Captains picking teams — Joshua 5:13-15

John Ditty - Sunday School Lesson

How often do we look back on those growing up years through the proverbial “rose-colored glasses”? Life was easy, summers were full of adventure, relaxing was part of every day, going home when the streetlights came on. Things were good back then. Your best friend always had your back and snow was always up to your knees. Really?

How about those memories that get pushed to the back of the line? Staying in your room until it was clean, summer days with nothing to do but be bored, and being picked almost last every time in gym class. That may have been the worst. Picking teams, or rather being picked by the captain and everybody had to be picked. Yeah, there’s a memory to put on the back of the shelf.

The Israelites were camped at Gilgal. The wilderness wandering was over. All were at ease. Well maybe not all. One day Joshua needed some time to himself. He knew that the wandering was over. He also knew the war was about to begin so he slipped out of camp and walked to a hill overlooking Jericho.

“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 approached Him and asked, ‘Are You for us or for our enemies?’

‘Neither,’ He replied. ‘I have now come as commander of the Lord’s army.’

Then Joshua bowed with his face to the ground in worship and asked Him, ‘What does my Lord want to say to His servant?’

The commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, ‘Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” (Joshua 5:13-15)

What does this story have in to do with rose-colored glass, playing outside until the streetlights came on, or deep snow? Not much. But it does connect with choosing up sides. Did you catch that?

Joshua, like any military leader on the eve of a great battle, needed some time alone. As he went out to look over the city that would mark the beginning of the conquest of the Promised Land it is possible he was there to develop a strategy of attack. Possible but not probable. Had that been the case would he have not taken his most trusted generals to seek their input, pick their brains on tactics or encourage them to be strong and courageous in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds? It is more likely that Joshua went out to that hilltop to ponder. The lives of thousands of husbands and dads, sons and brothers were in his hands. Jericho was strongly defended. Its walls were high and it location gave it the advantage. How would he lead? Would his men follow? How many would not return from the battle? What a lonely position this man of God found himself in.

Then something odd happened. A man stepped out of the shadows. Joshua steps forward to meet him. “Friend of foe?” he asks. The man speaks, “Neither.” Now what kind of answer was that? He’s either on Joshua’s team or not. Or, is it possible that Joshua asked the wrong question?

The stranger’s response to Joshua’s inquiry suggests that. Joshua was a leader of God’s people while the one to whom he was speaking was the commander of God’s army. Who is the leader of the Lord’s army? That answer in the closing pages of the Bible, “Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse. Its rider is called Faithful and True, and He judges and makes war in righteousness. His eyes were like a fiery flame, and many crowns were on His head. He had a name written that no one knows except Himself. He wore a robe stained with blood, and His name is the Word of God. The armies that were in heaven followed Him on white horses, wearing pure white linen. A sharp sword came from His mouth, so that He might strike the nations with it. He will shepherd them with an iron scepter. He will also trample the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty. And He has a name written on His robe and on His thigh: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.’” (Revelations 19:11-16)

Who was Joshua talking to that day? Jesus. So his question was wrong. Jesus was not there to be picked by Joshua, Joshua was there to be picked by Jesus. The battle that lay ahead was one to which God’s man was called to join God in the battle. It was God’s mission not Joshua’s.

You’ve walked up to the top of the knoll. As you look over the city your mind ponders the possibilities. What tomorrow holds in store is a mystery but you are certain that somewhere in the midst there is a mission to complete. Then He steps into view. You’re glad He’s there. You could use the help as you face the task that lies ahead.

“It’s good that You are with me in this undertaking,” you say as you walk toward Him. He responds, “I’m not here with you.” Your heart skips a bit. You’re at a loss. He continues, “You’re here with Me. What you are about to do is partner with Me in the task. I will be guiding you. I will be your strength and wisdom. I will bring the victory.” And you know He is right. God has not come to join you but has invited you to join Him.

What does it matter who is picking who? The difference is found in whose plan you are following. When you are picked by Jesus Christ to join in the work, you are pursuing His plan. When you pick Him, you may be chasing after yours. When you join with the Lord you are strong in the Him and in His mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10)

Remember the Captain picks you. Join Him on the journey of the narrow road.

John Ditty

Sunday School Lesson

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