Joshua was near Jericho when a man approached him with a drawn sword. If the man was about peace, he wouldn’t have his sword drawn.
Immediately Joshua tries to identify the stranger.
“Are you for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” He replied. “I have now come as commander of the LORD’s army” (v. 13-14).
At this, Joshua recognized there was something heavenly about him. That he was either a high angel or perhaps a form of Christ himself. So he bowed with his face to the ground in worship.
“What does my Lord want to say to His servant?”
The commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so (vv. 14-15).
And that’s it. That’s all we know happened in this dramatic encounter. This lends itself to 4 curiosities:
- It’s reminscent of Moses and the burning bush where the Lord told Moses to remove his sandals, as the place where he was standing is holy ground” (Ex 3:5).
- The stranger says he is “commander of the LORD’s army” which would be Israel. Yet in an enigmatic way when asked whether he was for Israel or for their enemies, the heavenly person said, “Neither.” Which is strange as we would expect him to say, “For Israel, the people of God!”
.His sword was
- Why was this place where they were standing outside of Jericho holy to the Lord?
- Why was his sword drawn if he was not on the side of either one of them? To draw a sword is to take a side typically.
What Perhaps We can Learn
There are perhaps some things we can learn. But we don’t know for certain why this text is here r what it means. But we can glean from it this.
1) Joshua was not the leader, the LORD was. It’s easy to forget this when we’re in battles.
2) The Lord isn’t the kind of God who takes sides. In the US it’s like saying, “God, are you Republican or Democrat?” “God, are you for Trump or against him?” God doesn’t think or act in that way. “Neither” the commander of the Lord’s Army says.
3) When Joshua bowed and worshiped, as well as removed his sandals, he was submitting himself to that which was greater than him. Being a leader is always about being submitted. In fact, the Navy Seals teach that you can never be a leader unless you first learn to be a follower. It’s true of everyone. We all are to submit to God. We’re not in charge.
It definitely is an unusual encounter. It was a divine moment like Moses had, and a moment with the sign of the drawn sword that the Lord was with Joshua, even though he isn’t a “side-taking” kind of God. I’m sure it was a source of encouragement for this new leader. Because he was going to need it. Only the Lord was going to be able to establish their place in the land.