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Our Great Commander

And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so. Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. And the Lord said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor” (Joshua 5:13–6:2).

We fight many battles in life—financial, physical, emotional, and spiritual. How can we be victorious in these struggles, especially when the odds against us seem overpowering?

Conquering the Promised Land was an enormous mission. Forty years earlier, the Israelites lamented, “The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. . . . We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them” (Numbers 13:32-33 NIV). The doubters accurately observed that the Canaanites were bigger and stronger. Yet, in spite of these obstacles, Joshua and Caleb were ready to enter into Canaan, trusting the Lord to give them the land as He promised. Disbelief and rebellion on the part of the majority resulted in a detour that lasted four decades.

With seemingly insurmountable obstacles ahead, Joshua and the people of Israel set out to face the first Canaanite stronghold:  Jericho. As Joshua ponders the daunting fortifications, a Man suddenly appears with His sword drawn. Joshua responds with a challenge, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” The Man answers, “No.” As He speaks, Joshua falls on his face to worship Him. Why? Because the Commander of the army of the Lord is the Lord Himself!

Coming face-to-face with the Lord, especially with His sword drawn, is a harrowing experience for Joshua. The Lord’s holiness reminds us that we are flawed and sinful, and His sword bespeaks the judgment we deserve. Yet, the Lord beckons Joshua to stand up with confidence, as He has marvelous plans for the battle ahead.

Joshua’s army lacked the power and the means to take the city, but the Lord promised to give Jericho, its king, and its mighty men of valor into his hand.

The Lord drew His sword not to terrify Joshua but to assure him of the victory that awaits him—true for all who trust in the Lord. What joy and peace He gives when He stands before us, ready to save us from seemingly insurmountable obstacles!

The same Lord who often took the form of man in the Old Testament ultimately became fully incarnate to win for us the greatest victory of all. As Commander of the Lord’s army, He could have called on more than twelve legions of angels to assist Him, but He went forth alone. Shortly before He was betrayed, He said, “. . . for their [His disciples’]sakes I sanctify Myself” (John 17:19). He set Himself apart. The great Commander, the One who commanded men like Moses and Joshua to take off their sandals before Him, humbly placed Himself into the hands of His own enemies to take on sin, death, and the devil—ultimately defeating all three and winning everlasting victory!

He came to do what you and I can never do for ourselves—win the victory of our salvation!

Delwyn Maas is pastor of Gift of God Lutheran Church in Mapleton, North Dakota.