How To Improve On God’s Plan

Joshua: Okay, everybody quiet down. It’s time to start this elders meeting.

[Din of talking continues among the seventy elders]

Joshua: Seriously, shut it!

[A beat]

Joshua: Alright, then. So tomorrow begins our big siege of Jer— . . .  Seriously, Jehoiarib? I see you passing that note. Stop it. Put it down. No, not in front of Tola; put it . . . You know what? Give it to me. It’s mine now. I keep.

[Note is handed down comically long line of elders, to Joshua who reads it, frowns with, like, a sort of old-lady frown if that makes sense, and then crumples it up.]

Joshua: [to Jehoiarib] You know, just because I’m a super-spy-slash-mighty-warrior who hides in the homes of high-end prostitutes, escapes out windows, slaughters the enemy, and is basically the James Bond of the Ancient Near East doesn’t mean I don’t have feelings, man. Comments like this [slightly hefts crumpled note] still hurt.

Jehoiarib:  [Studying his feet, mumbling] Sorry.

Joshua: So anyway, I’ve gotten the plan for the attack, direct from Adonai, and it is incredible. He is obviously going to do something huge and miraculous in our midst!

[General din of anticipation, which sort of sounds like some people saying “murmur murmur” under their breath while others say “watermelon, watermelon”, also under their breath]

Joshua: You all know that Jericho is straitly shut up because of the children of Israel; none go in and none come out. But God has given the city and their king and their hardest-core warriors into our hands. Here’s the plan: all the men of war in Israel will surround the city at once . . .

[Excitement builds among the elders]

Joshua: Like, go around it, is what I mean. Walk around it. Once. We do that for six days. In the front of the group will be seven priests with seven trumpets and the ark of the covenant. But get this: they don’t even blow the trumpets for those six days.

[Excitement begins to fade as elders nudge each other in a way that they think is subtle, but which Joshua clearly can see.]

Joshua: [Pretending not to notice] On the seventh day, we go around seven times and then the priests blow their trumpets and all the fighting men shout at the top of their lungs and the wall will fall down flat! I’m beyond excited that God has chosen to . . . work in . . . Oh, come on! Jehoiarib, I see the note, man! Give it to me.

[Receives and reads note.]

Joshua: You think God’s plan is “stupid?”  How is it stupid?! The same God who parted the Red Sea and filled Egypt with frogs (frogs!) has promised to knock the walls of the city down and give us victory!

Jehoiarib: [Clears throat, nervously] Well, it’s not that the plan is stupid, per se. I mean, the main idea, I can get with. I think we just might want to sort of change up the methods.

Joshua: What does that even mean? The “methods” are the whole thing!

Jehoiarib: Right, but like . . . maybe we keep the basic core of the plan—the part where we have a huge victory—but nuance the rest of it. I mean, you’ve been in Egypt, right? You’ve seen some insanely high culture and been around some pretty sophisticated thinking. Don’t you think we can do a little better when it comes to engaging Jericho? How about if we keep the part where we walk around the city, but instead of just doing it silently/passively, we throw huge burning rocks of brimstone at the city, thus weakening the walls?

Joshua: I don’t— I mean, where would you get huge burning rocks?

Jehoiarib: I don’t know. I’m just spit-balling, right? I mean, everything is up for discussion, and—

Joshua: Not true.

Jehoiarib: —and I think in this day and age, we need a little more pizzazz, a little more “shock and awe” if we want victory.

Joshua: “More shock and awe” than city walls literally crumbling to the ground, spontaneously?

Elder 2: Right, but I see what Jehoiarib’s saying, though. What if we keep the trumpet thing and the marching thing, but we kind of move it to the back burner and focus instead on presenting ourselves as super-duper intimidating? We may not be giants like the men of Jericho, but we could paint our faces and jump around savagely, waving spears . . .

Elder 4: Or walk on stilts!

Elder 3: I don’t know. I think the whole “silent, creepy marching” thing is kind of unnerving. But you know what would be even more unnerving? We could have big video screens looping the scariest scenes from Saw I-VII.

Elder 4: Yeah! And in between, we could flash messages, like, really fast with a jerky, David Fincher font. Stuff like, “Give up!” and “You will fall!” and “Surrender!”

Elder 2: You think they might really surrender?

Elder 4: If we engage them in the right way.

Elder 3: But God’s plan seemed to have another goal in mind. Like, we’d defeat them.

Elder 2: Same basic concept. And I kind of like the idea of just  engaging them. Isn’t that the real spirit behind silently walking around the city anyway? It’s kind of like one big hug from our nation to their city-state?

Jehoiarib: I love it! All of it! The movie clips, the face paint, the engaging. And, while I’m not saying we reject it entirely, maybe we don’t mention the whole “walls breaking down” thing right away because it’s a little off-putting. We can just sort of put that off indefinitely.

Elder 2: Like, hold it in reserve you mean?

Various Elders: Sure! Makes Sense! Etc.

Jehoiarib: Hey, where you going, Josh?

Joshua: [Backing away]  Oh, I’m just assuming the ground is going to open up and swallow you all.

CUT TO: JERUSALEM. DAY. 1,450 YEARS LATER

St. Peter:  Okay, time to start this elder’s meeting. As you know, the other apostles and I got the plan for the Kingdom of God directly from Jesus’ own lips, and it is incredible. It’s clear he’s going to do something huge and miraculous among us—including here in your church. And get this: it’s all about proclaiming repentance and forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. And when we do that faithfully, he’ll . . . Seriously? Simeon, I see you passing that note!

Zach Bartels

I’m pastor at Judson Baptist Church in Lansing, MI and the author of Playing Saint, The Last Con, and a few other books. I’m husband to Erin, father to Calvin, and lover of gourmet coffee and fine cigars. He's the author of Playing Saint and The Last Con