Summary: Joshua, Pt 4
THE BATTLE IS THE LORD’S (JOSHUA 5:13-6:5)
Once upon a time, there was an officer of the Royal Navy named Captain Bravado who showed no fear when facing his enemies. One day, while sailing the Seven Seas, his lookout spotted a pirate ship approaching, and the crew became frantic. Captain Bravado bellowed, “Bring me my red shirt!”
The first mate quickly retrieved the captain’s red shirt, and while wearing the brightly colored frock, the Captain led his crew into battle and defeated the mighty pirates. That evening, all the men sat around on deck recounting the triumph of earlier. One of them asked the Captain, “Sir, why did you call for your red shirt before battle?”
The Captain replied, “If I were to be wounded in the attack, the shirt would not show my blood. Thus, you men would continue to fight, unafraid.” All of the men sat and marveled at the courage of such a manly man’s man. As dawn came the next morning, the lookout spotted not one, not two, but TEN pirate ships approaching. The crew stared in worshipful silence at the Captain and waited for his usual orders.
Captain Bravado gazed with steely eyes upon the vast armada arrayed against his ship, and without fear, turned and calmly shouted, “Get me my brown pants (for peeing).”
Joshua had his work cut out for him. Jericho was Joshua’ first real battle since his appointment as the leader of the next generation of Israelites. So far, he had successfully commanded all tribes to enlist for battle (Josh 1:10-12), obtained a convincing spy report on Jericho and led Israel safely across Jordan River. Now the general was up against a wall, literally. As long as the gates were shut, no battle was possible. What should he command his army to do? Storm the gates, scale the walls or severe the supplies? What message did the Lord send to Joshua by visiting him at the brink of war, guaranteeing him victory in the fight and safeguarding the lives of all the Israelites?
What kind of soldiers and supplies do we need? What kind of war do we face and what sort weapons do we have? What is utmost important to know in a spiritual battle?
God is the Rightful Commander
13 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)
One of the most renowned Chinese fables is the story of the fox’s impersonation of a tiger’s might. One day a hungry tiger caught a fox for lunch in the forest, but the fox howled, “You cannot eat me. Heaven has appointed me the king of the jungle. If you don’t believe me, follow me around and see how the jungle creatures fear my presence.”
The tiger took the fox’s challenge and followed closely the fox that was leading the way, so as to observe the animals’ movements in the presence of the fox. Of course the animals scampered for their lives upon seeing the tiger. Seeing the dramatic reaction of the creatures indeed surprised the tiger who did not realize that his presence was the sole cause and only reason for the commotion and flight.
The fox took the opportunity to say: “Didn’t I tell you they fear me?” The tiger acknowledged, “You truly have influence in the forest. Everyone fled at your presence!” The tiger then stuck to his agreement and let the fox go, not wanting to harm such a popular and central forest figure.
Like people God had chosen for a task so far – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses, Joshua’s understanding of God was inadequate, incomplete and imperfect. He had a warrior mentality, a hero complex and a general’s bravado. His thoughts were fixated on clearing all obstacles, crushing the opposition and advancing his troops. The outcome of this “win at all cost” state of mind and way of thinking was that a stranger was either a recruit or an enemy to him. He was ready for combat but he could not differentiate if a man was from his camp or from the opposite camp or the heavenly camp. It did not occur to him that an enemy would have already attacked him instead of answering questions, that God made the first move to approach him even though it seemed like Joshua came near and that he was to speak only when he was spoken to.