“Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho
Joshua fought the battle of Jericho
and the walls came a-tumbling down.”
Chorus lyrics from “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho,” a folk song circa 1860-1870
God can, at any time He chooses, override the laws of nature and the feeble (or prideful) efforts of man, and bring things to the ground. There was no earthquake during the battle for Jericho, but learning how walls and buildings behave during earthquakes can be useful for several reasons. These “technical” (but easy to understand) fundamentals can help us understand some added supernatural aspects of the Jericho story, including a pattern seen in the rapture. They will, in a future article, help us understand prophetic things about past and future earthquakes in Israel. They can also help us expose some of the lies that humans are prone too easily to believe.
Large earthquakes certainly do cause walls to tumble down. Hundreds, and sometimes thousands, can perish. Many people can lie buried alive in the rubble, desperately waiting for rescue. And earthquakes can, and often do happen “in an instant, suddenly” (Isaiah 29:6). A human in close proximity to a major earthquake has only about 2.5 seconds to find safety.
Prelude: Setting a Scene of Mourning
The Haiti earthquake of January12, 2010, still tears at my heart. If God had ordained it, I would have left behind everything and gone, not that one person could have made even a dent in the suffering there. Entire truckloads of unidentified, mangled bodies had to be buried in mass graves. Many of those who were first rescued became amputees. Operations were performed in the crudest of facilities and conditions.
It’s not even as if those who escaped without serious injury did not (and do not continue to) suffer. The Haitian people have been among the poorest on earth for generations. It has been a sad reality that for years mothers have had to make cakes of mud, shortening and salt in order to fight the desperate hunger of the children, children with the notably swollen bellies indicating starvation and malnutrition, even before the quake. Can you even imagine being so desperate as to have to deliberately feed your children mud cakes?
In the aftermath of the 2010 quake, hundreds of thousands no longer had even the rudest shelters from the oncoming tropical storms. Desperate people pushed body-to-body so hard toward aid workers who were distributing precious water and food, that fellow Haitians were injured in the press. Foreign military and aid organizations found fences and special security measures both necessary and nearly inadequate. Weeks later, when the storms began to hit, raw sewage combined with rain water flooded the streets, in some cases as much as two feet deep, washing away the thin stakes and tarps that had been rigged as mass shelters in the interim. Misery was everywhere.
Exposing Some of the Lies
Many experts outside of Haiti frequently commented that the tremendous loss of life and extensive failure of structures, including key government buildings, could be attributed to the combined factors of poverty, lax building codes and enforcement, and shoddy construction practices. With that kind of commentary, many have assumed that we could not suffer similar catastrophic consequences after a major quake here in the United States.
That is one of the lies that need to be exposed. Assuming we are safe and secure in our wealth, and finding pride in our knowledge, are spiritual traps. The ONLY safety we have is in the Lord.
“If you say, ‘The LORD is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent’” (Psalm 91:9-10).
Speaking factually just about the seismic risks alone, something like the Haitian experience could in fact happen in America. Haiti was only a 7.1. There are at least three zones in America that are likely to produce “great” quakes (8.0 or more) in the foreseeable future, ranging from about 34 times to perhaps as much as 1,100 times more energy release than the Haiti quake, depending on the actual magnitude. Each of those ruptures will span very long distances across multiple states, take out virtually all infrastructure, and leave millions of people without aid or resources for a very long time.
Another way we err is when we take unwarranted pride in our engineering capabilities, thinking all of our buildings are sound. It easily could be the opposite. The Bible may even mean this literally in the physical when earthquakes cause walls to fall down: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
In California, where the seismic codes have been updated and reinforced for a long time, there are still thousands of unreinforced masonry buildings (URMs) that pre-date those codes. Washington and Oregon have many more, and they will eventually suffer a rupture on the Cascadia Subduction Zone at probably a 9.0 or greater. There are even more URMs throughout the entire eastern half of the United States which will someday once again experience “great” quakes on the New Madrid Fault. Collapse and loss of life can be expected in virtually every URM subjected to a “great” quake.
Furthermore, URMs are not the only vulnerable structures. A recent report from the U.S. Geological Survey listed the specific addresses of 39 steel-framed high-rise buildings in just one city (San Francisco) that are vulnerable to collapse in a major earthquake. Then there are the many structures that have what is called a “soft story,” which are so prone to failure that both San Francisco and Los Angeles have begun mandatory retrofit requirements for multi-occupancy apartment units, even though the retrofits can easily cost owners more than $100,000.
Jericho and how walls fail
One fundamental to know is that the most common form of collapse is when a wall sheds away toward the outside.
Collapsed outer wall of the Medico Dental Building, Pacific Garden Mall.
Credit: J.K. Nakata, U.S. Geological Survey
So, it should be no surprise that the walls that fell in Jericho fell outward. While it was not from an earthquake, it is indicative of His grand design as to how things can and will fall down when the Hand of the Lord so ordains. Standing next to a building or large fence when a wall falls is very, very dangerous. People are often killed when the debris hits them. But in the Biblical account, none in Joshua’s camp were injured when the walls fell outward toward them. Thus, it is a reinforcement of the overall theme that it was God who both protected them and orchestrated their victory.
Furthermore, the walls of Jericho were mud walls on a stone foundation. The stone part was actually underground, and the people living in the walls of Jericho were living in walls composed of MUD! Yet those homes in the walls rose up stories and stories high, setting them up for collapse just as a reality of the physics. But there is more than mere physics operating here.
Mud for building is basically soil or sand mixed with water and then dried. Remember the Haitian mud cakes? Dried mud is without any real nourishment, and it does not provide for strong shelter. Just as without the Living Water souls are so dry inside they can be in a state of spiritual starvation and perhaps even shatter into dust in a single instant. “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19).
Remember also the last kingdom in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, where the toes are a mix of iron and “miry” clay (Daniel 2:41-43). This is clay or mud that is impure. It is a picture of both an individual believer and what well may be the last church, the church at Laodicea, choosing to mix with the world’s ways rather than being wholly dedicated to the Lord (Revelation 3:14-22).
The victory at Jericho echoes even now
The salvation story is reinforced by the events at Jericho. The prostitute Rahab and all her family were saved when she believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The red cord she hung out the window was symbolic of the blood of Christ. In fact, Rahab is mentioned in the first chapter of the New Testament where she became named as being in the ancestral bloodline of Christ! Jericho was also the location where the story in Luke 19 of Zacchaeus unfolded. Zacchaeus was a wealthy tax collector, but he repented and turned from his sins and became a follower of Jesus. These examples tell us that no person, regardless of their prior sins, is beyond the offer of salvation while they yet still live.
To survive when walls fall down, consider the contrasts in these verses:
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like the wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
“And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like the foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it” (Matthew 7:24-27).
Believers will experience storms and tests and trials, but no matter what beats ON them, their spiritual shelter will hold in the storm. “He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be greatly moved” (Psalm 62:2 and 62:6) (Please notice that this was important enough to say twice!).
But if at this moment you are unsaved, you are running out of time before God will eventually allow the storms to pound relentlessly AGAINST you and all other humans that rebel against His authority. Unless you turn toward Him, you are headed for a great fall.
Jericho: Joy in the Morning
Small details can easily escape our notice, even in some of the more well-known stories. In the six days that Joshua and the people marched around Jericho, “the trumpets blew continually” (Joshua 6:13). In fact, this little tidbit of information is doubly important, because the phrase is used twice! God was setting us up to notice something more later on.
Furthermore, they did the same thing on the seventh day, making continuous trumpet sounds all seven times around the walls. But then there was a pause. To the people inside Jericho it would have seemed to become silent, in an instant, suddenly. Silence can be deadly. There was only one man speaking outside the wall, and they probably couldn’t hear him. But even if they could, it should have caused them to tremble. “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city” (Joshua 6:16).
Joshua had given the people specific instruction that they were to shout, but not until and unless he commanded them (Joshua 6:10). When the time came, they obeyed, but there is an interesting change that takes place.
“So, the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that people went up into the city…” (Joshua 6:20).
Notice the differences in the first and second sentences. At first there was a kind of cacophony of trumpets and shouts. In the first sentence, the trumpets are many. In the second sentence, the people heard the sound of a single trumpet! And THEN they raised a great shout!
In the classic rapture passage in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, the Lord descends at the sound of a single trumpet, after which those who are in Christ are “caught up” just as the people “went up” into the city of Jericho. There is a new city of Jerusalem that is “up” there waiting for us, as it begins in heaven.
“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2).
A life built on mud or miry clay will not make it through the challenges ahead. In contrast, a life cleansed and purified by the Living Water that Jesus provides changes destinies. “By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish with those who were disobedient…” (Hebrews 11:31).
Soon, when the walls fall down in the Jerusalem on earth, it will be the time to look to the heavens and to “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.” Glory, GLORY, GLORY!