September 22, 2012 by AJ Briones
Disclaimer: This is a very long write-up I made but I believe that we are going to learn something from it.
With all the stories in the Bible I can stay that there is one particular story or portion that I have been so fascinated about and that would be about the journey to the Promised Land. I believe that most of my readers are aware of what the Promised Land is, so I would not go into the detail of explaining what it is. Maybe if there would be a chance, I’d talk about it. The point is that anything about it really takes my attention, especially when we talk about the Promised Land.
There is very short part of the story of Joshua (the next generation leader of the Israelites) before they entered the land of promise that I have really received much understanding and I believe, that as we read and study this, we will find much more meaning to our travel to the promises God has for us. It can be found on the book of Joshua 5:13-15. You can go on and read it and I would like to share with you my observations:
FIXING THE MIND-SET
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?” Joshua 5:13 (NIV)
It was actually the time when Joshua and the Israelite people were about to make a move towards Jericho and declare their means to take over the land as promised by the Lord. Obviously, if you were an Israelite at that time, you would have a warfare mind-set as Joshua. You were actually in a certain thinking of making strategies and believing that God would make a way in helping you win the military campaign. In his anticipation came something he did not really expect. It was a man with a drawn sword. What would you think if you saw someone like that? I guess you and I would think the same way as Joshua; that the person was geared and ready for extreme warfare based on the vigilant image of a drawn sword. Probably, it was faith that God would provide that Joshua would not hesitate to approach the man with the drawn sword. If I was Joshua, I would be afraid to see someone like that but the thing was that he wasn’t. There was a surge of excitement in him that actually brought him towards to man and made him ask if the man was with them or against them in what he believed to be their battle to claim the promise land. Obviously, Joshua was expecting a yes or no answer and mostly he believed that it was going to be a big YES answer; but there came a big knockout blow to his human common sense and pride.
14“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Joshua 5:14a (NIV)
If I was Joshua I would have had my jaws fall down on the floor. Here I am running to man who I believed would be the winning factor to my war campaign and then the guy would tell me that he was not on my side in the battle. It would be utterly devastating to hear that the Commander of the Lord’s army was not on either side in a battle as such but is it really like that? I believe that there is something much deeper to what the man said that we need to have a deeper understanding to. It was actually an appropriate answer to make. The man simple realigned Joshua’s mind-set.
Most of us, in waiting for God’s promise have really taken the claiming part so intensely. We at often times forget about the ownership of the promise. The question “who made the promise?” is something we all need to learn to come back to. Here’s one way to explain this. You went to a bookstore and bought a very good book that you have your friends read. They would tell you to that they like it but if some of your friends have no idea who was the author, in spite of your effort to buy the book, you would not tell your friend that you were the author. That was what Joshua forgot about. He forgot the author of the promise. It was never his battle in the first place. It was never the battle of the Israelites. It was God’s. “Neither” was not a word that intended to say that the man had nothing to do with the campaign but it was a claim of ownership that it was God’s battle and not of man. Promises are fulfilled by the person who gave the promise, not the one who the promise was given to.
THE CHECKLIST MENTALITY REPLACED BY THE OFF-SANDAL MENTALITY
Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord[a] have for his servant?” Joshua 5:14b (NIV)
Upon having one of Joshua’s mind-sets broken, Joshua came to realize that he was on the wrong side of the scale. He then made an effort to show that he was repentant of his action and that he was really on God’s side. I believe that most of us really do what he does. Everyone is a Martha (Luke 10:38-42) at times. Joshua then asked God for what he will do. Most of us intentionally or unintentionally want to be credited for doing something. Joshua started asking what he can contribute in claiming the victory. He was trying to make a checklist from the Lord of the things he can do but he was again that brought him to another subtle form rebuke.
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. Joshua 5:15 (NIV)
Instead of giving him items to do, the commander of the Lord’s army gave him one specific task and that was to take off his sandals. It was a short thing that he needed to do. It was something he did not event have to list down because it was an immediate command; again, an immediate command. It was Holy ground He stood in. The Lord was there at that very time and Joshua failed to recognize that; but why the sandals? Here’s the thing. Here in the Philippines, we don’t really use our rubber shoes inside our houses. We do that because we believe that the soles of our shoes are already dirty. After all, Philippines streets, sad to admit is quite dirty (except for a few locations of course). The Filipino’s have a mind-set like this, “Who knows where you have set your foot on?” It’s the same on Holy ground. Our sandals represent where we have set foot on. It represents all the dirt of our experiences and wrong decisions. Our sandals talk about where we have come from; and that may be heartbreak, stress, disappointments, anger, grief and a lot of negative experiences. The point that was given to Joshua by the Commander of the Lord’s army was that he needs to stop worrying and let go of everything in the presence of the Lord because in God’s Holy ground He is in control. We have to remember that in waiting for God’s promise, we need to recognize that He is in control. God is the one who gave the promise and He is the one who will accomplish it.
God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through? Numbers 23:19 (NLT)
I know that in claiming God’s promises we tend to forget what it really means to claim. Claiming does not really mean that the authorship or ownership of the promise is ours but it is a declaration that we are going to take stewardship or taking it if it was our own of the promise that was given to us. That means that we will guard our hearts and actions to not ever let ourselves miss the mark in receiving God’s promises for us.
- New International Version 1984 (NIV1984) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- Bow Before Your King by George Salloum – Citipointe Church, Brisbane Podcast September 9, 2012.
- New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
- Bible Hero Posters © http://www.bibleheroposters.com/magento/index.php/joshua-at-jericho/