The Strength and the Courage is the debut album from The Mighty Trumpet Company. All the songs are taken from The Book of Joshua and tell the story of the People of Israel entering their Promised Land. The album draws from folk and country tradition, using story telling as a means of developing the themes within The Book of Joshua. As a concept album, The Strength and the Courage is a journey that explores faith and the actions that accompany it, and also the deep personal conflicts that we all face in reconciling our own will to self determination with the will of God.
Based on Joshua 1: 1-18, ‘Wherever you go’ is the message to Joshua: ‘Wherever you set your foot, as I promised, I will give you that place.’ Joshua had been one of the original Israelites sent to spy out ‘The Promised Land’, along with Caleb. Now, after 40 years wandering as a nomadic people, they were the only two left alive. After the death of Moses, the greatest figure in Jewish history and tradition, Joshua became the leader of ‘The People’. This song is a charge to Joshua, and to us all, to be faithful, to trust in God’s promises and plans for our lives. Joshua had to wait many years before others were ready to follow him into ‘The Promised Land’. Now, in line with God’s will and promise, ‘The People’ get behind Joshua: ‘be strong and courageous’.
Joshua 2: 1-21. Based on the dialogue between the two spies sent to check out Jericho and Rahab, the prostitute. The spies are reported to the King of Jericho so they fear for their lives. They go to Rahab who hides them and lies to the king in order to protect them. Rahab then turns to the Spies and begs for her own life. She confesses her faith in the God of the Israelites, and admits that she believes Jericho’s fate is sealed. She asks the spies to spare her and her family when they attack and destroy the city. The spies agree to protect her and her family. They tell her to tie a scarlet cord in the window of her house, in the city wall, so that The armies of Israel will know where she is. She is also told to get all her relatives, family, into her house and keep them there or else they will not be saved. Interestingly, Rahab is named and honoured, in the Gospel of Matthew, in the blood line of Jesus. Truly a message to us all about God’s redeeming love and desire that all people are saved. The responsibility for the salvation of her family is also placed with Rahab: something that resonates with me, a father of three, that we have a charge from God to do everything in our power to bring our family and our loved ones to a faith in Jesus, through the scriptures and the power of God’s word, and through our lives.
Joshua 3: 1-17. One of two songs about ‘The Crossing of the Jordan’. This song is celebratory in its style and is meant to be from ‘The People’s’ perspective. I imagined the stories that were told round the camp fires the night after this amazing day when a river in flood had stopped flowing so that the entire People of Israel could cross into The Promised Land on dry land. After 400 years of oppression, persecution, slavery and wandering, The People were finally coming home.
Joshua 3: 7 “And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses.” The second of the two songs based on the crossing of the Jordan River is from Joshua 4 and is, in effect, Joshua’s song. After a miraculous day, Joshua collects twelve stones from the dried up riverbed of the Jordan and builds a monument to the day. The history of Israel was an oral tradition, passed on from generation to generation for hundreds, even thousands of years. The crossing of the Jordan on dry land is a repeat of the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. Joshua is endorsed, as was Moses, as His chosen leader of the People of Israel, the one who lead them to ‘The Promised Land’. Joshua creates a monument so that the day is never forgotten. We can all come through the ‘waters of life’ and enter into the promised land, if we live by faith and are willing to trust and obey God’s commands. The song reflects the emotion of having come through such a day, and what that would mean for Joshua: Hope and Life.
Joshua 5: 2-12: The first Passover in The Promised Land. The first thing ‘The People’ did on entering the Promised Land was to have a mass circumcision and celebrate the Passover with a re-commitment to God. Throughout Christian (and Jewish) history we see many times where groups of devout believers re-commit themselves to God. In more modern history this has been represented by many splits in the Church movement as people tried to get back to living the way they believed God called them to in the scriptures: this is certainly still the case today. I’m not sure if there is another song about a mass circumcision: certainly many cultures mark rights of passage with rituals, often painful, at the heart of their spiritual beliefs. Its hard to imagine the men of Israel celebrating after such an event. During their time in the wilderness the practice of circumcision had not been followed and Joshua was clear that The People needed to dedicate themselves to God, to re-connect through their obedience to His word. I’m not sure how long it took for them to recover but I’m sure it was a while before they were all ready to march on! The idea of the song is, in a way, a bit of a marching song, rhythmical and charged with an energy. Gilgal is the name of the place where this all took place. One interpretation of the name ‘Gilgal’ is ‘Circle of Stones’, as we see it mentioned many times in the Bible about different places. Another meaning of ‘Gilgal’ is ‘Rolling’ or ‘Wheel’ which is where the name comes from. In a way it is a song about turning away from the past, from previous mistakes, and re-connecting with God: a fresh beginning. The song refers to the fathers of the soldiers, who all died in the wilderness after not having the faith to enter The Promised Land forty years previous. The song also makes reference to the raising of Lazarus, in John 11, and, to a degree, the discovery of the empty tomb in the Garden of Gethsemane, Luke 24:2. The breeze mentioned refers to God’s Spirit, the Spirit that can touch, and change, and move, and breath life into the deadest of hearts.
Joshua 5: 13 – 6: 27: The Fall of Jericho. This is a special song to me, in the sense of the absolute nature of the ‘Divine Justice’. Trumpets are represented all through scripture, as an instrument of herald, of warning, of announcement and of truth. In the story, Joshua is told by an Angel of God exactly how to approach the Battle of Jericho. Jericho was the first stronghold within the lands east of the Jordan River to which Israel laid claim. All eyes of many tribes and peoples were on the outcome of this day. Joshua and his army marched around the city every day for six days, carrying the Ark of the Covenant before them and blowing their trumpets. On the seventh day they marched around the city seven times and then, with trumpets and the cry of the people, the walls of Jericho collapsed and its fate was sealed. The song to me is a warning cry, that one day all our fates will be sealed. While we are alive we have a chance to respond to God’s word, to seek out Truth in our lives, and to make the choice: Life or Death. Many will choose not to believe, but many will sit on the fence, neither one way or the other. Life’s experience has hardened the hearts of many: life is hard. The Bible is clear: Pride, stubborn refusal, bitterness, un-love, all the walls we hide our hearts behind will fall before the Throne. A time and day has been appointed and we will all stand before the judgement seat. The only survivors from Jericho were those who listened to a prostitute who offered them refuge in her home. Before God, all are equal. Romans 3:21-24.
Joshua 7: 1-26: Achan’s Sin. Only a few weeks into his leadership and Joshua is faced with his first major challenge. The angle of God had commanded Joshua to destroy Jericho in its entirety, people, wealth, livestock, everything. In Joshua 6: 17-19 Joshua had made it clear that everything in the city except Rahab and her family, was to be devoted to God. Achan broke this command by taking some of the devoted things and burying them under his tent. When the Israelites went into battle against the city of Ai, they were defeated and thirty six soldiers were killed. Joshua is broken, but The Lord speaks to Joshua and tells him what has happened, threatening to abandon The People unless they ‘destroy amoung them whatever is devoted to destruction’. ( Josh 7: 12) Joshua is commanded to purify The People. Through taking lots he finds out that it is Achan who has taken the devoted items. Speak truthfully, he tells him, and so Achan tells Joshua what he has done. Joshua retrieves the items and then Achan, along with everything he owns, his family, his tent, his animals, are all stoned to death and then burnt. The song is the conversation between Joshua and Achan, a conversation that is hard to imagine. Achan is honnest; he knows what he has done, and he knows the consequence. We are all faced with choice; to hold on to what we have or to put our trust in God. Even as I write this I am questioning my self and the choices I make and then hide under days, and life, and the whirlwind of just being. But all our choices will have consequences so we make them with our eyes open. Justice belongs to God not based on human ideals, as hard as that is for us to come to terms with.
This is the only track of the album that is not directly taken from the book of Joshua. In a way, this is a song about remembering: remembering the promises, remembering the choice laid down by God through Moses in Deuteronomy 27-29. It seemed fitting after the trauma of Achan’s sin to reflect on Moses, who had led Israel through some testing times but, at the end of his life, called Israel again to holiness: Choose Life. In Exodus 33-34, The Glory of God passes before Moses, but he is protected from seeing God and dying by being placed in a cleft in the rock as The Glory passes. Joshua would have known these things. In Exodus 34: 29-35 Moses comes down from the mountain with his face glowing and everyone is afraid to come near him. Joshua would have seen that. In 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, is one of the best known passages on Love. In verse 12 is says: “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” In some times, life is going to beat us up and spit us put, and our version of ‘love’ will feel far away. But God is true: we don’t understand now, but one day we will when we are face to face.
Joshua 9: 1-27. The Gibeonite Deception. So, word gets out to all the tribes in the land that Joshua and his armies are coming. Some try to stand and fight, but the Gibeonites try another strategy. They fake that they come from far away, so as not to be a threat to Joshua in the Promised Land. They wear old, beaten up clothes and bring moldy, dried up food, and manage to persuade Joshua into forming a treaty with them. However, Joshua discovers he has been deceived. He has promised the Gibeonites protection, so he cannot break his word, but he makes them slaves to Israel: they are under a curse and will forever be the wood choppers and water carriers, ‘to provide the needs for the alter of the Lord’ (Josh 9:27). I love this story, tucked in the middle of the book of Joshua. I’m not 100% sure what we can learn from it, except to say that there is mercy for all, no matter where we come from, or what we have done, but the truth will out when we step into the light. It has to be that way.
Joshua 10: 1-15: Verse 12 to 14 say: 12 On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” 13 So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on[b] its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. 14 There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel! Something that defies physics, defies all laws of our known Universe! The sun stopping in the sky. Its not the only time in the Bible something like this happens, but is surely one of the most amazing claims of the Bible. Written as a celebratory, country song, it is in the style of remembering. Something unheard of, never before or since. But God is! Outside time and space, omnipotent, pure essence, not bound by the Laws of a universe He created. We could go into a thread about intelligent design, evolution, and all that stuff which would be rich, and deep, but that’s not really what this is about… I just love the image of Israel, out numbered and underdogs, faithfully going into battle to do God’s will, to live out His promise, with God fighting so visibly, impossibly, with them and for them. What an image! Lord, give me faith. Amen.
Joshua 20: 1-9. In the preceding chapters we see a record of the conquests of the Land, and then how it was divided among the 12 tribes of Israel. The job was not finished, as seems to always be the case: once the tribes had their space they settled and got on with life. Not all the land was taken, which later came back to bite Israel on many occasions. And then there is this bit about cities of refuge. In Old Testament Law, if you killed someone, on purpose or not, then you could be killed as an act of payment: a life for a life. However, if you were innocent, you could flee to any of a number of cities where you would be safe from revenge: these were the cities of refuge. In acts 2, Peter speaks passionately to the Israelite gathered in Jerusalem, explaining from old testament prophesy who Jesus was. At the end of his speech he said: 36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” 37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” 40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” If the city was your only hope of life, you would run to it, right? In Revelations 21 the scripture talks about the Holy City: 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. Go and read more, its inspiring. I guess all these ideas came together in this song; the idea of us being responsible for the death of Christ, and of how you respond to that, of finding hope, redemption, new birth in Christ Jesus, of refusing to give up until you’re in! Also dealing with your own fears, reluctance, apathy, whatever it is that gets in between you and Christ. Run to the City!
Taken from Joshua 23, this is Joshua’s last ‘battle cry’ to the leaders of Israel. He knows he is going to die soon, and a new generation will need to step up and lead, with strength and courage, just as he was called to do. He reminds Israel how The Lord has never let him down, that every promise of God was fulfilled to him, but there is still work to be done. I love how Joshua’s passion still shines through, even at the end of his life he is filled with zeal. We all have to go someday, but to go out fighting, with your faith as strong as the first day, to pass the baton to the next generation; inspiring…
Joshua 24: 1-28 This is really a love song, from God to us, though the words are borrowed from Joshua as he renews the covenant again between God and His people. Joshua links the recent history of Israel with the fathers, reminding them of Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Moses and Aaron and the captivity in Egypt. He reminds them what God has done for them, and calls them to Holiness, calls them to serve God alone. Then, as at the beginning of the book, he sets up a stone as a reminder of this covenant, this agreement: ‘The witness stone’. Though I have replaced stone with song, the sentiment is the same. I need reminding often how much God loves me, but that He doesn’t need my love, that I have to remember what He has done for me in my life. We all have free choice, choice to choose our path, blessings or curses, life or death. He just wants us to choose Him… enough to die for us.