I’m a Navy kid, through and through. Remember Top Gun? Yep, that’s my dad (minus the volleyball scene). The daughter of a fighter pilot, a Naval Aviator, my childhood memories overflow with F4’s, jet noise, call names (Lurch for my dad), aircraft carriers, and the homey smell of diesel fuel.
Most of us love the proverbial ‘man in uniform,’ but for me, the Navy dress whites ignite a special sense of pride and respect. My eyes get teary when I see a sailor, soldier, pilot, or officer, since I know first-hand the sacrifices the man or woman within is making for my freedom. Willing to fight to the death for the causes of truth and justice. (Thank you!)
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Until my Bible study class assigned us to read this passage, I knew nothing of this interaction between Joshua and his visitor. To be honest, I don’t know much about Joshua, the man chosen by God to follow the leadership of Moses and bring the nation of Israel to the Promised Land. Turns out, this is an incredible story just waiting to be explored.
As Joshua prepared to lead his people, he found himself alone with a stranger, an armed soldier. The passage initially lead me to believe Joshua met an angel, as did many others who are called into God’s service. But, the term “commander” stuck with me. Scholars suggest this interaction was a theophany, defined as a pre-incarnate visit from the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, in the Old Testament? Commander. Not a soldier, not an angel, not a servant of the Lord. Commander. Leader. Stepping down from heaven to fulfill a promise, “the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9) Apparently, He meant that literally! “I have now come” Immanuel, God with us.
As I think about my friend battling stage IV melanoma, praying over her with pretty much every intake of breath, it occurred to me, her Commander is present in her space. Holding up His sword, standing guard, ready to fight to the death He has already conquered. He promised to be there, not only as a comforter, but as the Commander of the army of the Lord, never leaving, never forsaking. Immanuel, God with us.
Mareeka, remove your sandals (or slippers). The Lord your God is with you. You are on Holy ground and we are standing at attention ready to fight alongside our Commander!