“Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days…on the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse…”.
Joshua 6 is a favorite for Pentecostal preachers. I’ve heard this text preached at countless Sunday services, youth conventions, youth rallies, youth camps, kids camps, family camps, and youth retreats. The evangelist would often be quite relaxed at first–a few jokes, a few stories–but we all knew where it was headed. We were going to shout. We were going to shout until the walls came down. Not the walls of the church thankfully, but the walls in our lives. The walls in our churches. The walls in our schools. The walls in our nation. That is where the sermon was headed. I never minded. I’m a good Pentecostal kid who enjoys a good shout. But it was always fun to wonder about some of the other non-shouters in our youth group. There were two types of non-shouters. First, there were the really reserved kids who would never be caught dead shouting. Second, there were the kids who, in my mind at least, didn’t care that much about God. (I knew this, of course, because I had never seen them shout before). As we drew closer to the end of the sermon, I wondered if these non-shouters would finally cross the line and become shouters. If they didn’t at first, there was always the possibility that the rest of us just needed to shout louder to bring down the walls that were holding the non-shouters back. I left a lot of this services very hoarse.
As much as I joke about some of this, the truth is that I met with God in many of these services. I’m thankful to have grown up in an environment where we felt our worship. We weren’t afraid to sing, to shout, to cry, and to dance. I am all for this and think that we could use a little more of it in our churches these days. The shout is a pretty big part of what Joshua 6 talks about, but it’s not the only thing. For six days the people are basically told to do two things: One, show up; two, keep doing the same thing over and over. In other words, keep with the routine. During the six days Joshua actually said, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word…” (v. 10). So the people show up and they do what they did the day before. They march. That’s all.
I want to suggest that church is a lot like that. Sometimes we shout, and dance, and cry, and lose ourselves in what God is doing in that moment. Sign me up. But sometimes, for various reasons, we don’t shout. Sometimes, especially in painful seasons of our lives, it takes all we have just to show up and march…again. But here is the good news: God is working in us just as much in the moments when we show up and do what we do every time we gather–sing, pray, take communion–as He is in the moments when we shout. Was God with the Israelites any less on the 3rd day when they marched around Jericho as He was on the 7th day? Of course not. God is working whether we feel it or not. God is moving whether we shout or not.
About a month ago I was on a flight to Toronto when I met a man who owns one of Atlanta’s biggest night clubs. He began to ask me what I was reading and I showed him my book which happened to be about how God meets us in our everyday moments. I learned that he is Catholic and has attended Mass for most of his life. Easter had not long passed and he began to share with me an experience that he had while going through the stations of the cross this year. He had done the stations of the cross his whole life but that day, he said, “something clicked.” He had gone through this routine every year and he wasn’t expecting anything different this year. He just showed up to march like he did every other year. Little did he know that God was at work in his routine.
For 6 days God commanded the people to quietly march and say nothing. Do you ever think that they might have felt foolish doing this? No matter. Feelings had nothing to do with it. They showed up and marched because God told them to. God also told them to shout. Some people may have felt foolish about this too. Maybe, but they still did it (and the wall still fell!). So, showing up and shouting were actually the same thing: a response. And this is what all worship is, an obedient response to whatever God asks us to to. The Apostle Paul wrote the following words:
“Do not say in your hear, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or “Who will descend into the deep?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart…”
You may feel incredibly moved this coming Sunday. You may feel nothing at all. You may shout, or you may simply show up, sing, and pray. Either way, the Spirit of God is working in our midst. God is not “out there” waiting for us to go up to Him, or waiting for us to pull Him down. He is near us. His word is in our mouths and in our hearts. We don’t shout to get God to hear us. We shout for the same reason we show up – because God asks us to! They are simply responses to the amazing work that God is already doing. So,
And, just maybe, Shout!