A high-stakes moment in the life of Joshua shows us that when we’re on God’s side, nothing is impossible. This is an excerpt from Lysa TerKeurst’s book Unglued: Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions.
If ever there were a moment for Joshua to feel overwhelmed at facing a situation totally out of his control, [the siege of Jericho] would have been it. The plan was crazy. Short of a miraculous intervention from God, it wouldn’t work. Joshua would be shamed. His people would be defeated. And to those who didn’t believe, the God of Israel would be revealed as nothing more than a figment of Joshua’s overactive imagination.
Talk about pressure.
But this is all part of the story with which you’re probably familiar. Where’s the little part that’s less known? … It’s at the end of Joshua 5 when Joshua goes out to look at the walls before receiving his marching orders from the Lord. There he is. And there the wall is.
Despite Joshua’s long military experience, he had never led an attack on a fortified city that was so well prepared for a long siege. In fact, of all the walled cities in Canaan, Jericho was probably the most invincible. There was also the question of armaments. Israel’s army had no siege engines, no battering rams, and no catapults. Their only weapons were slingshots, arrows, and spears — which were like straw toys against the walls of Jericho. Yet Joshua knew the battle of Jericho must be won because, having crossed the Jordan River, Israel’s troops had no place to which they could retreat. Further, they could not bypass the city because that would leave their women, children, animals, and goods at Gilgal vulnerable to certain destruction.
Pondering these heavy thoughts, Joshua is suddenly confronted by a man with a drawn sword. Scripture reveals that this is no mere human but “the commander of the army of the Lord” (Joshua 5:14).
God’s presence in human form. Seeing that the man is ready for battle, Joshua asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” (Joshua 5:13).
Wrapped in this question we see a hesitancy in Joshua — a peek inside his thought life — a need for reassurance. Such an honest question, but one that makes me feel Joshua isn’t walking in complete confidence and assurance. If he were, he wouldn’t have asked. But he did. And this is where we assume that, of course God’s presence will answer, “Joshua, I am with you, for you, and on your side!” But we would assume wrong. When asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” the presence of God says, “Neither.”