If there were any event from the Old Testament that I am most fascinated with lately, I really think it would have to be the march of the Israelites on Jericho.
And as I start to piece together in my own mind why this is the event my mind keeps coming back to, I realize that it is going to take more than one post…otherwise I will lose most of you due to lack of attention span (my own included).
So today is part one…the next part will go up later this week.
The Lord gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: “Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.”
Ok, let’s start with the obvious question: Yes…I do realize that I am choosing one of the most brutal, bloody campaigns against a total people group committed by God’s chosen people. A city that explodes from the outside in…destruction by sword of every living, breathing thing that tries to escape the rubble…a curse upon anyone who ever tries to rebuild from the ruins. It is a devastating read, the Book of Joshua. I have no answers for why God commanded such violence and I will admit that I wonder, at times, why it had to happen that way. But as I wrestle with what I don’t understand, I have to realize: I wasn’t there… I didn’t know the hearts of the people and He did… I didn’t create them and He did… and while I am just me, HE is GOD… and I safely leave it there.
A quick version of the story: Moses has died, unable to enter into the Promised Land with his people because he chose not to follow God’s directions to the letter, thus not representing God’s Holiness properly among the people. Joshua is commissioned to lead the people into the land, told by God that He will give him victory, and the people follow Joshua out of the desert for the first time in 40 years. They come to the Jordan river, where God gives detailed instructions in how the people are to cross it. Once over, the people are commanded to build an altar and then dedicated themselves to Him by circumcision. They do as they are told and they celebrate the Passover…and then God, finally, says the wandering is over…My promise is now fully yours.
The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan.
The people were camped near the city of Jericho…the first city in their new land that had to be removed…awaiting instructions from their leader. Joshua was out looking over the area when he suddenly saw a man standing in front of him, a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua approached (the warrior in him mentally ready for a fight, I am sure) and asked the man “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
The man responds with words that packed a mighty punch, “Neither…” (NEITHER!?!?! I wonder, if in the split second before the sentence continued, Joshua was completely dumfounded.) “…but as the commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”
Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for His servant?” The commander of the Lord’s army replied “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
A couple of thoughts come to mind at this meeting.
1 – this battle wasn’t about Jericho…OR Israel. It was about God’s will…God’s command…God’s glory. Nothing more. Yes, there was a promise. Yes, they were His chosen people. Yes, they were doing what He had told them to. And yet…even when we are directed to go a certain direction, we have to be careful not to make it OUR vendetta…our battle…because even tho He sent me in, it is not mine to take over.
2 – Joshua’s pride was hit pretty hard by the words of the man in front of him. So much so that he, a willing and able warrior, fell, facedown, into the dirt.
So why then does the man say, “…for the place where you are standing is holy”, as Joshua was clearly laying flat??
I obviously don’t know Joshua’s heart, so I am gonna climb out on a “but I do know my own heart“ limb here and admit: sometimes God humbles me. He does just as this Commander did and He reminds me that this is His battle, not mine. I hit the ground at the sound of His voice, suddenly reminded of my place, but even as my nose breathes in the dirt, I am still holding onto thoughts of what I will do next. “I must bow down low while He speaks, as He is God…and when He is done, then I will….”
I have to wonder if Joshua’s heart was excited to finally take hold of what had been promised to his people…
- …if he knew God had guaranteed him victory and had overlooked, no matter how innocently, God’s glory in what was about to happen.
- …if he forgot, for just a moment, that in making the battle his own, he would be no better than Moses who was momentarily driven by human emotion rather than by Godly direction.
- …if his mind was reeling with the hunger for the battle they are all prepped to take on.
I have to wonder if the “where you are standing” was directed at Joshua’s silent thoughts, buried deep within a heart that God could hear as clearly as he could see the leader of His people laid out, flat in the dirt. I have to wonder if the careful warning was given to a man who could easily overstep his bounds, even without meaning to…and if the Lord God who had chosen him from the millions of Israelites didn’t want him to do anything he would regret…just as his former leader certainly did.
A small moment…missed by my eyes many times when reading this story…profoundly full of a personal God who not only allowed Himself to been seen by His chosen leader, but also made sure that Joshua knew that his heart and focus were just as important as his actions were. A personal God took the time to reassure, refocus and reaffirm this warrior before He sent the large group into the battle that would not only give them the victory, but would give Him the glory He had been seeking since the promise was made to Abraham, many generations before.
A small moment…filled with a personal God taking the time to capture my mind and attention by this small, three verse encounter mixed within the 24 chapters of Joshua. A personal God who used this to reassure, refocus and reaffirm this girl that the battles in front of me aren’t mine to win or to own.
They aren’t meant to define who I am or who I fail to be…because those battle are not about me.
No…the battles belong to the Lord.
I am just a person, chosen by Him to walk according to how He leads and blessed enough to stand on the front lines and watch how He will use me take the land…for my good and for His glory.
A special thanks to Nichole Nordeman’s book Love Story,
and her thoughts on Joshua, as reading her words finally unlocked
my brain enough to express all I am learning by this moment in time.
If you want to read the story for yourself, click here.
Looking up, as always…