The Captain's Captain

Bible Book: Joshua  5
Subject: Jesus, Our Captain; God's Power; Christian Soldier; Faith; Victory

Joshua 5:13-6:2

I don’t know if this event took place in the daytime or in the evening. I have a suspicion that it took place in the evening when the General was out surveying the situation. I think Joshua was out there looking the situation over and getting ready for the conquest of the land. It must have a time of anxious suspense for the lonely leader. Perhaps he was meditating and praying. Maybe he was taking a look at the city of Jericho and assessing its fortifications for the possibilities of its overthrow. Suddenly “ he lifted up his eyes,” and saw this Stranger. In the midst of difficult and pressing circumstances, it is necessary isn’t it to life up our eyes, maybe too we will see Him. Now this incident bears a remarkable similarity to the experience that Moses had at the burning bush. (Ex 3:5) It’s interesting to note that God appeared personally to each of them as they began their work for Him. And in both incidents the Captain of the Lord’s host said, “Loose thy shoe from off thy foot, for the place whereon thou standest is holy.” So there is a similarity between this experience of Joshua, and that of Moses at the burning bush. The other interesting thing to notice here is the timing of this revelation.

You see, the land had now been entered, and the people were now encamped between the Jordan and Jericho. So they could not go back because Jordan was there and they could not go forward because Jericho was there. Retreat was impossible and advance was difficult. And yet all that they had been told to do they had done, the son’s had been circumcised the Passover had been observed and Joshua now awaited further divine direction. Time and again God commanded Joshua, Joshua commanded the officers, the officers commanded the people, and the people obeyed. So we have here a series of uninterrupted commands, and absolute obedience on Joshua’s part. You see, it was in the context of obedience that the Lord revealed Himself.

Isn’t this when we may expect to have experiences like this? When we are walking in the pathway of obedience. The Lord Jesus laid down an important principle when He said, “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine.” (Jn 7:17) In other words when we obey, God reveals, when we cease to obey God ceases to reveal.

In the process of obeying, God reveals Himself to us in a very special way.

Has the Lord ever asked you to do something difficult? Has He ever, through His Word said, “Do this.” My …. would it not have been difficult for Joshua to lead His people through the Jordan River? Would it not have been difficult for Joshua to get those Israelites to do the will of God? But Joshua obeyed, and as he walked in the context of obedience the Lord came and met with him. Now this was a tremendously significant event for Joshua. For one thing,

1. He was Following a Great Leader:

“ Moses my servant is dead.” (1:2) It’s not easy to walk in big footsteps. One pastor follows another and folk think that the pastor who comes is taking the place of the previous pastor. No, it’s not like that at all. Each pastor, has his own personal gifts and I suppose there was some in Israel saying, “ This is not Moses, this is Joshua.” (1) Then again,

2. He was Facing a New Generation:

Joshua had grown up with the old generation and he and Caleb were the only two who had survived. (Num 14:30)

You see Joshua had grown up with the old generation and he and Caleb were the only two allowed to continue and survive. (Num 14:30) So here was a whole new generation of people with a new leader facing a new challenge and that is not easy. I am sure that Joshua had human feelings like the rest of us. Oh, I know he was a great man of faith but sometimes faith and feelings can conflict. Joshua was a great man of faith but he was also a human being like the rest of us and here he is the evening before the conquest is to start and he has a crisis meeting with our Lord Jesus Christ. You see Joshua knew that his biggest problem was not the past. Trying to live up to Moses’s achievements. His biggest problem was not before him conquering the land. God had given him a promise about that. (1:3-5) Joshua's biggest problem was not behind him or before him, it was within him. That’s where my biggest problem lies, within. By the way when we are defeated on the outside, it is because we are defeated on the inside. We win the battle before the war starts, or we lose the battle before the war starts and God wanted to make sure that before the battle begins that Joshua had the victory and that’s why the Lord Jesus came to see him. You see, public victories are won in private. You may not realise that but it’s true. Elijah’s ministry had a private and public aspect to it. God said to Elijah, “Hide thself.” (1 Kings 17:3) And then after three years, “Show thyself.” (1 Kings 18:1) Elijah’s victory in public on Carmel was the outcome of his victory in private. Do you know what its the most important part of your life? The part that only God sees. The people did not see this event take place. They were not spectators walking around and saying, “Look at that. Joshua is talking to someone special.” No. Jacob was left alone and that wrestling match all night alone is what determined the course of his public life afterwards, nobody saw it. David killed the lion and bear, he did that alone but it prepared him to fight the giant.

You see you’re liable to think that it’s really important when I am standing on this pulpit, visiting homes and hospital. That’s important especially the ministry of the Word of God but the most important part of your life and mine is the part that only God sees. When you and the Lord, meet alone, and the Lord gives you the victory.

Dr. Warren Wiersbe reminds us that Joshua made four important discoveries when he went through this crisis. And if you and I lay hold of these four discoveries it might help us when we race some crisis experience. There’s a preacher or a Christian worker just listening to my voice just now and going through a tough time. There are problems to solve, people to help, ministry to exercise. Perhaps like Jonah you feel like running away from that crisis but if you discover these four things you’ll be better equipped to face your Jericho. Here’s discovery number one. Joshua discovered that,


He had read in the Book of the Law what Moses had said to the Lord after Israel had made the idolatrous golden calf. “If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence.” (Ex 33:15) You see, it was not the presence of angels that Moses desired but the very presence of God. So the Lord yielded to his servants moving entreaty and said, “My presence shall go with thee and I will give thee rest.” Joshua was not alone God was him. Oh you say, “He had several million Jews working with him.” No, I am not talking about that. Have you ever considered the loneliness of leadership? When I was a young believer I came to Lurgan Baptist Church Bible Class and I was greatly helped through the ministry of Pastor Mullan. I also went to conferences all over. I am sure I did in those days what you’re doing tonight. Its easy to look into the pulpit and say, “ These people have no problems. They have it made.” Now I am beginning to understand the loneliness of leadership. You see, a leader has to make decisions that have far-reaching consequences.

Pastor’s have often to walk a lonely path where they and they alone have to make decisions that involves their family, their church, and you. The loneliness of leadership. But you say, “Why you’re surrounded by people who pray for you.” I hope that I am. But as the late Harry Truman a former President of the U.S.A. had on his desk, “The buck stops here.” Mr. Truman used to say, “If you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen.” Sometimes leaders cannot stand the heat. The loneliness of leadership. Here’s Joshua looking at his army and saying, “These people have put their lives in my hands.” Here are families and children and Joshua is the man who is going to give them a place to live, water to drink, food to eat. Here’s Joshua with the future of the nation in his hands. But that’s not all. One day a Saviour would be born in Bethlehem. Someone has to capture Bethlehem. You see Joshua is helping God fulfil his plan of redemption. That’s a big undertaking. The loneliness of leadership. President Truman said on one occasion, “To be President of the United States is to be lonely, very lonely in times of great decision.” Woodrow Wilson another President said this, “It’s an awful thing to be President of the U.S.A. It means giving up everything that one holds dear.”

When he was going through a period of deep depression, Abraham Lincoln before he became President said, “ I am now the most miserable man living if what I feel where equally distributed to the whole human family there would not be one cheerful face on earth.” The loneliness of leadership. Yet Joshua discovered that …


Back in (Ch 1) God had promised to be with him. (1:1) “Now after the death of Moses everything fell apart and came to a halt.” Now isn’t that the way some of us think? Oh, if we had a different pastor or elders that would be the end of our church. My …. it might be the beginning. Christ said “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt 16:18)

Was it not Matthew Henry who said, “ God buries his workmen and carries on His work.” If the Lord Jesus does not return one day it will read “After the death of Lyle.” What does God do? He finds someone else to keep His work going. (1:1) God did not stop talking when Moses died. (1:2, 5) Then God repeats it. (1:9) Then God repeated this a third time. (3:7) It's not wrong to be magnified if God does it. We’re supposed to magnify the Lord Jesus but God magnified Joshua. He took this leader and gave him prominence and blessing. Nothing wrong with that if God does it. If we do it its wrong. Do you nor get weary of preachers who promote themselves? It does not read, “And this day when I begin to magnify myself.” No, God did it. (3:7)


The people of Israel encouraged Joshua in this way.

(1:17) My .... if every pastor had a congregation like this we would turn the world upside down. Pastor’s and preachers come and go, God leads men to different places. A new pastor comes and a church member says, “Well, you aren’t my former pastor he pointed me to the Lord.” Wonderful. But if they would just say, “As the Lord was with our former pastor so may He be with you.”


God’s power was working on Joshua’s behalf. Look if you will at (2:10) Even the enemy knew that God was with Joshua. But now Joshua experiences this in a very personal way. My .... its one thing to read in the Bible that God is with me, it's something else to experience this. Oh you say, “I don’t think that that God is with me the way He was with Joshua.” I think He is. I read in (Heb 13:5-6) “For he hath said, I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” The gospel of Matthew begins by calling His name, Emmanuel, God with us. That’s the way it begins. Do you recall how it ends? “Lo I am with you always even unto the end of the world.” (Matt 28:20)

We have the assurance that in every circumstance of life the Lord is with us. Joshua discovered that (1) Now the devil wants you to feel alone. Do you ever hear the devil whisper in your ear? “Hey, you’re all alone, friends don’t care, the pastor, elders and deacons don’t care. God does not care.” Do you realise that there and then you’re a target for the devil’s assaults? My …. you’re not alone, God is with you.

Some day when you’re discouraged and think you’re all alone read the life of another man who conquered cities. Joshua came and declared war. Paul came and declared peace. Paul would show up at a city and declare peace, “Be ye reconciled to God.” (2 Cor 5:20) Paul got to Corinth and was so discouraged that the Lord showed up in Corinth one night and said, “Paul don’t be afraid I am with you.” (Acts 18:10) Paul went to Jerusalem, they arrested him. He’s in jail and that night the Lord said, “You’ve witnessed in Jerusalem, now you must testify in Rome.” (Acts 23:11) They are on board ship. A storm comes. The Lord shows up and says, “Paul don’t be afraid I’m going to give you everyone on board this ship.” (Acts 27:24) So Paul gets to Rome and writes to Timothy, “At my first defence no man stood with me.” (2 Tim 4:16) Fancy that. But Paul said, “The Lord stood with me and strengthened me.”


Look if you will at (5:13-14) Now who was this? Bible scholars throughout the centuries have called this “a theophany,” that is a manifestation of God. What I believe is that this was one of the pre-incarnate appearances of the Lord Jesus recorded in the Old Testament. (Gen 18:1) Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one day you were walking along and saw the Lord, and He came over and started talking to you. Well, that’s not going to happen. God can do it, but its not in His program these days. You see, in the place of His own, personal presence, God has given to us the revelation of His presence in the written Word. As we study the Word of God we come to know who God is, and He reveals Himself to us. Now it’s interesting to note that the Lord becomes just what we are at a particular tune. What did Joshua need at this tune? A warrior, someone who would fight for him and with him and so the Lord Jesus appears in the way most suited to the circumstances. To Abraham the pilgrim, the Lord revealed Himself as a traveller. To the resistant Jacob, as a wrestler. (Gen 32:24) To the soldier Joshua, God reveals Himself as a warrior. To the afflicted He comes as the God of Comfort. To the depressed, as the God of Hope. To the lonely as a Friend. To the storm tossed as the Anchor. The Lord comes to us in the way we need Him. We read “And Joshua went unto Him.” I like someone like that. You are either in or out, with the Lord or against the Lord. There was no place in Joshua’s campaign for neutrality and there is no place in our campaign for neutrality. (5:14) Joshua knew only of two armies, thus he challenged this Stranger as to His position. The man was standing there holding a sword, and Joshua just walked right up. Why would he do that? He did it because he wasn’t afraid. Joshua had no fear because he believed God. He took God at His Word. I mean had the Lord not said, “Every place that the soul of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your coast.” (1:3-4)

The Lord had said to Joshua, “I am with you, and you don’t have to fear any man.” Joshua saw the man in front of him as just a man, so he wasn’t afraid. You see, when you are in the will of God you’re invincible, you don’t have to be afraid of any person or thing, because you have the Lord enabling you to meet any challenge. This Man give an interesting reply to Joshua’s question. “ Nay, but as Captain of the host of the Lord am I now come.” You see,


The soldier answered, “You asked me whose side I am eh. I want to tell you whose side I am on, I am the boss of the whole thing.” “Joshua you’re the Captain of the Earthly host and I am the Captain of the Heavenly host and this Earthly host and I am going to deputise you to run this army down here but remember you’re second in command.” You see, the Lord Jesus had not come to help but to control. He has not come to take sides but to take over. He is in effect saying, “Joshua you want me to come and get on your side, but you need to understand that I am your Commander. You need to get on my side.”

My …. the question is never, “Is God on my side?” The question is, “Am I on God’s side?” Do you know what many of us say? “Lord, here is my plan. Now would you bless it.” As Dr. David Jeremiah says, God is not here to be used by us. God is here to use us. He’s not the heavenly genie, waiting around to jump at any whim we have and let us get our way. Some people think that prayer is trying to coax God into doing what we want. Prayer really is God’s process of getting us to do what He wants. It is the merging of our will with God’s so that we become so identified with His will that we never ask for anything out of the will of God.

Israel was now under a new unseen Commander. How did He come? “As Captain of the Host of the Lord.” My …. that is the battle name of God. The Hebrew word “host,” means “army.” He was Captain of the armies of God. The psalmist often refers to God as the Lord of Hosts.

“The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.” (Ps 46:11) You see, even taking Jericho was not just a matter of military strategy but a matter of spiritual combat. The victory won by Joshua in the physical realm would only be the result of a fiercer battle hi the spiritual realm. Consider this scenario. One day a prophet named Elisha was sitting with his servant near the town of Dothan in Northern Israel. The Syrian army had surrounded the city to capture Elisha. The servant was terrified, but do you recall what Elisha said?

Look if you will at (2 Kings 6:17) In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord Jesus spoke of twelve legions of angels ready to defend Him. (Matt 26:53) A legion was about 6,000 in number. So 6,000 by 12 would be 72,000. The Lord Jesus said He could call more than twelve legions of angels. He could have called 10,000 angels to destroy the world and set Him free: He could have called 10,000 angels but He died alone for you and me.

In the Book of Hebrews angels are described as “ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation.” (Heb 1:14) And though we cannot see them, these angels serve and care for us in times of great need. In June 1920, the people of Shansi, China were warned that bandit’s were coming. Villagers quickly made what preparation they could. One lady missionary within the village kept a mission school for about forty girls. How was she going to protect them from these lawless men? She called all the girls together into the classroom, explained their danger, and calmly asked them all to kneel as she committed them into the care of the Lord. Well, the bandits did come that night and it seemed as if all hell broke loose in that village. Death, theft, girls carried away in the darkness by the bandits but not one had attempted to enter the mission compound. The next morning that missionary went out into the village to give whatever she help she could. She said,

“God in His mercy spared us and our school of girls.” “No wonder,” the villager’s replied, “You see on the corners of your compound walls, standing on guard, we saw four angels with drawn swords in their hands.” The psalmist says, “He shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways.” (Ps 91:11) “As Captain of the host of the Lord am I now come.”


You see, Joshua had to surrender his command and pass the reins of authority to another. It’s a great day in our lives when we discover that we are second in command. That we are not, first in command. (2) Now remember Joshua had everything going for him. Born in Egyptian slavery he knew the meaning of slavery. He had seen the miracles in Egypt, he had crossed the Red Sea. He walked by faith for forty years. He had seen a whole generation of doubters die. I mean Joshua is an experienced man. Moses minister and servant and as such he had learned so much about the Lord. Joshua had everything going for him but it would all have been useless had he not done what he did that night. The Bible says, “And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and did worship.” (5:14) He fell at the Saviour’s feet and said “I am second in command.” The Chinese Bible teacher Watchman Nee wrote, “ Not until we take the place of a servant can He take His place as Lord.” Joshua was laying his sword at Jesus’ feet. If you want to gain spiritual victory, the first thing you have to understand is before you can win you have to lose. Before you can be a victor you have to be vanquished. Before you can be a conqueror you have to be conquered. My …. have you ever come to a time in your life when you have laid your sword at feet of the Captain, the Lord Jesus Himself? Now every father is second in command. Every mother is second in command, every pastor and Christian leader is second in command and when we forget that fact, we start to move toward defeat and failure. “And Joshua …. said What saith my lord unto his servant?”

(5:14) What a statement, “What saith.” That’s God’s Word. “My Lord.” That’s God’s Will. “His servant,” That’s God’s Work.

There’s a great tragedy that takes place when a person thinks he’s first in command. You see they did fight the battle of Jericho and they won. But do you recall the next battle they fought? Ai. The next battle was lost and guess who was in command? Joshua. And the spies came and said, “Ai isn’t very big, just a bump on the road, let’s just send a few down there to wipe them out.” Joshua got first in command. Do you recall what happened? They lost the battle and Joshua discovered that had better be second in command. I don’t know about you but I have learned through bitter experience that whenever I take over and try to run something, it may run but it won’t run smoothly. Did you notice the first command the Lord gave him?

“Loose thy shoe from off thy foot.” (5:15) That was a strange thing to say to a General. I would have said, “Take out your sword and stab that tree.” No, “Loose thy shoe from off thy foot.” The Lord Jesus said, “He that faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.”

(Lk 16:10) Faithfulness in little things is Gods appointed way to bigger things. Little things like taking off shoes. So Joshua discovered that …)


Look if you will at (5:15) I would not have thought that. This was Canaan land. (Gen 15:13-16 Deut 18:10-12 20:16-18) I mean God described this place and its people as filthy, immoral, idolatrous, and ignorant. For hundreds of years God had held back His judgment on this crowd. All the Ites were there. God had seen all of this filth. Now Israel crossed the River Jordan, entered the land and God says “Holy ground.” When God gave Moses His call out in the desert to be Israel’s deliverer, He told Moses, “Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” (Ex 3:5) In the place of both Moses and Joshua, the reason the place was holy was because God was there. God’s presence made the place special. Do you know what this means? It means you cannot isolate the,


Joshua was standing in “heathen territory,” yet because God was with him, he was standing on holy ground.

Where ere we seek Thou art found

And every place is hallowed ground

Now Joshua had stood on many kinds of ground. He had been in Egypt that certainly was not holy ground. He had walked across the sea on dry ground. He had been up the mountain to see the glory of God. He had been in the tabernacle with Moses. But wherever God puts you is holy ground. We tend to divide life into sacred and secular, but if we are in the will of God, no matter where He leads us, we are on holy ground. Do you divide your life into compartments and say, “Well, I’m going to be spiritual on Sunday but on Monday morning I have to do business. It’s a hard world out there.” My …. it doesn’t work like that. The Lord is with you tonight, but He’s going to be with you in the morning. You walk into a hospital ward and they’re complaining and swearing but you’ve got to visit and when you walk in as God’s ambassador, that’s holy ground. You walk into a office filled with profanity and sensuality as Gods servant and that’s holy ground. What about you wives standing at the kitchen sink?

I heard about a lady who put a sign over her kitchen sink which read, “Divine services conducted here three times a day.” Paul says, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink: or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor 10:31) We cannot isolate (a) and we cannot isolate,


Did you ever notice how the Bible links them together? Let me give you a verse to ponder. “Let the high praises of God be in their mouth and a two-edged sword in their hand.” (Ps 149:6) The first part of the verse has to do with worship, the second half of the verse has to do with warfare. Do you know why we are falling before the enemy in warfare? Its because we’re failing before the Lord in worship? The greatest weapon we have is worship. Now Joshua learnt that very early in life. Do you remember when the Amalekites showed up? Joshua went to the valley with a sword and Moses went to the mountain with a rod. Moses hands got heavy and Aaron and Hur held them up. (Ex 17:12) Now if you had been watching the scene from a distance you would have said, “A strange thing is happening, there’s an old man over there and whenever his hands are raised Israel wins, but whenever his hands drop Israel loses. There must be some connection between that fellow on the mountain and this battle in the valley.”

Here’s Joshua down there fighting, here’s Moses up there worshipping and praying. And as Moses worships and prays Joshua has the victory. Moses alone could not have won the battle simply praying. Joshua alone could not have won the battle simply fighting, but when “you have the high praises of God in your mouth and a two-edged sword in your hand,” you’ll get the victory. (3) And when you and I discover how to fall at the feet of the Saviour and worship the battle is going to be a lot easier.

Are you getting these discoveries?


Why did the Lord Jesus come to Joshua? To fight for Israel. Yes. But also to assure Joshua that the battle was not theirs but His. Did you notice how (Ch 6) begins? Look at the statements, “I have,” “Ye shall.” “Joshua I have already given you the victory.” My .... we don’t fight for victory we fight from victory. “Be of good cheer,” said the Lord Jesus. Now He’s on His way to Calvary. Peter is about to deny Him. Judas is about to betray Him. The disciples are about to forsake Him. He says, “ In the world ye shall tribulation, but be of good cheer I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33) “And this is the victory that overcometh the world even our faith.” (1 Jn 5:4)

“And faith comes by hearing ....,” (Rom 10:17) That’s why Joshua said, “What saith ....,” (5:15) And the Lord Jesus said, “Here’s the plan.” You see the Lord Jesus gave Joshua,


What an assurance in (6:2) “See I have given into thine hand Jericho.” Joshua discovered that he had already won the battle. (a) And the Lord Jesus gave him,


“Joshua I have already given you the city, now here’s the way you’re going to do it.” (6:3) In a meeting with a small group of missionaries in China, James Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission now O.M.F. reminded them that there were three ways to do God’s work.

(1) To do what you want to do and hope it will work out.

(2) To do what you want to do and ask God to bless it.

(3) To find out what God wants you to do and expect him to bless it.

That’s what Joshua did. Joshua was a soldier and soldiers know how to take orders. Did you know that D. L. Moody did not like for Ira Sankey to use the hymn “Onward Christian soldiers,” in his campaigns. The reason was he said, “I cannot think of any group of people less like an army than the church of Jesus Christ.” Is that not true? I mean do you see any discipline in the local church? No. We come if we feel like it. Can you imagine a roll call in the army? “Jones .... here.” “ Johnston .... present.” “Black .... Black could not come today he’s a headache.” “Williams ....,” “Sir, Williams decided to play golf today.” Why if we were an army and the Lord treated us the way the military treats its people we would all be in the guard house. But Joshua knew how to take orders and he had discovered that he had already won the battle. These are some great discoveries are they not? I need these as I go back to that difficult home, demanding job, to raise my children and to serve the Lord.


My …

(1) Your are not Alone: God is With you

(2) You are Second in Command: God is Before you

(3) You are Standing on Holy Ground: God is Around you

(4) The Battle is not yours but God’s: God is For you.