Joshua 5:13-14 And Christians Taking Sides
Posted by Job on November 11, 2008
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?
The man that Joshua encountered in Joshua 5:13-14 was the pre – incarnate Jesus Christ. It could not have been an angel, for angels are not allowed to accept worship, and this man clearly did. Please note: there is not one instance of men worshiping angels in the Bible. The one instance where a man attempted to worship an angel, the angel would not allow it or receive it.
So, then, this is the question. When Joshua (unknowingly at least initially) asked Jesus Christ “whose side are you on” to paraphrase, Jesus Christ said “neither.” How can God say that? Were these not God’s people? Was not God fighting on their side? Did not God take them up out of Egypt and deliver for them the promised land? Is this an example of an inconsistency in the Bible, or where the Trinity is divided against itself?
Simply, no. In replying “neither”, Jesus Christ did not provide a complete answer to Joshua’s question, but rather answered the question that Joshua THOUGHT he was asking of Him. Joshua did not presume himself to be asking the eternal Creator and Ruler of heaven and earth Israel’s place in His divine providence. Rather, Joshua saw a man with a sword, felt that He had to be a human soldier in a human army, and was asking “when we meet the people of Canaan on the field of battle sometime in the very near future, will you be fighting in their army or in ours?” (Curious that from His earthly appearance, Joshua identified nothing unusual about Jesus Christ as He appeared to them. Jesus Christ apparently LOOKED as if He could have been either Israelite or Canaanite in this instance, meaning that He appeared to Joshua visually resembling a person of Semitic or ancient near eastern stock, just as He did later in His incarnation as the natural child of the Semite Mary. Take from that what you will.) So it was to that question and in that context, Jesus Christ answered “neither” and then revealed His true identity, whereupon Joshua immediately worshipped Him.
And it was an appropriate answer. God is a Spirit. So, it was not appropriate for Him to simply join Israel’s army and fight as a soldier, even if He had been in place of Joshua as the leader and general. Being a holy high and lifted up Spirit, God works in spiritual ways, not according to the physical or the flesh. Even when Jesus Christ took on humiliation, utterly condescending Himself to become a mere fully human being via incarnation rather than merely appearing as one, He did not work according to the flesh. He did not defeat the Roman Empire, the corrupt Jewish leaders, or any of the wicked worldly systems by raising an army and going to battle, and upon victory set Himself up on a human throne. That is precisely what the people waiting for the Messiah were expecting, and they would have followed Him had He done so. (Incidentally, this was precisely the sort of human conquest in the natural realm that Satan offered Jesus Christ in the desert temptation.)
Instead, Jesus Christ defeated the rulers – and ultimately the ruler – of this world by going to the cross to pay for its sins. It was an utterly, completely spiritual battle and victory, not a human one. So when asked to pick sides between the current order and be a loyal subject of the Roman Empire and the Jewish state therein, or join with the rebels and be their political – military leader, Jesus Christ, acting as the Jewish Messiah and King of the Jews in that time just as He came to deliver instructions to Joshua in Joshua’s time said “Nay. I come to do the Will of the God the Father” and went to be crucified, die, and be resurrected. Jesus Christ did have to labor, struggle and overcome. That was in Gethsemane. But after He had suffered those things, He submitted to the Father and chose victory of the spiritual by the spirit instead of victory in the natural by the natural.
As Jesus Christ is our role model, we are to do so likewise. We are to heed Ephesians 6:11-13, which states
“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
Now do not be deceived by the fact that Joshua was still a man working in the natural realm who had to go out and fight a human enemy with a human army using natural weapons. It was still a spiritual battle for Joshua because he was fighting according to the Lord’s instructions. By virtue of his following God’s instructions, God was on his side. That made the battle spiritual. This made victory inevitable. Had he fought apart from the will of God, outside of God’s grace and favor, it would have been a natural battle for whom the outcome would have been in dispute and very likely would have resulted in the better armed and situated Canaanites winning! So in a spiritual sense, God did fight on the side of Israel, and God did prevail for them. But only because Joshua and the Israelites obeyed. Later, when Israel disobeyed in the case of Achan, they went out in battle and lost.
Also, not only did Achan sin, but in addition Israel got a bit arrogant. They did not even consult the Lord before they went up against Ai. As we see in Joshua 7:2-3, they said “Hey, these people are easy pickings! We can just send a few soldiers, go and take it! Easy as pie!” So even apart from Achan, they were beginning to believe in and trust in their own strength. They were beginning to push God to the side and to the back of their minds already. Now had Ai been this huge well defended nation, they almost certainly would have sought God from the outset. But because the fight seemed to be so easy, they took on the attitude “that is OK, God. We don’t need you now. We can handle this ourselves in the natural, in the flesh. We only need to get spiritual for the big things, the crisis times. For everything else, we can rely on our intelligence, our banks, our educations, our churches and religious systems, our values and culture, our militaries with their weapons of mass destruction.” But they found out that it wasn’t true, didn’t they? They discovered that without the favor of God they were NOTHING and that their notions of being self – sufficient and self – reliant because of whatever virtue that existed in their flesh were LIES.
So just as Jesus Christ fought a spiritual battle by submitting to the Father’s will and going to the cross, Joshua fought a spiritual battle by obeying the commands of Jesus Christ. Victory was inevitable in both cases, just as victory is inevitable for the obedient Christian. Instead of relying on the natural and trying to do things ourselves, we need to be supernatural and do things God’s way. We need to always walk in God’s grace and favor by always being obedient. In order to do this, we need to know what God’s commands are, so we need to read our Bibles. We need to have the strength to choose good over evil, so we need to pray without ceasing and often fast, praise, and worship. And we also need wisdom, which according to the Bible is developed by good works. That way, when we are urged to pick sides in a natural fight between two more more parties, we can say “Nay.” After all, why do we feel the need to pick sides all the time in every single battle anyway? Why are we so intent on being partial? If we are to be partial with our own desires and interests on the line, how can we be the mediators that the world so badly needs for peace and order?
That is one of the reasons why we are to remember that we are sojourners. We are in this world but not of it, and we are preparing, running a race, to be taken out of it. We are like the Levites, whom God called the firstborn, and gave no inheritance because HE was their inheritance. If we have a stake in the world, we forget or ignore that we are supposed to be spiritual people with our minds on eternity in favor of temporal people with their minds on the here and now, often trying to weigh and discern and choose for ourselves whether to put on one form of corruption of the flesh for another. Even if we choose a just and righteous cause to side on by wisdom, that is not a proper use of the wisdom that God gave us. (King Solomon proves that it is possible to misuse wisdom, just as Samson, Saul and the various judges showed that it is possible to be called and empowered by God and still act very unwisely.) If we choose a just cause and try to serve it in the flesh out of our faithlessness or disobedience, it makes our service even in pursuit of the righteous cause in vain. The kingdom of God is only advanced when when we are obedient so that we fight God’s battles God’s way. The reason is that it is only when we fight God’s battle God’s way that God Himself is actually doing the fighting, and that is the only way that the victory is to the glory of God.
So Christian, do not pick sides in the natural just because “everyone has to pick a side.” Instead, abide in Christ Jesus always. Follow in Christ Jesus’ ways and walk in His path. Both in His appearance to Joshua on the plains and when He went to the cross, Jesus Christ already showed us the way.