick (less stable), (2) the wall is wide enough and second figure are the right distance to make hitting the wall with the marble very like but hitting the second figure very unlikely.
Using the prepared materials, ask the children which man is safer from a cannonball: a man hiding behind a big wall or a man standing right out in the open with no place to hide? Then, putting them on the end of the table, have them roll the marble (roll, not throw or pitch) at the wall. If they need it, give them enough turns to actually knock the wall over. The tumbling blocks should hit the man (make sure he is standing near the wall). Now, try the same thing with the man in the open. (Again, it is very likely they will miss every time they try.) Notice the second man is standing where God is. Big high walls are not as safe as standing where God tells you to stand.
Joshua takes over leading the Hebrews as they finally arrive at the land of Canaan. But, like we talked about yesterday (Rahab), the land of Canaan is guarded by powerful cities of people who worship idols and do not follow God. The most powerful of these cities is built on the very top of a large hill. There are no trees around the city, so anybody getting close to it will be right out in the open. The soldiers guarding the city can see anybody getting close. Then the guards can shoot arrows at them or throw sharp spears at them. And, to make it even stronger, the whole city is surrounded by a great big wall made out of stones.
When Joshua leads the army to Jericho, he does what God tells him to do. They march all the way around the city, but do not attack it. They do this every day for six days. Then, on the seventh day, they march around it seven times. At the end of the last time, the whole army stops. Everyone in the army then shouts as loud as they can. And, you know what happened next? The giant walls of that city just came crashing down and the Hebrews conquered the whole city.
The Jesse Tree ornament for today shows us a little part of a wall with a big crack in it. Like it is just getting ready to break in half and fall down. When we face big problems, we need to ask God what He wants us to do. We need to find out what the Bible says we should do. And we need to trust God and do what He says. As we are thinking about how God gets everything ready for the coming of Jesus, one of those things is that Jesus will be born in the Promised land. In fact, Bethlehem is less than twenty miles (you might use some place names the children would know to help them understand it is not very far). So, to be sure Jesus has a place to be born, God gives Israel the land of Canaan. And the first great battle to conquer the land of Canaan is the battle for Jericho.
In your prayer time, thank God because through King Jesus we are “more than conquerors.” Name a few of the times in your life or in your family that God has given victories over challenges and problems. Confess to God that we often have more trust in what makes sense to us than in what God sometimes tells us to do (for example, we often pray for God to do things that we still think depend on human efforts and skills). Ask God to help you learn to put more trust in His promises than in your own ideas and understanding. Thank God that He rewards those who trust in Him with a victorious Christian life.