“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.” (Joshua 5:13-15)
Alvin C. York was an unlikely man to become the most famous soldier of World War One. York felt his Christian faith barred him from killing anyone, even in war. After being drafted, York went home on a ten-day leave and considered the scriptures a Christian captain had shared with him. Finally, in a crisis of faith, God showed York he could obey God and defend the helpless in Europe at the same time. He wrote, “As I prayed there alone … I knowed He was there. He understood I didn’t want to be a fighter or a killing man … He took pity on me and gave me the assurance I needed … It was His will and that was enough for me.”1 Sgt.York had to win the war in his own heart before he could fight the battles that lay ahead of him in the trenches of France.
Joshua faced an even greater battle than Alvin York. He had a giant called Jericho to face, but first he had to win the war in his own heart. There were two things that had to happen for Joshua to win that war before the battle began.
The first thing Joshua observed was a visible battle that lay before him. The city of Jericho was a walled city. The walls towered from six to eight stories high and were several yards thick. Inside were well-armed and fiercely warlike people. What Joshua saw with his eyes was indeed a giant of immense proportions. But as great as the visible giant of Jericho was, it was not Joshua’s real problem. It was the invisible war that he had to first fight in his own heart that was the real challenge.
Everyone has some kind of visible giant in their life. It may be sickness, attitudes of the heart, people who will not change, or family issues. Whatever that giant is for you, it is real and stands right there in front of you. Like Joshua, we must get a handle on several things to win that invisible war.
First, he had to overcome the challenge of past failures. Joshua brought to that moment all of his past experiences with him. He must have remembered again the miserable failure of Numbers 14:6-10 when Israel had refused to follow him and Caleb into the Promised Land. Moses had to wait forty years to defeat his giant because of his own failure. Joshua had to wait forty years to defeat his giant because of the failure of others. In both cases, past failures must have haunted them as they faced their present giants. Our failures in the past have to be given to God or they will cripple us in the present!
The Apostle Paul gave us a formula for dealing with past failures in Philippians chapter three:
- Realize that no one escapes failure of some kind (v.12) – Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected.
- Leave the past where it is – in the past (v.13) – forgetting those things which are behind.
Joshua also had to overcome his own preconceived notions of how the battle should be fought. He was not going to be able to fight this enemy with his own notions of how to fight. He would have to do things God’s way (Joshua 6:1-5).
Too many of us approach the issues of life with our own notions. It is hard to remember that, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12). God often has to remind us that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9). God probably has a very different way of handling the giants in your life than you would imagine on your own.
Along with past failures and preconceived notions, Joshua had to put aside his own personal attitudes. He could have developed a pretty bad attitude over the previous forty years of his life. He had done everything God told him to and still ended up with a bunch of complainers and doubters for forty years in the wilderness. He needed to make sure his attitude was not tainted by such experiences.
This is not some “pie in the sky” attitude where we stick our heads in the sand and deny the reality of the problems we face. Rather it simply submitting our attitudes to God and trusting Him with the challenges of our life.
In Philippians chapter four, we are given four steps to remember when it comes to our attitude:
- Praise God and rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 4:4-5). He does tell us to enjoy our problems. He tells us to rejoice in the Lord in the midst of our problems.
- Pray and tell God about everything in our life (Philippians 4:6).
- Let God’s peace rule our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7).
- Practice a conscious thinking on the things of God (Philippians 4:8).
Like Joshua, we all face visible giants, but we also face a daily invisible war within our hearts. As we win the war over our past, our ideas, and our attitudes, we become ready to fight the battles that lay before us. But how do we win that war before the battle begins? The answer lies in the person Joshua met that day.
OPENNESS (JOSHUA 5:13b-15)
Not only do we have to observe the war, but we also have to be open to our Commander. Joshua needed to be open to the Person of God. He needed to see God rather than his problem. Joshua needed to get a proper perspective of the battle. He was seeing things from his own viewpoint. All he could think to ask was, “Are you for us or for our adversaries? (v.13b).
We can learn much from this. We spend too much time talking about our problems and not nearly enough time looking to our solution. Joshua needed to get his mind of his adversaries and onto the Commander of the Army of the Lord (v.14). This Commander is an appearance of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.
There are four reasons this had to be Christ:
- Because this Captain spoke the exact same words God spoke to Moses in Exodus 3:5 – “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.”
- Because He allowed Himself to be worshiped. Angels will not allow themselves to be worshiped (see Revelation 22:8-9).
- Because He is identified as the Lord (Joshua 6:2).
- Because we can only see God in the Person of Jesus Christ. – “No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18)
Christ is the Captain of God’s army and the Captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10). He has promised that He will be with us always (Matthew 28:20). He has promised that He would not leave us like orphans but would be with us (John 14:18). Revelation One through Three tells us that Christ walks among His churches. The greatest need for facing the challenges of life is an awareness of the reality of God’s presence in our lives! It is our daily and growing awareness of the presence of Christ that prevents us from giving up and moves us on toward the goal God has for us (2 Corinthians 3:17-4:1).
Once we are open to the person of God, we are ready to be open to the plans of God. Joshua was not ready to hear the plan of God until he had submitted to the person of God. After coming face to face with Christ, his natural response was to obey with his whole heart. What is God’s plan for your life? It may be very different from His plan for my life. If we remain focused on the person of God, His plans will become obvious naturally. Give all of your past failures, preconceived ideas, and personal attitudes to God. He is calling you to be open to His person and His plan.
1 Sgt. York: His Life and His Legend by John Perry (Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1997), pp. 30-31.