“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?'” (ESV – Read the chapter)
When we prepare to fight the battles we are facing, we draw lines and put people on one side or the other. We look at each person we encounter as either an enemy or an ally. This is natural. People have always done it. But, as Joshua learned here, while we may be able to do this with people, when it comes to the Lord, we must ask a different question: Are we on His side?
Joshua was prepared with the people to attack the first major stronghold of the land of Canaan. He had his army prepared. He probably had a plan drawn up in exquisite detail. He knew what every person’s job was going to be. But then he encountered a man with a sword drawn in the desert.
He did the normal thing. He asked whose side he was on in the coming conflict. If the man was for them, he was to be welcomed to the battle. If he was against them, he was to be struck down at once.
But the man did something totally unexpected and which completely changes not only what Joshua’s response was to be, but the nature of our understanding of the rest of the story. He said: “I’m not on either side. I’m the commander of the Lord’s army and I’m here to lead the battle.” In other words, if you are really planning on following the Lord, Joshua, you need to understand something: You are not in charge. I am. You may be the one the people see, but I’m the one leading the way. I will set the strategy. I will lead the charge. I will win the battle. If you want to have success in the journey that lies before you, you need to make sure that you are on my side.
Thankfully for Israel, Joshua responded just how he needed to respond: With submission and worship. He submitted himself and the nation of Israel to the Lord’s leadership and things unfolded just as the Lord had always promised they would.
In our own lives, when we are facing a battle of any kind, if we want to have the kind of success that matters most, we’ve got to make sure we are on the Lord’s side. If we try and let our plans and visions be our guide, they will lead us into disaster. Indeed, Israel’s second battle with Ai demonstrated this rather starkly. They thought they could get away with ignoring the Lord’s command and going about the campaign in their own way. They lost embarrassingly to a much weaker opponent. They were Goliath and Ai was David.
Let us bow down before the Lord and let Him be our guide. Then we will not simply know victory, but we will know righteousness in our cause as well and that is the secret to the kind of victory that lasts.