Several years ago I was visiting with two young men from Nagaland, a northeastern region of India. God had moved in a mighty way in the region sending revival to the area. Almost the entire population of the region had come to faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit blew through the region with mighty power. I asked these young men about the characteristics of the churches.
They said that there were two very distinct results of the revival in the churches. First, the churches were filled with praise and adoration to God. Second, the churches were characterized by prayer. I then asked these two young Christian leaders what they thought the difference was between the churches in Nagaland and the churches in the West. They had an interesting reply. “The churches in the West have an agenda and they ask God to bless it. In Nagaland, we ask God to establish the agenda.”
God’s Spirit pierced my heart. It’s so true about us in the West. We will develop a strategy and die by the strategy. We’ll ask God to bless the strategy – and even ask Him to use it for His glory. That’s good if it’s His strategy. But all too often, we begin our planning first instead of praying and seeking God’s face. His strategy could look much different than ours.
Such was the situation with Joshua. God’s plan must have looked ridiculous to an outsider. He told the children of Israel, “March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in” (Joshua 6:3-5 NIV). This wasn’t the kind of strategy that a person could just think up and then ask God to bless. This was God’s divine strategy from beginning to end.
There were several key principles about God’s plan that’s important for us to understand. First, God gave the children of Israel a promise. The Bible says that the Lord told Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men” (Joshua 6:2 NIV). God’s strategy always begins with a promise from God. His plan always triumphs – simply because it’s His plan. When we begin to understand God’s plan, we can act and work with a great sense of confidence in our plans. If we know that what we are doing is His strategy, then we can rest assured of His promise to fulfill that plan. One of my favorite verses of Scripture is I Thessalonians 5:24 which says, “The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.”
But Joshua not only had to trust in the promises of God, but had to obey His voice – even when it seemed unreasonable. God told the children of Israel to march around the city. He didn’t say to them, “Get your weapons and go fight – fight with all your might.” NO! God wasn’t looking for a people of great strength and power. He was looking for a humble, obedient people. That’s who He blesses. He wanted them to simply “trust and obey.” There’s no other way to walk in victory but trusting and obeying God.
But there was one final principle that was extremely important for their success. They needed God’s presence with them in all that they did. They needed the promise of God and their own obedience to God. But that was no substitute for His presence. That’s why Joshua told the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the LORD and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it” (Joshua 6:6 NIV). The ark of the covenant represented the dwelling place of God. We must have God’s presence before us, with us, and behind us if we are to succeed. We need to seek His face and live in His presence. That’s a sure prescription for victory.