WALKING WITH GOD. No.12
Josh 5:13,14 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.”
In a recent meditation we thought about Moses turning aside and walking over to the burning bush to investigate what was happening. This situation in our verses above is somewhat similar but with a person. Not only that though, and this is what makes it so different, the circumstances are incredibly different. Moses had been a shepherd with a history of failure, rather aimless; Joshua is now the leader of the people of Israel about to go into battle with express instructions to take the land.
The change in the circumstances of Israel couldn’t be greater. They have miraculously crossed the river Jordan and are now in the land where they freshly entered into covenant with God through the rite of circumcision (Josh 5:2-9), and then celebrated Passover (v.10) and ate the produce of the land (v.11) when the manna that had fed them for forty years had ceased (v.12). Thus the ‘feel-good factor’ for Joshua is quite high! They are in the land and they are back on a right relationship with the Lord. It’s a good time to be a General of the Lord’s army, Israel.
Thus when Joshua sees before him a figure with a sword, he boldly walks up to him and demands that he reveals who he is and whose side he is on. Here is Joshua’s mistake – he doesn’t bother to check first of all who this man is. When we’re sometimes full of the sense of the goodness of the Lord and the sense we have of the triumph and victory that is ours in His kingdom, we sometimes start speaking and acting presumptuously.
What is Joshua actually asking? Are you with us – in which case, welcome and join us – or are you against us – in which case you are an enemy and we’ll destroy you. He’s thinking in purely material terms. After all this is just a man standing here, and after all, I am The General, the commander of the Lord’s army, so who are you?
It is then that he’s given an answer that pulls him right up. OK, he’s walked up to the man full of boldness and made demands of him, but the answer given and the way it is given, rocks Joshua and he falls in reverence and acts like a servant (v.14).
Joshua has asked, ‘Are you for us or against us?’ and the answer has been given, ‘Neither!” What? Why? The continuing answer comes, “Because I am the commander of the army of the Lord and I don’t take sides (implied). I call people to my side, I don’t take sides!”
There is a tremendous lesson to be learnt here. God doesn’t take sides. We can’t get God on our side. In war, opposing armies have been known to assume that they had God on their side, but He doesn’t take sides! He is God! He is Supreme! He doesn’t come down to the petty affairs of ant-like humans and take sides. He calls us to come to Him, to submit to Him and follow Him.
This walk of confidence – this walk of assessment – has turned into a walk of worship. As he walks forward, Joshua realises he is encountering either the Lord God Himself, or a leading angel or, as theologians think, a theophany, a physical expression of the Son. As he goes into battle Joshua will now realise that he isn’t the commander of the Lord’s army, the Lord is! It’s a major lesson to be learnt. What he is doing is at the Lord’s instigation and it will be with the Lord’s wisdom and, as we shall shortly see, with the Lord’s power. It is a partnership but Joshua has to realise that the major partner is the Lord.
We, likewise, have to learn the same thing. If you pray for the Lord to be on your side in any battle you face, change your praying and ask the Lord to guide you to achieve what He wants you to achieve. If you haven’t read it recently, turn to the believers’ prayer of Acts 4:23-30 to see a good example of this. Ensure you are on His side!