by Steve Carpenter
“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man 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?” So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshipped, and said to Him, “What does My Lord say to His servant?” Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.”
This biblical account is full of practical insights for all who are interested in joining heaven’s forces and walking in end time victory. At first glance, we can see a man who is leading a new generation into the prophetic promises of God. In this passage, we can sense the passion and focus of this leader Joshua, who was clear about his mission and equally determined to fulfill it. This encounter with the Commander left Joshua on his face to the earth in worship. What a great place for any leader to be. The position of humility and worship are critical components for obtaining victory over any enemy, especially in the times in which we now live.
Recently, I was pondering this passage from a completely different angle. I was considering the geographical setting in which this encounter took place and thinking about this appointed leader who was totally committed to fulfill his calling. What I found most interesting were the questions and ensuing answers in this interchange.
The first question from Joshua: “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” While I can generally understand the motive of this question and the reason behind it, I find myself also discovering a certain reality about human nature. It is the quest to compartmentalize the human race. It goes like this: Are you like me, or are you an enemy? Since the tower of Babel, the human separations and distinctions have only become more defined. Living in Israel puts one in the center stage of some of these clearly defined distinctions, particularly religious ones. A common question heard in Israel is: Are you a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew? While there is much to be said about the work of reconciliation among these groups, the separations and distinctions between them are stark.
Back to the encounter near Jericho. Joshua, the leader of a new generation of Israelites, asks a question to the Man with a drawn sword. He asks, “are You for us or for our adversaries?” In other words, are You on our side or are You on their side? Are You one of us or one of them? This question could be restated another way to the Man with the drawn sword. If this question were asked today in Israel, it may sound something like this: Are You a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew? It’s the same thing. Are You one of us or one of them?
Any way you look at it, the answer from the Commander is what is most compelling. He simply says, “No”. In other words, I’m not for you or for your adversaries. What a revelation. What a shock to those of us who feel as though the answer from the Commander should have been a resounding, “Yes, I’m on your side.” This answer is a hard one to swallow, especially when we feel justified in expecting that His answer would be different. It’s as though the Commander is saying, “It’s not about sides, it’s about My purpose.
It’s not about you. It’s also not about who you consider to be your adversary. It’s about Me and what I have come to fulfill on earth. It’s about recognizing that I have come as the Commander of this purpose.”
This brings up an essential point. The scriptures are full of separations and distinctions. It was God Himself that initiated creation by separating the light from the darkness. It was God Himself that separated the firmament above from the firmament beneath. It was God Himself Who designed the distinctions of fruit bearing trees to bear after their own kind and animal life to do the same. It was God Himself that came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built and confused their languages and scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
From the human vantage point, we clearly see these separations and distinctions and we tend to polarize around them. The Apostle Paul dealt with these tendencies when he addressed the believers in Corinth. Even though he is addressing the emerging factions within the believing community, the point is still the same. He writes, “For where there are envy, strife and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?”
Let’s be clear, I am not advocating a unitarian utopia where everyone is the same and all roads lead to God. The Kingdom of God celebrates diversity, but only as it is expressed through a heart cleansing encounter with the King of the Kingdom. To God, it seems to be more about kingdom purpose than mere cultural distinctions. In this brief and non-comprehensive article, I am simply addressing a primary heart condition of humility and worship that recognizes that no earthly distinction alone qualifies us or guarantees any of us right standing with God. God is not “on our side”, because that is not how He thinks. With God, it’s not about sides, it’s about truth. Indeed, truth separates - but keep in mind, truth is not a people group, nor a set of principles nor a political position. Truth is a person.
What was Joshua’s response to this revelation? No argument. No attempt to promote his own call or agenda. No further discussion was needed. He just simply dropped to his knees, fell on his face and worshipped. This response is critical. This response became a defining moment in this leader’s life. This is the response that is demanded of all those who are truly seeking to live a life of ultimate victory and fulfillment in the purposes of God.
Joshua’s next question was, “What does My Lord say to His servant?” What a great question. A question born out of humility, worship and recognition of the authority of the One Who stood before him. The Commander’s response called for an even deeper level of humility and vulnerability from Joshua. The Commander said, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy”. And Joshua did so. Joshua’s act of respect and submission before the Commander in this way secured his victories in battle before one of them was even fought.
There is so much to be said about the connection between one’s heart position before God and one’s human performance in fulfilling divine destiny. These few verses in Scripture highlight this reality in a very specific way.
My simple prayer is that our questions may change from the distinction dominated, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” to a more worship inspired, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” I believe that the result of this shift in heart position will be a much greater demonstration of the Kingdom of God on earth in every arena of our culture.
The current economic earthquake, political posturing and military maneuverings that are underway are impacting the entire globe in unprecedented ways. Unholy alliances are becoming overtly clear and “the signs of His coming” as written in the Gospel of Matthew are now topics of major news broadcasts every week. The current financial crash is just the warning bell of a more fervent clash of opposing kingdoms. Now more then ever before, we need leaders to take the lead. Leaders like Joshua, who encounter the Commander and have the discernment and humility to respond as he did many years ago.
The Class the Stars Fell On
The West Point graduating class of 1915 numbered 164. More than a third of that extraordinary class won stars, 59 in all-24 brigadier generals (one star), 24 major generals (two stars), 7 lieutenant generals (three stars), two generals (four stars), and 2 generals of the army (five stars).
The two who attained the army’s highest possible rank were Dwight David Eisenhower and Omar Nelson Bradley. They joined a very select group. Before World War II only four men had held that rank: Ulysses S. Grant (Class of 1843), William T. Sherman (1840), Philip H. Sheridan (1853), and John J. Pershing (1886).
Three others attained the rank during World War II. One, George C. Marshall, was not a West Pointer—he graduated from the Virginia Military Institute—but the other two were: Douglas MacArthur (1903) and Henry H. Arnold (1907). There have been no others since.
The question may be asked, what was so special about the West Point graduating class of 1915? Were they somehow more superior than others before or after them? Did these graduates posses greater attributes or cultivate greater skills? Or was it perhaps that the times in which they were living demanded their leadership to rise to unprecedented levels, and that the condition of the nations required it?
We, too, live in turbulent times. Nations, economies and people of all faiths are in transition. The accelerated pace of global change is unique to our time. There is a leadership void that is waiting to be filled by leaders who are “called to the kingdom for such a time as this.” Perhaps this generation could be the generation of extraordinary leaders upon whom the stars will fall. It was said to Daniel who served in Babylon, “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.”
It is certainly time for the Kingdom leaders to arise. Leaders like Joshua who, in humility, fall upon their face to the earth in worship and in valiant boldness, lead a new generation into the fullness of God’s inheritance for our time.