Joshua 5: 13 Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing 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?”
14 He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?”
15 The captain of the LORD’S host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
This scene is (probably not coincidentally) reminiscent of Moses’ meeting with the Burning Bush in Exodus 3. This is a good sign, as we know that Moses’ conversation with God in that episode led to the rescue of the Hebrew people, a feat which involved many miracles, including the big one: the parting of the Red Sea.
Although the scriptural accounts of God’s miracles is too long to count without a calculator, it’s only in a few of those instances that God tells His people ahead of time that He’s about to do so. But He’s about to enter into a conversation with Joshua in which He lays out the plan for the conquest of Jericho. This time, He’ll use trumpets and shouts. In His creativity, He chooses to do His works differently every time. What’s worth focusing on here, though, is that the Lord is giving Joshua a heads up.
I am reminded of this inspiring proclamation from Habakkuk:
“Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days– You would not believe if you were told.” (Habakkuk 1:5 NASB)
Why does God tell Joshua what He’s up to?
The reason Joshua was allowed to hear about this beforehand was practical: God had to give him instructions. Beyond that, however, there’s the sheer thrill, accompanied by immeasurable confidence in the God of the universe. Although Joshua should be intimidated at this moment by the mighty angel and that sword, he’s being given a special treat straight from the Lord. Sometimes, a surprise ending is great, but sometimes, it’s still just as fun to watch it unfold even as you know what’s coming. God’s giving a great gift to Joshua by letting him in on the way this conquest is going to occur.
What good things is God up to? A modern example:
I have a friend whose son was diagnosed with Leukemia last October. It was devastating to hear. Then, the doctors gave them some excellent news: the type of Leukemia could be dealt with by simply taking a pill for the rest of his life.
Fast forward a couple of months, and they are dealt with a major setback: cancer has been discovered in his spine. They deal with it with chemo and radiation. Life is good again. But then this June, they are told that the type of Leukemia is no longer the kind that is treatable with a pill: he has another kind now, and needs chemo. Moreover, if he doesn’t get a bone marrow transplant, his prognosis is not good. So the mom spearheads a massive bone marrow drive, and over a thousand people get tested. Only one problem: because the boy is biracial, finding someone who’s a good match for him (which relies on genetic markers) is very difficult. But now they’ve found a perfect match, and the transplant is on the calendar for a couple of weeks from the time that I am writing this.
Why is this story relevant? Because one cannot help but be tempted to ask God “why?” Why didn’t He just prevent the leukemia from being part of this kid’s life? And if it had to be, then why couldn’t it have remained the “easy” kind of leukemia? Why didn’t He tell someone ahead of time what His plan is?
I don’t profess to have the answers, but I do know this: over a thousand more people are in the bone marrow database than there were 3 months ago. The way this is playing out, there is a potential for many saved lives. Lives that might now have been spared had this whole saga not started last October. God was up to something back then, and His ways look very weird to us. But if we are willing to approach Him, with shoes in hand, ready to bow the knee, then He’s likely going to show us something wonderful.
Introduction to Joshua
Joshua 1: God’s Warnings and Promises
Joshua 2: Drawing a Line in the Sand
Joshua 3: All of Scripture in One Verse
Joshua 4: Why Memorials Are Vital
Joshua 5, part 1: Set Apart
Joshua 5 part 2: Glory Days?