As we come to look in God’s word, I always remind those I address and my heart that there is one principle of Bible study that, beyond all the others, is indispensable. This is God’s book and only God can reveal God. The indispensable principle is total reliance on God’s Holy Spirit. We can praise God that He has not left us on our own when we come to study the Bible but you have a Bible teacher in your heart, the Holy Spirit. God’s life is in you and He will turn your eyes to the Lord Jesus.
Let’s look at a portion of text that we’ll look at today, Joshua 5:13, “He lifted up his eyes and, behold…” When we get into our text today we’ll see that he looked up and saw our Lord Jesus. I think there is a spiritual way that we have to lift up our eyes. He lifted up his eyes and then he beheld our Lord. Whatever that means spiritually, let’s ask God to enable us to lift up our eyes that we might behold the Lord.
Heavenly Father, thank You again for the privilege we have to meet in this place and with liberty and freedom and boldness to open Your word and have You discover Christ to our heart. Once again this morning we ask that we might see the Lord in a living way. Take us beyond the academics and beyond the letter and pray that we might actually literally and really behold You. Give us ears to hear and take the veil away. Thank You in advance that you will over answer our prayer because we offer it in the name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.
I welcome you all again. We’re in the book of Joshua. I hope at the end you know more about Joshua than you did when you began but, as I said, we are not hear to learn Joshua, we are here to see our Lord Jesus. Every book in the Bible is a revelation of Him.
I’d like to give a short review because there is a lot of material I’d like to cover and actually I’m not going to cover everything I wish I could cover in this. I’ll remind you of the big message of the book of Joshua; that is that the land of Canaan, the Promised Land, the land that flows with milk and honey, the inheritance. All through the book of Joshua the way God’s redeemed people enter into that land is the way God’s people today enter into life in our Lord Jesus. Our Lord is the inheritance. That land pictures Him. The Land of milk and honey pictures Christ, the Life of milk and honey. As they conquered in the land, we conquer in Christ. As they learned their portion in the land, we learn our portion in Christ. As they settle down in the land, we settle down in Christ. As they learn to live off the land, we learn to abide and live off the Lord Jesus Christ. The land is a picture of Christ.
I’ll give you a couple of verses and then we’ll move on. Psalm 16:5-6, “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup. You support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places. Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me.” So, the Lord is our inheritance. We call the study of the Old Testament “redemptive history”. It’s actual history but it tells redemption’s story and it tells it in story form. It was God’s will that they were delivered from Egypt. That’s a picture, spiritually. And it’s God’s will that they were delivered unto Canaan. That’s a picture, spiritually. Spiritually He delivers us from sin, from bondage and from being unsaved and He delivers us unto Himself, unto the Lord. So, we get out of Egypt and we get into Canaan.
In that connection I love and I’ve quoted it before, Deut. 6:23, “He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land which He had sworn to our fathers.” That’s always God’s heart. He brings us out to bring us in. Unfortunately, now as it was in the Old Testament, some are redeemed by power and blood and they’re out but they haven’t gone in. They just wander around the wilderness for thirty or forty years. We have a great picture of that in the Old Testament.
Listen to these verses from the book of Hebrews 3:16-19, “Who provoked him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest but those who were disobedient?” So, we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. They got out of Egypt but they didn’t enter the land of milk and honey.
Then God addresses us, Hebrews 4:9, “So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. The one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore, let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall through following the same example of disobedience.” In our study of this redemptive history we finally crossed over Jordan. Jordan was the dividing line between the wilderness life and the abundant life and they had to cross over the land from the land of disobedience, from the wilderness, from unbelief, pass over that line into the land of obedience and into the land of resting in the Lord. Now they’ve entered and they are going to encounter enemies that must be expelled. They are going to discover their portion, learn to settle down and learn to abide and live off of the land. All of that is pictured in the book of Joshua.
To bring you up to where we are, in order to enter into that land… Don’t forget that the battle of Jericho is not in Joshua 1. The battle of Jericho begins in chapter 6. So, in chapter 6 you’ve got to go through five chapters to get to their actual conquest of the land. What is in those five chapters? I suggested those were chapters of preparation. God must prepare us before we enter into the land of abundance. Those five chapters prepare us.
I divided it up into three section. The first was general preparation and we looked at seven or eight principles of general preparation. Then there was specific preparation and we looked at some of those and now in chapter five, where we are, this is final preparation. This is what we finally need to know in order to enter into the fullness which is our Lord Jesus Christ.
I told you that the three principles in chapter 5 have one thing in common. There are three events. I’ll tell you the three events and what they have in common. The first event is the first ten verses; the reinstitution of the right of circumcision and the celebration of Passover. That’s one event and not two. Chapter 5; 11-12, the manna ceased and with that we included the guidance by the cloud also ceased at that time. And the third event is what we’ll look at this morning, the sudden and unexpected appearance of the captain of the Lord’s Host or the Angel of the Lord, with a sword in His hand. That is the end of the chapter, verses 13-15.
What they all have in common is this; it’s all a paradox. Each principle contains a paradox. In other words, they were expecting one thing but they didn’t get what they were expecting. What they got was actually better but they weren’t expecting it and it led them on. They thought it would be leading them in the other direction. We finished our discussion of the first two paradoxes. Chapter 5:1-10, the reinstitution of circumcision and the celebration of Passover; you remember that circumcision is a graphic illustration of holiness, separation from the flesh. They would take a little foreskin and separate it from the body and that was a picture of being separated from the flesh.
Deuteronomy 30:6, “Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants to love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul, so that you might live.” When these people realized that they were going into an unholy environment, Canaan was ready for judgment and they were a sinful nation. God’s people were now going in. The land was filled with idolatry and filled with immorality. There were lust arousing damsels all over the land and God said, “Before you go in you need to be prepared. You think you are going in as a picnic to rest but you are not. You have to be holy in an unholy environment. When they saw the impossibility of that… In the New Testament it’s brought to a real picture. When we say it’s a little picture and just a little piece of skin separated from the body, separation from the flesh, listen now to the truth in fully developed form. Colossians 2:11, “In Him (Christ) you were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the removal of the body of flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” When He circumcises you it’s not just a little piece of skin of a physical body. He circumcises the heart and removes the whole body of flesh, not just a little piece of skin, but the whole body.
The whole message is the paradox of holiness. They wanted peace. He said, “Yes. But first righteousness. You’ve got to be holy to have the peace of the Lord.” That was the first paradox. There is no peace without holiness and there is no holiness without Calvary and that’s why right after circumcision they celebrated Passover. Thank God for the blood and thank God for the Lamb. I would have no hope to live a holy life if it were not for what our Lord Jesus has done for us on the cross. That’s why that was a paradox.
The second paradox was the ceasing of manna. For forty years every day they were to gather God’s provision for manna. Many tons of manna, miracles every morning and it lasted only the day and they had that every day for forty years and once a week on Friday they could get twice as much because they couldn’t gather on Saturday. Here was their thinking, “We lived in rebellion and lived in unbelief and lived in the wilderness on the wrong side of Jordan and God did miracles every day. What will it be like now when we’re in the land of obedience, in the land of rest? If we saw miracles when we were in rebellion, I wonder what we’ll see now?” God said, “The manna stops.” That was a paradox. You wouldn’t expect the manna to stop. You would expect more miracles.
God said, “From now on I’m going to still provide but it will be providentially and I’m going to provide now through your sweat. It’s still Me providing but now you’ve got to plow and you’ve got to plant and you’ve got to pull stumps and you’ve got to reap and you’ve got to take the grain and you’ve got to grind the grain and you’ve got to make the bread. It’s still me providing.” That was a paradox because they were expecting more miracles. It’s paradoxical that God is now using me. And you’ll see as you go on in the Lord, more and more, because He’s calling you to faith, not to sight. More and more you are going to see visible miracles less and less. The more you go on in the Lord He’s just going to use your life and your decisions.
I heard a story about this guy who was working in his garden and some fancy deacon walked by and said, “Wow, that’s a nice garden you and God have.” He looked up and said, “You should have seen it when God had it by Himself.” He didn’t understand this paradoxical way that God works. He’s now using me.
The same is true of the glory cloud. When they were in the wilderness, they had every day for forty years infallible guidance and they couldn’t miss the way. It was a glory cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They knew God’s will. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have infallible guidance? But He takes away the glory cloud and here is the paradox. He says, “From now on keep your eye on the ark.” The ark was in the shape of a throne and it pictured King Jesus. There was not more infallible guidance. Then He took the ark and He put it in the hands of fallible man, the Levites, the priests and He said, “Now, I’ve taken away infallible guidance and you are going to have to learn to walk by faith and you are going to have to understand what it means to live under the authority and Lordship of Jesus Christ and sometimes your leaders, your elders, your priests, are going to take the ark in the wrong direction. You better not follow it. You might end up in the woods and you might try to help God and end up like Uzzah and get consumed or end up like the priest being consumed.”
Now He’s saying, “You are going forward in Christ; less miracles and now you’ve got to walk by faith because you are going to be bouncing off the walls. There is fallible guidance and you are going to have to learn how to live under the Kingship of Christ.” Those are the two paradoxes and that brings us now to our new material and that is the last of the final preparations. The final is also a clincher. After this, if God works this in your heart, I’m ready to enter in and face any Canaanite and settle down. But I better make sure I get this. This is the final preparation to enter into the land.
Let me read the story, chapter 5:13, “It came about when Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked and behold, a man was standing opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, ‘Are you for us or for our adversaries?’ And He said, ‘No. Rather, I indeed come now as the Captain of the Host of the Lord.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and bowed down and said to Him, ‘What has my Lord to say to His servant?’ The Captain of the Lord’s Hosts said to Joshua, ‘Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” That is the first part of the record.
The goal in my heart is to take you to the paradox. Each of these events brings you to a paradox and that paradox I what prepares you to enter into the fullness which is Christ and life in Christ. That’s my goal. I want to show you what the paradox is. What did they expect and what did they receive instead and what is the paradox I need to understand to begin my life in victory? That’s where I’m headed but we’re not going to get there this morning. Please pray for me as we get ready for this.
The principle is so important but I think it’s equally important to get the background of this so when you see that paradox it will make infinite sense to you. Please be patient with me. I need to do what I call “donkey work” to set it up to prepare your hearts. Here’s the outline for this morning’s session. First I want to discuss the passage about the appearance of this Captain of the Lord’s Host with the sword in His hand but this particular passage has theological significance. I know you didn’t come here to learn theology and I did not come here to teach theology. That’s not our goal. We gather to know Jesus and to know Him better and not to learn theology. It’s not about doctrine.
However, the theology connected to this passage helps you know Jesus better. I want to begin with this theology that will take you forward in an intimate and personal and real union and relationship with Jesus. I’ll begin with the theological background. And then, this is history. This actually happened. What we want to look at is the history and we call it redemptive history because it’s telling the story of redemption. It’s teaching us spiritual principles on how to live. What did they experience? What did it mean to them? How did it affect them? Why did God set this up? It’s a literal and historical event and it contains the essence of final preparations. It’s not just another Sunday school lesson. It becomes a very important story. Lord willing, next time, because of this we’ll look at the paradox and we’ll see final preparation.
Let me give you the theological backdrop of the appearance of the Captain of the Lord’s Host. Let me begin by giving you the theological words that the theologians use. I’m not trying to confuse you but you might come across this. What is here is often called a “cristophany”. You’ll probably recognize the name “Christ” in cristophany. It’s just an appearance of Christ. Sometimes they call it “theophany”. The word “Theos” is “God”. Theophany is an appearance of God. Some people refer to it as an “ephiphany”. Epiphany actually means “revelation”. What is an ephiphany of a theophany? It’s an appearance of God. What’s an epiphany of a cristophany? It’s an appearance of the second person of the Godhead, of the Lord Jesus. Notice chapter 5:13, “It came about when Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked and behold a man,” not a theophany, and not a cristophany, it was an epiphany because he didn’t expect it, “was standing opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand.” Joshua is going to find out that this stranger is more than a man. We know he was more than a man because you’ll notice that there are parallel accounts.
When Moses led them out of Egypt, the Lord appeared in a bush. Joshua is leading them in and the Lord appears with a sword in His hand. Notice how the same they are. Joshua 5:15, “The Captain of the Lord’s Host said to Joshua, ‘Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” Do you remember what God told Moses at the burning bush? Exodus 3:4-5, “When the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, ‘Moses, Moses,’ and he said, ‘Here I am,’ ‘Do not come near here. Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.’” And the Bible says that God called to him from the bush. So, we know in the burning bush it was a theophany, an appearance God and He called to Him.
Moses at that time asked Him for His name. God gave him this word, Exodus 3: 14, “God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I am has sent me to you.”” So, in the burning bush clearly it’s a theophany, a revelation of God. But the question comes, “Is it a revelation of God, the Father or is it a revelation, the Holy Spirit, or is it a revelation of God, the Son?”
There’s a second reason we know that what Joshua saw was at least a theophany, at least an appearance of God. Verse 14 & 15, “The Captain of the Lord’s Host said to Joshua, ‘Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy,’ and Joshua did so. Joshua fell down on his face to the earth and bowed down and said to Him, ‘What has my Lord to say to His servant?’” Joshua bowed down before this person and then said, “What has my Lord to say to His servant.” That’s exactly what Saul before he became Paul said when he fell before the Lord.
We know it wasn’t an angel. How do we know that? It’s because He didn’t resist worship. If it were an angel, he would have resisted worship and corrected Joshua. How do we know that? One time the Apostle John made a blunder and he dared to bow down to an angel. It’s in Revelation 19:10, “I fell at his feet to worship him and he said to me, ‘Do not do that. I’m a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God, for the testimony of Jesus is the Spirit of prophesy.” So, if it were an angel and he bowed down, the angel would have corrected him. It wasn’t an angel. He wasn’t corrected. It was a theophany, an appearance of God. But was it God the Father, God the Holy Spirit or God the Son. Is there a way we can know for sure? The answer is yes. Look at Joshua 15:15, “The Captain of the Lord’s Host said to Joshua…” Now all through the body in the Old Testament you are going to see that title, that He is the “Lord of Hosts” and almost every time (there are two little exceptions) it refers to Jesus, “He’s the Lord of Hosts”, or it could be that He is the Lord of everything, Host of the armies of heaven and the hosts of the armies of earth. It could be both.
Psalm 48:2, “Praise Him all ye angels. Praise Him all ye hosts.” There is a prophet in the Old Testament that not many Christians know because he’s unfamiliar. His name is Micaiah. Micaiah one time had a vision and I’ve written the essence of it in 1 Kings 22:19, “Micaiah said, ‘Therefore, here the word of the LORD. I saw the LORD sitting on His throne and all the hosts of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left.’” Joshua saw a man that was more than a man. Joshua saw a man that was more than an angel. Joshua saw a theophany, “Take off your shoes. This is holy ground. I am. I’m God. Take off your shoes. I am the LORD of hosts.”
Remember in Psalm 24, I love this ascension Psalm when our LORD pictures Him ascending, “Lift up your heads oh ye gates and lift up the everlasting doors! The King of glory will come in.” And then they say, “Who is the King of glory.” And then they answer, “The LORD strong and might, the LORD mighty in battle.” And that brings us to 24:10, they ask again, “Who is the King of glory?” And the answer is, “The LORD of hosts. He is the King of glory.” I want you to focus on that title “LORD of hosts because this is the final step. Is it the Father, is it the Son or is it the Holy Spirit.
I want to give you Isaiah’s testimony and the reason I do is because it’s quoted in the New Testament. Isaiah 6:1, you remember this wonderful vision, “In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the LORD sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted and His train, the train of His robe filled the temple.” Isaiah saw the LORD and then saw himself as a leper. He said, “I am unclean and my lips are unclean and I’m in a leper colony, in a society of unclean people.” And all the angels were crying, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty.”
Listen to what Isaiah said in Isaiah 6:5, “Then I said, ‘Whoa is me; I am ruined. I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.” And here is his reason, “My eyes have seen the King, the LORD of Hosts.” We know who Isaiah saw. He saw the King, the LORD of hosts. That testimony is quoted in the New Testament. John 12:16, our Lord Jesus was speaking and He was rejected. Here’s what He said, John 12:36-37, “’While you have the light, believe in the light, so that you might become sons of light.’ These things Jesus spoke. He went away and hid Himself from them. But though He had performed so many signs before them, they were not believing in Him.” Verse 39, “For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, ‘He’s blinded their eyes and He’s hardened their hearts, so that they would not see with their eyes or perceive with the heart and be converted and I heal them.’” Verse 41, “These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory and he spoke of Him.” Who is the Him? It’s the Lord Jesus. Isaiah said, “My eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.” And he spoke of Him. He spoke of Jesus.
So, going back to Joshua, Joshua saw more than a man and saw more than an angel and he saw more than a theophany. He saw Jesus. Remember Joshua’s name? Jesus meets Jesus. Jesus falls before Jesus. The type is on it’s face before the ante type. What a glorious picture we have here as our final preparation. If I’m going to go into the land I’ve got to meet face to face with Jesus and I’ve got to know what it means to be barefoot and on my face before the Lord Jesus Christ. We’ll get into that a little more but we need to understand that. That’s the theology of it.
Let me develop the theology a little more so that we have a broader understanding. In God’s revelation of Himself to man, to humans, He has made Christ central in the Godhead; God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not at first appear at Bethlehem. He appeared many times. We call Bethlehem His incarnation. These appearance we call His “pre-incarnation”. He had pre-incarnation appearances because He appeared many times in the Old Testament. Every time it was a cristophany, like here in Joshua 5:13-15. That’s Jesus. He didn’t start at Bethlehem. He’s God and He’s eternal and He appeared over and over and over again. In fact, every time there is a theophany, it is a cristophany. Every appearance of God in the Old Testament is an appearance of God the Son.
What He was doing and what He always does, was that He was preparing the world for His appearance in flesh. So, to Abraham He appeared as a pilgrim. He always appears in terms of what we need. And here He appears to this military leader with a sword in His hand. This is way beyond our study in Joshua, but just for interest, our Lord Jesus appears five ways in the Old Testament. I’m not going to develop them but I’ll mention them. Every time it’s Jehovah, it’s Jesus. He appears as Jehovah. He appears in type, whether it’s an event or a ceremony or whether it’s a person (Melchisedek or Aaron) He appears in type. The third way is He appears in prophesy. The fourth way, and that’s what we’ve been studying, He appears in redemption history, in the history of God’s people. Where we are now He appears as the Angel of the Lord. When you see “The Angel of the LORD” in the Old Testament (you’ll see that eighteen times in the Old Testament), it’s always Jesus.
I’m still in the theology section and I want to get off of this quickly but of the eighteen times that He appeared as the Angel of the LORD, only three times He appeared as the Angel of the LORD with a sword in His hand. Other times He didn’t have a sword. For three times He had a sword. Numbers 22, He appeared to Balaam with a sword in His hand. Joshua 5 He appeared to Joshua with a sword in His hand. In 1 Chronicles 21 He appeared to David with a sword in His hand. That’s a lesson all in itself but I won’t give the lesson. Let me at least give the principles. The principle is this. Why did He appear to Balaam with a sword in His hand? He appeared to Balaam with a sword in His hand to teach us that the LORD Jesus Christ stands with a sword in His hand against anyone who would try to curse you and steal your blessing.
Why did He appear in Joshua with a sword in His hand? He appeared to Joshua with a sword in His hand because He was teaching that he was about to enter a battle and “the battle is not yours but Mine. I’m there to defend you and to protect you.” He appeared to David with a sword in His hand but David was under chastening. This time it wasn’t positive. It was negative and He appears with a sword in His hand because He is faithful and if you need it to take you to the woodshed.
Do you know how I always like to tell you that the “Lord delights in you?” Let me give a frightening “The Lord delights in you” verse. Look at Deuteronomy 28:63, “It shall come about that as the LORD delighted over you to prosper you and multiply you, so the LORD will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you.” Isn’t that an interesting verse. “And you will be torn from the land you are entering to possess it.” He’ll never stop delighting with you, even if you get out of fellowship with Him but He might delight in you by chastening you and bring you back. These are wonderful truths. What I wanted you to see before we got into the story, this epiphany, this theophany is a cristophany; Joshua meets Jesus; very important before we enter into the land.
Let’s look at the history, the actual event. Try to put yourself in Joshua’s sandals, in his military boots, remember that right at the banks of the Jordan, God had said to him, chapter 3:4, “You have not passed this way before.” We’re in unchartered waters as far as life in the Lord is concerned. This is all new to Joshua, new territory. What he is about to experience and what he will experience is very novel. He hadn’t experience anything like this and he didn’t know what to expect.
We assume from chapter 5:13, “It came about when Joshua was by Jericho,” that he was on a recognizance mission. This is the evening of the battle of Jericho. It’s at night. My guess is he was surveying the defenses. The Bible doesn’t tell us that but I’m assuming that since he’s a military leader, he’s probably wondering how in the world is he supposed to lead God’s people into this walled city? He know he is commander in chief. God told him that he is taking the place of Moses but what is the plan? What is the strategy? My guess is that this was at night. I don’t know how dark it was. I just use, I hope, spirit controlled imagination and try to enter into this. I don’t know if he was alone. The record reads like he is alone. I don’t know if like Gideon he took someone with him. I don’t know.
We know from chapter 6:1 that Jericho was tightly shut, “Because of the sons of Israel, no one went out and no one came in.” When we study the actual conquest of Jericho I’m going to describe for you the extra Biblical and archaeological description of what that double wall was like. It was massive. Forty years earlier when the spies went into the land, we read in Numbers 13:28, “The people who live in the land are strong and cities are fortified and very large.” That was forty years earlier. I’m sure this was very fortified and Joshua is now surveying these massive walls and he’s the decision maker. He’s in charge and he has to decide how they were going to do that. That’s where the scene begins. If I read it correctly, Joshua is, in a couple of ways, literally and mentally is in the dark. He doesn’t know the next step.
He had been going step by step. Chapter 1, at first God said, “You are going to replace Moses.” And he said, “Okay.” And God said, “Now here is how you are going to cross the Jordan and here’s what you tell the priests and here’s where the ark is going to be and here’s where you are going to put those stones and here’s where you are going to get them.” He’s been going by revelation. He doesn’t know in advance. “Now you are going to circumcise the people of God and you are going to celebrate Passover.” Up to this point it looks like it was on a need to know basis that he doesn’t have advance knowledge what he is supposed to do. But step by step God is telling Him. He’s not to lean on his own understanding but that doesn’t mean that he is to throw his understanding away. I think he is trying to figure things out but he desperately needs a word.
As he lifts up his eyes, first he sees this massive wall and I wonder if he is saying, “Am I supposed to scale this thing? Are we supposed to try to drill through it? Are we supposed to go under it? Are we supposed weight them out and starve them out? I know that God said that we are going in to take them. But how to do it, I don’t know.” I just picture him looking and wondering and thinking and trying to figure things out. He knows he is on a mission. Joshua 3:9, “Hear the word of the LORD. By this you’ll know the living God is among you. He will assuredly dispossess before you the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Hivitte, the Peruzite, the Gergashite, the Amorite and the Jebusite.” God is going to do it. But how?
Right now he is just walking around the wall. Joshua 5:13, “And it came about when Joshua was by Jericho he lifted up his eyes and looked and behold, a man was standing opposite him with a sword in his hand.” The bible doesn’t say but I don’t think if he was on a recognizance mission that he also didn’t have a sword. My guess is that he was armed, as well. He didn’t pull it, evidently, but he was armed. What do you think is going through his mind? Most of my commentators say, almost with a unified voice, “Here is Joshua and God told him in chapter one to be courageous and be bold and here he is confronting an armed stranger. This is courage and this is bravery.”
I have a Navy friend who retired from the Navy and he was often on guard duty and he told me that this is what he had to say. If someone approached and he didn’t recognize that person, he would say, “Halt! Advance and be recognized.” And then he would say, “Give the password.” Well, I don’t know if Joshua knew Navy protocol or not but he did speak to him and I don’t know if was a challenge or a hopeful inquiry. I don’t know if this guy was huge or what. I know he had a sword in his hand.
I have a reputation of being very easily startled and my grandchildren have taken advantage of that. They love to jump out and scare me. One time I was studying at my desk and something touched my leg. I know I don’t have a dog. I looked under and it was my grandson under the desk. They just love to see Grandie and his palpitations of the heart.
I don’t know if this in your Bible. I don’t know what version you are using. I don’t exactly agree with my commentaries that this was courage and bravery and going up to the man saying, “Whose side are you on?” Here is what I think happened. This is in my Bible and not in yours. He looked up and, “Aaah!” That’s what I think happened. I think he was scared out of his wits. I think he was in a panic. There’s a guy standing there with a sword and he didn’t see him. I don’t know if he just appeared but he didn’t see him and all of a sudden he sees him and I have an idea that he is filled with anxiety and I think he had panic and he palpitations of the heart.
In Joshua’s mind there are two options. Joshua 5:13, “Are you for us or for our enemy?” Those are the two options. I think it was shocking for Joshua to hear the first word of this stranger’s reply. Joshua 5:14, “Are you for us or our enemies,” his answer, “No.” What king of answer is that? “Are you on our side?” “No.” “Are you on their side?” “No.” Are you on anybody’s side? And that’s the full answer; “No, rather I indeed come as the Captain of the Host of the Lord.” “Are you on our side?” “No.” “Are you on their side?” “No.” “Whose side are you on?” “I’m on God’s side.” Wow, there’s another side. “I’m on God’s side.”
The question is not, “Whose side am I on?” The question is, “Whose side are you on?” Because if you are on God’s side, God is on your side. If I’m on God’s side, God is on my side. Joshua thought there were only two options but there are three. Are we on the side of the Lord’s cause? God will always be on God’s side. That’s new to Joshua. He immediately knew this is more than a man and more than an angel. I’m not sure he said, “Oh, a pre-incarnate vision of the Son of God.” I don’t think so. But I know he knew that it was God.
I don’t know if you’ve heard of Major Ian Thomas who wrote that wonderful book, “The Saving Life of Christ?” He is very Christ centered. I encourage his writings if you ever find Major Ian Thomas. In that book “The Saving Life of Christ” he has a chapter on this story. And in his inimitable way (he’s English and has quaint ways of saying thing very succinctly), when he gives the answer to, “Are you on our side or their side?” Ian Thomas said, quoting the Angel, “I didn’t come to take sides. I came to take over.” Exactly right.
That’s what was going on and it was important for Joshua to know and understand at the door of conquest, that in fact he was not the Commander in Chief, that there was another who would be Commander in Chief and that’s when, “Remove your sandals from your feet; the place you are standing is holy,” and he fell down on his face and said, “Lord, what would you have me to do?”
We sort of read these things “la, la, la”. This is top brass; a military leader. This is Joshua, the commander and he’s in charge and he now surrenders the command to the Lord Jesus Christ. He relinquishes his office as commander in chief. On the low level of earth, this was a very unmilitary thing to do, to take off your military sandals. If you are getting ready for battle you gird yourself and you put on your military sandals. You don’t take them off.
As I pointed out earlier, this is the second time we read, “Take off your shoes; the ground you are standing on is holy.” What would have made the ground unholy before this event, because he was in his sandals and nobody corrected him. What made it unholy? Some think the sandals, because they were made from the hides of dead animals, that it made it unclean. Some think it’s just this world that is an unholy place. The question is, “What made it holy?” The answer is the presence of the Lord. When the Lord is there, it is holy. Remember they were in the sinful land of Canaan and even that became holy when God showed up.
In our life, in our new covenant with Christ, you know the Lord Jesus indwells you. He lives in your heart. He lives in my heart. Because he is always present, every ground and every step you take and I take is holy ground. That’s why when you begin to understand the ways of the Lord you aren’t going to say, “This is my spiritual life over here; church, fellowship and worship. And this is my secular life. There is no secular life for you. Everything is holy. Everything is spiritual. It’s not more holy to go to a prayer meeting than a Little League game to watch your son or grandson play in Little League. Was Jesus more holy when he was sleeping in the boat or when he raised Lazarus from the dead? He just walked a holy life. Everywhere we go is holy ground. If you are out of fellowship you might not recognize His presence, so you won’t be on your face and barefoot but our attitude, our heart toward the Lord is always to be on our face and barefoot before the Lord with the question, “Lord, what’s next? What would you have me do?”
I want you to notice that we’re about to enter into a seven year war. Many swords will be drawn in this seven year conflict. In the book of Joshua the first sword that is drawn is in the hand of the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s so basic to understand that. At the very minimum it is teaching 2 Chronicles 20:15, “Do not fear and do not be dismayed of the great multitude. The battle is not yours but God’s.” That’s the great lesson. If I’m on God’s side, God will be on my side. If you are on God’s side, God will be on your side.” Joshua 1 has met Jesus face to face and he is going to be wonderfully prepared for what lies before him.
I want to say one more thing before we close. The chapters in your Bible, they didn’t happen until 1100 years after Christ. There were no chapters and verses, so sometimes the chapters are broken up in a strange place. Joshua needs a word and we think that Joshua 5:13-15, that’s the story and then it ends. It doesn’t end there. It continues in chapter 6:2, “And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I’ve given Jericho into your hand.’” This is the one with the sword in his hand. He is still speaking. “You shall march around the city and all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days and also seven priests shall carry seven trumpets of ram horns….” He is now telling him what he needed to know.
He was saying, “What am I going to do?” And now he gets a word from the Angel of the Lord. But it was because he first had the knife in his hand, the circumcision knife, that he could meet the angel with the sword in his hand, because I need to be holy and then God will reveal Himself.
I gave you the first part, the theology of it, that God has only revealed Himself in Christ. All your dealings with God are through Christ. All His dealing with you are through Christ. Even when you get to heaven you are not going to see God the Father or God the Spirit. I used to think that I was neglecting and felt guilty that I was spending so much time with Jesus. So, I went after God the Father and I went after the Holy Spirit. Do you know when I neglected the Father? It was when I started seeking Him. Do you know when I neglected the Holy Spirit? It was when I started seeking Him. The Holy Spirit turns me to Jesus. Jesus said, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” Even in heaven you are only going to know God in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. God has revealed Himself and made Himself central in the Godhead.
Let’s get back to final preparation. As wonderful as it is that he saw him and he fell down and he’s barefoot and he relinquished to Christ; that’s not the point. The point is the paradox. I didn’t give you that. What was he expecting? What did he get instead? Stay tuned. Lord willing, we’ll look at that next time.
If you would be so kind, I have wonderful opportunities and doors are opening so wonderfully for me. This weekend I’ll be with a Chinese fellowship and I’ll ask you to pray for me. Next week there will be a men’s gathering and I’ve been privileged to address hungry Christians and they need to know full salvation in our Lord Jesus. If you would pray for me I’d appreciate it.
Heavenly Father, we thank You so much for Your word and not what we think it means but all You know it means. Work it in our hearts, we pray. Teach us what it means to lift up our eyes and behold the Lord of Hosts with a sword in His hand. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.