A Stranger on the Shore

Chapter 5 of Joshua opens by describing the fear that was in the hearts of the Amorites and Canaanites, the occupiers of the Promised Land, after they had not only heard of the conquests of the Israelites, but also because of what they had seen them do at the Jordan, their God halting the flow of those waters so that the Children of the Nation could pass across on dry land. After a few verses that testify to the Divine command for all of the men to physically and spiritually rededicate themselves to the Lord, we find in verse 13 how a stranger appeared to Joshua…

“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. (Verses 13-15)”

Who is this character, this Captain of the Host of the Lord? There are some that tend to favor this fellow as a high angelic leader, a warfaring archangel perhaps, maybe even the notable Michael. I however am in agreement with other scholars who note a few telltale features of this encounter.

Upon hearing of the position of this stranger, Joshua falls upon his face and worshiped him. What does this tell us? Are angels to be worshiped? Scripture provides us with a clear and decisive “no!” Consider the words of Jesus to Satan in both Matthew 4:10 and Luke 4:8:

“…Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”

What’s more, look to the last book of the Bible, the Revelation, whereby in Chapter 22:8-9 we read of a meeting between John and an angel:

“And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.”

In each of these instances, we are told without error that we are to WORSHIP GOD ALONE! Considering Joshua 5 again, did the visitor, this sword-wielding stranger on the shore, admonish Joshua for prostrating himself in worship at his feet? No. In fact, in verse 15, he commands to remove his shoes, for he in standing on holy ground! Where else have we seen this? In Exodus 3:5, we read of Moses encountering an identical command:

“…put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”

Who was Moses speaking too? The book of Exodus makes it clear, as in the very next verse the voice commanding him to remove his shoes identifies Himself:

“Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”

Joshua’s stranger in the night was none other than the Lord, no doubt appearing in His preincarnate physical form as a theophany of Jesus Christ, armed and ready for battle! Intriguingly, though Joshua could not see them, the words of the Lord, identifying Himself as the Captain of the Host of the Lord, seem to indicate that a massive army of celestial warriors were encamped around Joshua and his followers, not unlike the situation that experienced by Elisha and his servant in 2 Kings 6, where we read of how during the night a great contingent of Syrian warriors surrounded the camp of the prophet. As day broke, things got interesting:

“And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! how shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. (v. 15-17)”

It is worth mentioning, if only in passing, that Elisha bid this heavenly contingent to strike their Syrian opponents with blindness, and this is in fact what happened. Amazingly though, instead of dispatching his now-handicapped attackers, Elisha led them all to Samaria, where he bid the angels revoke the blindness with which they had first struck the men. Eyes opened now, Elisha turned them over to the King of Israel, who asked if he was to now strike them down. Elisha, apparently brimming with the mercy of the Lord, instructed him to do no such thing, and instead to give them food and water, and then allow them to return to their masters in Syria! And that’s what they did!

In any event, thinking about this huge contingent of celestial warriors who were present at the battlefield yet unseen by the eyes of those who had not been opened by God, we must wonder if a similar circumstance existed that night that Joshua found himself at the feet of a sword-wielding stranger, the Captain of the Host of the Lord! I have no doubt that behind that theophany stood an army of holy warriors, each made of light and fire and filled with the holy spirit of God. Their battle was coming, their target was Jericho…


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