In Formation by Randy Rowley 6/3/19 ©


On a warm weekend in late March, four friends and I headed to the Hill Country Hog Ranch near Sabinal for a weekend FCS hog hunt.  Guns were prohibited, so we brought sticks and strings.

It was a 3,300-acre ranch, but we were interested in its 35-acre rectangular-shaped hog pen the owner kept around 100 hogs in.  Each side had a couple of gates hogs could push open with their snouts, but they would spring shut after entering the pen.  Therefore, they could get in but couldn’t get out.

We tried doing several drives from one end of the pen to the other on the first day.  We’d get in a line around 30 yards apart and walk as quietly through the thick woods as possible, keeping ourselves between the guys to our left and right.  We saw several hogs, but the hogs would bolt outside of bow range.  None of us loosed an arrow.

We then tried pheasant-style hunting.  We’d put a couple of guys at one end of the pen and then have the other guys try to herd hogs towards them.  The hogs would pop out of the woods outside of bow range most of the time.  The one exception was a herd of hogs that ran by Tim Price as he hid behind a cedar bush, just nine feet away.  Tim succeeded in arrowing one of the hogs and then let the rest of us know.

We converged on Tim’s location, waited half an hour, and then looked for his hog.  It initially left a good blood trail, but as we progressed, the blood trail became less and less heavy.  After around 100 yards, it dried up completely.  We found several dead hogs throughout our remaining time there, but none of them were fresh, so it appeared Tim’s pig survived to oink another day.

Eventually, we gave up on our group hunt ideas and decided to hunt separately.  I headed towards the south side of the pen.  I had almost made it to the Southwest corner when I suddenly saw about 30 hogs running down the far fence line with David Chalmers in pursuit around 75 yards behind them.  The hogs got to the corner on David’s side and then ran to the corner near me.

I was in head-to-toe camo, including a face mask and gloves, had sprayed myself down with Wildlife Research Center Scent Killer, was as quiet as the grave, and hadn’t moved a muscle, yet somehow they knew I was there.  They started to mill around and then got into a ‘group picture’ formation quicker than most groups of humans could have.  The big hogs got in the back of the formation, the medium-sized hogs got in the middle, and the small hogs got in the front.

There was a stock tank (pond) around 20 yards to my left, and the fence line was around 20 yards to my right.  I knew they wouldn’t go back the way they’d come because David was now around 50 yards from them.  I figured they’d either try to go between me and the tank or right down the fence line.  And right down the fence line they came, in their formation!

Their formation ensured I’d have to shoot through a medium-sized hog if I wanted to shoot a big hog’s vitals and shoot through a small hog and if I wanted to shoot a medium-sized hog’s vitals!  I aimed at the back of a big hog and let loose of my Browning Midas compound bow’s string.  My arrow stuck harmlessly in a cedar tree’s trunk just beyond the hog to my chagrin.

We each loosed around three arrows that weekend at pigs running as fast as their hairy legs could carry them.  Except for Tim, we all missed.

The most interesting battle formation depicted in the Bible is the Israeli army’s formation during the Battle of Jericho.  Joshua chapter 6 tells the story of the first conquest of the Israelites in the land of Canaan – the Promised Land.

Joshua chapter 3 provides the account of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River into Canaan on dry ground as the waters piled up in a great heap upstream from them.  They then laid siege to Jericho, a formidable fortress city with thick and tall walls.  Jericho was prepared for a long siege, and its people knew the Israelites were heading their way as they could see them camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho and later on the other side of the Jordan.

God commanded Joshua to use a highly unusual strategy for the upcoming battle.  Joshua 6:2-5 says, “Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.  March around the city once with all the armed men.  Do this for six days.  Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark.  On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets.  When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

I can only imagine the Israeli soldiers’ reactions when Joshua explained this nonsensical battle plan.  They had waited 40 years for their first battle to possess Canaan, undoubtedly drilled and honed their skills and weapons, and were ready and anxious to fight.  Then Joshua said all they would do for six days was march around the city again and again.  There had to have been more than a few unhappy campers!

This was also a highly unusual plan for the priests, who normally didn’t travel with the army.  The plan also might have put the ark at risk.  Perhaps they understood God wanted the soldiers to keep their minds and hearts on him and not on how difficult the task might be.  To the priests’ and soldiers’ credit, none of them questioned Joshua’s sanity.  This demonstrated great faith from them and the rest of the nation, as it required total dependence on God.  It also required great faith from Joshua because he had to demonstrate confidence in the plan to sell it.

Israel did as the Lord commanded, marching around Jericho once a day for six days and marching around Jericho seven times on the seventh day.  Except this time, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the soldiers to shout!  The soldiers let out a war cry, and Jericho’s walls miraculously fell flat.  The Bible doesn’t say Israel knew that would be the outcome for their obedience.  The way God delivered Jericho into the Israelites’ hands may have surprised them as much as it did the people of Jericho.

After the walls fell, the Israel’s soldiers raced in and quickly conquered the city.  Every person in it was killed, except for Rahab and her family, because she had hidden two spies sent by Joshua to scope out Jericho.  God could have easily flattened Jericho’s walls without Israel’s help, but he wanted them to participate in his work – as he wants us to participate in his work today.

In summary, Israel displayed great:

  • Obedience – Israel precisely followed the battle plan.
  • Courage – Israel followed the battle plan despite being open to attack from the people of Jericho, who had the height advantage on top of their walls.
  • Patience and endurance – Israel followed the battle plan for six consecutive days, undoubtedly exhausting the army on the eve of battle.
  • Faith – Israel had a good look at those imposing walls during their six days of marching and knew the odds were against them, yet they trusted God and not in their might and cunning.

Of these attributes, the greatest of these was their faith.  Without it, they wouldn’t have had the resolve to be obedient, have courage, be patient, and endure.  The Israelites appear to have known what the author of Hebrews knew, who said in Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

Perhaps God won’t ask us to get into a particular formation like the Israel army did at Jericho and those pigs did on that warm spring day, but he might ask us to serve him in ways we’ve never thought of as we continue to grow in our walk with him.  The dilemma we’ll encounter is how we’ll respond.

Categories : Devotionals

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