by Mark Danis | March 26, 2019 12:04 am
“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.” (Hebrews 11:30)
This verse from the Letter to the Hebrews refers to the well-known Old Testament story of the fall of the walls of Jericho. But, truthfully, the story has a much larger meaning for each of us.
In the context of our individual spiritual journey, we all face those times when the Lord sends His angels to encircle the fortress of our hearts. If you know this Old Testament story well, you are aware that the overtaking of the city was ordered by an angel sent from the Lord. The story can be found in the Book of Joshua, Chapters 5:15-6:5. You see, the Lord wants to bring down all the barriers that keep us from allowing Him to enter and take full possession of our interior kingdom, which is nothing less than the kingdom of our individual hearts.
As we each journey through this life, it is inevitable that we will experience setbacks, disappointments and even pain. These are all part of the human experience. As a reaction to these events in our lives, we often begin to construct walls that we believe will protect us from future negative experiences. These are the emotional defenses we build up to shield ourselves from anything in the exterior world that we believe might cause us harm.
These defenses can take the form of withdrawal from certain circumstances, such as a desire to accumulate and surround ourselves with material goods, or an over-reliance on sources of distraction, which are all too prevalent in our modern technical world. Sometimes these defenses can include the construction of a personality that is intended to let other people know that either we are not really interested in getting to know them, or that we are the type of person who is not to be messed with. Fortunately for us, God does not concern Himself too much with our defenses.
Indeed, if we go back to the story of the fall of the city of Jericho, we see God not allow Himself to be deterred by the construction of exterior stone walls, or, for that matter, the stone buildings erected within those walls. And it does not matter how great and majestic they are.
“And Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.’” (Mark 13:2)
And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.”Jesus also will not allow the hardening of the interior of our hearts to stop Him from doing what He knows is in our best interest. God will work to tear down our defenses and even provide a full heart transplant if necessary.
“And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them; I will take the stony heart out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 11:19)
Now for those who are familiar with the Old Testament story of Jericho, you may be wondering how the actions of Joshua’s Israelite army fit into to this analogy. After all, the Book of Joshua records how all the inhabitants of the city were destroyed, except, ironically, the family of the harlot Rahab. She was the person who had assisted Joshua’s two spies when they secretly entered the city, before the actual assault on the city walls.
There is a larger story regarding the role of the harlot Rahab. This story, and its lesson, center around the fact that it is not our sins that keep us apart from God. In Rahab’s case, her life choices, as misguided as they were, certainly did not cause Joshua or his spies to hesitate to engage her in supporting their mission. God can always forgive our past, and even the current condition we might find ourselves in.
What God is interested in, however, is whether we acknowledge our need to change. And He is also interested in whether we are committed to making the change, regardless of the risks that might be associated with that change. Indeed, what God is most interested in is whether we can come to understand and acknowledge that He and He alone is the most important thing in our lives, and that we would be willing to do whatever is required to serve God above everything. And then, having acted, do we have the faith to believe God will protect us.
“And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?” (James 2:25)
As for the destruction of the city of Jericho and everything in it, God was trying to make clear that in the interior kingdom, we must be willing to destroy anything that keeps God from having the first priority in the center of our hearts. He wants us to understand we cannot have or desire to harbor anything in our interior kingdom that is more important to us than He Himself.
Christ reiterated this very message in one of the more compelling stories in the New Testament
“And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, ‘It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.’” (Luke 19:45-46)
Of course, we can understand the Temple in this verse as representative of the interior temple of the human person, the center of which is the human soul. What is most striking about this verse is that Christ makes very clear that the primary activity within the center of this temple is prayer. We are counseled specifically not to harbor earthly treasures within our hearts, but rather to build them into houses of prayer. For in the center of our hearts is where we keep our greatest treasure.
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:34)
Nor, as we saw earlier, are we to build stone walls or buildings within ourselves that are designed to keep things out, especially the things of God. Our very bodies must become temples where the Holy Spirit can take up His residence permanently.
“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own.” (1 Corinthians 6:19)
Let us pray that we might be able to identify anything within our hearts that may serve as an impediment to God’s entry. And let us also examine our interior motivation to understand if there is anything other than God occupying the center of our hearts. If we are not sure about this, we need only ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in discerning it.
Copyright © 2019 by Mark Danis
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Copyright ©2019 Integrated Catholic Life™ unless otherwise noted.