JOSHUA 5:13-15: “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 that.” CSB
OBSERVATION: How do I prepare for the battles of life? As I face great difficulty or struggle, what are the first things I should do? As the children of Israel miraculously crossed the Jordan river, prepared for battle against the Lord’s enemies, it is insightful to see what God called them as a nation to do, and what He called Joshua as their leader to do.
If you have your army in full battle array, the last thing you would do is take the entire army out of service in a way that would render them ineffective to defend the nation. Yet, this is exactly what the Lord did. He called Joshua to separate all the men and circumcise them. This is the account from Joshua chapter 5.
- “At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelite men again.” So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the Israelite men at Gibeath-haaraloth. This is the reason Joshua circumcised them: All the people who came out of Egypt who were males — all the men of war — had died in the wilderness along the way after they had come out of Egypt. 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 CSB
Can you imagine what they might have thought? If every man in the nation of Israel was circumcised, how could they defend against the enemy if the enemy attacked while they were in pain and recovering? This seems like a strange battle strategy indeed – to the natural mind. Yet, the most important thing we can do before entering into any battle of life, or as we face great struggles and difficulty, is to circumcise our heart. Repentance, acknowledging the covenant of God, and setting ourselves apart from the flesh and the world is the first and most important step we can take.
- “Yet the Lord had his heart set on your fathers and loved them. He chose their descendants after them — he chose you out of all the peoples, as it is today. Therefore, circumcise your hearts and don’t be stiff-necked any longer. For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, mighty, and awe-inspiring God, showing no partiality and taking no bribe.” Deuteronomy 10:15-17 CSB
The physical sign of circumcision was the sign of Israel’s covenant with God as His chosen people. The circumcision of the heart, repentance and faith toward Christ, is the spiritual equivalent and the sign of the New Covenant. We are called to separate ourselves from sin and consecrate ourselves to God. It took faith to lay down their weapons and go through a painful procedure in obedience to the Lord’s command. It takes faith to lay down our own understanding, our presumed righteousness, and our will, in repentance before the Lord. Circumcision of the heart is the first preparation for battle.
The second is the natural response of true circumcision of the heart. As Israel recovered under the protection of the Lord’s mighty hand, Joshua encounters a man with a mighty sword drawn. Joshua does not understand what he is seeing so he naturally asks – “Are you for us or for our enemies?” The response Joshua receives is quite unexpected.
- “Neither,” he replied. “I have now come as commander of the Lord’s army.”
Joshua’s response to this, and the commander of the Lord’s army’s reply is important to note carefully.
- “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 that.”
There is nowhere in the Bible where an angel receives worship. In fact the Scriptures are replete with the warning not to worship angels, for they are merely created beings as we are. The fact that Joshua worships this man, and that this man receives his worship, tells us that Joshua was encountering the per-incarnate Christ. And both Christ’s call to Joshua, and Joshua’s response, speaks volumes.
Repentance must always be followed by worship. Repentance acknowledges our sin. Worship acknowledges our Savior. Repentance reminds us that the battle is not ours, it is the Lord’s. Worship proclaims that our victory is not in our human effort, but in the power of His grace. In fact, He goes before us, with sword drawn, and leads us from victory to victory. Our victory in life is not won in the battle field. It is won on our knees in sincere repentance and worship. It is won as we take off our shoes and realize that standing in His presence is our greatest weapon.
Israel had to lay down their weapons to be circumcised. Joshua had to take off his shoes to worship. We are called to do the same. Yet, when our spiritual eyes are opened, when we realize that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is going before us, we joyfully and willingly lay down our weapons and surrender our hearts in repentance and worship. We, like Mary, realize that this is where our victory is won. Anything that follows is simply reaping the fruit of His grace at work in our life.
Over the past few days I have faced a battle that was impossible for me to win in my own wisdom and strength. There was nothing I could do. Like David, all I could do was cry out to the Lord. Over and over, continually from my heart, I humbled myself and called upon the Lord. I prostrated myself in worship, and placed my trust in the One who alone can move the mountain. And the mountain has begun to move. It has not been through my actions, but solely by His grace. And I am reminded this morning that He is no respect of persons.
Whatever you might be facing, He is standing before you. His sword is drawn, positioned for victory. He calls out to you to circumcised your heart, and to prostrate yourself in worship. And as you do, He fights your battles for you. And, day by day, moment by moment, He gives you the very next step to take. We do not march to battle, we crawl to victory on our knees. Lord, help me to remain on my knees, in humility and worship, as I witness Your victory in my life.
In Jesus Name!