31. THERE IS A HIGHWAY OF HOLINESS
By Felix Ngunjiri Gichuri
Reading: Luke 10:30-37
A Nameless Person Went Down from Jerusalem to Jericho
In the book of Luke 10:30-37, Jesus used a parable to answer a lawyer who wanted to know who a neighbour is. Jesus answered him by telling a parable of a certain nameless person, a Jew according to the narrative, who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, a walking distance of about 25 kilometres (like from Nairobi to Ruiru) and fell among thieves who stripped him of all his clothes, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead . “And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” (Luke 10:30 [KJV]) Jesus was very selective with the words He was using because He had to say only that which He heard from his Father in heaven and He only spoke “what the Father told Him.” (John 12:50 [HCSB]) When Jesus called the person ‘a certain man’ He meant a nameless person who can be you or I. When He said that the nameless person went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, He is explaining that Mr. Nameless (referring to you and I) descended (or have descended) from Jerusalem, a higher ground (or your higher ground), to Jericho city down there in the Jordan valley, meaning that you and I may have descended from a place of safety to a dangerous place or maybe backslid or went back to reckless living. Even the altitudes of Jerusalem and Jericho tell a lot as Jerusalem is up there surrounded by the mountains while Jericho is down there, the lowest city on earth. ‘Jericho is located 258 metres (846 ft) below sea level in an oasis in Wadi Qelt in the Jordan Valley, which makes it the lowest city in the world.’ (Wikipedia)
The word Jerusalem is derived from two root words Jeru which means city in Hebrew and Salem or Shalom which means peace. One of the names attributed to God is Jehovah Shalom as explained in the book of Judges 6:23-24: “And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto you; fear not: you shall not die. Then Gideon built an altar there unto the LORD, and called it Jehovah shalom: unto this day it is yet in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.” (Judg 6:23-24 [KJV]) When Jesus selectively said that the nameless person went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, He meant that the ‘certain’ man left his place of peace and safety, the city of God (Rev 21:2), the city of our Lord (Zechariah 8:3) and went down to the city of Jericho. The God is asking you through His word whether you have left your place of peace and safety and slid down to wild living.
Jericho was symbolic of wickedness. You can imagine leaving your place of safety and righteousness, the city of your Lord God Almighty to go down, sliding down, backsliding to your Jericho, the lowest place on earth that was famed for wickedness. He, and that includes you and I have, moved from Jerusalem, the city of peace that is surrounded by mountains (“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds His people, both now and forevermore” –Psalm 125:2) and gone down to the sin city of Jericho, passing through the Valley of the shadow of death. There is an actual location along the dangerous road from Jerusalem to Jericho known as the Valley of the Shadow of Death mentioned by David in Psalm 23.
City of Jericho was Cursed by Joshua
Jericho city was a flourishing fortified city that was captured and destroyed by Joshua in the 13th century Before Christ (the period from 1300 to 1201 BC). Before destruction of the city of Jericho, Joshua had cursed it. “And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.” (Joshua 6:17 [KJV]) God gave an edict through Joshua that Jericho had to be completely destroyed as an offering to God. “Jericho and everything in it must be completely destroyed as an offering to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and the others in her house will be spared, for she protected our spies.”(Joshua 6:17, New Living Translation).
God gave an edict through Joshua that whoever would try to rebuild the city of Jericho would be cursed. When Jericho was destroyed, a curse was pronounced by Joshua upon its rebuilding in the 13th century BC, to the effect that the person who would build (and restore it to its former fortified strength) would lay its foundation at the cost of his firstborn and set up the gates at the cost of his youngest son. “At that time Joshua imposed this curse: The man who undertakes the rebuilding of this city, Jericho, is cursed before the LORD. He will lay its foundation at the cost of his firstborn; he will set up its gates at the cost of his youngest.” (Joshua 6:26 [HCSB])
The curse remained unfulfilled for many years until the time of Ahab when several acts of disobedience to God took place. At the climax of this impiety, we read that in 884 B.C., a man of Bethel, no doubt with the approval of the king, made Jericho a defense for the northern kingdom, knowingly or unknowingly, and built the walls and gate of Jericho as stated in 1 Kings 16:34. “During Ahab’s reign, Hiel the Bethelite built Jericho. At the cost of Abiram his firstborn, he laid its foundation, and at the cost of Segub his youngest, he set up its gates, according to the word of the LORD He had spoken through Joshua son of Nun.” (1Kgs 16:34 [HCSB])
God confirmed His word spoken through Joshua of taking the lives of Hiel’s sons Abiram and Segub. At the beginning of the work (the laying of the foundation), the first son died; at the end of the work (the hanging of the gates), the youngest son died. This proved God’s faithfulness and revealed the consequences of sin that often affect one’s family members. Though the sin was Hiel’s, the consequence included the deaths of his two sons. One of the things this brings out is that curses basically continue until something is done to cut them off. They’re self-perpetuating.
If only Hiel knew of the curse and how to be released from the curse. Lack of knowledge or even ignorance of what God has said in His word can be fatal. The Bible says that “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.” (Hos 4:6 [ESV2011])
I want to give you some simple instructions on how you can be released from curses. There’s a basic pattern which I teach people that consists of four words, each of which begins with RE.
Recognize, repent, renounce, resist.
Recognize. Recognize what your problem is and how you have spent this time dealing with these things, to help you to recognize your problem.
Repent. Repent of anything that you have done or your ancestors did or said that exposed you to the curse.
Renounce the curse in Jesus name. To renounce means to refuse to continue to recognize or abide by. Declare that you are no longer going to be subject to the curse. God told Israel not to bow down before other gods. Don’t submit to any other god except the Lord God Almighty. And we have a right as Christians to make the same by saying, “I’m not submitting to anything that’s from the evil source. I refuse it. I renounce it. From now on it’s got no place in my life.” And finally:
Resist. And that’s something continuous. Keep on resisting. Keep on refusing to let that curse again have any control over you. Let me say those words again. Recognize, repent, renounce, resist. James 4:7 says: “Therefore, submit therefore unto God, [not to the enemy, not to idols or demons but unto God. And then it says] resist the devil [and what will happen?] he will flee from you.”
Nameless Went Down the Jericho Road
The road to Jericho is one of the most dangerous roads to dare pass through for it is a den of thieves and robbers who will attack you, rob you and leave you there lying half dead. According to the parable, the moment the nameless person abandoned his place of safety and protection and went down to the road that leads to the sin city of Jericho, he was attacked by thieves, stripped of his belongings, wounded and left there lying half dead at the side of the road. The devil is described by our Lord Jesus as the “thief who comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I Jesus Christ am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10 [KJV]
We are given a list of other wicked guys who will meet you on that Jericho road: other nameless persons who have descended from their place of peace to the sin city of Jericho who include lawyers and Levites, fake pastors and other wicked people. A stranger helped the injured man left for dead when his own people disdained and forsook him. Those who ignored his sufferings are Levites and Priests – the self-righteous. The stranger is a Samaritan – from that race of hated half-tribe of Israel that lived to the north. Nonetheless he shows incredible compassion. And Jesus ends with that famous imperative: “Go and do thou likewise.” One wonders what the religious guys were going to do in Jericho considering that they had no compassion on an injured man lying by the side of the road half dead. By use of the parable, Jesus is exhorting us to nurse the injured regardless of their skin colour, religion or status. Reach out to the weak, the poor, crippled, sick, those in bondage, and those in darkness so that they see a great light. Reach out to save the lost and those who have not heard the gospel. Preach to them through your testimonies about the miracles Jesus has performed for you. But you cannot save the lost unless you are saved. You cannot preach Christ unless you have the anointing of the Lord in you, and Christ comes in you when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. Christ should be in you, because He is your hope of glory (Col. 1:27).
Why do people decide to descend from the city of the great King who is our Lord to the sin city of Jericho. Are they aware of how dangerous that road to Jericho is? Maybe they are blinded of the danger by curiosity of what goes on down there and the lure of city of life with its deafening discos, reckless living and stories of how people enjoy life away from limelight. Little do they know that on that road, if you attempt to pass through it, you will never know what hit you as it is lined by gangsters lurking in the bushes planning on which of the passers-by to descend on. No woner the Bible says that “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (the love of God and the good plans He has for whoever keeps His commandments): because you have rejected knowledge (of God and of His Son Jesus Christ -2 Peter 1:2), I will also reject you, that you shall be no priest to me: seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.” (Hos 4:6 [KJV])
The moment one stepped on that Jericho road, he or she was as unsafe as the dying man lying by the roadside. That person attacked by thieves is you. Life is about choices. You can choose to walk along the dangerous Jericho road where thieves are lurking in the dark shadows ready to strike you dead or you can choose to walk along a better road where news of the day is about a resurrected Christ.
Don’t Walk Alone, Look for a Good Companion
When you find yourself (and we all shall find ourselves) walking in that treacherous road in the valley that has a shadow of death, make sure that you are not walking alone. Walk with a person you agree with, a good companion to walk with, one who will agree with you on the journey, for “two cannot walk together unless they agree.” (Amos 3:3) Jesus told His disciples that, “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For when two or three come together in my name, there am I with them” (Mt. 18:19-20). Approach the person walking ahead of you and share Christ together in some form of fellowship, for God loves fellowship or communion. God demonstrated His love for fellowship right from the beginning when He created man in the garden of Eden. “Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Gen 2:18 [ESV2011]) A helper to help him in tilling the garden of Eden and a helper to be talking to. God did not create a woman to cure his loneliness but to provide a lifetime partner to be having fellowship with each other and with God. God loves fellowship of two or three people sharing the good news that Jesus, who defeated death for us by dying our death, shed His own blood so that whoever repents is forgiven, is Risen and that He is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven interceding for us. “Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16) And “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, shall be with you all. Amen.” (2 Cor 13:14)
Never walk alone. Walk with the Lord with your little steps walking along His huge steps, as illustrated by a poem titled ‘Footprints in the sand.’ The narrator, looking back on life, sees two sets of footprints in the sand, one of them God’s and one the narrator’s own. In times of trouble, there were just one set of prints, causing the narrator to question whether God had vanished. The poem closes with God’s reply: “When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.” This kind of assurance of how God cares for us is enough for us to increase our faith in Him.
There Is a Better Road, Much Better Than the One That Passes Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death
Before you decide to leave Jerusalem, your place of safety and godliness, to go down the Jericho road, be informed that there is a better road from Jerusalem to a better place, a village called Emmaus, only 11 km away from Jerusalem. Emmaus Road is a much better road than that which passes through the valley of the shadow of death.
Two of Christ’s Followers Were Walking on that Emmaus Road When They Were Joined by Jesus
As you contemplate which way to walk in, remember that there is a better road, the Emmaus Road, much better than that which passes through the valley of the shadow of death. Introduce Christ in your conversation with the person you are walking with on the Emmaus road. In the book of Luke 24:13 two of Christ’s followers, among them Cleophas, were walking towards Emmaus talking of the breaking news of the day of how Jesus Christ had resurrected. “Now that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles or eleven kilometres from Jerusalem. They were talking with each other about everything that had happened.
Tell him or her on that road, the highway of holiness, about the resurrected Jesus. Tell him “about Jesus of Nazareth,” that “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and before all the people”. (Luke 24:19-23) The moment you start talking about Jesus, He will join you on that road to Emmaus.
“As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him. He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and before all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” (Luke 24:14-24)
Having listened to your poor understanding of who Christ is, Jesus will reveal Himself to you the same way He revealed Himself to those two followers. “He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread” (Luke 24:25-35). Jesus Himself personally joined them on that road the moment they started talking about Him. The moment you start testifying and preaching about the resurrected Jesus, He will join you and walk with you on that Emmaus road (the highway of holiness) and reveal Himself to you, that He is the Lord. As you walk with Him on that highway of holiness. The moment Jesus Christ walks with you, the road you are walking along is transformed from whatever it was (even if it was the road that passes through the shadow of the valley of death) into the Emmaus Road, the Way of Holiness where no beasts will come near you and no evil shall come upon you. He will still be with you in trouble (Psalm 91:14-16). “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Cush and Seba in exchange for you. Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you, I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life. Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you.” (Isa 43:2-5 [ESV2011])
Jesus joined Cleopas and his friend on that Emmaus road when He realized that they were talking about Him. When you start talking about the resurrected Christ and how he is seated in glory on the right hand of God in heaven, Christ Himself will join you and dine with you. The moment you start sharing with a friend the good news of the resurrected Christ on that road to Emmaus, Jesus Christ will join you there, reveal Himself to you and will dine with you. “For where two or three are gathered together in His name, Jesus will be there in their midst.” (Matthew 18:20)
Lions and Beasts Will not be Found on the Road to Emmaus, the Highway of Holiness Where Jesus Walks On
When you are walking with someone on a journey, you can decide to talk politics or soccer or gossip and nothing else will happen other than the talk. But the moment you start talking to someone about the Risen Christ, you draw God’s attention and Jesus Christ Himself will join you, walk with you and dine with you because you are extending His kingdom here on earth. When two or more people start walking on the Emmaus Road glorifying God, Jesus Christ will join them there on that highway of Holiness. “And a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called the way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. No lion shall be there on that road, no robbers will attack you there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up there on, it shall not be found there; but only the redeemed shall walk there” (Isaiah 35:8-9). Robbers, ravenous beasts, diseases, accidents and demons are barred from accessing the highway of holiness. The Holy Spirit will not allow the unclean to walk in the way of holiness. This better road is for the ones whose sins have been forgiven and it is the only way to the Father in heaven. There is no other way to the Father other than Jesus Christ Himself. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV)
The highway of holiness is for the delivered, the saved and the redeemed. It is the road for the worshippers. Those who worship God through thanksgiving (Psalm 50:23, Psalm 100:1-5), who enter His gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! (Psalm 100:4), those who bless name of the Lord God Almighty and testify of the goodness of the Lord day and night. For the Lord is good and His mercies endure forever. No unclean man will pass along it, as it is appointed that only the redeemed shall walk therein. “But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Revelation 21:27 ESV) There will be no lion or danger or sickness or disease or enemy there, and the most ravenous beast of prey will not approach it for the highway is reserved for the redeemed. “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” (Galatians 3:13 NIV) Jesus redeemed us by becoming a curse instead of us on the cross. This is a strong declaration of substitutionary redemption or atonement. Jesus was our substitute. Jesus took the penalty of all guilty lawbreakers on Himself. So, the “curse of the Law” was transferred from sinners, that’s us, to Jesus Christ the sinless One. “For our sake God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21, English Standard Version) So, the sinless One delivered us from the curse by taking it upon Himself because He knew that even if He died as a result of being made sin for us, He would resurrect again because He is God. He did that when He offered Himself to be slaughtered on our behalf by being crucified on the cross and He died the death that was predestined for us due to our disobedience and He bought us back to the Father at the cost of His own shed blood. So He paid the price of our disobedience with His own life. 1 Corinthians 7:23 (NASB77) says that “You were bought with a price.” We also see how Jesus came as the ransom to set us free from this law, and the penalty that breaking it inevitably brought.
Hebrews 9:11-15 (NIV) says that “When Christ came as high priest of the good things that are already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason, Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance–now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”
Jesus overcame sin and death for us. After Jesus completed His restoration work on the cross, like God He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God because He saw that it was good. Redemption had been accomplished. Sins had been forgiven. The Sabbath Rest that God originally started in the garden had been restored (Hebrews 4:1-11). In other words, Jesus rested because there was nothing left to do. Now He waits for His enemies to be made His footstool (Hebrews 10:13).
The book of Hebrews opens with this very idea, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven” (Hebrews 1:3). Evidence that this is currently the case is that the universe is held into place by His powerful Word. Jesus is the glue that is holding everything together and this testifies to the fact that Jesus is seated in heaven at the Father’s right hand. This is good news for us because it means that His one sacrifice, in contrast to the law’s many sacrifices, worked. We who believe in Him, by this single offering are completely cleansed, perfected, consecrated and made holy once and for all. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom 8:1-2 [KJV]).