“He said, ‘No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, ‘What has my lord to say to his servant?’” – Joshua 5:14
Every victory begins with an encounter—not an encounter with an enemy (that comes later), but an encounter with the Lord Himself. Those of us who grew up hearing the story of Jericho remember well how the battle was fought and won. But we rarely reflect on the encounter Joshua had just before the battle began.
The Bible tells us that when Joshua was near Jericho, he encountered what he thought was a man holding a sword, getting ready for battle. Joshua asked a very natural question: “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” (Joshua 5:13). But the commander of the Lord’s army turns the question around, essentially answering “neither” (Joshua 5:14). Joshua would quickly realize that he was speaking to the Lord Himself. But this answer to Joshua’s question is instructive. The question is not, “is God on our side?” but always, “are we on God’s side?” If Joshua would humble himself and listen to the Lord’s commands, then Israel would truly be fighting on God’s side. But if he were to disobey God, Joshua could quickly find himself opposing the purposes of God. We must align ourselves with God’s will if we’re going to win real and lasting victories.
The soldier identifies Himself as “captain of the host of the Lord” (Joshua 5:14). Joshua recognizes that captain as Christ Himself.
In response, he falls down on his face to worship and serve Him. Don Campbell, writing in the Bible Knowledge Commentary, explains, “As with Abraham under the oak at Mamre, Jacob at Peniel, Moses at the burning bush, and the two disciples at Emmaus, there was a flash of revelation and Joshua knew he was in the presence of God. It seems clear that Joshua was indeed talking to the Angel of the Lord, another appearance in Old Testament times of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.” Joshua obeyed the words of Christ, removing his sandals to acknowledge the holiness and sanctity of the encounter. When we truly understand how great God is and how small and unworthy we are, then we’re ready to pursue Christ’s mission.
Joshua’s encounter also shows us that when we pursue Christ’s mission, we never pursue it alone. Joshua was not a lone commando, like the exaggerated solo heroes from cheesy action movies. Joshua was called to lead a people. It was a common mission they were pursuing together. It would take everyone. But even beyond that, Israel was not fighting alone either. Just as there was an army of earthly forces, there was likewise an army of heavenly forces. When we submit ourselves to the Lord, heaven and earth together push back to defeat the forces of darkness. We know God will ultimately accomplish His victory. By His grace, He often chooses to accomplish it through us.
Joshua also shows us that victories don’t come out of nowhere. They are the result of long faithfulness and steady preparation. Israel’s victory at Jericho was preceded by years of Joshua faithfully cultivating his relationship with the Lord. Joshua was prepared to recognize and follow the Lord’s instructions because he had spent time in His presence, at the tent of meeting (see Exodus 33:11). Joshua had taken seriously God’s instruction to him as he assumed the mantle of leadership. God had told him to “be strong and very courageous” and “careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you” (Joshua 1:7). Joshua’s success would depend directly on how absorbed he was with the words of Scripture and how carefully he followed them (Joshua 1:8). God promised His abiding presence throughout the many adventures and trials that were sure to come as Joshua undertook the great mission which he had been called and prepared to pursue (Joshua 1:9).
The pattern for victory is clear: Joshua encounters the commander of the Lord’s army, receives instructions, calls the people to obey, and immediately follows God’s directions for overtaking the city of Jericho. God always wins in His way, in His time, and for His glory. It’s our job to obey His command immediately.
God may be calling you to do something that seems incredible—even ridiculous—right now. You may not even know what immediate results your faith will yield. But you can be sure God will honor your obedience and that it will bring about spiritual victories for His glory.
Questions for Thought
- Read Joshua 6. How do you think the people of Israel must have felt as they received instructions about how God wanted them to win the victory?
- Have you been called to serve Christ in a new way? Are you prepared to answer that call?
Joshua faithfully prepared throughout his life so that he could be ready to be used by God. Write down three things you either need to start doing or stop doing to be ready for God to use you. Then get started on those today!
Learn more about Mission 1:8 WIN NOW here!
Ben serves by leading and overseeing the ministries and operations of First Baptist Dallas as the Executive Pastor. He has served in full-time ministry for more than a decade and is passionate about building the church of Jesus Christ and equipping the saints for the work of ministry. Ben earned a Juris Doctorate from Baylor University and a B.B.A. from Hardin-Simmons University. He and his wife, Parris, have four boys.