“Shout for the Lord hath given you the city.” Joshua 6:16
The winds of war were blowing across the thirteen colonies. It was inevitable. Feelings were running high. Loyalties were divided. Passions overrode reason. Electrifying excitement created an atmosphere of anticipation. Too many men had come too far down the road of liberty to turn back now. Too many incidents had occurred. Minutemen had already fired “the shot heard round the world” in 1775.
Months later, in Philadelphia, other patriots were busy drafting a document declaring independence. On July 2, 1776, the resolution of independence passed. The date seemed significant to John Adams who wrote, “The Second Day of July 1776, will be most memorable Epoch, in the History of America. It ought to be commemorated as the Day of Deliverance…It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shows, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one end of this continent to the other from this time forward forever more.”
Despite having passed the resolution, the Congress debated to make further revisions in the language. Men bitterly, noisily, raised their voices. Delegates quarreled over the phrases Thomas Jefferson had written. Later, Jefferson would remember that he had sat next to Dr. Benjamin Franklin, “who perceived that I was not insensible to those mutilations.” Dr. Franklin commented to Jefferson, “I have made it a rule,” Franklin confided to his young friend…”to avoid becoming the draftsman of papers to be reviewed by a public body.”
At last, on July 4, 1776, Congress adopted Jefferson’s revised Declaration of Independence. But the delegates did not sign this copy either. They would wait for an engrossed, or, final copy. On July 8, outside Independence Hall, the Declaration was read to a crowd of Philadelphians. Finally, on August 2, most of the members of Congress signed the Declaration of Independence, but not all. At least one member signed as late as November. All of the fifty-six signatures, with two exceptions, President John Hancock, and Secretary Charles Thomson, were kept secret until 1777.
There was good reason for the initial act of prudence. The fifty-six men had together committed an act of treason. They knew the risk of death by hanging for themselves, poverty and dishonor for their families in failure – and still they signed promising “… to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” During the debate the men made nervous jokes. Heavyset Benjamin Harrison remarked that when his turn came at the British noose, his weight would bring him swift mercy. Despite the dark humor, the risk was real, and the war for America’s independence was on as the battle cry of freedom went forth. Listen now to the documented fate of those fifty-six gallant men, who came from all walks of life, to forge a new nation, under God, and conceived in liberty.
Twenty-three were lawyers, twelve were merchants, twelve were men of the soil, four were physicians, two were manufactures, one was a politician, one a printer, and another a minister.
Almost a third of the signers were under forty years of age. Eighteen were in their thirties, and three in their twenties. Only seven were over sixty. The youngest, Edward Rutledge of South Carolina, was twenty-six and a half, and the oldest, Benjamin Franklin, was seventy. Three of the signers lived to be over ninety. Charles Carroll died at age ninety-five. Ten died in their eighties.
The signers were religious men, all being Protestant except Charles Carroll, who was Roman Catholic. Over half expressed their religious faith as being Episcopalian. Others were Congregational, Presbyterian, Quaker, and Baptist.
Two of the signers would become presidents of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the document, and John Adams. Two, John Adams and Benjamin Harrison, would be fathers of future presidents. Another, Elbridge Gerry, would one day serve as vice-president under James Madison.
Those signers pledged their lives, and some paid that price for this nation’s birth, and our birthright. At least nine of them died as a result of the war, or its hardships on them. The first of the signers to die was John Morton of Pennsylvania. He was at first sympathetic to the British, but finally changed his mind, and cast his vote for independence. By doing so, his friends, relatives, and neighbors turned against him. Those who knew him best said this ostracism hastened his death, for he lived only eight months after the signing. His last words were, “… tell them that they will live to see the hour when they shall acknowledge it to have been the most glorious service that I ever rendered to my country.”
Another to pay with his life was Caesar Rodney. Suffering facial cancer, Rodney left his sickbed at midnight, and rode all night by horseback through a severe storm. He arrived just in time to cast the deciding vote for his Delaware delegation in favor of independence. His doctors told him he needed treatment, obtainable only in Europe. Caesar Rodney refuse to go in this time of his country’s crisis. The decision cost him his life.
When the British came to Trenton, they settled near the home of John Hart, one of the five signers from New Jersey. He had a large farm, and several grist mills. While his wife was on her deathbed, Hessian soldiers descended on Hart’s property. They destroyed his mills, ravaged his property, and scattered his thirteen children. Hart became a hunted fugitive. When he finally returned to his land, he was broken in health, his farmland was scourged, his wife had died, and his children were all scattered. He died three years after signing the Declaration of Independence.
Again, the signers also pledged their fortunes, and at least fifteen saw the realization of that pledge. Twelve had their homes ransacked, or ruined. Six literally gave their fortunes to further the cause. When the four New York delegates signed the Declaration, they signed away their property. William Floyd was exiled from his home for seven years, and was practically ruined financially. Francis Lewis had his home plundered and burned, and his wife was carried away prisoner. She suffered great brutality, and never regained her health; she died within two years. He never regained his fortune. Lewis Morris had his property destroyed, and, like Floyd, was denied his home for seven years.
Phillip Livingston never saw his home again, for his estate became a British naval hospital. He sold all of his remaining property to finance the revolution. He died before the war was over. Another signer, merchant Robert Morris, lost 150 ships, which were sunk during the war. Three of the four signers from South Carolina, Thomas Heyward, Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge were taken prisoner by the British, and imprisoned for ten months. Thomas Nelson Jr. of Virginia died in poverty at age fifty-one. He gave his fortune to help finance the war, and never regained either it, or his health.
Before Patrick Henry gave his own stirring speech, he was preceded by Nelson who said,
“I am a merchant of Yorktown, but I am a Virginian first. Let my trade perish. I call God to witness that if any British troops are landed in the County of Yorks, of which I am a Lieutenant, I will wait no order, but will summon the militia and drive the invaders into the sea.”
When Patrick Henry declared his immortal words, “… give me liberty or give me death,” he was not speaking idly. When those signers affixed their signatures to that unique document, they were, in a real sense, choosing liberty or death, for if the revolution failed, if their fight had come to naught, they would be hanged as traitors (Ezra Taft Benson – This Nation Shall Endure).
If there is a familiar lesson to be learned from the Revolutionary War, that lesson is that some dedicated people will do anything, to include facing death, for the cause of freedom. Someone has said that, if you do not have anything worth dying for, you really do not have anything worth living for. Freedom is worth dying for.
There is another simple but great lesson and that is freedom is not free. There is a high price to be paid for the right to speak freely, the right to publish, the right to persuade, the right to worship, the right to protect what one has. Freedom is not free.
Turning attention to the Biblical passage in Joshua, the spiritual principles of freedom are illustrated in the capture of Jericho by the Israelites. Historically, Jericho is one of the most ancient cities in the world. When the children of Israel first came across Jericho during their wilderness journeys, it was perhaps the most important city of the Jordan Valley (Num. 31:12; 34:15; 35:1).
Joshua, in charge of the Israelites after the death of Moses, planned to siege the city of Jericho as one city of many that would be conquered in the land of Canaan. Many years before God had promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob a piece of real estate stretching from “the river of Egypt” i.e. the Nile unto the Great River, the river Euphrates (Gen. 15:18). Before Joshua died, that Divine promise would be fulfilled. This is taught in Joshua 21:43-45. Nehemiah 9:29 teaches the same thing. God keeps His Word. The covenant made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was fulfilled, according to promise. What is history to us, was prophecy to Joshua. When Joshua stood with the children of Israel on the threshold of the land of Canaan, he was armed, not only with spears and weapons of warfare, but with a Divine promise.
Joshua was also armed with divinely given field orders on how to maneuver in the hour of conflict. Never before in the course of military warfare had such a unique order been given. First, the priests of Israel were to march with all the men of war once around the city walls for six consecutive days. Jericho covered only about 8.5 acres at this time, making it rather easy to obey this command. On the seventh day, the priests and the soldiers were to march around the city seven times, and then the priests were to blow the holy trumpets. At the blowing of the trumpets, the people of Israel were to shout, being assured that when they shouted the wall of the city would fall down flat.
Can you imagine what must have been the thoughts of the people in Jericho, when they saw the soldiers of Israel going around the city in circles, day after day? At first the citizens probably were a little disturbed, and perhaps amused. Never before had a siege been conducted like this. From the top of city walls the people of Jericho watched. They watched in curiosity as the priests carried the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, symbolizing the presence of Jehovah. The Ark was made of wood and gold, anticipating the Divine and human nature of God manifested in the flesh.
The Ark of the Covenant had two angels on top of the lid. Their faces were covered in holy awe, and were turned downward, always beholding the mercy seat where the blood of propitiation once a year was placed. Inside the Ark of the Covenant were sacred objects. There was Aaron’s rod that budded, reminding the Jews that God gives life to individuals, and to nations. There was the table of shewbread, reminding the Jews that God provides for His own. And there was also the second copy of the Ten Commandments, reminding the Jews that the broken law was still the Law of God, and should be obeyed.
The priests marched under divine orders with wonderful symbols of God’s covenant, and the warriors followed. Here then is the first lesson to learn. A nation is only as secure as the spiritual power of its people. Atomic and neutron bombs will not protect America. The Bible says that righteousness will exalt a nation. Let the moral and spiritual fiber of a nation be ripped apart, and the civilization will deteriorate. History is filled with examples of how great civilizations engaged in self-destructive behavior because their spiritual power was destroyed.
Now notice in verse 4 that Joshua was not told to create priests, or an Ark of the Covenant. He was told to use the spiritual power he had. That is true today. There is enough spiritual power in this church alone to win this community for Christ. The only question is, “Lord, when do we march?” “How do we accomplish what we know is your will?”
There is a second great spiritual lesson and it involves silence. Silence is a potent weapon in the hands of God. The instruction of verse 10 is full of meaning. In silence the men of war were to march because in silence the men could meditate. Each tramping of the feet, every step taken, was an opportunity to realize what God was about to do. When soldiers talk they often engage in idle chatter or unnecessary conversation. During the siege of Jericho, a holy hush was imposed, so that personal fears were not verbalized. Any personal dissatisfaction with the way the military operation was going would not be heard.
A holy hush needs to come upon God’s people again before we engage in any serious spiritual battle. Many people cannot hear the voice of God because they are too busy. Some are too busy doing good tasks but not the best tasks, much like Martha who was busy about the house while Mary was occupied with the person of Christ. Some are too busy being critical. “This is not right, and that is not right.” “This should have been done, and that should not have been done.” It is enough to make the angels weep.
Others are too busy expressing their fears. There is fear of the future. There is fear of lack of finances. There is fear of fear, as if God were dead, and can no longer protect, or provide for His own. A holy hush will stop all the wrong talk in order to build a measure of excitement as to what God will do. In the silence, God speaks. It is not easy to get a multitude of people to be silent, but history says it happened. Let the church then be silent with inappropriate comments about others.
The great lesson of our passage is that the army of God has power. It has spiritual power, in spiritual people, who can hear the voice of the Lord, and obedient people, who will follow Divine directives.
As we prepare our heart for spiritual battle with the world, and against the cultural rot, that is being imposed by acts of judicial legislation, let us prepare in the same manner as Israel of old. We want to be free from sin, personal sin, judicial sin, and legislative sin. And we want to see others free. Sin has come to enslave souls, and to do much damage. Nevertheless if the Son makes us free, we shall be free indeed. We can be free, but there is a price to pay. Freedom is not free. Christ had to die on the Cross. And you and I must become good soldiers of the Cross.
Let us lift then our voices by faith in a spiritual battle cry of freedom, and then go forth to oppose personal, legislative, and judicial enslavement to sin. Let us issue forth a battle cry of freedom from heaven from this generation that will shake and rattle the very gates of hell.
God will do His part when we do ours, and we shall yet again have just judges on the bench, and men and women of Christian character, worthy individuals, to hold the highest offices in the land, with Biblical wisdom to guide the nation and to protect religious freedom.