We have 12 inches of snow and I am so not going out in it. Sooooo, I am writing about another relatively unknown story in the Bible.
Reference: Joshua 5: 12-15
Heart of the Story: Joshua sees a man with a drawn sword outside of Jericho. Naturally, Joshua’s asks are you for or against us.
Moses was dead. God appointed Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. Previously, the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Canaan. They were camped on the plains of Jericho. There, two important events happened: 1) all male Israelites were circumcised; and 2) God stopped supplying the Israelites with manna. They ate the fruit of the land in the first Passover in the Promised Land. Because they kept the Passover, we assume it was in our springtime (about April or May).
Jericho was closed; no person or animal went into it or came out of it. The walls were stone and high. Gates were reinforced and well protected. Previously, God told Joshua that he would deliver the mighty city of Jericho into his hands.
Joshua looked and saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. As leader and war commander of the Israelites, Joshua walked toward the man. Possibly, Joshua knew that this was no ordinary soldier or warrior. Joshua wondered where the man came from. Importantly, he wanted to know if the man was a friend or foe. Joshua asked the man, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?”
The man replied that, “I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.”
Whoa! Wait a minute! – The commander of the Lord’s army has come to the Jericho plains to help the Israelites!
Most of the time, when we think of the commander of God’s armies, we think of the archangel, Michael (Daniel 10:12-13, Jude 1:8; Revelation 12:7-12); however, most likely this man was a manifestation of God himself (text notes in the NIV Study Bible). Joshua fell to his face and worshiped the man. The man didn’t rebuke Joshua for his worship which suggests, he was more than an angel, more than even the archangel. The commander accepted Joshua’s worship as his due.
Naturally, Joshua asked the commander of the Lord’s army what he and the Israelites should do. The angel responded that Joshua should take off his sandals because the place he stood on was holy. We are not told why the area was holy. Possibly, it was because God himself was there, similar to the area around the burning bush was holy when God talked to Moses.
What would you have done? Probably, you would have taken off your sandals and thought, “Okay what next? Do you want me to muster all of our fighting men and have them armed to the teeth? You’re the commander of God’s army; we’ll do whatever you want.”
The Lord’s response was not that the Israelites lay siege to Jericho and storm the city walls with their fighting men, of whom there were many. Instead the commander of the Lord’s army gave these instructions: The Israelites (including soldiers) lead by seven priests with ram’s horn trumpets and the Ark of the Covenant should march around Jericho six days. During these six days, the Israelites should not make a sound. On the seventh day when the Israelites march around the city, the priests blew trumpets of ram’s horns and the Israelites give a loud shout. Every child in Sunday school learned what happened next – the walls of Jericho fell flat.
Can you imagine how eerie seeing two million people walking silently around the city for six days must have been for the people of Jericho? The king, the soldiers on the walls, the citizens must have become more afraid each day. After the Jericho wall fell, the Israelites didn’t have to do much, if any, fighting when they entered Jericho. The commander of the Lord’s army fought the battle of Jericho for them.
Reflection: When I am living in God’s will, does the commander of God’s army (Christ) fight my battles?