The Captain Takes Charge Joshua 5B
Stephen Caswell © 1999
John Curtains Policy in World War II.
During World War II when John Curtain was prime minister of Australia, his government formulated a defence policy known as the Brisbane line. If Japan attacked Australia, they would concede the northern part of Australia and only defend the country from Brisbane south. Fortunately the American Government came to Australia's aid. General MacAurthur was the General over the allied forces in the Pacific region. He came to Australia and set up his base of operations here. He changed the previous policy and defended the entire country. He had the authority to do this. He had many American soldiers, airmen and marines under his command. He took control of the situation and exercised his authority. The prime minister of Australia submitted to his will! He was outranked by a superior officer.
Two weeks ago we saw how God prepared the people for the conquest of Canaan. We observed how Consecration came before Conquest. The Lord renewed Israel's spiritual life. He did this through circumcision, the covenant seal, and the Passover, the covenant meal. If Israel was to inherit the land they must be in a right relationship with God. But The Lord still had one more important lesson for Israel to learn before the conquest. This lesson was primarily for Joshua, but it did relate to Israel also.
Joshua 5:13a says this: And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, This indicates that Joshua had left the camp at Gilgal and was surveying the city of Jerciho. Perhaps he was looking for a weakness in the defences of the city. Jerciho was probably the most invincible city in Palestine. As the commander of the Israelite army he felt responsible to devise a plan to conquer the city. He believed he was responsible to lead Israel to victory at Jericho. Joshua had been appointed as Moses' successor. He was their leader and God had given Him this authority. In fact God exalted Joshua before the people and they obeyed him. He was the Captain of the Israelite army and issued commands to the people. This is what prompted him to look at the enemy stronghold. God had commissioned Him for this task.
It was at this time that the Captain of Lord 's army appeared to Joshua. I have called this sermon, The Captain Takes Charge. Joshua learnt three things about his Heavenly Captain.
The first thing was I. His Preparedness
Joshua 5:13 says:And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?
Illustration Of The Gulf War
The Gulf War introduced some highly sophisticated weapons that had never been proven under live battle conditions. Most of the troops hadn't experienced war either. Yet, troops and machinery combined in a display of military conquest unparalleled in history. Thorough preparation proved to be an indispensable element in that overwhelming victory.
The Heavenly Captain Was Prepared For War
In the same way the Captain of the Lord's army was ready for battle. He had His sword drawn ready to strike. This soldier was ready for war and he showed his intentions. Of course Joshua did not realise that He was the Captain of the Lord's army at this time. So Joshua approached Him and asked whose side He was on. This was understandable since Joshua needed to know whether he had to defend himself or not. If this man was from Jericho then Joshua was prepared to fight him. This soldier had certainly made his intentions known to Joshua. The weapons He possessed were awesome. He could use giant hailstones, earthquakes and even cause the sun to stand still. This Captain had more power than any of today's generals, even with their nuclear arsenals.
Joshua wasn't aware that this Captain had come to fight against Jericho. This Captain was ready to destroy the city. His drawn sword shows us that. A similar thing happened in 1 Chronicles 21:16, where the angel of the Lord was going to destroy Jerusalem because of David's sin. Joshua didn't know how to capture the city of Jericho, but the Captain of the Lord's army knew how. In fact He had come to help Joshua who was struggling with that very matter. God had promised to drive out the inhabitants of the land. He didn't expect Israel to conquer Jericho or Canaan on their own. The responsibility for this wasn't Joshua's, but God's. The Lord was willing and prepared to fight for Israel. Joshua needed to look to his Heavenly Captain and seek His help. He was Prepared to fight for them.
The same is true today. God does not expect us to overcome Satan and his temptations on our own. He wants us to look to Him. He is prepared to fight for us. 2 Corinthians 10:3-4 says: For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, and in Ephesians 6:10-11 we read: Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. The Lord will strengthen us for battle and provide the weapons we need.
The Lord wants us to seek His help. Hebrews 4:15-16 says: For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need. He will provide assistance and protection to those who ask for it. He has won the victory over Satan. He can enable us to stand victoriously against Satan's temptations. But we must ask Him for help. We must take up the armour of God. We must strengthen ourselves in the Lord Jesus Christ. Since He is prepared for the battle, good soldiers of Jesus Christ seek His help.
Joshua's Second Lesson was II. His Pre-eminence
The Captain now gave His answer to Joshua. Joshua 14a says this: And he said, Nay; but as Captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. The response of this soldier was amazing. He was no mortal soldier, but the Lord Himself from heaven. In fact this was the Lord Jesus Christ appearing in human form. This is like his appearance to Abraham in Genesis 18. His reply reveals much about Himself and His position of authority.
Firstly His position. He was in charge of the Lord's army. This certainly refers to the elect angels, the heavenly host. They were all under His command and awaited His orders. He gave orders to the heavenly host and was in charge of the assault against Jericho. He had great authority. He was not on Joshua's side. If He was on Joshua's side then Joshua would be able to give Him orders to obey. Neither was He an ally who would fight with Joshua. But the Captain of the Lord's army was above Joshua's rank. He was in complete charge and Joshua was His junior officer. So Joshua was on his side.
If He was Captain of the Lord's army then He also commanded the armies of Israel. This meant that Joshua was not responsible to lead Israel to victory, the Divine Captain was. Exodus 12:51 says: And it came to pass, on that very same day, that the LORD brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt according to their armies. God lead the armies of Israel out of Egypt. He was their Captain! This meant that Joshua was standing before His superior officer, and was subject to His orders. This can be seen in Joshua's response to the Divine Captain. Joshua 14b: And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?
Secondly His Purpose. The fact He had a drawn sword showed His intention to fight for Israel. But it also showed His intention to bring judgement upon the sin of the Amorites which was now full. God would use the Israelites to bring His punishment upon these wicked people. The Lord had brought judgement upon Sodom and Gomorrah for their wickedness.
Once Joshua knew His Heavenly Commander was present he worshipped Him falling on his face. This act of worship shows Joshua's humility before the Lord. He recognised the pre-eminence of this Divine Captain. He asked for His Lord's instructions. These two acts showed Joshua's respect for His commanding officer. It was a very appropriate response before Almighty God. We know that this is God because God alone accepts worship, angels do not. Joshua's Captain was sovereign over all the heavenly hosts. He knew how to capture Jericho and Joshua sought His help. He would obey His commands precisely. This is highlighted by His response, " What does the Lord say to His servant?" Joshua acknowledged the exalted position of the Heavenly Captain by worshipping Him. Joshua recognised His pre-eminence and sought His commands.
Illustration Of Jesus In Garden of Gethsemane
Jesus had been praying to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane when a great multitude came out to arrest Him. There was about five hundred soldiers lead by the religious leaders of the temple. Jesus asked them whom they were seeking? They said Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus said to them, I Am, and the whole company drew back and fell to the ground. Jesus spoke the divine name and His enemies could not stand. He had authority in His name. This was the name God revealed to Moses at the burning bush. Then Peter thought he would protect Christ and cut off the ear of the high priests servant. Jesus healed him and commanded Peter to put his sword away. Jesus told Peter that He could request more than 12 legions of angels from His Father and receive them. Jesus had great power. This Captain of the Lord's army in Joshua chapter 5 is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ appearing before His incarnation.
As believers, we are called to be soldiers of Jesus Christ. He is our Heavenly Captain too, as we read in Hebrews 2:10. Joshua responded firstly in humility by worshipping the Heavenly Captain. He also responded like a servant requesting His Lord's commands. We do well to follow this example. Colossians 1:18: And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. Because Jesus Christ is pre-eminent, He is worthy of our worship and allegiance. Do you humbly come before the Lord in worship? Have you submitted to His rule?
Since Jesus is our Captain we must obey Him. The Lord reveals His commands to us in the Bible. We must study it carefully and obey it completely. Jesus rebuked people who called Him Lord, Lord but did not obey His commands. Do you obey your Heavenly Captain? Paul gave Timothy some advice on how to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 2:3-4 says: Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. Are you enduring hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ? Is your life so busy that you don't have time to serve your captain?
The Future Campaign of the Heavenly Commander
Jesus Christ still commands the heavenly hosts. Some might think that this position is just an honorary one. Some folk think that God loves us so much that He would never judge anyone. He will just turn a blind eye to their sin and let them into heaven. But this couldn't be further from the truth. God loves us so much that He gave His Son to die for us. The horror of Hell is so great that God sent His Son to save us. God's judgement for sin fell upon Jesus Christ. He bore the punishment for our sin. But by faith we must receive His gift of salvation. He will not pardon those who reject His Son. God will bring judgement upon them like He did to the people of Jericho, like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. In fact Jesus Christ will command the armies of heaven when He returns to the earth to execute judgement. Revelation 19:11-16, 19-21 says this:
And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS. And I saw the beast, and the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against him that sat on the horse, and against his army. And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that wrought miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the remnant were slain with the sword of him that sat upon the horse, which sword proceeded out of his mouth: and all the fowls were filled with their flesh. Whose side will you be on when the Heavenly Captain returns?
Joshua had just worshipped the Lord and pledged obedience to His commands. I am sure he thought that God would now reveal how to capture Jericho. But the Lord still had one more lesson for Joshua to learn before revealing His plans for the capture of Jericho.
Joshua's third lesson was III. His Purity
Joshua 5:15 says: And the Captain of the LORD'S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.
Illustration of Standing Before the King
If you received an invitation from the King or Queen to come to the palace and meet them ,I am sure you would be excited. This is a very great honour. Their position of power and rule causes us to be somewhat in awe. I am sure that you would get out your best suit and have it dry cleaned and pressed. You would polish your shoes and have your hair cut for the occasion. You do all these things because you respect them and want to make a good impression. In days gone by you obeyed their commands carefully. The king had authority to kill whoever they desired to. You wouldn't dare go to the palace in your football shorts and dirty sneakers. That would be totally inappropriate. Their position of authority demands our respect.
Coming Into God's Presence
The same should be true when we come into God's presence. We need to prepare ourselves by removing all that is unclean. Joshua was told to take off his sandals. Why did God command this? The answer is given in the text, because he was standing on holy ground. Considering they were standing on ground in the vicinity of Jericho, this statement seems strange, don't you think? After all Jericho was a wicked city, and doomed to destruction. So what made this ground holy? Had it always been holy? No! The Lord was standing on the ground and that's what made it holy now. Because the Lord is holy, His presence there made the ground holy also. The word holy means to be set apart for God's use. Joshua needed to take off his sandals because they would have been dusty and dirty. They were unclean. God is holy and must be reverenced. The Lord said the same thing to Moses at the burning bush.
Joshua obeyed His Heavenly Captain and gave Him the reverence He is worthy of. He offered worship and respect for one who was pure and holy. By doing these things Joshua acknowledged that this battle and in fact the entire campaign for Canaan was the Lord's battle and he was merely God's servant. I am sure that he was encouraged to know that he did not bear the responsibility of leadership alone. The conquest for Canaan was God's conflict. He would lead Israel to victory. He was Prepared to fight for Israel and wanted them to look to Him. He is Preeminent ruling over all the heavenly hosts and Israel. They must worship and obey Him. But the divine Captain is also Pure and must be reverenced. At the beginning of the conquest for Canaan, Joshua let the Heavenly Captain take complete charge. He would be faithful and simply follow His orders.
It is interesting that the Lord sought worship before warfare. He wanted Joshua to look to Him and have His focus in the right place. With these priorities sorted out, the Divine Captain now revealed to Joshua His plans for Jericho's conquest in chapter 6.
The same is true today. We are always in a hurry to begin a ministry or commence some new work. Like Joshua we need to get our priorities straight first. The Lord is more interested in reaching the lost than we will ever be. It is very easy for us to take the Lord for granted and expect Him to bless our service. Do you reverence the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you show Him respect when you come into His presence in prayer? He is holy and we must remove all uncleanness when we come before Him. Let us lay aside all sin and impurity and come humbly before Him. First let us worship at His feet before we ask for His Divine Help.
Joshua learnt that worship, reverence and obedience were needed before God would reveal His plans for victory. We too must respect the Lord and seek His guidance and assistance before we begin. The Lord is our Divine Captain and we must follow Him. In all we do we must seek His assistance and guidance first. For then our priorities will be kept in right perspective and we will be successful.
1. God is Prepared to Help us. So we should seek Him.
II. God is Pre-eminent. So we should worship and obey Him.
III. God is Pure. So we should reverence and respect Him.
I trust that you will seek your Heavenly Captain's assistance first in all that you do.
Benediction - To be sung from Overhead Transparency Jude 24-25