Imagine, for a moment, being alone with your thoughts…and then looking up to find a man standing in front of you, holding a sword. It’s not like he snuck up on you—he wasn’t there a minute ago, and then he just appeared, weapon in hand.
Oh. Also imagine you’re surveying a heavily defended city in a foreign land where all the inhabitants want to kill you. I should have mentioned that earlier. That’s probably relevant.
Joshua found himself in that position after leading Israel into the Promised Land. The Bible account reads,
And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood 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?”
Joshua’s response was to go up and talk to the Man. Mine would have been to run screaming like a little girl in the opposite direction, which is why Joshua was in charge of leading Israel and why I am content with just reading about it. But the really interesting part of this account is the Man’s response:
So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”
Joshua asks this Commander whether He was on Israel’s side or Israel’s enemies’ side, and He responds with a flat “No.”
Thanks to the next few verses, we can safely deduce that the Commander of the Lord’s armies was the Being who later came as Jesus Christ. The Commander accepts Joshua’s worship (something we never see angels do, cf. Revelation 22:8-10) and tells Joshua that the ground on which he stands is holy (something only God is recorded as doing, cf. Exodus 3:5). Because we also know that no one has seen God the Father at any time (John 1:18), this enigmatic Commander must have been the preincarnate Christ.
So what about His answer to Joshua? What about the “No”?
I guess what I get from this short little passage is a reminder—a reminder that we will never persuade God to be on our side. We have to be on His side. He isn’t looking to see which team has the most convincing arguments or offers the biggest salary—if we want to play on the same side as God, then it’s on His terms, not ours. We can’t lobby for His stamp of approval or campaign under His banner when the things we want contradict with the things He wants.
The prophet Amos once asked, “Can two walk together unless they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). It can’t be done—not with man, and certainly not with God. Walking with God requires a perspective change—it means realizing that if we want God to be for us, we must also be for God.
Joshua was for God. After meeting with the Commander, he and all of Israel overthrew the impenetrable city of Jericho thanks to some divine intervention. And if you and I are truly for God, then, like Joshua, no obstacle can stand before us on our journey to our Promised Land.
After all…”If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
Until next time,