It is difficult for a nation when one president leaves and another steps in. Even when it goes smoothly. Whether it be a king or any change of leader. It can be clean and swift, a coup d’état or a nightmare. Power will shift in the rank and file, not just in the top leadership. This book is reflective of that. There are land assignments and military conquests and genealogy notes. Who would have ever thought Rahab would become part of the victory crew? Or her children the future relatives of Jesus?
In our generation we can see all these things with a front seat view. We have the republicanites and the democratites and the monarchites, with great variation. Our hearts get swayed through emotion, shared history and the possibility of financial changes. In modern times we have dueling tribes and family clans also, not safe enough to mention here. Back in the day the old- time saints would sing, “whose side are you leaning on?” New to this song, I was not sure if it meant a theological issue or battle over new carpet in the sanctuary.
I remember as a child reading Dr. Seuss’ book The Sneetches and getting a clear understanding of most of life. It was good preparation for current culture. Now there are so many options for sides there is no majority, not even for those who are blue or red. So how can this help us today? Joshua, and all those being human at any time—are all subject to jealousy, sides, power mongering and pride. It is literally in our DNA.
One of my favorite leaders recently shared a sermon contrasting disobedient Eve with obedient Mary. My sanctified imagination wondered all week–what was her excuse? Eve, I mean. There was no peer pressure, no culture war, no nightly news to sway her. No, even her amazing garden savvy, nature-loving husband could not be blamed. Her internal pressure or “level” was set correctly. So was his. Truthfully, she could not even blame the slithering enemy in the garden because she was forewarned.
As tempting as it is, I will leave politics aside and get to the core of my point. She talked with the enemy and her husband threw her under the bus, but God lets her know that she disobeyed Him. In contrast, Mary said, “Be it unto me according to Your word” and then birthed the second Adam–the Christ. Powerful comparison. Instead of taking sides, both were cast out of paradise. God’s side counts.
In Joshua’s day, Moses, the “Make Israel great again” guy has failed, then he died. The people are in a new location, they have a new set of rules, a promise and most everyone has forgotten the trip and its meaning coming out of Egypt. Then, a new guy shows up. Even though Joshua gets this book named after him, he is not the hero. Spoiler alert. This “warrior” is the one who saves the day.
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?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as Commander of the Army of the Lord, I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” Joshua 5:14
Even though Joshua tried to side with this warrior, a ploy, the warrior does not yield but continues to pull Joshua out of the side mentality and directs him to look up where the real battle is being fought and the real Commander is in control. Whose side was this warrior on? Neither.
The Canaanites were blocking the plans and progress of the people of Israel. They were supposed to rid them from the land. To receive the promise of land they had to deal with each of these groups. We see that the ites and the people of God are not mutually exclusive. Sometimes the ites are them and sometimes the “ites” are us. Sadly, the church at large often looks like the world and sometimes the people in the streets look more like Jesus. God does not play favorites or take sides. He commands that we take His side.
No individual has a corner on God’s market. While He favors and loves those who delight in Him, He still sent His son, only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting life. Why? For God so loved the whole world. That person down the street we disagree with could believe in the next five minutes and now you have a brother. That machete-wielding woman who ticked you off could, right in this millisecond turn to Him and you would have a new sister. We do not know where anyone is on the spectrum of God’s grace. We need to tread lightly on why we are righteous, and “they” are not. They will come in at various levels of faith and we do not get to determine that. God is not our special circus monkey or interest group delegate–He is sovereign and He’s God and thank heavens not on any group’s side. The name Sovereign makes that clear.
Does that mean all these “others” are o.k. with God? Poor, rich, educated, not educated? Android or iPhone user? Even the ones who wear tie-dye shirts or voted for so and so? Humility is not milk -toast people being quiet, it is people who know God is in control and the Boss. God’s criteria has always been different than those in organized religion. Before people start writing me, let me emphasize that God draws, saves and cleans each individual. They are His workmanship, created for His glory. Even the ones that do not look like us or look like someone we would disagree with in our community. If the believers of the last generation had taken this stance, perhaps our world would not be vying for place or identity. This is our Father’s world.
When He does draw someone close, this is what that looks like:
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.
Note there is no debate here. God’s warrior lets Joshua experience what Moses had with God. He is holy. Yes, its true God is Sovereign and does not take sides, but His kingdom is preeminent and will not cater or sway to anyone’s personal belief or opinion. God’s presence makes everything holy. That is God’s criteria, not any specific churches. The disciples’ prayer “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy Name, Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven” reminds me of the warrior in this story. Military people understand the importance of walking in cadence with the Commander. The warrior today has left us the Holy Spirit to walk alongside us and represent the Kingdom.
Victory outside of looking to God and obeying Him, does not end well as the Israelites found out in this book. They had to take a beat, remember the instructions, then get back on track. The things God wanted to root out of the “ites,” and our lives as well, were immorality and murder–specifically child sacrifice. See Lev. 18 and Deut. 12 for more information.
My son was on the football team last fall. I was nervous and not sure how to navigate in this arena. It was literally “new territory.” Uniforms, schedules, grass stains, new smells, equipment, and passionate parents jolted me into a whole new world. I accidentally cheered for the other side, sat on the wrong bleachers. Ugh! Clearly, football was not my forte–but I meant well. There were some grumpy students that made a couple of the games tense. One day after other attempts at peace had failed, a seasoned gospel- type grandma came to the bleachers and when the kids started heckling people, she got her tough face on and let them know Jesus would not be o.k. with that and much to my surprise everyone simmered on down. It was beautiful. Nonsense was not tolerated for either side and she made it clear who was boss. I was able to see boldness in action! Oh my and oh yes! No one misunderstood what she said. A warrior stood up inside that precious saint.
Whose side are you on this political season? What pastor are you for in this revival? Oops. . . . It stings when the lesson comes off the page and into our hearts, doesn’t it? What neighbor or parent is right? Whose side are you leaning on? Be like Joshua’s warrior friend–neither. I am leaning on the Lord’s side. His response? Worship. Wise man. The NIV calls it reverence but both would fit this passage nicely.
The throne is not empty today. The office has not been evacuated. God is clearly, still ON HIS THRONE, active, unchanging, limitless, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, ruling, reigning, guiding, sovereign, holy, active, merciful, compassionate. THAT commander is the leader of not just my and your battles but ALL battles and the Final battle. His word says God WINS.
We know that but how do we live that day to day? Do those words still apply now? Just because one leader does great like Moses getting them out of Egypt, how do they trust the new guy, Joshua? What if Moses was a one-time anomaly? The Red Sea was cool, right? Joshua comes along and God does a “redo” of sorts for the children of those who saw but failed to remember or repeat. Now we are talking pattern. The theology of these two were the same–same God. It begs the question–so is this repeatable? We follow, we ask, we obey, God moves and shows up. It is more than a leader doing well– it is an eternal promise. Well, that is a whole different playing field. If He did it once, God is capable of doing it again. Remember, repeat. Whole heart, whole devotion.
Joshua tells the people in 1:8-9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” I used to think this was a “go guys” type cheer. It is so much more. Let’s break it down.
Have I not commanded you–This is the Lord speaking to Moses. It is authoritative. When God speaks–worlds are formed, light, stars, oceans. His word carries the most weight in our lives. It is not a suggestion or self-help tip. It is one of the strongest verbs commanding the people then and the people now.
Strong and courageous. Both are imperatives. Imperatives are orders given directly to a person that absolutely must be carried out–it’s essential. Strong means to prevail, to be firm, secure, and be resolute. Courageous is to be bold, alert, and brave. These words are printed in the book of Joshua. They have been there a long time. It is the word of God. Even in our own strength and courage, if we are not following the Commander’s orders we can get in trouble, if we are posturing for our side, our party, our family, or our church. We must posture ourselves under this commander–the Host of the Lord’s army. If we doubt this word is for us or for today, read the verse before it:
This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; but you shall meditate therein day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall have good success. Joshua 9:8
Here we see that God describes to Joshua how to have success. To their demise, they ignore it and must be pulled back to repeat and remember it and then go forward again. Many Christians today are only halfback or quarter Christians. We read a fourth of a chapter one time a day or week. The battle plan, the soldier’s due diligence, according to the Lord through Joshua is to meditate (Ponder, imagine, mutter, study, talk) on the word day AND night.
“Fill my cup three quarters full Lord, I lift it barely up Lord, come and partially quench this thirsting of my soul.” This cracks me up, but I fully believe that when Joshua worshipped, he was fully engaged. His theology just needed to be refocused on the Lord instead of his plans and loyalty. Before we find ten other people that do this and leave ourselves out of the equation, are we that much different?
As misguided as we may believe Joshua was in his response to the warrior–he is still one of the top leaders in the Bible and history. Faith came in somewhere because we see God answering a big prayer in Joshua 10. It is an incredible praise report–there are also scientific studies that have seemed to confirm the events. Though fallible, Joshua 10:14 tells us, “There was not a day like that before it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man, for the Lord fought for Israel.”
Joshua tells the Israelites and us today to not “passively be caused by others to become discouraged, (broken, beaten down, terrified or dismayed).” One morning I woke up and needed a “word” from God. It was before coffee and my new workout had caused much muscle pain. I opened my Bible and read Joshua thirteen, verse one: “Now Joshua was old and stricken and the Lord said to him—thou art old and stricken.” True word but not necessarily one you would want to hear. The end of that verse however is encouraging. God has already used Joshua, given him commands, honored his prayers and promised to be with him. He tells him the unvarnished, straight up truth. Hear this in your spirit, “yes you may be old and stricken but THERE REMAINS VERY MUCH LAND TO BE POSSESSED!” His weakness, lack, limitations did not limit the all-powerful God. Why? Because He goes with us in HIS strength, courage, and power. That is a sure victory. The battle belongs to the Lord. Thy Kingdom come Lord, Thy will be done.
Dear reader–The Commander of the Lord of Hosts and His warrior Jesus will lead you. Follow Him. There are no sides–we follow, obey the Lord. He will lead us into battle and holiness and whatever else HE requires of us. If we all work from that perspective, maybe more unity, grace and progress would happen in the Kingdom? May we all get and stay on the Lords’ side.
Renae Roche 2023
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 Book of Joshua summary: Bible Project Animated, accessed 5/25/23
 David Sedley. Royal Astronomical of Astronomy and Geophysics Journal, quoted by the “Times of Israel” article. October 2017.
 Note: Joshua did not command this, he spoke to the Lord and made his request to the Lord first–see verse 12. The verb there suggests that it was not a small ask but an intense request