This year, for the first time in what seems like an eternity, I watched the Super Bowl. But this year, as in the past when I have watched the Super Bowl, I actually found myself more interested in the commercials than the game itself.
One ad in particular struck my fancy. It was an ad that took a common and widely familiar expression and capitalized on it. That commercial declared that a certain pizza company made a pizza that was “better than sliced bread”! For 30 seconds (and, as I understand it, 5.6 million dollars!), this pizza company tried to emphasize what it meant for something, namely, their pizza, to be “better than sliced bread”.
They took a common phrase and analyzed its meaning in a humorous way!
You know, there are other expressions that are common and ordinary as well, and their meaning oftentimes needs further explanation.
I remember as a kid singing the old spiritual “Joshua ‘Fit’ the Battle of Jericho.” Whether it was in Sunday School or at campfires during weekend retreats, we used to not-so-harmoniously declare that “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, and the walls came a-tumblin’ down!”
I also remember never really grasping what it meant for Joshua to “fit” anything. Normally, for me, clothes were the only things that fit something. Oh, an occasional hat or baseball cap was a “One Size Fits All” sort.
And then someone pointed me to Joshua 6 and I realized that “fit” does not refer to clothing at all. It is rather a shortened, poetic form, if you will, of the word “fought.” The song describes the battle for the city of Jericho waged by the children of Israel. The key line is the last one, in that “the walls came a-tumbling down!”
The other day I was reading in Joshua 6 the biblical account this song pictures, and I discovered there several interesting features that are not often highlighted as we read through the story or sing the song.
If you remember the story, Joshua had just been appointed to lead the nation of Israel into the Promised Land. They had crossed the Jordan River (on dry land) and landed at Gilgal, and the next city to conquer was the city of Jericho.
Two spies went into the city to spy out the territory and return to Joshua to give out a plan, and they found a hiding place in the home of a prostitute named Rahab. In return for safety and shelter, while they were there, they promised Rahab that she would be spared in any coming judgment which would be meted out against the city.
Notice if you will there that the people of Jericho, the residents of the city, were expecting this large group of foreigners to attack their city. No doubt that had occurred before with other nations and peoples attempting to overcome Jericho.
That may explain the double walls there. Jericho was prepared for battle, but they were not prepared for battle God-style!
If you recall, the battle plan and strategy which Joshua laid out was for the people of Israel to march around the city once a day for six days.
On the seventh day, they were to march around the city seven times and then wait for the signal from the ram’s horn and then shout as one voice. When they did this, they were promised that the walls of the city would fall down, and the people were then to go straight into the city from their positions encircling the outside walls and defeat the people who were there.
Have you ever heard of a more delusional strategy for militarily taking a city? Could you imagine a West Point grad drawing up such a war plan and then commanding the soldiers under his (or her) charge to carry it out?
It makes no sense at all and, if you will, I believe that is one reason God came up with such a plan in the first place.
You see, oftentimes, God comes up with clever plans such as these to get the attention of those of us who say we are trusting in Him completely. He wants us to trust Him instead of using our own cleverness and ingenuity. (See Proverbs 3:5-6).
When it comes down to the end of things, God wants us to give Him the credit for doing what He does rather than taking the credit for ourselves. He is very intentional in that regard.
But as important as that challenge may be, there is an even more important challenge to me in this chapter of God’s eternal, holy Word. And that challenge is given in three words in verse 2 of chapter 6, where the Lord is quoted as saying, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and the valiant warriors.” (emphasis mine)
Before the people ever started the whole process of marching around the city, before Joshua had even revealed to them the strange plan of God for taking this city, the Lord Himself promised to Joshua victory in the battle there and announced in advance that the victory was already accomplished!
The tense of the Hebrew verb there is known as a prophetic perfect tense – “I have given” – and it describes a future action that is already completed.
The story is among the most familiar in the Bible. The lessons are simple: The Lord fights the battle. The victory is already His. Obedience is the response. Faith is walked out in ways that seem absurd.
Do you have a big battle ahead of you? Is there a seemingly insurmountable fortress that stands between you and the promise?
Listen to the Lord. Trust Him to fight the battle.
The victory is already His. Your future is His past tense. He has already accomplished His plan. Listen. Trust. Obey. Walk into the victory.
How “fit” are you?
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.