THE LEADER MEETS THE LORD Joshua 5:13-15
Many in our day do not remember the name of the fame of Sergeant Alvin C. York York was the most famous soldier of World War I. Many people do not know that Alvin York single-handedly captured 132 German soldiers one day in France. York was the recipient of many great honors from several nations for his bravery in combat.
However, Alvin C. York was a most unlikely man to become a legendary hero. York felt that his Christian faith barred him from killing anyone, even in war. After being drafted, York made it known that he was a conscientious objector; that he would not be able to kill other men. He was sent home on a ten-day leave to think about his situation and to consider the scriptures a Christian captain had shared with him. York was promised that he would be dismissed from the Army if he still felt the same way when he returned.
Finally in a crisis of faith, God showed York that he could obey God and defend the helpless in Europe at the same time. He wrote, “As I prayed there alone… I knew that He was there. He understood I didn’t want to be a fighter or a killing man… He took pity on me and gave me the assurance I needed… It was His will and that was enough for me.” Sgt. York had to win the war in his mind before he could win the battles that lay ahead of him in the trenches of France. Alvin York had to yield to the Lordship of God in his life before he would ever become a great war hero. The same truth is seen in this passage. Israel is about to attack the city of Jericho. Before that battle, the leader of Israel, Joshua, goes out to inspect the site of the coming battle. On that important day, Joshua came face to face with the real leader of Israel. He had an encounter with One Who was far more powerful than he was.
That day, outside the walled city of Jericho, the leader meets the Lord. When he did, Joshua was humbled, but he was also prepared for the battle that lay ahead. It may be that the Lord will use this passage to speak to our hearts. It may be that He will remind us Who is in control of the situations we face in life. It may be that we will come to realize that no one is qualified to lead who has not first learned to serve. It may be that He will remind us of the necessity of humbling ourselves at His feet. If we would enjoy real spiritual victory in our lives, we must come to understand Who really fights our battle.
I. V. 13 THE IMAGE OF A SHEPHERD
As these verses open, we find Joshua, the leader of the people of Israel, all alone outside the walls of Jericho. I think it would be to our benefit to consider just what Joshua is doing out there all by himself.
A. The Shepherd’s Burden – Joshua was the leader of the people. God Himself had chosen him for that position. When the Lord called Joshua to lead Israel, the Lord gave Joshua some very precious promises. In Joshua 1:5, the Lord said the following to Joshua, “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”
It was on the basis of this great promise that Joshua had assumed the leadership role in Israel. Now, he has led them over Jordan. He has led them in obedience to the Law of the Lord. He has led them in observing the Passover. He has led them to the place where they are ready to begin their battle for the land of Canaan.
On the eve of the battle, Joshua goes out to look at the city they are about to attack: the great walled city of Jericho. There can be little doubt the reason he is out there, partially to consider the defenses of the city and to formulate a plan of attack.
Joshua is the leader of a couple of million men, women and children. Every decision he makes will affect the people under his leadership in profound ways. Some will die, others will be injured, families will be torn apart, and lives will be altered based on the decisions Joshua makes. Before those decisions are made, Joshua goes out alone, under the weight of the burden of his office, to seek counsel from the Lord.
In verse 13, the text says, “…he lifted up his eyes, and looked.” This seems to imply that Joshua has his head bowed and his eyes closed in prayer. It seems to me that this man recognizes the terrible burden that rests on his shoulders, and that he is seeking the Lord’s help to make the right decisions for himself and for the Lord’s people.
Anyone who has ever filled a position of leadership knows, to some degree, how Joshua must have felt. The decisions you make in your life will affect the lives of those in your circle of friends and family.
Leadership always comes with great responsibility. There is the responsibility to seek the will of the Lord in every matter you face. There is the responsibility to make decisions that honor God above feelings. There is the responsibility to do everything with the understanding that every decision is like tossing a pebble into a pond. There are ripples from every decision you make. When a Christian fails, a testimony fails.
Sometimes people will understand your motives; other times they will not. At the end of the day, it does not matter what people think; all that matters is what the Lord thinks. Because we will face Him, and not them, with the decisions we make in life. “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God,” Rom. 14:12.
Consider the following passages.
· 1 Cor. 4:1 “Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. 2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. 4 For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. 5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”
· 2 Cor. 5:10, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
B. The Shepherd’s Bravery – As Joshua meditates and contemplates the upcoming battle, he sees an unidentified man standing nearby with his sward drawn. This is the posture of battle. It is the picture of a man who is ready for a fight. Joshua does not hesitate, but he approaches the man and demands to know which side the man is on. Is he on the side of Jericho? Or, is he on the side of Israel? When Joshua first sees this man, he identifies his as a possible threat to Israel. His instincts as a shepherd are aroused and steps up to the defense of his people. Joshua is burdened by the weight of leadership, but he is also consumed with the protection of those under his care.
That same characteristic marks true leaders, regardless of the area of their leadership. The husband who will not defend this wife, or the father who will not defend his children is not much of a man. The mother who will not defend her children is not much of a woman.
We are living a time when the church, our doctrines, our Bible, our worship, and all the other things that identify us as the Lord’s people, are under attack. We are living in days when the family, the institution of marriage, and our children are under assault. We need men and women who are not afraid to stand up and fight for the things that matter. We need people who are not ashamed to take a stand against the rising tide of evil and ungodliness. We need people who will stand for the Lord to protect their church, their family and their community from all those who wish to destroy it.
God’s command to His people is this: Eph. 6:10 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 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. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand,”
Some things in this life are worth fighting for! The church is worth fighting for. The truth is worth fighting for! Integrity and obedience to the will of God are worth fighting for! Marriage, the family, and our children are worth fighting for! If this present generation does not grow a backbone and learn to take a stand against the encroachment of evil, we will have very little to pass on to the next generation. It’s time for God’s people to take a stand!
1Peter 5:2 “Feed the flock of God which is among you,”
I. The Image Of A Shepherd
II. V. 13-14 THE IMAGE OF SOVEREIGNTY
While there is an image of a shepherd in this passage, there is also the image of Sovereign Lord. This text reveals the problems, perils and pitfalls of leadership, but it also draws our attention to the idea of lordship. Even though Joshua was the leader of the people, he himself was under the lordship of God Almighty.
These verses identify and clarify the person and the power of the One Joshua encountered outside Jericho that day.
A. The Lord’s Posture – When Joshua encounters this man, He is said to be standing, “with His sword drawn in His hand.” It is the picture of a Person ready for battle. This is not the image of some passive observer of events. This is the image of Someone Who is ready to make something happen. It is the image of man Who has come ready for a fight. It is the image of someone Who is ready to take on the enemy.
I would just remind you today that God does not react to events that take place in our human world. He is not sitting in Heaven waiting to see what we will do first, so that He can decide how to respond. No, He is in control of both the actions and the reactions. He already knows what we are going to do, and He has already made His plans accordingly.
· Isa. 46:9-11 – “9Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: 11Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.”
· Eph. 1:11, “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.”
· Psa 115:3, “But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.”
· Dan 4:3, “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?”
These verses, and others, make it clear that our God is in control of all the affairs of life. He is always ready, in every situation, because He has decreed all events that come to pass. That is why He is never surprised by life. We are often surprised by the various turns in the road of life. God is never caught off guard. He never has to resort to “Plan B.” He never has to alter His will. He is never left at a loss as to what to do, because He is God and He is ever in control of all things!
B. The Lord’s Position – When Joshua encounters this man, Joshua does not know who he is, so he asks Him. Joshua asks, “Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?” The man’s answer must have taken Joshua by surprise. The man says, “Nay; but as the captain of the Lord’s host am I now come.” In other words, the man answers Joshua by saying, “I did not come to take sides in this battle; I came to take over.”
His answer tells us exactly Who this Man is. It is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. It is a pre-Bethlehem appearance of the Lord. This is not the first time He appeared in this world, and this will not be the last time He appears either.
· He appeared to Hagar, Gen. 16:7-14; Gen. 21:16-20
· He appeared to Abraham, Gen.18:10
· He appeared to Jacob, Gen. 28:12-15; Gen. 32:24-30
· He appeared to Moses, Exod. 3:4-5; Exod. 23:20; Exod. 33:22
· He appeared to Gideon, Judg. 6:11-24
· He appeared to Isaiah, Isa. 6:1-13
· He appeared to three young Hebrews in the fiery furnace, Dan. 3:24-25
· He appeared to Daniel, Dan. 6:21-22; Dan. 7:13-14; Dan. 10:5-6
· He appeared to the prophet Zechariah, Zech. 1:8-13; 2:8-11; 3:10; 6:12-15
It must have encouraged Joshua to realize that he was not alone. There is a certain loneliness in leadership that can be discouraging and depressing when you consider how much impact your decisions have on others. Harry Truman once said, “To be President of the United States is to be lonely, very lonely at times of great decisions.” Surely Joshua felt that same sense of being alone. What a comfort it must have been to him to know that God, Who had promised to be with Joshua, Josh. 1:5, 9, had kept that promise! Joshua was not alone; the Lord was with Him!
By the way, that is a promise He intends to keep to you too. He has promised you that He will ever be with you as you face the ups and downs of your life, Matt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5. The same Lord Who stepped out of eternity to move in the lives of His people in the past, is the same God Who intends to do the same thing for you. You are not alone; the Lord is with you!
C. The Lord’s Power – The Lord identifies Himself as “the captain of the host of the Lord.” That is, Joshua could not see, but there was a vast army of heavenly warriors camped about him, ready to take on the people of Canaan. The implication is clear: Israel would not face their enemies alone; they would face them aided by the armies of Heaven. Joshua now receives the assurance that the Lord is about to this battle and that victory is assured.
There is a spiritual realm around us that we cannot see. In that hidden spiritual dimension, there are angels and there are demons. Those spiritual beings are continually waging war in the battle of good against evil. That invisible host aided Elisha, 2 Kings 6:14-17. That invisible host struck fear into the hearts of the Assyrian army, 2 Kings 7:5-7. That invisible host protected the city of Jerusalem and destroyed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night, 2 Kings 19:35.
The same power that came to the aid of Israel in Jericho, and the same power that came to the aid of Israel time and again, is the same power that surrounds you today. Our Lord is still the Captain of the Lord’s host and He still fights battles on behalf of His people.
All these truths serve to remind us that our God is a sovereign God. That simply means that He is in control of all things, of all people, at all times. He is the Lord both time and eternity. He is in charge and he can be trusted to take care of you!
I. The Image Of A Shepherd
II. The Image Of Sovereignty
III. V. 14-15 THE IMAGE OF A SERVANT
When Joshua realizes just Who is standing before him, he assumes the place of a servant before the Lord. Joshua’s attitude toward the Lord has much to teach us about how we should approach the Lord as well.
A. The Servant’s Humility – Joshua realizes that he is face to face with the Lord Himself, and he falls down before the Lord to “worship” Him. Joshua exalts the Lord and acknowledges His position by bowing at His feet. This is an indication that Joshua is submitting to the will of the Lord and that he knows Who is in control. Then, Joshua wants to now what the Lord would have him to do. He is yielding his role as leader to the Lord. He is assuming the place of a servant before a Master. In an instant, General Joshua falls before the Commander-in-chief and yields all authority and power to Him. A crucial step on the road to victory is learning to relinquish leadership to the will of the Lord! The leader had to bow to true leadership. The one who commanded the people had to held to the One Who commanded Him!
You see, before you can have the victory, you must be vanquished. Before you can conquer, you must first be conquered! Many today need to do just what Joshua did right here. Many need to lay down their swords at the feet of the Captain of the Lord’s host; surrender their pride and yield to His authority!
That is the Lord’s will for all His children.
· 1 Pet. 5:5b-7, “5b…God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”
· Matt. 23:11-12, “11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”
We are all under authority. Ultimately, we are all under the authority of the Lord. He is our Commander, and His will is what matters most of all. Whether we are leaders or followers, we are all the servants of the Lord. We must all find ourselves at His feet, humbly submitting ourselves to His will. Whatever that will may be!
B. The Servant’s Honesty – The Lord makes a strange demand of Joshua in verse 15. Joshua is commanded to “Loose thy show from off thy foot.” Why did the Lord just ask for one shoe? The answer lies in ancient custom. When a covenant was made between two individuals, in which one person possessed power to keep the covenant and the other didn’t, the weaker individual handed the other individual one of his shoes. It was his way of saying, “I can’t, but you can.” This is seen in the book of Ruth 4:6-8.
For Joshua, this was a challenge for him to come to the place where he could admit his own weakness and inability to gain the victory. It was a call for him to surrender to the Lord.
For us, we need to learn the truth that we can’t, but He can! There are some people here and you have been trying to fight your battles in your own power. You keep getting whipped. You need to draw off your shoe, hand it to God and say, “Lord, I can’t fight these battles, but you can! I can’t win the victories I need in my life, but you can!” What I am saying is that we need to come to the place of absolute surrender! To that place where we and all we have are at the feet of God. To the place where we are willing to say, once for all, “I can’t Lord, but You can!”
This is a very unusual situation! Joshua is a warrior, right? When he bowed before the Lord, he placed himself in a vulnerable position. He exposed his neck. He placed himself in a position where he could not use his own sword. He placed himself in a position of extreme weakness. He was totally yielded to the Lord! Live or die, he placed his all in the hand of the Lord.
Have you ever come to that place in your own life? Have you ever come to the place where you placed yourself and your sword on the ground before the Lord and surrendered fully to His will for your life? If not, you will have to do just that if you will ever enjoy absolute victory over all the strongholds and enemies in your life.
The sooner we reach the place where we understand that we lack any power to accomplish anything, the sooner we will be to rely on the power of God in our lives. The sooner we learn the truth of John 15:5, which says, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing,” the sooner we can lay down our sword and humble ourselves at His feet.
As long as you demand your rights, your will and your way, you will have problems. When you yield to His rights, His power, and His will, you are on the fast track to victory!
Who is Lord in your life? Are you totally yielded to the Lord, or do you really call the shots? Who is your master? You or Him? If it is you, prepare for a life of pain, sorrow and suffering. If it is Him, there will still be battles, but you will be firmly on the road to victory!
Conc: Romans 12:1-2 sums up the gist of what I am trying to say about yielding to the Lord. It says, “1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”