A Brief Encounter

17 01 2014

“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? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant? 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.” (Joshua 5:13-15)

 

I was reading this in my personal worship the other day and was struck by some interesting lessons in these short few verses that apply to us today. When Joshua looked he saw a man standing with a drawn sword in his hand. The man obviously is a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus this is evident by the fact that Joshua bowed and worshipped and the man did not refuse the worship. Angels, that is elect angels always refuse worship as we see in Revelation 22:8-9, “And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.” Let’s look at a few lessons we can learn from these verses.

1. God is for God:

Joshua at first didn’t understand who he was seeing and he asked the man if He were for the children of Israel or for their enemies. The man gave an interesting answer He said, “Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come.” This is our first lesson from this passage. We often get into a crusade and then assume God is for us. If we fail then we sometimes attribute it to His being against us. We need to realize that God is not necessarily for us or for our enemies. God is for God. His own glory and satisfaction is His ultimate end. The burden is not for God to be on our side but for us to be on God’s side. God wasn’t for the children of Israel in this passage any more then He was against them in chapter 7 against AI.

God was for Himself in both instances, the only difference is that the children of Israel were only on His side in one instance. We see here the children of Israel ready for battle as well as the unseen angelic host that fought for them as well. We see then Jesus as captain and leader of both. He was there to fulfill God’s divine plan. We need to stop waging our own battles and then asking whether God is with us or our “perceived enemy.” We need to ask are we in His battle? Are we fulfilling His will or our own?

2. The mystery of conviction:

At this point Joshua realizes the man he is talking to is divine and not mere man. We are not told what gives him this realization which gives us an apt comparison to our own realization of who Christ is. I don’t know what it is that convinces people of their sinfulness or of Chrit’s divine nature simply by proclaiming the Gospel. We often can’t explain such moving of God. Jesus told Nicodemus, ” The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8) Just as we can’t see the wind but only it’s effects, so it is with the realization of God’s nature and person. We cannot see how God saves, changes, or convinces people but we see the effects of this just as we do with Joshua.

This is our second lesson from these verses. We need to stop trying to convince people in our own strength of the truth of God. We are to boldly and without compromise proclaim the truth of salvation by faith alone and allow God’s Spirit to work as He will in the hearts of the hearers. Joshua became convinced of the divine nature of the captain of the host. We often spend needless hours i debate and argument when its all unnecessary. God needs no defense from us. He will convince men of His nature if only we are faithful to our place in the battle.

3. Worship is on God’s terms:

When Joshua realized in whose presence he was standing the Bible says he fell down and worshiped. We might look at this reaction and say, “well good for him. That’s the right reaction.” I agree worship is the right reaction to a personal encounter with the divine One but look at what the Lord 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.”  We live in a day in Christianity when we say that anything goes. Worship as you want, do what feels good. We are being taught that any worship is fine and all that God cares about is that we are worshiping but we see a very different perspective in this encounter.

The Lord actually corrects Joshua in the midst of his worship. He reminds him that His presence was holy and that Joshua could not simply stand in His presence with the filth of his shoes on his feet. One thing is for sure the presence of God is holy. The holiness of God is not stressed fully in churches today because we want to uplift man and tell ourselves that we are not really that bad. People often try to worship the Lord with unconfessed sin in their hearts. With bitterness, and unforgiveness. These are not acceptable ways to worship God. We must remove the filth of our sinfulness to stand in the presence of a holy God. This is why I believe personal worship is so important. If we worship alone with God daily we can keep our selves cleansed and enter public worship in good conscience.

When it comes to the worship of the one true and holy God we must reject the idea that anything goes as long as you worship. Here Joshua was corrected in his worship. We must worship on His terms, and in His ways. We must have a reverence for God that would move us to take off the filth of our sins daily, and worship in His presence. Sin must never be tolerated in the life of the church or in the life of the believer. We must also reject worship simply because it’s more comfortable for us. It was probably more comfortable for Joshua to keep his shoes on but God calls us to worship Him on His terms whether or not those terms are the most comfortable for us.

 

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