Forward With the Captain of the Lord's Hosts
Joshua was a man of courage, the kind of man God wanted him to be. He walked away from the camp of Israel in order to view the military situation concerning Jericho. The Israelites could not turn back. They had to go forward. Behind them were Egypt, the Red Sea, the desert, and now Jordan. To retreat was impossible. They must go forward, but standing in their way was Jericho, one of the great fortresses of Canaan.
According to some authorities, the walls of the city were 90 feet high and 30 feet thick. It was not as large as some of the cities of antiquity, being possibly 2 1/2 or 3 miles in circumference, but it was small enough for the Israelites to march around seven times in one day. Yes, it blocked Israel’s path. It stood in the way of their advance. So Joshua, as soldier and strategist, left the camp in order to view the situation and consider what needed to be done. He was alone, meditating upon God’s purpose and will, seeking divine wisdom for the next step.
Gilgal became the place of the revelation of the Captain of God’s hosts. In Joshua 5:13-15, we read, “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? And the captain of the LORD'S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.”
We notice that Joshua was alone, contemplating the next move and undoubtedly feeling the pressure of his responsibilities. Suddenly he was confronted by a man with a drawn sword. This man could be either a foe or a friend. Joshua lost no time in finding out where this person stood.
We have issues in our day which can be settled only by the Word of God. Yet there are some Christians who use men as a standard, asking if we are against this one or that one. Many gauge their spiritual progress or our allegiance to the Lord on human basis instead of on our relationship and standing with the Lord.
In Joshua’s case, he simply asked the stranger, “Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?” On the surface it looked as though Joshua’s advance was being challenged, but he fearlessly questioned this person as to where he stood. It was the very thing God expected Joshua to do. After all, the warfare Joshua was involved in had its human aspect. It also had its supernatural aspects.
Concerning our spiritual warfare, we read in 2 Corinthians 11:14, “And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.” Joshua was face-to-face with a person who was either a friend or a foe. Israel’s leader had to find out. According to 1 John 4:1, we too, are to try the spirits—“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.”
So far as Joshua was concerned, there were only two sides. There was God’s side with the Israelites or there was the enemy’s side. And neutral position was impossible. This is something many Christians have not learned. There are issues today of such magnitude that no neutral stand is possible.
Joshua soon discovered that he was face-to-face with the Captain of the Lord’s hosts, the Commander of the Lord’s armies. Here was the Warrior and Leader, coming not to help, but to take charge. The Captain of the Lord’s hosts came not only to direct the armies of Israel, but also to fight for Israel and with Israel and through Israel. This is the same truth is taught in Ephesians 6:10 where we are told to “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”
This great Captain came with an unseen army. It was an army that surrounds the throne of God and is ready to obey the commands of God at any moment. Israel was not only facing flesh and blood foes such as the Canaanites, but the evil forces under the prince of the power of the air. Satan was going to oppose the advance of the Israelites with all of his strength and cunning. So it was necessary that Joshua have more than mere human power with which to win in the conquest of Canaan.
Wars among the nations of the earth are fought merely on the human plane. This is why one war is fought, treaties are signed, and then another war is begun. But when God fights, He does it in the places that harm the evil forces to the greatest degree. The evil powers of Satan arraigned against us are invisible, and the armies of God are invisible, but both are very real. In Ephesians 6:12 we read: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
We cannot be neutral with regard to Christ in our day. We must acknowledge Him as Lord and obey His every command. The most significant moment in any man’s life is when God reveals Himself to that man in Jesus Christ. This is not done by a vision, but through the Word of God and the illumination of the Spirit of God. And the Lord will always lead us on to recognize our Saviour as the Captain of the hosts of the Lord.
As our spiritual Captain, He leads us in spiritual warfare, giving us the power to pull down strongholds and cast down imaginations and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
There is something powerful and encouraging about knowing the presence of the Lord. Paul wrote “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand” (Philippians 4:4-5).
The Lord was with Samuel when he was boy and because of it Samuel helped turn a nation around. The Lord was with David when he was but a teenager, and because of it a giant, who mocked the Lord Almighty, was brought down. The Lord was with Gideon when he was a young man, and because of it, the nation was spared defeat by the hands of pagan enemies. The Lord was with Esther when she was a young woman, and because of it, the Hebrew people were spared from annihilation. There is no substitute for the presence of the Lord!
“…we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6).