Perfect timing: Joshua 6

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Today’s reading: Joshua 5-8.

The number seven was there in the beginning as God rested on the seventh day of creation. It will be there at the end when the seventh angel of Revelation pours out his judgement and the voice from heaven shouts, “it is finished.” In between it numbered the seven major festivals in the Jewish calendar. Every seventh year was a Sabbath year and after seven of the Sabbath years came the year of Jubilee. Then came Joshua’s battle of Jericho.

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

Seven priests. Seven trumpets. Seven days of marching. Seven times round on the seventh day. Is the number seven the key to some cosmic harmonic convergence that crumples the walls of Jericho? Not that I know of. Maybe it’s more like the old “As I was going to St. Ives” riddle. Seven wives, seven times seven sacks, seven times seven times seven cats, and so on. But the only number that matters is one: the one going to St. Ives. In the battle of Jericho God is the one who matters.

So what’s up with all the sevens? In Hebrew seven comes from a word that means to swear or take an oath, literally “to seven oneself.” It first comes up in Genesis 21 when Abraham makes a treaty with Abimelech by giving him seven lambs. It carries the idea of satisfaction (I satisfied you by my oath) and fullness (I fully completed the terms of this oath). In the same way God rested on the seventh day because he was satisfied; his work was full and complete. Satisfaction, fullness, completion, and perfection – that’s the number seven.

In my mind God is shouting “perfect” as the seven priests complete their seventh circuit on the seventh day and the trumpets blare and all the people cry out. It’s God’s perfect time for Jericho to fall.

  • the sins of the Canaanites are full after God’s patient waiting; now his judgment will be satisfied
  • the fear of the city is complete after watching the hordes of the Israelite army for seven days
  • the faith of the Israelites is full after their testing in the wilderness
  • the time for waiting is finished

I’m sure the children of Israel wondered and grew impatient as they waited for God’s perfect timing. I have struggled while waiting for God to act. Surely now is the time! Why not today? It’s not the LORD’s time. So we wait and learn patience. What are you learning to wait for?

  • a mate?
  • a job?
  • health?
  • children?
  • (fill in the blank here)

It’s hard to wait, but as you do remember that God will answer when the time is full, complete, and perfect. As for me, while I wait I think I’ll draw a big seven over my problem. It’s only a matter of time until that problem is finished.

Image by {platinum} on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0

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3 thoughts on “Perfect timing: Joshua 6

  1. What will be interesting is to follow the journey of the Ark of the Covenant throughout scripture. It may be a more interesting tale than many are aware. 😉

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