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.
That was Joshua speaking after Jericho had fallen. He said that the city of Jericho was accursed, as well as “ALL that are therein,”irrespective of age or status. In other words, not only the physical location of Jericho but also the residents in that location, for being resident in that place at all, were accursed. If one lived there for a month, one carried a month-long curse; if one merely spent a business weekend in a five-star hotel there, one contracted a brief five-star curse camouflaged with air conditioners and manicured gardens. If one chose to plant a church there unsent by God, they would be inundated with endless and recurrent ‘deliverance’ sessions for the people and the place. For those who got born there, and lived there year in year out, it was a lifetime of curses within and without. To the extent that the primary curse was attached to the place, the only way to deal with it would be to check out, until there came an Elisha to deal with the matter wholesale with his double portion of Elijah’s anointing (2 Kings 2:19-22).
Blinded by Skyscrapers
Are there curses, like viruses, that are contracted merely by contacting the place where the curse is endemic? Yes, which means that one may not have to live in every place; and the trip planners with their commercial wonderland pictures of a place may not be spiritually reliable. Therefore, how comfortable a place looks, how many gardens it has, how tall its skyscrapers are, is not sufficient basis for deciding where one chooses to live. That was how Lot got fooled.
10 Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord or the beautiful land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) 11 Lot chose for himself the whole Jordan Valley… 12 …and Lot moved his tents to a place near Sodom and settled among the cities of the plain. 13 But the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord (Genesis 13:10-13, New Living Translation).
Sometimes we contract a curse, different types and categories of curses, merely by where we choose to live. All curses don’t live in huts, some live in mansions and skyscrapers; all curses do not turn a fruitful garden into a barren wilderness, some would leave it that way, to bait its victims, whom it kills slowly with poisoned apples and venomous cherries.
The Mysteries of Ephraim: Withering by the Riverside
There are not only cursed places, there are also “pleasant places” (but that is not the present focus). Of Ephraim, for instance, God said,
13 Ephraim… is planted in a pleasant place: but Ephraim shall bring forth his children to the murderer. 14 Give them, O LORD: what wilt thou give? give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts (Hosea 9:13-14).
This passage about Ephraim, however, raises fresh issues. When a tree withers by the riverside where every other tree flourishes, it is a puzzle whose answer should be sought in the tree. God was stating that even though Ephraim was planted in a pleasant place, his life carried a curse of untimely deaths, and the fine location was not going to make any difference to that curse: his wives would be barren (with dry breasts), or would miscarry, if they got pregnant at all; and if they managed to give birth, the children would be murdered. It had nothing to do with where they were but whom they were. Surprisingly, strangers would prosper there, but not Ephraimites, not the owners of the pleasant place. If such Ephraimites found themselves in a cursed Jericho, the worse for them: a cursed person in a cursed land. That was the lot of the people of Jericho. The land was cursed, AND the people were cursed.
Ephraim, “planted in a pleasant place: BUT…” One may escape a residential curse by checking out of the place, but we do not always solve a problem by relocating to a different ‘better’ place, if the curse is on the migrant. That is the problem of often seeing greener pastures that soon turn into a wilderness. In other words, there are both external and internal dimensions to the issue; both personal and environmental dimensions to curses. We may not always blame the place for our woes when the same symptoms have followed us about in different places. Too frequent and too many transplantings kill a plant. A diseased plant will die quicker on a diseased soil, yet even on a good soil, it will still die; slowly, slowly. If a tree keeps dying in every place, then we might need to check the tree; but when even good trees begin to die in a place, one may have entered into Jericho.
May God take from you the curses that follow you, and plant you this day in “a pleasant place.” Amen.
From The Preacher's diary.