Between 1405 and 1385 BC the book of Joshua was written. It is the first book to follow the Torah. Contained in these pages are stories of conquest and victory over evil. There are also moments of fear and disobedience. There are tragic events, death, and new life. The nation of Israel still struggled to follow their redeeming God in pure obedience, as we all do. But overall, it is a story of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling His promises.
The victories in this book do not belong to Joshua and the nation of Israel…they belong to God. Multiple times (Deuteronomy 1:30 and 31:8) in the book right before Joshua, God spoke through Moses to the people of Israel letting them know that it was the Lord Himself that would be fighting for the people and that He would be leading the charge into the promised land. God wanted Israel to know that they were not alone in this fight because this fight seemed insurmountable. Without God, it would have been. There were many evil empires who were strong and deeply entrenched in the land. And Israel needed to purify the land through force of arms. They faced obstacle far greater than themselves. To anyone who is without faith, it would have been folly to even try.
After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory.No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
Joshua 1:1-5 ESV
God was sure to remind the new leader of Israel that he was not alone. When God has called us to something, He will always be in it, with us, and for us. While none of us have ever tried to conquer hundreds of miles of territory from wicked nations, we have all faced tragedies, hardships, and obstacles that have been far too much for us to bear alone. But God has never abandoned us, especially in our darkest and most difficult moments of life. For Joshua and the people of Israel, this would be the greatest test of their lives. Some pass and others do not. But those who do, get to experience the glory of a faithful God.
The central figure of this book is not who you’d suspect. The book is named after Joshua, the leader of God’s people, but he is not the main character. He’s not even the highest ranking commander in this military campaign to regain and redeem the land. The lead protagonist doesn’t even make His entry until chapter five.
When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?”And the commander of the Lord‘s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Joshua 5:13-15 ESV
A few things about this character. One, he is in charge. Two, Joshua reveres him. And three, his presence is holy. I want to point out how each of these qualities points to the Messiah. First of all, the commander of the Lord’s army is used multiple times in connection with the person of Jesus. This insignia of headship is important when it comes to recognizing who the Messiah is. Check out these passages and how they relate to the figure and story of Joshua chapter five.
Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?
Matthew 26:33 ESV
On the eve of His crucifixion, Jesus reminded His disciples of His ability to command none other than an army of angels. A standard legion consists of anywhere from 3000 to 6000 men. So in this statement, Jesus lets us know that he could call down up to 72,000 angels at His will. Guaranteed He could call them all down if He so chose.
Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses.From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
Revelation 19:11-16 ESV
In John’s vision of the time to come, Jesus again makes an appearance, not as a gentle and lowly servant, but as a conquering general. With Him were the armies of heaven. Far greater in magnitude than twelve legions. This passage in revelations is highly regarded as the parallel passage to the events of Joshua’s day. Reasons for that are pretty numerous. A couple being that they contain the same main character and the same purpose to rid the land of evil. In Joshua’s day, it was isolated to the land of Canaan. In the end, it will be the entire Planet Earth that gets renewed and cleansed. And it is God who accomplishes both.
For the final comparison, I’d like to draw off of what the Commander of the Lord’s army tells Joshua. He tells him to take off his shoes for the place where he stands is holy. There is only one Figure in all of the Bible who can create holy space…God Himself. As we’ve already talked about in previous posts, God is the Messiah. He’s the one who goes before. He’s the one who rescues. The words of the Commander are exactly like the ones God Himself spoke back in Exodus chapter three.
Then he [God] said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”
Exodus 3:5 ESV [my emphasis]
The Messiah is holy. His presence should make us tremble and rejoice. He is the definition of perfection, unlike anything else we’ve ever known. When we come before Him, it should be with extreme reverence and awe. And the fact that He loves us like He does should leave us even more awestruck.
Be at peace brothers and sisters. You have a Savior who goes before you. Find yourself facing insurmountable odds? Your Messiah commands legions of Angels. Nothing is impossible with Him in your life.