Joshua led the Israelite army to march around the formidable city of Jericho. The Lord had instructed him to place seven priests and the Ark of the Covenant at the front of the line. Nobody was to make a sound for six days. On the seventh day, seven priests were to blow the trumpets. Only then could the army shout. (See Joshua 6:1-27.)
Gideon led 300 Israelite soldiers to fight the vast army of Midian. Under the Lord’s command, he sent about 32,000 men home. Gideon divided the soldiers into three companies of 100 soldiers each. Upon the signal, the men were to break their jars with torches inside and blow their trumpets, shouting “For the Lord and for Gideon.” (See Judges 7:1-25.)
Paul and Silas traveled to the city of Philippi after receiving a vision from the Lord. Several days later, they were beaten and thrown into jail because they were considered a public menace when a slave woman was delivered from the fortune-telling spirits that made her master money. At about midnight, with their feet in stocks, Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God loudly enough for the other prisoner to hear. (See Acts 16:6-40.)
These three distinct stories share a common theme of obedience. Joshua and Gideon were both given unusual battle plans. Both men followed the Lord’s orders. God performed mighty miracles and the Israelites won incredible victories.
Paul and Silas went to the place God had told them to go, but after only making one recorded disciple, they were falsely accused and put in jail. Instead of having a pity party and moping about their unfair circumstances, the two Jesus followers decided to praise the Lord. A divine visitation shook the jail, setting all the prisoners free. When the jailer went to check out the situation, none of the prisoners had escaped (a huge miracle by itself). As a result, the jailer and his entire household put their faith in Jesus.
God’s people obeyed, and God showed up in a huge way!
In the middle of obeying, it didn’t make sense. There were plenty of occasions for doubt to creep in and to quit before the plan was completed.
Joshua’s army could have stop marching before the seventh day. They might have felt silly marching silently around Jericho. But they persevered.
Gideon’s men could have decided to join all the others who had gone home. What chance did they have against the Midianites? But they didn’t give up.
Paul and Silas could have lamented about what a waste of time it had been to come to Philippi in the first place. How could the Lord have planned for them to land in jail? But they trusted Him instead.
However, in each situation, when they looked back, they could see the unmistakable intervention of God.
The walls of Jericho fell and the city was captured.
The Midianite army was soundly defeated.
The Lord visited the jail and a prominent family in Philippi was saved. (The Bible doesn’t say, but I wonder how many prisoners gave their lives to Jesus that night?)
What has God asked you to do?
What next step do you need to take to move forward in obedience?
Take courage, my friend.
It might not make sense in the middle. It might not be easy. But don’t give up.
As you obey the Lord’s leading, expect Him to show up. That’s the kind of God He is.
Special thanks to my son, Jason Babcock, for sharing a devotional that inspired me to write this.