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Now, this stranger identifies himself as the “Commander of the Lord’s Army”. He’s standing there with a drawn sword. And he commands Joshua to take his sandals off because he’s standing on holy ground.
There is something so unsettling about this encounter that Joshua falls on his face in reverence and he says “What message does my Lord have for his servant?" Joshua 5:14
What was the message? What did God want Joshua to know? Why would this heavenly being approach Joshua this way?
Well the message was this:
The time of waiting is over… we’re going to war.
God’s army is prepared, and we’re armed and ready for battle. Remember, you’re not going into this conflict alone.
One of the most encouraging passages in the New Testament says this: “…If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all— how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32
That’s the message God is giving to Joshua… I’m going into battle with you. You don’t have to take this land all by yourselves. My army will carry the day. And, as if to drive that fact (that the Lord’s Army would fight for Israel) God gives Joshua a battle plan that could only be accomplished with God’s power.
God tells Joshua to have the armed forced march around the city - once each day for 6 days. On the 7th day, 7 priests were to carry ram’s horns and lead the ark of God around the city 7 times. And when the ark had completed its 7th trip around the city the priests were to blow their horns, the people were to give a mighty shout and the wall would collapse leaving the city open to attack.
After Israel took Jericho, the city was to be burned to the ground. No spoils were to be taken from the city. The city and all that lay within it belonged solely to the Lord.
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The Bible unapologetically uses militaristic words to describe God and His people. And - as Christians – “we are in the Lord’s Army as Commissioned Officers”
In today’s text we read a story that practically every child in Sunday School and church camp has heard. In fact there’s an old Spiritual that declares “Joshua Fight the Battle of Jericho”. Many of us grew up singing it as children
“Joshua fight the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho.
Joshua fight the battle of Jericho and the walls came a tumbling down.”
What many may not realize is that this same story (about the fall of Jericho) probably served as inspiration for the song we started out this sermon with: “I’m in the Lord’s Army”.
Here’s the setting:
Israel has been out in the desert for 40 years, and has finally come to the Promised Land. God instructs Joshua to have the ark go before the people as they prepare to cross the Jordan River. As the feet of the priests, who were carrying the ark, touch the waters of the Jordan, the water simply ceases to flow and the people cross the river on dry ground – much as their ancestors had crossed the Red Sea 40 years before.
They are now camped in the shadow of the walls of Jericho and Joshua is facing the task of leading God’s people in taking the Promised Land.
But there’s a problem:
Israel has come to take the land of Canaan… and the people of who live there have no intention of just handing it over. The Canaanites are going to fight to keep what they have.
There are giants in the land, and the cities are strong and fortified. And perhaps the most fortified of all the cities of Canaan is Jericho.
Joshua has gone off by himself – probably to pray and seek God’s guidance – and in chapter 5:13 we’re told “he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand.”
Paul declared: “I have fought the good fight...” 2 Timothy 4:7 Our fight is with the powers and darkness of this world who defy God, create doubt, and turn fellow Christians/Churches into "do nothing" people and organizations.
Paul said he had stood up for Christ “in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left”. 2 Corinthians 6:7.
Paul advised Timothy to “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs (petty things) — he wants to please his commanding officer.
And we’re told to “… put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13
Does this sound like a pacifist liberal hippy to you? Of course not! But this is what many on the political left would like Christians and "bible teaching" churches to turn into. A weak shell of itself with no ability to stand for truth or counter hate filled social justice warriors.
spiritual warfare bible study
And then there’s the passage out of Revelation where we have a powerful picture of Jesus. In Revelation 19:11-16 reads:
“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and makes war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself.
He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following Him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.
Out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
But we must always remember, in the military, do the privates get to tell the Generals how to run things??
Of course not!!
In the military the generals aren’t on our side. We’re on theirs. They set the agendas, they determine the course of the battle, they decide the very existence of every man and woman under their command. In the same way - in God’s army we don’t get to determine what God should do, or how He should conduct His affairs. We don’t get to tell Him how the church should be run… or even how our lives should be run.
We are in God’s army. It’s God’s army… not ours. It’s God’s church… not ours. He is in charge, we aren’t. He gets to set the agenda – we don’t.
Essentially, God doesn’t have to be on OUR side… we have to be on HIS. It's time to enlist in God's Army. To do His will, not ours.
We may never march in the US Army as an infantry solider, ride in the cavalry or shoot artillery cannons. We may never fly over or drop bombs on the enemy but I’m in the Lord’s army. Yes, you and I are in the Lord’s Army of Christians!
Several years back, a major denomination decided there were hymns which were too militaristic for their taste so they set about removing them from their hymnals.
They deleted songs like “Onward Christian Soldiers” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic” - and I’m pretty sure “I’m in the Lord’s Army” wouldn’t have made the cut either.
Their decision created such an uproar that the denominational leaders later relented and put the songs back in their hymnals.
You see, being a Christian is not a passive enterprise taken lightly.
Still, even to this day, we continue to encounter several large church denomination where both leaders and preachers still reject those hymns.
Despite the hostility that some have toward military terminology in a church setting, the New Testament is loaded with such language and gives us a graphic example of our all churches should operate in the glory of God’s wisdom.
God has commissioned us in recruiting, teaching and enlisting others in the name of Jesus to fight the good fight! Mat 28: 16-20 We are called to build the Army of Christians to be used for good works, to live out our faith and to do God's will in this world.
Sadly, too many modern churches have failed in God's call to arms. Some Christian's are content to live passive lives while the war between good and evil rages around them.
Rick Warren, a known fighter in God's Army said this about passive Christians.
"Let me just be honest with you as somebody who loves you. If you passively just want to sit around in the next 10 years and just waste your life on things that won't last, you probably want to find another church because you're not going to really feel comfortable here. Because if you're in this church, I'm coming after you to be mobilized. There are a lot of things done in the name of Christianity in the church that Jesus Christ would disavow,There's fake Christianity, there's phony Christianity, there's pseudo-Christianity."
Pastor Rick Warren is correct. It's time to enlist in the Christian Army, mobilize, and do god's will at home, in the Church and within our communities.
God’s instruction through Paul tells us to be “good soldiers for Christ”. (2 Timothy 2:3) So, what does this mean exactly? It means we are to sacrifice our time, treasure and take a public stand for our Christian faith. It also means we must train hard (learn the Word of God), give up worldly security (speak up regardless of the consequences) and endure discipline (spiritual).
All Christians, regardless of denomination, are called to fight the good fight. 1 Timothy 6:12 explains, “Fight the good fight of faith: take hold of the eternal life which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
So what are our weapons and who is the enemy in this fight?
First and foremost, our only weapon is the Bible, the word of God. Our advisory is the evil one, is plans and those institutions and persons who knowingly carryout his wishes.
God doesn’t have to be on OUR side… But we had better be on HIS.
So I want to be on God’s side. How do I make sure that that’s where I end up?
First, we need to put my full trust in God’s power and His written word.
One of the major reasons armies fail in battle is because the soldiers panic. They lose their trust in their leaders in the face of conflict.
As Christians we need to realize that there will be times when life will not go according to plan. We will encounter tragedies, losses and heartaches. As Jesus: “In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33). It’s in those times that we need to look to our Commander and trust Him to guide us where we don’t know the way.
If I’m going to be a good soldier for Christ… I’ve got to trust Him and the truth of his Word (2 Tim 2:15)
Second, I have to remember who is in charge
God gets to call the shots – not me, not you… not any group of men or women on earth. God must lead us if we’re going to have victory Jesus. God has commanded us to make disciples (Mat 28:19) and to help the weak, poor and those in need. (Act 20:35)
Third, at times we are called to sacrifice for the sake of accomplishing our Army’s goals. (2 Timothy 2:3-4)
Why the need for such commitment? Because an army is only as strong as its weakest link. You are the army of God. If the whole army was as involved as you are, could we win the battle? If the everybody in church gave as much time of your time, money, energy or talents for God as you do, could we overcome this world?
This is serious business.
Teddy Roosevelt once said “No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his body... to risk his well being... to risk his life... in a great cause.”
Joshua once said “...choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." Joshua 24:15
Jesus said: “"If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. Luke 9:23
The mark of a good soldier is the willingness to give their all for their cause.
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