Throughout history, alliances have been essential for victory. The Allies in WWII and the 32-nation coalition in the 1990s Gulf War are just two examples of how countries band together in a time of conflict. In today’s reading, our hero Joshua was preparing to face off with an unexpected opponent. With sweaty hands and adrenaline pumping, he lifted his sword and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” (v. 13).
The warrior instead gave an alternative answer: “Neither” (v. 14). And then, the mysterious figure revealed his true identity and reason for stopping Joshua; he was a “commander of the army of the Lord” (v. 14). Immediately, Joshua fell facedown in reverence and respect. He did not know who this warrior was, but he recognized that whoever he was, he was sent from the Lord. Joshua revealed his own identity and instead of referring to himself as the “Successor of Moses” or “Leader of the Israelites” he identifies himself as the Lord’s “servant” (v. 14) Then he asked what message this commander was bringing.
The commander replied with a request that may seem odd to modern readers. He asked Joshua to remove his sandals, which represented his humanity and contact with a “filthy” world. The place he was standing was set apart by God and holy (v. 15). Because Joshua knew about Moses’ encounters with Yahweh (see Ex. 3:4–6), he would have been aware that the man standing before him was none other than the same one who appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Both leaders, chosen by God, had a similar experience. The text concludes simply, “And Joshua did so” (v. 15). He was in total submission to the Lord.
>> It is probably unlikely that the Commander of the Lord’s army will stop you in your tracks today. However, his question should probe our hearts. Instead of asking if God is on our side, we should ask, “Are we on God’s side?”