When an Angel Came to Joshua

On more than one occasion and prompted by more than one news cycle, my mind has turned to a very obscure passage in the Bible that is often overlooked.

Joshua, the great leader of the people of Israel and successor to Moses, was leading the people into the Promised Land. After crossing the Jordan River, the very first city they encountered was the city of Jericho, a city hostile to the coming of the Israelites.

It soon became clear this was going to be an armed conflict.

However, God had something else in mind.

To demonstrate that the Promised Land was going to be His gift and His doing, God told Joshua through an angel to march around the city of Jericho seven times and blow his horns, after which the fortified walls of the city would miraculously fall.

But something happened just before the angel delivered that message. When Joshua first engaged the angel, before being told of the marching plan, they had an interesting conversation:

“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.’” (Joshua 5:13-14, NIV)

Here is no one less than Joshua, leading the people of Israel into the Promised Land, yet when he asks the angel, “Are you for us or for our enemies? Are you on our side or their side?” the angel responds: “Neither! I come as the angel of the Lord!”

That is fascinating to me.

No sides were being taken in the geopolitical back and forth of human affairs. It’s not that they didn’t matter (the angel actually came to tell Joshua what to do to take Jericho), just that helping Joshua was not about God taking a side in human governments.

The angel put Joshua and the people of Israel in their place.

In essence he said: “Don’t think I’m here because I’m on your side. I am here because God is calling you to do His work. And in this case, in this instance, this is His work. But it’s not about ‘sides.’”

No, it isn’t.

God’s work on this planet, His redemptive plan, His movement throughout all of history to call human beings into relationship with Himself – ultimately through the cross-work of Christ –

… that is His side.

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This article originally appeared on ChurchAndCulture.org and is reposted here by permission.

James Emery White
James Emery Whitehttps://www.churchandculture.org/

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a former professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, ‘Hybrid Church:Rethinking the Church for a Post-Christian Digital Age,’ is now available on Amazon or from your favorite bookseller. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org where you can view past blogs in our archive, read the latest church and culture news from around the world, and listen to the Church & Culture Podcast.