The Commander

Joshua 5:13 When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” 14 “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” 15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told.

Maturity is measured by our faithfulness to carry out our God-given responsibilities. And Joshua is taking on the responsibility of a lifetime. He’s been commissioned by God to fill in the shoes of Moses. There’s never been anyone like Moses, but because Joshua was willing to first be an assistant and a servant, God makes him the leader of a nation and promises to be with him. God doesn’t commission Joshua to become greater than Moses, but to lead His people to a place Moses never did. We love to compare ourselves to others, but God compares us to the people He purchased us to be.

He’s trusting God, willing to get down and do the dirty work - it’s really messy.

Joshua has become a very busy man, a man about his Father’s business. He’s sending out spies, filling out reports, and handling serious administrative duties. The pressure is on. This isn’t leading a stagnant ministry or a dying church, but a thriving nation on the edge of the Promised Land. He’s trusting God, willing to get down and do the dirty work - it’s really messy. God commands this ordinary man to make knives, which sounds fun, but then tells him to circumcise every single male in the entire nation. Yeah, I don’t feel like volunteering for that team. Sign me up to be fed at the next banquet. Sign me up to be served. Except if you want to go up in God’s eyes, you have to get your hands messy the way Jesus patterned for us. On top of that, he’s got the conquering of the city of Jericho on his mind. Israel had never conquered anything, let alone a city so fortified, so Joshua decides to leave the camp after celebrating the Passover feast to go do some scouting. Perhaps he can figure out how on earth they will accomplish this task. That’s where we pick up the story.

There’s always an overwhelming problem before getting to your promise.

13 When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to Him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”

God wants to reveal Himself to you in the proximity of your problem. There’s always an overwhelming problem before getting to your promise. In this case, it’s Jericho’s defense. So while Joshua is out there doing the work, and I stress that, he’s actually out in the field doing the work. This encounter didn’t happen while he was dragging his feet, being lazy, and calling it alone-time with God. Joshua is a man who knows how to both linger in the presence and put in work on the battlefield. Yes, he’s alone, God’s with him, but before Joshua ever gets the strange instructions to walk around a wall to see it come down, he has an encounter that will mark his life forever.

If you avoid confrontation, you’ll miss revelation! Joshua is about to find out that this is no ordinary man. This is Jesus, the One whom while being arrested could’ve called twelve legions of six thousand angels each to come aid Him, the One whose army fills the hills with chariots and tanks of fire. If Joshua runs away, he doesn’t experience this unique revelation of God. When you stop running away and confront Jesus, you can confront everything that stands between you and what God has for your life. His sword is not meant to harm you, but it displays His power and His authority, which makes your enemies’ weapons look pathetic. The man who seemed like a dangerous adversary turned out to be Jesus. What if, instead of always running away from danger, we ran toward it and discovered Jesus waiting to reveal Himself? We are called to a life of risk!

When you stop running and confront Jesus, you can confront everything that stands between you and what God has for your life.

Joshua inquires of this mysterious man, “Whose side are you on? Are you with us, or against us? Are you friend or foe?” May I remind you that Joshua 1:1-9 clearly laid the foundation of his commission that God was with him. So if this is really Jesus, certainly the answer would be, “Yes, I’m a friend,” right? Wrong.

The response is, “Neither one,” He replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.” Wait up mystery man, you don’t get to draw your sword at me, and tell me you’re neutral. Whose side are you on? The response of Jesus is, “Neither and I’m not neutral either. I am the commander of the Lord’s army and I am on a side - My own side. Joshua, you’ve been leading very well. I’ve seen it. You’ve done your part. You’ve been faithful. But, there’s something I need you to understand. I didn’t come to take sides, I came to take over.”

I love the song “God with us,” but it’s not “God with us,” for the sake of attaching His Name to our campaigns, our slogans, our missions, or anything of that nature, even if the mission was birthed out of obedience. We do this to Jesus all the time. We try to boost the probability of success in our jobs, our relationships, our _____ (insert whatever it may be), and declare, “God is with us and we can’t fail!” He absolutely is with us, but only when we attach ourselves to Him. He is the vine, we are the branches. It’s not the other way around. Often what He wants to do will create friction against what we want to do. That is why we pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, in earth as it is in heaven,” because our earthly kingdoms and our inner wills often find themselves in opposition to His. He may have appointed us as leaders, but the leaders never trump the commander.

God did not come to you to take sides, but to take over.

God knows whom He needs to reveal Himself as, for the season that you’re in. According to other scriptures, is God your friend? Absolutely. God revealed Himself to Abraham as a friend, but there will be seasons in your life where God knows that you need to understand Him as the commander, not simply a friend. God is your closest friend and that’s amazing, but that’s not who Joshua needs right now.

Abraham was asked to leave all his friends and family, so God revealed Himself as a Friend - different man, different calling, and different encounter.

Jesus didn’t go up the woman at the well in John 4 and say, “I’ll make you a fisher of men.” Her interactions with men were a major part of the issue. She needed God to be her Husband and her Living Water in order for her to break free from the pain of continually failed relationships.

The thief on the cross was next to the commander of heaven’s armies. But, he needed a suffering Savior who was willing to forsake His right to call down angels.

The prodigal son was one who despised commands and needed a Father to restore him after wasting his life on prostitutes and self-indulgence.

Some men need God to reveal Himself as the commander, so He can teach us how to lead in the home and how to submit to Christ. We might want Him as a “bro”, because our bros have always OK’d the nonsense and sin we’re in. And ultimately, we can respect our bro’s advice, but we don’t have to obey them. Some of the ladies want to call Jesus their husband, which has its place, because who better than Jesus to teach submission and the respecting of godly authority. Sometimes we cannot accurately relate to Him as our bro or our husband because, we’ve become so good at manipulating those kinds of relationships to get what we want. However, we cannot manipulate the commander. We cannot manipulate Jesus.

Before the walls of Jericho come down, we must come down.

There will be seasons in your life where God knows that you need to understand him as the commander, not an ally. If I’m Joshua and I’m facing a pending battle that I have no idea how to go about approaching, thank God that Jesus isn’t willing to just settle for ally status, but establishes that He’s the commander of this army.

14 At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?”

This response shows why Joshua is used the way he is. His knee-jerk reaction is complete abandonment of pride, titles, and an immediate action of reverence. There’s no rebuttal, no back talking, no negotiating, but instead, “I am at your command.” God made Joshua as effective as Moses, because although the new leader of a nation, Joshua always understood that he was only a servant of the Lord.

15 The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told.

Joshua, in the chaos and busyness of planning a military conquest and leading a nation, doesn’t make excuses by saying, “Lord I’m really slammed today with responsibilities,” which he has a lot of. He, like Moses, takes off his sandals. You can’t really run without those. You can’t move forward into battle without those. Could it be that before God gives orders to march, He orders stillness? Could it be that before He ever tears down the walls that block our promise, He commands us to tear down our pride, which block us from Him? Before the walls of Jericho come down, we must come down. If Joshua at the pinnacle of success in leadership knew to fall down before God, before moving forward in any other activity, what possible reason could we give God to explain why we can’t find ourselves in the servant’s posture? The greatest revelations of God and the most miraculous victories in life are reserved for those willing to go the lowest before Jesus. We must yield every moment and motive to Him, especially when His words to us are commands, not suggestions.