Signs and Seals of his Presence


Joshua 6:2-4    “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. Have seven priests carry seven trumpets of rams horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times with the priests blowing the trumpets.”

If we look closely at God’s reason-defying plan for Israel to conquer the city of Jericho, we find that there is method to God’s madness. What seems strange and unusual has a beneficial purpose. He supports the faith of his faithful soldiers by supplying seals and signs of his gracious presence.

The ark of the covenant was more than a box with some religious artifacts inside. The top of it, you may remember, was called the mercy seat. It was the throne of God on earth, a reminder to his people that even though he fills the universe, yet he lived with his chosen people in a special way. They had a special promise of his love and protection. They had special access to his power and help. Here it was a reminder that he was fighting this battle, and his powerful presence was the only battering ram they would need to bring down Jericho’s walls. Maybe they couldn’t see the Lord with their eyes, but he supplied this visible reminder that he was there, he was with them, and he was on their side.

We have also been given a seal of God’s presence with us, a visible and tangible reminder that we are not alone. It doesn’t come in the form of a box with a golden throne on the top. It comes in bread and wine, where Jesus is present with his body and blood to forgive our sins and tear down the walls that separated us from God. Maybe we can’t see him with our eyes in his supper, but it is still a visible reminder that he is here, that he is with us, and that he is on our side.

That presence of God with his people was also announced by the trumpets. Trumpets announced God’s arrival on Mt. Sinai, when he came to give his law and make Israel his chosen people. At Jericho trumpets announced that God was present again, to give his people the land he had promised them, and to bring judgment on their enemies. Jesus tells us that trumpets will sound once more when he returns on the Last Day, announcing that the King has come. Then he will be present to judge our enemies and bring us into the heavenly land he has promised us after our wandering in the wilderness here below.

Do you see how these signs and seals of God’s presence serve to bolster our faith? When life throws curves at us, when it raises obstacles we can’t see over or past, when it beats us down, aren’t we tempted to think that we are all alone, that we are going to have to deal with this all by ourselves? That is especially true for our spiritual battles. German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer once observed, “There is no one who is more alone than the man who is alone with his sin.” Isn’t that why we stumble into worry, and even lean toward despair? Don’t we find ourselves thinking this way even when we are surrounded by family and friends?

God’s word tells us we are not alone. He promises he is with us, just as he promised Joshua he himself would deliver Jericho. But we need something we can see and touch to make us sure. And so he gives us more. He supplies us with visible and audible seals that he has not left his people alone. He is still here. That still builds the faith of his people, the people who serve as his spiritual foot soldiers today.

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