"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 approached Him and asked, 'Are You for us or for our enemies?'
'Neither,' He replied. 'I have now come as commander of the Lord's army.'
Then Joshua bowed with his face to the ground in worship and asked Him, ''What does my Lord want to say to His servant?'
The commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, 'Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.' And Joshua did so." (Joshua 5:13-15 HCSB)
The Civil War lasted much longer than it should have. The North had dramatic advantages in firepower and manpower. But, there was one thing they did not have--particularly in the early days when the Yankee army might have crushed the rebellion--they did not have better leaders. It was not until attrition took its toll on the South--one thinks of the death of Stonewall Jackson--that the tide turned and the Blue tide irresistibly rolled over the Confederacy. Lincoln also found some leaders who would win on the battlefield--notably Ulysses S. Grant--and victory was won. Commanders make a difference--and can make a huge difference.
In spiritual warfare, the leader makes all the difference. Jesus is our commander. So long as we follow Him, we have victory. He is undefeated, having never lost a battle, and is unconquerable, being incapable of losing a battle!
Joshua was able to lead the people of God into the conquest of Canaan because God had taken the field! He encounters Jesus in one of those dramatic, Old Testament appearances, when the second Person of the Trinity shows up with a drawn sword. Joshua, in seeing this imposing figure, wants to know, "Whose side are you on?" The answer basically was, "I didn't come to take sides; I came to take over!" So, Joshua bows to his Commander and the Lord will lead them to victory.
There are four keys to this winning warfare which are found in Joshua, chapters three through six. Following the Commander involves: consecration, commemoration, circumcision and conquest.
The Lord led them in CONSECRATION. "Joshua told the people, 'Consecrate yourselves, because the Lord will do wonders among you tomorrow.' " (Joshua 3:5 HCSB)
Being in war isn't a hobby, it is a total commitment. God expected full obedience to His orders. The Israeli men had been enlisted and equipped to engage the enemy. It was time to move out. God symbolically showed that He was leading the way in that the Ark of the Covenant would precede the army. The priests would bear this sacred chest which represented God's presence with His people. When their feet touched the Jordan, the River stopped flowing, even though it was at flood stage, and the Hebrews marched across on dry ground. As their forefathers had exited Egypt through the miracle at the Red Sea, they enter Canaan similarly. God had promised Joshua that He would be with him as He was with Moses, and here was a confirmation. Just remember that whatever obstacles are in your path today, God hasn't changed. Consecrate yourself in total commitment, move forward and He will make a way!
The Lord led them in COMMEMORATION. "After the entire nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord spoke to Joshua: ''Choose 12 men from the people, one man for each tribe, and command them: Take 12 stones from this place in the middle of the Jordan where the priests are standing, carry them with you, and set them down at the place where you spend the night.'...and he said to the Israelites, 'In the future, when your children ask their fathers, "What is the meaning of these stones?" you should tell your children, "Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground." For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, just as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over. This is so that all the people of the earth may know that the Lord's hand is mighty, and so that you may always fear the Lord your God.' " (Joshua 4:1-3, 21-24 HCSB)
The morale of an army is a significant factor in achieving victory. What Israel had already experienced would strengthen their confidence that God was with them. These memorial stones were a monument to God's power which would be an encouragement to the enlistment of new recruits in the future. As old soldiers leave the battlefield, fresh troops would fill the ranks. It is vital to victory that when we face our fierce foe that we do so in a faith that is anchored in history--to recall what God has done in the past conflict that we might trust Him in the present crisis. Are we telling these "war stories" to challenge a younger generation? This is our commission from Christ our Commander (see Matthew 28:18-20).
The Lord led them in CIRCUMCISION. "At that time the Lord said to Joshua, 'Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelite men again.'... Though all the people who came out were circumcised, none of the people born in the wilderness along the way were circumcised after they had come out of Egypt." (Joshua 5:2, 5 HCSB)
This might seem a strange way to prepare men for battle--to wound them before the war started! Indeed, they would pause before the fight to allow the men to heal. What was the point? Circumcision was the sign of the covenant--it was a constant reminder that the Jews belonged to God. It was a symbol of being set apart for Him. This was their insignia and meant total allegiance. There was to be nothing held in reserve. D.L. Moody was challenged by the words, "The world has yet to see what God will do with and for and through and in and by the man who is fully consecrated to Him." Moody purposed to be such a man--and the evangelist's life had worldwide impact that continues to be felt today, over a century after his death. Are you all in? A half-hearted warrior will soon be a casualty!
Ultimately, the Lord led them in CONQUEST. "The Lord said to Joshua, 'Look, I have handed Jericho, its king, and its fighting men over to you.' " (Joshua 6:2 HCSB)
The outcome of the battle isn't determined by the strategy in the war room as important as that may be. It is determined by the soldiers on the battlefield. They must follow their commander, if victory is to be secured. It is evident that the conquest of Jericho was not because of the superiority of Israel's army but the superiority of Israel's God. The walls of Jericho might have withstood the assault of the Hebrew troops, but they were like a sandcastle before a tidal wave when God marched before His army! No wonder the Apostle Paul could say, "No, in all these things we are more than victorious through Him who loved us." (Romans 8:37 HCSB) It isn't even close!