In Chapter 6, as Joshua plots the battle of Jericho in direct obedience to the command of God, something happens that has driven people away from the Judeo-Christian heritage for centuries: if God is never-ending love, how can he instruct Israel to go into Jericho and utterly destroy it, not only the valiant warriors, but their women and children? Doesn’t this make God a barbaric mad-man?
Here we must ask, “Who, exactly, is God’s enemy?” We could answer that the Amorites and Canaanites, the residents of the Promised Land, are the enemy. In a sense that is true, but not exactly.
Think back to Leviticus, where the Lord told Moses that current occupants of the Promised Land had committed acts which were abominations and perversions, detestable to him:
“You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; is it an abomination…Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled…therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:22, 24-25).
But did this make the Amorite and Canaanite children his enemy, too?
Now in Joshua 6, Israel will be used to cleanse God’s property from idolatry and worship of inanimate gods; nothing is to be preserved. And Israel is warned that they too could be spewed out of the land if they give in to this invisible enemy and practice things known to be abominations and perversions to God.
Sadly, once Jericho falls at the hands of the Lord in Chapter 7, one Israelite is reached by the evil lure and keeps some of the banned idols for himself, resulting in another Cycle of temptation, disobedience, disunity, judgment, repentance, and restoration.
So who is God’s enemy? And who is your enemy? Is the enemy a human being, maybe a king or maybe a class bully? No.
Centuries after Joshua, the Apostle Paul answers who God’s enemy is:
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12).
The enemy is Satan, the Devil, the spiritual force of wickedness in our lives, not the people he has contaminated.
So I must ask. Is your enemy the one who practices the perversions banned in Leviticus, or the evil force luring that person?
Is your enemy the one who crushes an unborn baby’s skull and harvests his or her body parts for profit, or the evil force lying to that person?
Or is your enemy Evil Himself?
Could it be that perfect unity is the entire family of God marching around the Jericho of Evil until its walls fall down? Might a perfectly unified shout be so powerful that the only power capable of utterly destroying Evil rushes in and takes no prisoners?
That power is the never-ending love of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.