When I was a teenager, I was part of an organization called Young Life. We used to sing a song, “Joshua fought the battle of Jericho, and the walls came a-tumbling down, dooby-down, dooby-down, doo-wah”. (Okay, so it was the 70’s.)
It was a fun song, and planted a little church history in our brains, I suppose. The account is of the well-known story of the Israelites walking around the walls of this pagan city out of obedience to God, and on the seventh day, with a fair amount of trumpet blowing, the walls came a-tumbling down. The city was captured and utterly destroyed, except for the family of one woman, a prostitute who had risked everything to help the Israeli spies.
However, a critical point that I think is probably overlooked in the Sunday School version is the fact that God had decreed Jericho should never be built again. Period.
Fast forward several generations later, and we find a disaster in the making…
“It was during his reign that Hiel, a man from Bethel, rebuilt Jericho.”
The reign referred to is that of Ahab, one of the most wicked kings ever to sit on Israel’s throne, so it’s not surprising to find something like this happening in his realm. He may have even sanctioned it.
The builder, Hiel, since he was from Bethel, was probably a Jew, and as his name means Life of God, what follows is pure irony—
“When he laid its foundations, it cost him the life of his oldest son, Abiram. And when he completed it and set up its gates, it cost him the life of his youngest son, Segub. This all happened according to the message from the LORD concerning Jericho spoken by Joshua son of Nun.”
Matthew Henry, writing late 1600’s and early 1700’s, has this interesting thought:
“…he meddled with the accursed thing; turned that to his own use, which was devoted to God’s honour: he began to build, in defiance of the curse well devoted to God’s honour: he began to build, in defiance of the curse well known in Israel…”
When we rebuild what God has said to leave alone, we mess with God’s honor, i.e., we dishonor God.
To make it more personal, when God says something is to be left alone in my life, it behooves me to leave it alone. Rebuilding past offenses, reliving forgiven sins, (mine, or others), only serves to harm myself and those in my life. Paul put it this way—
“…but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
I need to heed that advice, and let the walls that God has torn down, stay down…
…(dooby down, dooby down, do-wah.)
1 Kings 16: 34; Philippians 3:13,14 Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
(Matthew Henry Commentary on 1 Kings 16)