Phil Cox

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Marching Orders

24th December 2009

Joshua 5v13-6v5
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."
Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?"
The commander of the LORDís army replied, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.
Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No-one went out and no-one came in.
Then the LORD said to Joshua, "See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Make seven priests carry trumpets of ramsí horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, make all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in."

The people of Israel had crossed the Jordan. They'd eaten the produce of the promised land. The manna had ceased falling. And the walled city of Jericho faced them. What were they to do?

Joshua was probably considering this question when something caused him to look up. He was the leader. He felt responsible. But in all his years, he'd never taken a walled city.

When he looked up, he saw "a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand". He asked the equivalent of the more modern military question, "Who goes there, friend or foe?". The man answered, "neither". That wasn't in the military instruction manual! The man said that he was the "commander of the army of the LORD". I believe this was a theophany - God revealed in the Old Testament; Jesus Himself was standing before Joshua!

Joshua certainly believed that this was God. We know that because he "fell face down to the ground in reverence". We must only ever worship God. Moses would have drummed that lesson into Joshua many times.

And as Joshua was worshipping God, God said, "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy". This echoes God call to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus chapter 3. Like Moses, Joshua obeyed, expressing his submission to the Holy One of Israel.

Joshua had taken over the leadership when Moses died. He had led the people over the Jordan. Now he was to conquer the land. And he needed God to show him how to do it. Leadership is one thing. Conquest is another. It's a good thing to be called by God into leadership. Be we are also called to take territory - to make a difference - for Jesus. And we can't do that in our own wisdom.

After Joshua had expressed his worship and submission, God gave him detailed instructions for the taking of Jericho. Joshua was called to rely on the miracle-working power of God, not on his own energy or the size of his army. Joshua obeyed God, and Jericho was taken.

In what ways are you and I still trying to achieve God's purposes according to our own wisdom and strength? Will we stop, see Jesus - the commander of the Lord's Army, worship Him, submit to Him, listen to Him, and do things His way, trusting in His amazing power, not ours?