Joshua 3-5: The Commander of the Lord’s Army
April 2, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
More stunning events in the story of the Book of Joshua. God determines to exalt Joshua in the eyes of Israel (3:7), that they would honor him as they had Moses, and does so by performing—through Joshua’s instructions—an astonishing miracle. The ark of the Lord will stand in the Jordan, and the waters will recede, and God’s people will cross over (rapidly!) on dry land (3:11-17).
The ark, of course, represents the presence of God himself and indicates that this is being done by God’s power. Once the people have all crossed over, the ark also moves on dry land to the other side of the Jordan, and as soon as they are safe, the waters return to overflow the banks of the Jordan (4:10-18). The people recognize that God’s hand is with Joshua, and respect him as their anointed leader (4:14).
But more than that, they are to take the stones they recovered from the middle of the Jordan, stones which could have been collected no other way than by this miracle, and place them as a memorial to what God had done in Gilgal (Joshua 4). It is to be a memorial “forever” (4:7) so that “all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you fear the LORD your God forever” (4:24). It is, in other words, a witness, a witness to them and also to the surrounding nations that the God of Israel is the LORD God of all.
Word of the miracle that God has performed, indeed, soon spreads, and the nations are terrified of this God and his power. “Their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them” (5:1). They had lost the will to fight.
Joshua now, under God’s command, once again circumcises Israel (5:2-9), though it is, in a sense, not really “once again” because the people who had been previously circumcised had all died in the forty years in the wilderness. These people, too, needed to be circumcised and symbolically marked out as God’s people whom he had rescued from Egypt: “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you” (5:9).
Passover is celebrated, the first in the Promised Land, and as soon as they eat of the fruit of the land, the next day the “manna” ceases (5:10-12). God’s miraculous provision of sustenance is no longer needed now that there is the more normal provision in this land of promise flowing with bounty and goodness. Times of hardship, like the wilderness, are harsh and hard, but when you look back and see God’s extraordinary provision, it reminds you that God provides through supernatural means as well as through natural means.
Now as they approach Jericho, the strategic stronghold guarding their route into the Promised Land, Joshua looks up and sees the mysterious “commander of the LORD’s army” (5:13-14). Joshua, being on war-like footing, asks him whether he is for him or against him (5:13). But this is the wrong approach entirely. The Commander of the LORD’s army does not play favorites. The question is not whether he is on our side, but whether we are on his side. Joshua worshipped him, was instructed to take off his sandals in recognition of the holiness of the presence of this commander (5:14-15). We might say that Joshua met the Real Joshua, Jesus himself.
We are learning throughout that victory comes through God and God’s power and by God’s Word and in the person of God himself. Would you today bring to the God of the Bible all your concerns and difficulties, lay them at his feet, and ask him for the power to be at peace and for the strength to do what he has called you to do?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
To receive God Centered Life devotionals directly in your inbox, as well as other resources, enter your email address in the form at the bottom of this page and click "subscribe."