Faith’s Battle Plan

This year, 2024, will mark the 80th anniversary of what has become known as the Battle of the Bulge. This was a last gasp German offensive against Allied forces in Belgium, an attempt to prevent the invasion of Germany. The term “bulge” refers to the wedge the German army drove into Allied lines. Because of Allied resistance and reinforcements, the German army’s offensive was unsuccessful and costly. Both sides suffered heavy losses in the battle.

My father-in-law was in the American army in World war II. He was involved in this battle. He told me stories of the extreme cold, the harsh conditions, and the anguish of seeing comrades wounded or killed. He also told me about being a part of the victorious army that entered Berlin and occupied Germany at the end of the war in Europe.

Hebrews 11 was written to stimulate faith in God. The first readers of the letter to the Hebrews were tempted to retreat in the face of spiritual battles. The author of this letter reviews the stories of some heroes of faith from Israel’s history to encourage his readers not to lose their confidence in God’s presence or his promises.

Two people pf faith are highlighted in Hebrews 11:30-31. “By faith the walls of Jericho fell. . . . By faith the prostitute Rahab . . . was not killed with those who were disobedient.”

Joshua is not named, but his victory at Jericho is an example of faith in action. Rahab is named and honored for her role in helping the Israelite army achieve victory. These two people could not have been more different. Joshua was a national leader, Rahab was living on the outskirts (city wall) of her society. Joshua was a Hebrew, she was a Gentile. He was a man, she was a woman. Joshua was brought up to believe in the living God. Rahab was brought up amid the false worship of Canaanite idols.

But they both experienced profound changes in their lives to bring them each to their God-ordained destiny, the battle of Jericho.

The changes in Joshua’s life were stages in the growth of his faith. He was personally trained by Moses and prepared to be his successor. As he led the army into battle against the Amalekites¬† he learned that victory for God’s chosen people would come from God alone (Exodus 17:9, 16). When he went with Moses to the top of Mount Sinai, he experienced the overwhelming presence of God (Exodus 24:13,17).

By being at Moses’ side, he saw how God reveals his will and guides his people (Exodus 33:9,11). When he was appointed to go into Canaan as one of the twelve spies, he came back with a positive report. That experience taught him that the majority opinion is not always correct and that the nation’s disobedience would cost them dearly. Joshua learned that preparation comes before responsibility. It takes time to grow a faith leader (Numbers 27:12-23).

Rahab’s story is different, but it reveals her faith. She had been a prostitute. By this we may assume she was street smart, worldly-wise, and hardened by her former life. When we meet her in Joshua chapter 2, she was changed. God had given her a conscience and a hunger for the truth.

This flawed woman, stigmatized as “the prostitute,” was a changed person. She had a changed attitude toward the living God. She declared, “I know that the Lord has given this land to you. . . . The Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:8,11). This was her profession of faith.

Rahab had a changed attitude toward God’s people. She harbored the Israelite spies who came to Jericho (Hebrews 11:31). She had a changed attitude toward God’s word. She had a changed attitude toward her own nation. She believed that God’s judgment was about to fall. She wanted her family to be rescued when that happened (Joshua 2:12-14,18). By faith she was identifying herself with God’s chosen people and rejecting her former life.

As promised by God, a great victory ensued. “By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the people had marched around them for seven days” (Hebrews 11:30). The battle plan made no sense militarily. Joshua had no elaborate strategy to take the city by force. Instead he led the army to follow God’s instructions precisely. They were to trust the Lord who had promised success.

The plan gave all the credit for victory to God alone. The plan required patience: thirteen circuits around the city wall, once a day for six days, and seven times around on the seventh day. When the priests of the Lord blew the ram’s horn trumpets, the walls of the city fell down leaving the inhabitants of Jericho exposed and vulnerable to the attack of the invading Israelites.

We may conclude from this that God uses all kinds of people. Rahab is an unlikely example of faith, but we find her in Hebrews 11, God’s hall of fame. Joshua’s faith is an example to us of complete obedience, even when God’s plan seems illogical.

The city of Jericho stood as an example of Canaanite invincibility. When God’s people obey him, as they did on this occasion, he displays his strength on their behalf. “Faith is the victory” (1 John 5:4).

Pastor Randy Faulkner