Summary: Jesus met Joshua and proved Himself as our eternal and sufficient help.
"Captain of the Lord’s Hosts"
We will deal with four things in this story: the problem facing Joshua, who is this "man," what is the meaning of his title, and His answer to Joshua.
Use your imagination with me for a moment. The year is approximately B.C. 1450. Joshua has "went for a walk." He wants to be alone. As he walks perhaps he is attempting to collect his thoughts or gather his bearings. Maybe he isn’t just "hammering out" tomorrow’s battle strategies, but perhaps he is also thinking of the recent chain of events.
It is true, he is facing an incredible fortress. The walls that surrounded Jericho were double walls, thirty feet high. The outer wall was six feet thick and the inner wall was twelve feet thick. They were reinforced every so often by connecting walls between them. Some believe that there were cauldrons atop the walls so that in event of attack, when an army broke through the first wall and found themselves trapped inside a square of walls, boiling oil was poured on them from the cauldrons above.
It is possible that Joshua is remembering the evil report of the ten spies forty years earlier when they said, "the cities are walled, and very great." (Num. 13:28)
You have probably noticed that the "Jericho’s" of our lives come, not when things have been laid-back with plenty of time for forethought and preparation. All too often some of our toughest battles come when the days are full. Joshua had been very busy. Look at some of the recent events he might have had on his mind as he walked:
In Deuteronomy 34, Moses died leaving Joshua without a great friend and leader. This placed him in the position of authority over the great company of people.
Joshua had sent two spies to survey this city of Jericho. They had returned with their report.
Israel had crossed the Jordan river at flood-stage on dry ground. (3:15-4:19)
The Lord had instructed them to reinstate the circumcision. (5:2-9)
They had celebrated the Passover for the first time in the new land "in the plains of Jericho." (5:10)
They had eaten of Canaan’s corn and "the manna ceased" the next day. (5:12)
And here stands Jericho, the first city to battle, it represents an insurmountable obstacle in Israel’s path.
Now it’s evening, and Joshua meditates on all theses things, maybe wondering where to dispatch Caleb and his troops, and Salmon and his troops - the others.. He might be worried about how many lives will be lost. Maybe he’s trying to encourage himself, "God said we would subdue the land..."
Suddenly he realizes he is not alone! (Imagine further with me.)
Just maybe one of his soldiers saw him leave the camp - and thinking his too valuable of a man to lose, decided to keep an eye on him... and just maybe this soldier saw Joshua over "by Jericho" as he bent to remove his shoes and place his face to the ground in worship! "What is he doing?!" "Is Joshua surrendering to Jericho?!" "Quick, someone get Caleb!"
Well, maybe none of it happened that way. But you and I have the record of what took place from here -
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?" 14 "Neither," he replied, "but as 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?" 15 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. (Josh. 5:13-15)
Who Is This Man?
The first question we need to answer is the same question Joshua was asking, the same one our imaginary soldier would have been asking had he seen this event transpiring - "Who is this man?"
Old Testament Christology identifies Him as Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.
Alton Garrison tells the story of Jesus entering Abraham’s bosom after the crucifixion. It may not be very factual, but it illustrates how Jesus showed up in the Old Testament. According to the evangelist, Jesus enters the chamber unrecognized... some of the Old Testament saints had been there for years. They spent their days encouraging one another with prolonged testimony services while they awaited the anticipated arrival of their Deliverer.
Moses would say, "Take heart my brothers. I wrote to you that He would come and bruise the serpent’s head. (Gen. 3:15) I also wrote, "The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him." (Dt. 18:15) So hang on. He’s coming!"