Josh. 5 is a time of mental preparation for the people of God to get ready to go to battle for the Lord. The Israelites fought Jericho ~ we have our enemies ready to tear us down, our challenges, Satan’s road blocks... and we too must be spiritually prepared. Any time we face transitions in life, we face battles. And the most important battle is within ~ The real battle is not Jericho, the real battle is the heart of Joshua/ the heart of the people.
Josh 5, preparation for spiritual victory, 5 steps. The final step Joshua meeting the man with the sword is the one I am excited about.
#1: Know who you are in Christ and who are your enemies. Josh 5:1 is a statement regarding the morale of the inhabitants of the land READ. Essential to spiritual victory is our understanding that in Christ, all the enemies we face are in essence defeated foes. Stand strong in Christ and you are assured victory before the battle begins. Amen?
#2: A sign of affirmation. For the Israelites, in Josh. 5:2-9 the rite of circumcision was renewed. God had used circumcision as a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham, circumcision stood for Israel’s faith in God’s promises. To prepare to serve God you need a sign that he is with you. This is part of mental readiness. For you maybe you need to go forward when there is a public opportunity to declare your faith. Maybe it’s words of encouragement from an unexpected person. Maybe an amazing “coincidence” that you cannot deny God is with you. Maybe it is finding success is serving small ways. I believe God often shows us evidence of his presence…. For my part as the pastor of SACC, as a leader at SOH, I want to help create a place where it is ok to fail ~ meaning that to try serving a variety of ways and if it is not for you then nothing was hurt, and you might, just might find success, success in teaching, success in leading, success in serving, and the only way to find out is if you have permission to fail. God wants you to be affirmed. He will give you signs of his faithfulness.
#3 The past faithfulness of God is preparation for the future. the Israelites celebrated the Passover (READ Josh 5:10). As the people begin a brand new chapter, a transition to a new life, they are reminded of God’s past faithfulness of what he did at the Red Sea. As God rescued the Israelites from the Angel of Death back in the final days of captivity in Egypt, the same saving God is with them as they embark on the conquering of the promised land. Find encouragement from what God has done. The Cross of Christ is the new Passover (if you don’t understand then ask any long time Christian). Find courage in what God has done. The men’s breakfast has found wonderful encouragement from guys who share their testimony. Read stories of great men and women of faith. Study the Bible and how God was with Daniel, David, Paul, and a 1000 other men and women. Spiritual victory finds deep roots as we remember what God has done. Jim Jeffries is a wonderful encouragement as he collects stories of grace and often tells me what God has done.
Be men and women of courage. What God has done, he will do again.
#4 A new and fresh story. We find encouragement from the past, but then as we prepare to make a full commitment to God, he does something new. I love these two verses of Josh. 5:11-12 READ. For forty years God sustained the Israelites with daily bread and quail, miraculously sending food. Now they are entering a new phase in their history, he does something new. Encouragement from the past is absolutely necessary, but God always does something fresh. We make a mistake when we make faithful people of God the model Christians, as if God is going to duplicate the past.
A man was visiting a small village on a Caribbean island. At a church service he spotted a woman that glowed with the joy of the Lord. He asked, “Why are you so happy?” She led him down a path that ended at 4 graves; the woman explained her husband and 3 sons died of a disease several years earlier. When her family died something died in her too. For months she grieved, her life falling apart and she only had thoughts of dying herself. One day the Lord spoke to her and said, “you have a choice, you can die with your husband and sons, or you can follow me and choose to live.” The woman said that at that moment I chose to live, and Christ lives in me; even though I still grieve over the loss of my family, I know Jesus is with me.” The woman turns to the man and says, “That’ my story. What’s yours?”
The man stammers and gets tongue-tied and he says, “nothing like that has ever happened to me, ummm… I don’t really have a story.” “Young man, the woman says, “everyone has a story.”
God always does something new with every person. The greatest privilege I have is to hear stories. On Thursday at SOH a young man was so excited to tell me he has a job interview at McDonalds. He got tears in his eyes. I hope to find out today if he got the job. I cannot tell you how amazing this is… I am so proud of him and it is so exciting he has come this far...God always gives us something new… God does something new with the people of Israel. The produce of the Promised land is the new method of God’s supply. God will give you a wonderfully new story. This is part of the preparation for Spiritual Victory. I am not called to duplicate my father’s story, but the Lord has given me something new in Sumas. You are not called to duplicate me, but the Lord will speak fresh to you … Everyone has a story. What’s yours?
#5. The Battle within. Joshua meets the Captain of the Army of the Lord (READ Josh. 5:13-15). This takes place near Jericho. Joshua most likely went there to gather information about the city and its fortifications in preparation to launch his attack. He needed a plan of action. Just how would they go about attacking Jericho, the best fortified city in the land? Israel had no experience attacking a city. I don’t recall God commanding them to carry around in the wilderness battering rams, catapults, or ladders. All they had were swords, arrows, slings, and spears which would be inadequate for getting through a wall. Joshua decided to take a look at the city. And that’s when he meets this strange man standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand. READ Josh 5:13a.
The Man’s Position: Standing with a weapon is a military stance. Joshua asks a logical question, “Are you friend or foe?” The man says “neither, I am commander of the Lord’s Army.” (Josh. 5:14a) What a shock. This is crucial. Joshua saw himself as the commander/ leader. He was there to create a plan of battle and defeat a strategic city that would divide the land of Cannaan. instead Joshua is told, “You are not the Leader.” Joshua is finding his place. The real battle is within… who are you? What are you about? Who’s in charge of your life? Our life is not our own!
Joshua’s response is an incredible act of submission and acceptance: READ Josh. 5:14b. Joshua got the picture. He had been thinking of a conflict between the Israelites and the Cannanite armies. Perhaps he had been thinking of this as his war. Certainly he felt the load of responsibility on his shoulders. After being confronted by the man with a sword, he was reminded of a truth he had heard Moses declare years earlier when they stood on the banks of the Red Sea. There he had heard Moses say, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Ex. 14:13b). Joshua learned afresh the truth David would later declare when facing Goliath, “the battle is the Lord’s” (1 Sam. 17:47). The battles we face are not our own ~ they belong to God!
As an outworking of his submission, Joshua has a question of a man looking to his Commander for direction, “What has my lord to say to his servant?”
Who is this man? The captain of the Lord’s Army says to Joshua in Josh. 5:15. “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” Joshua obeyed. This is Moses at the burning Bush all over again. Who is the Captain of the Lord’s Army? Removing sandals was a sign of respect and submission. This is not an angel. This is God himself. Joshua did not know the name, but we know: this man is Jesus Christ ~~~ he must be Jesus! commander, leader, Lord, Holy, submission, worship…. this is Christ.
The real battle is not Jericho. When Joshua went to survey the city in preparation for battle, surely he saw the walls as a daunting obstacle. The real battle is within. I know a man that has been making poor choices for years. Over the years he has seen me as the enemy. It has come up multiple times in multiple ways. I’m sure I’ve made mistakes and obviously I don’t connect with everyone, but my message to him is simple: the real battle is within. The real battle is to get the matter settled of who is in charge. The real battle is to submit to the Lord Jesus Christ.
A powerful image of Christ is that of a man with a sword. “What do you want your servant to do?” is Joshua’s question. He instantly understand he is not the captain of the Army. You are not your own captain. Make Christ the commander of your battles. They are his battles, not yours. Give your problems to God, they are his, not yours. We are wired to think God is here for us, that he is here to bless our lives and if things don’t go well we wonder what we have done wrong or if God is as powerful and as loving as we are led to believe. That does happen, but first and foremost we are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus, whatever he wants, whatever will bring him glory. Who’s side are you on Joshua says to Jesus. Neither, Jesus says, “I am the General.” Joshua asked the right question, but the wrong person was asking. Jesus is the one that turns the question back to Joshua: Who’s side are you on? Joshua shows us that we need to turn our thinking around. We are here to serve God and to be commanded by him.
Spiritual victory is assured for those who train. Stand strong in Christ and you are assured victory before the battle begins. Look for signs of God’s affirmation. Find strength in God’s faithfulness of what he has already done ~ stories are abundant. God will give you a new and fresh story. The real battle is within ~ give up control of your life and embrace Jesus Christ as the commander of your life. The battle is no longer yours to fight, but the battle belongs to the Lord. Amen.