Our “Ark of Testimony”
So he caused the ark of the Lord to compass the city.
Mention of the ark here alone makes it appear as though the writer were ignoring the whole company of people who marched in faith around those walls. But of course it was the ark that really mattered. This stronghold of Jericho was not demolished by the March of the Israelites alone. As we know only too well, we may walk around our own Jerichos a thousand times, and still find nothing happens. Israel’s strength lay in the fact that the ark of testimony was among them. They carried with them the evidence of God’s faithfulness hitherto. It was not on the basis of their present effort that they faced their foes, but on the fact of what God had already done. For us today God’s “ark of testimony” is the person of his risen Son. Make him central, go forth proclaiming his resurrection, and God will bring down those walls.
It must have been mind-boggling for a generation who had been born and grown up in the wilderness to see the mighty fortified city of Jericho. Having come through the wilderness with just enough food to survive, still wearing the clothes brought from Egypt forty years ago and remembering burying their parents in the desert, no doubt their hearts sank at this new obstacle before them. Where did they find the courage and fortitude to march around Jericho once much less thirteen times? It might have been easy the first day for they had experienced the mighty power of God displayed through the Ark. Some days before they had stood at the bank of the Jordan River knowing they must cross but had no means to do so. They watched with astonishment as the brave priests took up the Ark on their shoulders and walked down into the river. More astounding was the waters that opened up before them and remained so until all the people had crossed over. They stood on the other side and as the priests carried the Ark up out of the river it began to flow mightily again. For them, that day, the stories of their forefathers became a reality as God parted the water for them just as He had done at the Red Sea.
As they marched toward the land of promise, now the border city of Jericho stood in the way. Once again they realized they had no means to conquer such a mighty city. Orders were given. The priests were to once again shoulder the Ark and lead the entire congregation of Israel in a march around the city. It was to be a silent march. If an Israelite were writing in their diary it would read: Day One, we marched around Jericho today, following the priests who were bearing the Ark. Nothing happened so we returned to camp. Day Two, we once again marched around Jericho, but all that happened today was the citizens of Jericho threw garbage at us and taunted us. How I wanted to yell back at them.Will God come through for us? Day Three, we marched again. It appears that other than the exercise the only thing that’s happening is that we are wearing out our shoes. It seems futile. Today the top of the walls were occupied by lame and blind people who were saying that even they were capable to keep us out. Day Four, the same. Day Five, this is getting old. Sure wanted to sleep in today. Day Six, some of the people are beginning to grumble and are wondering about our new leader Joshua. Day Seven, orders are changed today. Today we will follow the priests bearing the Ark seven times around Jericho. On the seventh time, we will give up our silence, blow trumpets and shout. It’s evening now and I write an addition to the events of today. Words can hardly describe what I saw. On our seventh time around as we blew trumpets and shouted, every wall around Jericho fell down flat. We easily rounded up the inhabitants and everything in the city was burned as a sacrifice to God. We are all aware that we did nothing to bring this about other than obeying the command to march around the walls. We are aware that even in our reluctant obedience that God who had been faithful in the past was faithful once again.
What does your diary say? Does it say that today you find yourself confronting another obstacle, some circumstance that is beyond your capacity or anyone else’s to manage? What will it read at the end of the day? Will it reveal that you listened and followed obediently the instructions given to you by the Lord? What if nothing changes? Will you listen and obey tomorrow and the next day and the next until your Jericho walls fall down? Or will you give up after the first try, or the second or the third? Scripture says that those who “endure to the end will be saved.”
Whether or not we will continue walking the walk of obedient faith will be decided by what we focus upon. The Israelites could have daily placed their attention on the strong walls. They could have listened to the taunts and insults hurled at them. They could have said they deserved better than to have to go home every day and wash their clothes and bathe to clean off the garbage throw down on them. They could have decided it was futile effort and they weren’t going to waste time and energy on such. But had they done so, they wouldn’t have moved beyond Jericho. Our text today reveals the object that captured their attention-the Ark of Testimony- the presence of God.
So what about us? We don’t have the Ark to see and follow. Nevertheless we have better. Hebrews, the book of the “better covenant” provides a focus point for us that will carry us through and make us overcomes of every barricade Satan can erect:
“…looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus, who is the Author and Perfecter of faith [the first incentive for our belief and the One who brings our faith to maturity], who for the joy [of accomplishing the goal] set before Him endured the cross, disregarding the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God [revealing His deity, His authority, and the completion of His work].”
He (Christ Jesus) is our Ark of Testimony.
Dr. John Thompson