The first thing that is interesting about this passage is the reaction of Joshua to the man. Upon seeing him, Joshua identifies that the man has a sword in his hand. Keep in mind that Joshua was already preparing himself for battle against the first city in the conquest of the Promised Land, i.e. Jericho. Joshua had recently sent out spies to spy out the city and bring the report back to him so that he could strategize for the siege. Therefore, Joshua’s mindset was that of engaging the enemy to take the city.
But when Joshua saw the man with his sword drawn standing before him, Joshua did not react in fear. Joshua confidently engaged the man and asked him if he was friend or foe. This engagement by Joshua provides us with our first important lesson. The lesson is this: when God has clearly called you to do something don’t let the first obstacle that presents itself stand in your way, confront it with confidence.Too often Christians know what God wants them to do, but at the first sign of opposition they respond with fear and question if they are supposed to do it in the first place. Joshua did not question if he was to proceed with what God had already made clear to him, his response was appropriately addressing that which seemed to stand in his way of accomplishing what God wanted him to do.
Joshua also didn’t react with the immediacy to fight the man without first assessing the situation, lesson two. This is another mistake that people seem to make, they react too quickly without understanding the big picture or context of the situation. As we will see, if Joshua would have reacted by immediately drawing his own sword and engaging in combat things probably wouldn’t have turned out very good for him. But since Joshua took a moment to assess the situation, he quickly found out that the perceived obstacle was not an obstacle at all.
Upon inquiring about the intentions of the man, Joshua finds out that the man is in fact “the commander of the army of theLord.” The commander? Wasn’t Joshua supposed to be leading God’s people into battle? None of those thoughts went through Joshua’s mind, because Joshua knew exactly who the commander was. The commander of the Lord’s army was the second person of the Trinity, the pre-incarnate Christ. (This is what Bible scholars call a Christophany.) Joshua was standing face-to-face with the Messiah, the One who would ultimately be the Deliverer of His people.
At the moment that Joshua realized who it was standing before him, his posture toward the Man drastically changed. Joshua did not cower in fear, he fell to his face to worship. Notice that he did not tremble in fear, but he asked the Lord what He wanted him to do. This communicates another lesson for us to learn. Joshua confidently knew what God wanted him to do, so when God Himself showed up he did not shrink back in shame but was prepared for further instructions.
This is a good test for the Christian to assess him/herself by: if God were to show up in your current situation, would you shrink back in shame or fear, or would you fall to your face to worship and inquire of further instruction?Joshua did not have to question the task that God already made clear. Joshua merely positioned himself in a posture to receive the empowerment from God to accomplish His mission.
The response of the Lord to Joshua’s inquiry is an important element to this whole encounter. The Lord does not immediately unfold the strategy He has in place for conquering Jericho, as He soon would. Instead, the Lord instructs Joshua totake off his sandals, for the place where he was standing is holy. This is another indication of Who it was that was standing before Joshua. It was not that the ground itself had any intrinsic value, it was the fact that the Lord Almighty was present in this space. Joshua immediately obeyed the Lord and removed his sandals.
In Joshua’s response to the Lord we can find the final lesson from this encounter. When the Lord instructed Joshua (the one who was leading millions of people into the Promised Land) to perform the simple act of humbling himself before the Lord, Joshua did it and did not question His motives. In Joshua’s simple act of obedience we can see that all the preparations given by God for entering into the Promised Land are clearly visible in the man who will lead God’s people. Bottom line: Simple obedience to the Lord makes all the difference.