Grace to you that love the Lord Jesus in spirit and in truth. (Eph.6:24, I Cor.5:8)
Last week, in Joshua 5:1-12, we looked at the two OT sacraments of circumcision and the Passover, and we said both of these external ordinances pointed forward to the person and the saving work of Jesus Christ. Our sin is cut away. We are cleansed by His blood. The innocent Lamb dies, and the guilty go free.
Well tonight we are going to see Christ Jesus as Savior of His people, but this time we are going to see Him as our military Savior. Turn with me please to Joshua chapter five, I will read Joshua 5:13-16, hear the perfect word of our perfect God, read.
Joshua 5:13. Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that 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?” 14 He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as 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?” 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.
As always, let’s ask God to help us in our worship of Him this evening, and let’s praying believing that He will hear our prayer. Pray.
Now let’s consider once again where we are geographically and temporally. Remember these things teach us about the nature and the work of Immanuel God with us.
The Lord saves us – Egypt.
Geographically the people of God spent 430 years as slaves to Egyptian Gentiles masters in Egypt. (Gen.15:13, Exod.12:40, Acts 7:6, Gal.3:17)
Now think of that. Slaves to men, but at the same time God’s Beloved children. Oh, may we disdain the abuse of men when the saving favor of God rests upon us. And Beloved, please do not think that our outward condition and the abuse and opposition by the world means that God does not love us. Often the ones that God loves most He tests most. Think of Christ.
For something like ten to eleven generations of God’s people bound to hard labor. Hard labor. Making bricks without straw, severe treatment of their bodies. Oh Beloved, may we be rightfully ashamed of our murmuring under God’s current providence. What we consider hard times would have been an occasion of great rejoicing and thanksgiving for countless of God’s ill-treated people. Remember Hebrews 11 and 12, the great cloud of suffering witnesses.
Also, think of the length of time. Ten plus generations. Most of us think one day or one week is a lifetime for God to answer prayer. How many of us know what it is like to pray for years and years and years looking for the redemption of Israel like the widow Anna? Ask, seek, knock and keep knocking until God answers your prayers. (Mt.7:7-12, Lk.18:1-8, Lk.2:36-38)
Most of us might know our great grandparents’ names but beyond that we lose count. Imagine our family progenitor in 1591 enslaved and all of our family up to today, finally freed in 2021. That is what we have here.
The way the flesh reasons this is now beyond all hope. God has forgotten His people. He has forgotten His promise. Oh no beloved, faith believes the word of God. One thousand years is like one day to the Lord. Do not count time as men count time. Do not consider God’s slowness to answer His deafness to hear. No. God has good and holy and merciful reasons for His delays. (2 Pt.3:8, Ps.90:4, 2 Pt.3:1-18, Rev.20:5, 2 Pt.3:9)
God cannot forget. And He certainly cannot forget His beloved people. Slavery was a divine crucible; it was meant to purify and not to destroy. But God will have His people free, free to serve Him, free to love Him, free to worship Him. And at the same time to remember sin is slavery. All to make freedom in Christ even sweeter. (Isa.49:15-25, Rom.9:16-23)
Then God freed them by a mighty and merciful hand. And He judged the Egyptians and their false gods at the same time. (Exod.12:12, Col.2:15, Jn.12:31) Something which is significant as we think of our salvation. God saves His people. And He judges and condemns His enemies, enemies that are also enemies of His people because they belong to God. The counterpart of damnation then is salvation. (Jn.15:12-25)
He is about the teach the very same lesson with the Gentiles in the Promised Land, beginning with Jericho first. He will save His people. He will judge His enemies. (Dt.7:10)
All men will experience one or the other eternally, dependent upon their faith in Christ and the salvation He works for His people. (Mt.25:31-46)
The Lord leads us – Sinai.
Then for the next forty years Israel marched around the Sinai Peninsula which is to the right of Egypt. Picture this land as a triangle with the flat end at the top and the point towards the bottom, Mount Sinai is at the bottom point.
In their journey it looks look they made one big loop and then another smaller loop all the while being led by the Lord. God was training His people to obey Him, follow Him, trust Him, and to love Him. God is always with His people even when the path of their life seems aimless, it is not. God has a perfect plan in which He is guiding us, though sometimes we cannot see the direction.
The Lord lives with us – Canaan.
Then when God’s appointed time for sojourning was over, He brought His people to His Promised Land in the land of Canaan. This place was a little to the right of Sinai and to the north. Israel crosses the Jordan River on dry ground. God keeps them safe. He then restores the water to their ordinary course. Now they are in the Promised Land. They are finally home. Oh Beloved, that is what God will do for everyone of us in Christ, one day He will bring us “home”, to our final home, our real home, where everything is safe and good, God is there. (Phil.3:20, Jn.14:1-6)
The first place they stay is Gilgal. (Dt.11:30) Israel named it this. It means “rolling away” or “rolls away”. This is the place where the memorial stones lay to teach God’s people to remember His saving mercies and also the place where the people of God received the sign of the covenant of grace upon their bodies. God promises to be a God to us and to our children after us. (Josh.4:19-20, 5:9-10, Micah 6:5)
And a day is coming where all believing parents along with all their believing children will worship God together in the Promised Land. There will be no more “goodbyes” given. We will all be home together.
The Lord fights for us.
Now here we are being taught that the Lord fights for us. In fact, in a way the book of Joshua from chapter one to chapter twelve where the Gentiles are finally cast out of the land teaches us that the battle is not ours but the Lord’s. It is not by our power or our might that we conquer, but in the name and in the power of our Lord. His arm gains the victory. (I Sam.17:47, 2 Chron.20:15, Eph.6:12, Zech.4:6, 2 Chron.32:7, 2 Cor.10:4, Ps.98:1)
The Lord comes to His people.
Let’s see a few things that lead up to Joshua meeting the holy Captain of the heavenly armies. We have one earthly captain coming out to meet the heavenly Captain. And yes, we have the earthly Joshua walking towards the heavenly Joshua, but we know that the heavenly Captain has in reality first come down to meet the earthly.
The great lesson we learn here is that the Lord comes to meet and to help His people. Oh Beloved, how we need to be reminded daily that the Lord never leaves us alone, He is always with us. And when we need His power and protection and guidance most, He will not forsake us, He will come to us, He will help us. Only believe. Watch and pray. Look for Him. Expect Him. (Ps.139:1-12, Mt.28:20, Mt.13:5-8)
Well, the text tells is that Joshua is by Jericho. Just recently we saw him and all the people at Gilgal, Gilgal is close to Jericho, it is roughly ten miles to the south.
It appears that Joshua is alone and that there are no other people that witness this miracle. Now as Joshua is a military man we must reasonably suppose on the night before he goes against Jericho that he would be out surveying the city as to the best place of attack. Remember God has not told him about “the walls come tumbling down”. The technical term for what Joshua is doing is “reconnoiter”.
God often comes to us as we are busy about our God ordained duties as Joshua was busy with his.
As we are walking by faith in the Lord, we labor to make the best use of secondary means that we can. We labor to be as wise as we can be, as diligent as we can be, in this case also as courageous as we can be and as we do so we are trusting the Lord to bless our efforts. Walking by faith Beloved is quite active. (WCF 5.1-2, 2 Cor.5:7, 2 Thess.3:10, Prov.6:6-11)
The Lord appears before the battle.
Now as regards to time, in our passage here, we are just before the attack or the battle of Jericho in chapter six. We are just before the first engagement with the enemies of God and His people. Remember we are being taught spiritual lessons by these things. Pilgrimage, and fighting while sojourning. (Exod.17-18) And then more fighting until the enemies are gone and then the rest can be enjoyed. (Josh.6-12)
Obviously, this is the spiritual scheme in which we live, which also imitates our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus – suffering, humiliation, and enemies followed by glory and peace and worship. The scheme of life is first the cross and then the crown. (Lk.11:49, Mt.23:34, Mt.5:10-12)
Now let me say something as we proceed through our text as regarding the identity of the main character which is the Captain of the Lord’s hosts or of the Lord’s armies, which is what hosts means. The Hebrew word is Tzavaot or Sabaoth. (Jas.5:4)
Some say that this captain is one of the Lord’s angels, a created spirit being, a holy angel, perhaps the leader of the holy angels the archangel Michael. (Rev.12:7-9, Jude 1:9, Dan.10:13-21, Dan.12:1)
I did not think this is correct. Let me share why I believe that this Captain is none other than the Lord Jesus Himself in a preincarnate form.
God here is teaching His people to anticipate the Incarnation of their Divine Savior Immanuel.
This is the angel or the messenger of the covenant of grace that appeared to Abraham under the oaks of Mamre. The Hebrew word for angel means messenger – malak. (Gen.19:1, Gen.18:1-13, Mal.3:1-3) This is the Messenger of Salvation that wrestled with Jacob on the banks of the Jordan at Peniel. (Gen.32:24-30)
In V.14 after this captain identifies Himself as the leader of God’s armies Joshua bows down to the ground to the captain. Now this Hebrew word does mean to bow down (sha-chah), but it ordinarily has the idea of to bow down in order to worship, to do homage. And this is how the KJV translates this verse.
Joshua 5:14. And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?
My next reason for believing in the divinity of the Captain is Joshua calls Him “my Lord”, my Adonai. (Ps.110:1, Jn.20:28)
If this were a mere created angel, the angel would have corrected Joshua as the angel did to the apostle John when he was overwhelmed by the presence of an angel.
Revelation 19:9. Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.'” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” 10 Then I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “Do not do that; I am 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 prophecy.” (Rev.22:8-9, Acts 10:24-26)
The final proof, which is the most convincing for me, is that the Captain uses the same language of the Lord Jehovah to Moses when the LORD reveals Himself to Moses in the burning bush. Let me read that for us, it is significant.
Exodus 3:2. The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. 3 So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” 4 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.” 5 Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God. 7 The LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. 8 “So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. (occasions when the angel of the LORD is God – Gen.16:7-14, Jg.2:1-2, Num.22:22-24, Gen.31:11, Zech.1:8)
You remember God has promised Joshua as He was with Moses so He would be with Joshua as God’s chosen leader. (Joshu.1:1-5) In this case God has chosen Joshua to be His military or warrior leader.
He is pointing us to Jesus as the true Joshua also our warrior king. Though I admit this is a figure that we do not often dwell on as regards to Christ. But it is the teaching of both the OT and surprisingly of the NT. Let me read to you from the book of Revelation.
Revelation 19:11. And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Rev.1:16, 2:16, 14:17-20, Isa.63:1-19)
Christ is the Captain or the Commander of the angels. Christ wields the sword of divine justice. For all those that do not come to Christ in submission He will pour out holy vengeance upon unholy sinners.
Matthew 13:41. The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
Remember Christ is God come in the flesh. This preincarnate appearance teaches God’s people that God Himself is their warrior king savior. Even as we don’t often think of the Son of God as a warrior, so too we do not often consider the Lord or the Godhead Himself as a warrior. But God does declare this in His Word.
Exodus 15:1. Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and said, “I will sing to the LORD, for He is highly exalted; The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea. 2 “The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will extol Him. 3 “The LORD is a warrior; The LORD is His name. (Jer.10:16, 32:18, I Sam.17:45, Zeph.3:17, James 5:4, the Lord of Hosts – Saboath)
Isaiah 42:10. Sing to the LORD a new song, Sing His praise from the end of the earth! You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it. You islands, and those who dwell on them. 11 Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voices, The settlements where Kedar inhabits. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing aloud, Let them shout for joy from the tops of the mountains. 12 Let them give glory to the LORD And declare His praise in the coastlands. 13 The LORD will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war. He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies.
Lessons. The Lord is with you. The Lord is one of you. God has become Man. The Lord fights for you. The Lord procures the Promised Land for you.
The Lord tests and strengthens the faith of His own.
Now see the earthly Joshua. He lifts his eyes up and he sees the heavenly Joshua. It seems to me that he was deep and thought and likely praying and now the Lord appears to him. But before Joshua knows that it is the Lord and he first thinks it is just a man look at what he does. He goes out to meet this Man who already has His sword drawn!
This is faith in action. God told Joshua in chapter one to be strong and courageous and to not fear, to not fear the fear-of-fears namely death because God would fight for him, God would give him the victory. (Josh.1:1-9) And Joshua believes God, so he bravely and boldly goes out to meet this armed “Man”. Joshua is living up to the meaning of his name – Yahweh is salvation.
He does not consider his life “too dear” to obey. Life is secondary to obeying the Lord. It is better to suffer than to sin. Oh, to have this kind of faith! (Acts 20:24, Jn.12:25, Rev.12:11, I Pt.3:17, Heb.11:25, I Pt.2:20)
Joshua is bold to ask, are you for us or are you for our adversaries?
Now I want you to see something that I think is very interesting. Christ actually does not say which side He is on. He is utterly unique. He is of Heaven. He is not of earth. Oh how we need to learn this. Even Believers can treat Christ like a genie-in-the-bottle as if He is “our” servant.
The question is not is the Lord on “our” side. The question is are we on “His” side. (Exod.32:25-35)
Christ says, I am the Captain of the armies of heaven (and we know He also governs all men upon the earth). Christ says He commands the angels because He is their Creator and Lord. (Ps.148:2, Ps.103:21) All power has been committed into His hands.
Now we see the earthly Joshua as a supplicant-worshiper-servant before the heavenly Joshua. He asks Christ, what has my Lord to say to His servant?
You see faith that makes one bold to face even death by an armed opponent also melts one to love and serve the Lord of Glory. Speak for Your servant listens. (I Sam.3:7-11)
The Lord desires the worship of His people.
Hear what God says to His servant.
Joshua 5:15. Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy. (Exod.3:5, like Jacob’s dream, the house of God Bethel – Gen.28:10-19)
Removing the shoes is an expression of humility, especially humility before One that is an infinite Superior. God will be sanctified by all those that drawn near to Him. God will be treated as holy because He is holy. (Lev.10:1-10, Isa.6:1-10) Wherever God is holiness is.
Joshua is in the immediate presence of God. Joshua is not destroyed because he possesses the spiritual reality represented in circumcision and Passover. His sins have been removed by the heavenly Joshua. He is welcomed into His holy presence. But he is told to acknowledge His holy presence.
The heavenly Joshua tells the apostle John the same thing.
Revelation 1:12. Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking with me. And having turned I saw seven golden lampstands; 13 and in the middle of the lampstands I saw one like a son of man, clothed in a robe reaching to the feet, and girded across His chest with a golden sash.
14 His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire. 15 His feet were like burnished bronze, when it has been made to glow in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. 16 In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword; and His face was like the sun shining in its strength. 17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.
God want His people to worship Him with reverence and awe, to have a profound awareness of His holiness, majesty. This is the One that fights for us. What can our enemies do to Him? Nothing. (Rom.8:28-39)
God desires that we humble ourselves before His presence. This is pleasing and acceptable worship. (Ps.2:10-11, Ps.72:10-11, Rev.19:16)
Joshua meets Christ before the battle. Joshua worships the Lord on the evening before he confronts God’s enemies.
Beloved, sometimes we are guilty of compartmentalizing our holy faith in our holy Lord. We confine our worship of God to the Lord’s Day as if to say Sunday was the only day of the week wherein it was right to adore God.
Oh no. Whenever we meet God, whenever God comes to us and speaks to us, whenever we are aware of His holy presence right then and there is the right time to bow our faces to the ground before Him and adore Him. I wonder if we sometimes lack power and peace and joy and victory because we are grieving the Spirit of God in refraining from our worship when and where He meets us.
When you feel the desire or the urge to pray, don’t push it away, don’t delay – pray right then and there. When you sense the nearness of God, the greatness of God, the holiness of God – worship, don’t put it off, don’t delay.
Oh Beloved, imagine if we would live by faith in the Son of God. Instead of fretting and worrying on the occasion of every battle, we would take our sandals off, humble ourselves before the Lord, lay aside worldly thoughts and concerns, and worship Him. (Heb.2:10, I Pt.2:25)
You see so often we are all absorbed with our battles. Oh, my battles. Oh, my enemies. Oh, my death may come. Oh darkness. Stop. Think. Believe. Christ is near. Christ is with us. Worship Him. All will be well. All is well. The enemies are already conquered.
The Promised Land is prepared. Canaan is called the Holy Land because God resides there with His people. Heaven is holy because Christ resides there with His people. (Acts 7:33, Ezek.48:14, Lev.27:21, Zech.2:12) The land wherein we will rest with our Lord. (Ps.95:11, Ps.132:11, Rev.14:13)
All is well. Look to your heavenly Joshua. Look to the Captain of your souls.