Breaking down the walls of separation

By  DCO Peter Keyes

Zion Lutheran Church, Little Falls

Have you ever taken a good look at the Biblical account of the Battle of Jericho and applied it to community outreach in our post-modern world? It is a relevant historical story. It speaks of the power of God who breaks down the walls that separate us from unbelievers. Read the story and reflect on the role of the people, their call to action, and the source of the victory. It wasn’t the power or might of the Israelites that secured this victory over the people of Jericho, but the power of God, who broke down the walls of Jericho.

The full account of this story is found in the Old Testament book of Joshua, chapter 6.

Joshua 6:2-22 The LORD said to Joshua, “I am about to hand Jericho, its king and its warriors over to you. All the soldiers will march around the city once a day for six days. Seven priests will carry rams’ horns ahead of the ark. But on the seventh day you must march around the city seven times while the priests blow their horns. When you hear a long blast on the horn, all the troops must shout very loudly. The wall around the city will collapse. Then the troops must charge straight ahead into the city. … After Joshua had given orders to the troops, the seven priests carrying the seven rams’ horns ahead of the LORD marched off as they blew their horns. The ark of the LORD’S promise followed them. The armed men went ahead of the priests, who blew their horns. The rear guard followed the ark while the priests continued to blow their horns. Joshua ordered the troops, “Don’t shout, make any noise, or let one word come out of your mouth until I tell you to shout. Then shout!” So the LORD’S ark went around the city once. Then they went back to the camp and stayed there for the night. … They went around the city once on the second day and returned to the camp. They did this for six days. On the seventh day they got up at dawn. They marched around the city seven times the same way they had done it before. That was the only day they marched around it seven times. When they went around the seventh time, the priests blew their rams’ horns. Joshua said to the troops, ‘Shout, because the Lord has given you the city! The city has been claimed by the Lord. Everything in it belongs to the Lord. … So the troops shouted very loudly when they heard the blast of the rams’ horns, and the wall collapsed. The troops charged straight ahead and captured the city. They claimed everything in it for the Lord.” (God’s Word, copyright 1995 by God’s Word to the Nations Bible Society.)

Have you ever considered what keeps people from coming to know Jesus as their Lord and savior? We sinners are very good at building walls that separate us from others. Within our communities, we may not see physical walls of separation (unless you count backyard privacy fences), but we may experience social walls of separation and social-economic barriers that keep us from engaging with our neighbors. Our traditions and expectations, our cultural roots and social circles, our economic status or political views may all contribute to the creation of invisible (but very real) barriers that keep us from sharing Jesus Christ with our neighbors. Only God can break down these barriers, whether they have been built up by us or by those who are our neighbors.

Imagine what might happen if we called on God to break down the barriers that have kept us from sharing Jesus in our neighborhoods. We might see how we have kept others from coming to Christ by the walls that we have built up within our traditions and practices of faith. We might also recognize the walls that our neighbors have hidden behind because of their fear of exposure and slavery to sin.

The Israelites were called to walk in silence for six days around the walls of Jericho while the priests were blowing rams’ horns. This was a call to obedience. How would your attitude toward your neighbors change, if you walked in your neighborhood and stopped in front of every home for prayer, every day for six days?

What would you expect to see, if you called on God to reveal the invisible barriers that you have built up that have kept you isolated from your neighbors? Would you be ready to tell others about Jesus, when by the power of the Holy Spirit, God breaks down those walls?