Joshua 6:1-16, 20 – Seven Times

Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.

Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 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 the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

So, Joshua son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant of the Lord and have seven priests carry trumpets in front of it.” And he ordered the army, “Advance! March around the city, with an armed guard going ahead of the ark of the Lord.”

When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the Lord went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the Lord’s covenant followed them. The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” So, he had the ark of the Lord carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there.

Joshua got up early the next morning and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets went forward, marching before the ark of the Lord and blowing the trumpets. The armed men went ahead of them and the rear guard followed the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets kept sounding. So, on the second day they marched around the city once and returned to the camp. They did this for six days.

On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!…

When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so, everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. (NIV)

Today’s Old Testament lesson is the famous account of the ancient Israelites taking the city of Jericho. The Lord gave the people unusual instructions to march around the city once each day for six days. On the seventh day, they were to proceed around the city seven times and then give a loud shout and the walls would come down. The Israelites followed the command to the letter and, as a result, saw an incredible work of God.

There are two words in this story that are repeated frequently: “seven” and “shout.” Seven priests with seven trumpets march around the city seven times on the seventh day. And the people were to do more than shout on the seventh day – they were to give a great big lung-filled roar together.

The number seven shows up many times in Holy Scripture. Maybe it is God’s favorite number. Whenever we see the number seven, it points to God. For example, the psalmist said:

I will praise you seven times a day because all your regulations are just. (Psalm 119:164, NLT) 

Ancient Israel took this verse literally and seriously by instituting a daily offering every day, seven times a day, of prayer and worship, spacing it out over the course of a twenty-four-hour period. The early church continued the practice, and even today many liturgical traditions still hold to the “Daily Office” which are seven distinct times in the day (and night) of intentionally connecting with God.

In our contemporary religious milieu and fragmented world, methinks we need to re-connect with the number seven. Maybe we would see God do the miraculous if we prayed with the words “seven” and “shout” as our guiding motifs. I wonder what kind of spiritual health would result from committing to intentional times of prayer seven times a day. I am curious if we followed our prayers with a great shout together of confident faith if we would see mighty divine works in ourselves, the church, and the world.

Almighty, ever-living God help us to obey you willingly and promptly. Teach us how to serve you with sincere and upright hearts in every sphere of life through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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