Castles

One of my favorite things to visit when I travel is a castle. But English is a funny language because we use the word “Castle” for lots of medieval and ancient structures.

Some “castles” are palaces, which served as royal residences for dignitaries. A great example of this is the Schönbrunn in Vienna, where the Hapsburgs spent their summers in a lavish life of gluttony. In 1961, it was at this castle that John F. Kennedy met with Khrushchev.

Other castles were fortresses, that protected military supplies and housed troops. This would be exemplified in Edinburgh castle, an ancient structure that overlooked the sea and surrounding basin, but was utterly impenetrable because of the jarring cliffs on 3 of its 4 sides.

Some castles were entire walled off cities. Dubrovnik in Croatia has become famous as the filming site for Kings Landing in Game of Thrones, but this ancient settlement (now a world UNESCO site) is a good example of how everyone essentially lived inside the walled off castle.

A recurring theme in castle architecture—rather we are talking palace, fortress, or walled city—is the layers of defense. There is always some combination of outer walls, inner walls, steal gates, wooden gates, dead bolts, draw bridges, etc. The defense is set up for good reason. If you’re guarding a palace, you need to protect your lifestyle. If you’re guarding a fortress, you have to protect your strength. If you’re guarding an entire walled city, you must protect your people.

There’s a story in Joshua 6, about the Israelites—just recently freed from slavery in Egypt—coming to the walled off city of Jericho. Perhaps it’s wrong to call it a castle, but I imagine the defense around Jericho mimicked similar structures, and probably existed for similar reasons.

And the story is a fun one (here’s the link to the text.) God tells Joshua that he has brought him to Jericho to claim the city for God. He gives him a strategy to march around the walls for 7 days, and then on the 7th day, blow a ram’s horn to declare God’s glory. This, God says, is how to take down the castle's defense. So they do it, and sure enough, it works. It’s a fun and triumphant story of how the Israelites faith in God causes the defense system to crumble.

But what if we read the story from Jericho’s perspective? I’m not sure how those living in the city felt about this situation. And to a degree, I can empathize with them. Because I’ll be honest, I may not have a castle, but I do have my own defense system. It may not be steal gates, draw bridges, etc., but I do have my own walls to protect my lifestyle, my strength, and my people.

I think taking this perspective gives us the point of the story. God see’s our walls and wants them to come down. When we protect our lifestyles, God says, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” (Matthew 16:25) When we protect our strength, God says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) When we protect our people, God says, “Now therefore, you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19)

And God brings these walls down through faith—if not through our own, then through the faith of others. So today, may you let down your walls, and embrace the world not as an enemy to defend against, but as a beautiful realm of God’s creation. Because, in reality, we all live in the kingdom together, surrounded by the love and protection of our Father. Amen!

Zach Herzog

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