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Summary: The Bible tells us that God is "for us", but here the Commander of the LORD’S army tells Joshua he isn’t on their side in the conflict. What’s going on?


I may never march in the infantry,

Ride in the cavalry, Shoot the artillery.

I may never fly o’er the enemy, But I’m in the Lord’s army. Yes, sir!

I’m in the Lord’s army, yes, sir! I’m in the Lord’s army, yes, sir!

I may never march in the infantry,

Ride in the cavalry, Shoot the artillery.

I may never fly o’er the enemy, But I’m in the Lord’s army. Yes, sir!

ILLUS: Several years back, a major denomination decided there were hymns which were too militaristic for their taste - and they set about removing them from their hymnals.

They deleted songs like “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” - and I’m pretty sure “I’m in the Lord’s Army” wouldn’t have made the cut either.

Their decision created such an uproar that the denominational leaders later relented and put the songs back in their hymnals.

But, in researching this sermon, I encountered several websites where priests and preachers still reject those hymns.

Despite the hostility that some have toward military terminology in a church setting, the New Testament is loaded with such language.

Paul declared: “I have fought the good fight...” 2 Timothy 4:7

He said that he had stood up for Christ “in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left” 2 Corinthians 6:7

He advised Timothy to “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs— he wants to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2:3-4

And we’re told to “… put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13

And then there’s the passage out of Revelation where we have a powerful picture of Jesus. Turn with me to Revelation 19:11-16 as we read about what John describes:

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.

He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.

Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

The Bible unapologetically uses militaristic words to describe God and His people. And - as Christians - we are literally “in the Lord’s Army”

In today’s text we read a story that practically every child in Sunday School and church camp has heard. In fact there’s an old Spiritual that declares “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho”. Many of us grew up singing it as children

(SING IT) “Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho.

Joshua fit the battle of Jericho and the walls came a tumbling down.”

What many may not realize is that this same story (about the fall of Jericho) probably served as inspiration for the song we started out this sermon with: “I’m in the Lord’s Army”.

Here’s the setting:

Israel has been out in the desert for 40 years, and has finally come to the Promised Land. God instructs Joshua to have the ark go before the people as they prepare to cross the Jordan river. As the feet of the priests, who were carrying the ark, touch the waters of the Jordan, the water simply ceases to flow and the people cross the river on dry ground – much as their ancestors had crossed the Red Sea 40 years before.

They are now camped in the shadow of the walls of Jericho and Joshua is facing the task of leading God’s people in taking the Promised Land.

But there’s a problem:

Israel has come to take the land of Canaan… and the people of who live there have no intention of just handing it over. The Canaanites are going to fight to keep what they have.

There are giants in the land, and the cities are strong and fortified. And perhaps the most fortified of all the cities of Canaan is Jericho.

Joshua has gone off by himself – probably to pray and seek God’s guidance – and in chapter 5:13 we’re told “he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand.”

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