Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Today on Revive Our Hearts, you’ll get some biblical advice on what to do when you’re discouraged. And as we begin, here’s one story about encouragement. The team at Revive Our Hearts got an email that said:

I just wanted to let you know, my husband and I are missionaries overseas in Asia and I absolutely love your free podcasts!! They are a huge blessing and encouragement. They inspire, convict, and encourage and are a huge blessing in my life. Thank you!”

And Nancy, I’m so thankful for listeners who support this ministry so we can be there online for missionaries in Asia and women who need encouragement everywhere.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: And Leslie we’ve been letting people know about an important goal all this month. And on this final day of September, I hope listeners will listen and respond. To help us continue providing Revive Our Hearts each weekday, we’re asking the Lord to grow the monthly partner team.

This is a group of listeners who are actively involved in making this ministry possible as they pray, they support the ministry financially each month, and they share the message with others.

In order for Revive Our Hearts to continue airing across the U.S. and around the world through the Internet, we're asking the Lord to provide at least 800 new ministry partners here in September.

When you sign up as a monthly partner this month, as our way of saying "thank you for your investment in this ministry," we'd like to send you a copy of the new, hardcover, gift edition of my book called The Wonder of His Name: 32 Life-Changing Names of Jesus. And as a partner, you'll get one conference registration each year.

I hope you'll get all the details at ReviveOurHearts.com, or you can give us a call at 1–800–569–5959.

Would you join us in praying the Lord would raise up additional monthly partners so that we can continue sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with listeners in your area and all around the country.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, September 30, 2014.

Do you ever feel all alone in doing what’s right? It’s tough to keep going when you’re dealing with loneliness. Today you’ll be encouraged as Nancy describes the help and companionship that is actually available to anyone following God’s plan. It’s part of the series "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 9): Defeating Your Jericho." 

Nancy: Well, the Israelites have crossed over Jordan and now we left them camped out at Gilgal about a mile or two from Jericho. Jericho, as you remember, is built on a hill. It’s got imposing double walls many feet high—four or five stories high, perhaps. So the Children of Israel are looking up at those walls and probably the people from Jericho are looking down on the Israelites camped at Gilgal there.

So the Israelites have been consecrated. They have renewed their covenant with God by reinstituting the ordinance of circumcision and observing the Passover. What is left to do now before moving to take over Jericho? Well there is, in God’s providence, one final order of business that we’re going to look at today in Joshua chapter 5.

This particular incident concerns Joshua himself as the leader of the Israelite army. It’s an encounter he has that is really key and transformational as he prepares to lead God’s people to go into Jericho and to take over the land that God has given to them—the Promised Land.

Joshua chapter 5, let me read the passage. It’s just three verses, beginning in verse 13.

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so (vv. 13–15).

Now I want to take time today and in the next session to unpack those three verses. I’ve been meditating on them for a number of weeks myself. As recently as the last couple of days the Lord has been making this passage fresh to me.

Today we want to look at the revelation—who this man was and what Joshua saw—the man who confronted him. Then in the next session we’ll look at Joshua’s response to the revelation.

Let’s pick up beginning in verse 13: “When Joshua was by Jericho.” Now remember the Israelites are at Gilgal, about a mile from Jericho, and Joshua in this passage is apparently alone and he’s by Jericho. It appears that he has left the camp at Gilgal and he’s gone off by himself right to the vicinity of Jericho. He’s gone out, and we don’t know why. He’s by Jericho. He’s near. He’s close by.

It’s possible he’s gone out to survey the scene. He knows that the next thing on the agenda is to go in and take the city but he has no idea how. These are huge walls. This is a heavily fortified city. We know from chapter 6, verse 1, which is the story of Jericho we’ll get to in a couple of days, that the city is shut up is what the passage says. No one is coming out. No one is going in. The people of Jericho have locked this city up tighter than a drum. They’re determined to defend the city. The city seems invincible.

So Joshua has got to be wondering, “How are we going to take this city? God has said every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon I have given to you. Now go in and take possession. But how are we supposed to do this?”

So I suppose he was surveying the scene. I think it’s likely that he was out meditating and praying, which is what God had told him to do in Joshua, chapter 1. “Meditate on the law of the Lord day and night, and as you do you will be successful and you will prosper in whatever you do” (v. 8 paraphrased).

So I think it’s likely he was asking God, “What are we supposed to do? We need direction. So, “When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand” (v. 13). 

When it says he lifted up his eyes, that suggests that apparently he had been looking down and when he looks up, he sees what is going to turn out to be—I shouldn’t say what, I should say who—the one who is going to turn out to be God’s provision for this impossible situation. Isn’t it true that when we lift up our eyes, we find God’s provision. We’re going to see that God’s provision is God Himself. But I’m getting ahead of the story.

Verse 13. This phrase was interesting to me: “He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold.” I went to my online concordance and found that that line is found six times in the Old Testament, speaking of different people. “He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold.” It’s found six times just like that in the Old Testament. Four of those times are a situation, including this one, that when the person looked up, what he beheld was a supernatural manifestation or type of Christ.

“He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold.” It happened twice with Abraham—once in Genesis chapter 18, when he had three angel visitors, one of whom was a preincarnate appearance of Christ in human form that came to tell him about the impending destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Once was again with Abraham in Genesis chapter 22, when he had been told by God to sacrifice his son Isaac. He lifted up his knife to slay his son in obedience to God’s word and at that moment God spoke to him. God told him, “Don’t slay your son because now I know that you love Me and will obey Me, that you believe Me” (Genesis 22:12, paraphrased). Then it says, “Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns” (Gen. 22:13).

You remember the story how he offered up the ram in the place of his son. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, there was a substitute. There was a manifestation of God, a picture of Christ, the sinless lamb of God, who would be our substitute and would die in our place. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold.

There’s another time that phrase is used in the life of Daniel—in Daniel chapter 10. You read how Christ appeared to Daniel after 21 days of intense spiritual searching in a terrifying, transforming experience as Daniel lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, there was one who, we know as we put it into the context of Scripture, was Christ Himself.

So in this situation, back in Joshua 5, Joshua lifts up his eyes and he sees a man. Now we’ll talk more in a moment about who that man was, but as I was meditating on this phrase, “He looked up,” the picture that came to my mind was years ago when I was visiting the Brooklyn Tabernacle on one of their Tuesday evening prayer meetings.

They were singing a song that was new to me. I think Steve Green had been there the week before and he had taught them this little chorus: “You have been good. You have been good.” It just repeats itself over and over again. “You have been good to me.”

Pastor Cymbala, at one point as the people were singing this chorus over and over again, said, “I wonder how many of you in this service are currently out of work. You need a job; you’ve tried to get a job; you can’t get one, and you need God to provide a job for you.” He asked if those people would come forward so that they could be prayed for.

I was sitting very close to the front in that service and I just remember this flood of people who swarmed down to the front altar area there, people who were out of work and needed a job. I don’t know if it was a hundred or two hundred. It was a lot of them.

All the while the congregation is singing, “You have been good.” And then I remember Pastor Cymbala interrupting the singing for a moment and looking down at these people standing at the front of the auditorium before him, and he said, “Why are you looking down? Look up! God is in charge! God is in control! I want you to sing this song again and I want you to sing it with your head lifted high and your eyes lifted up.” Those people lifted up their eyes, lifted up their heads to the Lord and sang, “You have been good. You have been good. You have been good.”

Lift up your eyes, and when you do, in your point of extremity or need or impossibility, what will you see? Well, the passage comes to mind that you remember from Psalm 121, verses 1–2:

I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.

Listen, as long as you’re looking down at your circumstances or your fears or the world around you, you’re going to miss seeing the Lord, your helper.

He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
(Ps. 121:3–8).

How do you get those precious promises? I lift up my eyes. Lift up your eyes.

The Scripture says Joshua lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold! The word behold signifies that he was surprised. He was caught off guard. It’s almost as if, “A moment ago you weren’t here. Where did you come from?” Well, we’re going to see where he came from. This was a divine messenger.

Joshua was surprised, and he doesn’t at first recognize this man as divine. All he sees is that there is a man standing before him, not with a sword in its sheath, but with a drawn sword. Now you just picture this. This is a soldier. Joshua is a warrior. He’s a soldier. He knows about swords and warfare, but here’s a man standing before him.

I don’t know what size he was, but he’s got a drawn sword in his hand. I have to wonder was Joshua scared when he saw this man? “Behold.” He wasn’t expecting this. Was he scared? We don’t know. We know that the man had a drawn sword and a sword can be used to attack. It can be used to defend. Joshua wanted to find out has this man come to attack me or has he come to defend me? In that situation, when you’re alone and you’re outside Jericho, it matters a lot whether this man has come to attack you or to defend you.

So verse 13 goes on to tell us, “Joshua went to him [he didn’t run from the situation] and said to him, ‘Are you for us, or for our adversaries?’” Have you come to attack us or have you come to defend us? This is an important question. If this warrior had come to oppose the Israelite army, I’m pretty sure that Joshua was prepared to defy him, to challenge him, and knew that was what he would need to do.

Well, the man answered. Joshua’s question was, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” And the man answered, verse 14: “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” “No” to me is an unexpected answer because the question Joshua had asked wasn’t a yes or no question. He said are you for us or are you for our adversaries? And the man says no.

That answer doesn’t quite make sense. But it does make sense because the point of this encounter that this man has with Joshua—the point is not am I on their side or yours. The point is are you on my side? That’s what this man has come to say to Joshua.

One preacher who I’ve heard in the past preach on this passage says it was as if this man was saying, “I’ve not come to take sides. I’ve come to take over.” That’s the picture you get here. He says, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD.” Some of your translations say the “captain of the host of the LORD.”

Now Joshua was the commander of Israel’s army. Moses had been prior to him. Joshua had been involved in a number of battles and Moses had passed the mantle of leadership to Joshua and Joshua was the undisputed commander of Israel’s army. But now Joshua is standing in the presence of a superior officer.

What do you do when you get in the presence of a superior officer? You salute and you say, “Yes, sir.” He realizes that he is in the presence of someone who outranks him. The commander of the army of the LORD—whatever that is, that’s a higher position than I’ve got. Joshua has to realize that at the moment.

Now what is the army of the Lord or the host of the Lord? This man is the commander of the army of the Lord. There are two possible meanings. The first would be the army of the Lord is actually the army of Israel. The Israelites are God’s army and this man has come to take over, to be the commander.

The other meaning could be that the army of the Lord is a heavenly army. The army of the heavenly hosts. An angelic army of God’s angel servants who are fighting with and for Israel’s troops on the ground. There’s biblical basis to believe that this could have been the case. Actually, I think both of these could be what was meant by the army of the Lord. But the army of the Lord is a vast angelic army—we see it throughout Scripture—that, with rare exceptions, we cannot see with our human eyes.

These are angels who surround the throne of God. They move out and do battle at His bidding. They are His unseen warriors—unseen to us. But they are actively involved in our battles down here on earth. They help us in our fight against spiritual foes. I believe it was ultimately this angelic army, this host of the Lord, that is the army that took down the walls of Jericho without a shot ever being fired.

God is saying, “I’m bringing My angelic hosts, My heavenly hosts, to join with you in this battle. They will be the ones winning the battle. Your army will come alongside, but I have sent My warriors to be involved with you in this battle.”

It brings to mind another passage. You remember 2 Kings chapter 6, when the King of Syria had sent his army to Dothan to seize the prophet Elisha? It says,

He sent there horses and chariots and a great army, and they came by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city” (vv. 14–15).

This was the Syrian army. They were surrounded.

And the servant said, "Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 

We’re dead meat. We’re surrounded. There’s no hope for us here. And Elisha said,

“Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Then Elisha prayed and said, "O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see." [Open the servant’s eyes.] So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (v. 17).

So the Syrian army had his horses and chariots and soldiers there surrounding the city, but God had a heavenly host of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. Elisha and that servant were protected in ways they could not see, could not visualize, did not know until God gave them a glimpse of what was going on in the heavenlies.

You remember when Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane and Judas and the Roman soldiers come to arrest him. Peter has decided he’s going to defend Jesus. He takes out his sword and he cuts off Malchus’ ear. Jesus tells Peter, “Put your sword back. You don’t need to be fighting this battle.” Then Jesus says, “Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matt. 26:53).

See, Jesus knew what was going on in the heavenlies. Peter could only see what was going on down here on earth. Joshua could only see his armies, his forces, his human soldiers. But there were soldiers, there was an angelic host surrounding them. They were the ones who were actually going to fight and win this battle.

So this man comes and he says, “I am the commander of the army of the Lord.” So who is this man who was the commander or the captain of the Lord’s host? What is his identity? Well, I believe that this man is what we call a Christophany. That’s a theological term that refers to an appearance of Christ in human flesh here on earth before His incarnation when He was born in Bethlehem.

In the Old Testament era, periodically Christ Himself would appear. So He actually took on human flesh on a few occasions before He came to this earth at Bethlehem. Sometimes that appearance, that Christophany, an appearance of Christ, sometimes that person is called the angel of the Lord. He is none other than the Lord Jesus.

He’s the fourth man in the fiery furnace when those three Hebrew young men were thrown in and King Nebuchadnezzar says, “I threw three men in this furnace, but behold, there are four, and the fourth one like unto the son of a God” (Daniel 3:25, paraphrased). Who is that? It’s Christ, the captain of the Lord’s hosts.

Who was the man who wrestled with Jacob as he was preparing to cross the River Jabbok? It was Christ who came and appeared, the captain of the Lord’s hosts.

This man who now faces Joshua is none other, I believe, than Christ incarnate who has assumed command of the armies of Israel as they move in to take possession of the Promised Land and who is also the commander of that greater army, the army of angels, that stood behind Israel and assisted her in her battles.

So this man says, “I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” Now I have come. I like that phrase. It says I’ve come just now when you really need me. I’ve made myself known to you. It’s not that he wasn’t there all along, but Joshua had not seen him. Joshua was not conscious of his presence until this moment.

When we first meet Joshua in this paragraph, he’s by himself by Jericho. He’s alone. I think about the loneliness of leadership, the loneliness of being a mom with your children when you can’t be your children’s best friend. You have to be their mom and you have to be leading and teaching those children. They may not be understanding and you sometimes feel, “I feel so alone in this battle.”

Maybe in your church as you’re seeking the Lord and you feel, “I’m the only one or I don’t know of anyone else who is here praying for revival and wanting to serve the Lord.” Sometimes you feel alone in the convictions God has given you or the battle He’s put you into.

This man comes to tell Joshua, “You’re not going into this battle alone. You’re really not alone.” This was a visible confirmation of God’s promise to Joshua earlier in the book, “I will be with you. I’m here. Now I have come.”

Let me say He’s come not just for Joshua but for us. He came not just then, but He comes to us now. We have the promise of Christ’s presence with His people. We don’t see Him visually today. We don’t see Him visibly. He does not appear to us as He did to Joshua, but Christ comes to us no less truly just when we need Him.

When do we need Him? All the time. And He knows just when to show up. He knew when to show up for Joshua. He knows when to show up for you. So we have that promise. Psalm 46:11, “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.”

Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss offering encouragment to anyone who feel alone in following God's plan for her life. That teaching is part of the series, "Lessons from the Life of Joshua (Part 9): Defeating Your Jericho." If you missed any of it, you can hear the audio or follow the transcript at ReviveOurHearts.com.

When you’re facing an unusually busy day, are you ever tempted to skip prayer and the Bible and jump straight to the tasks? Tomorrow we’ll look to the example of Joshua and find out how he prepared for an incredibly challenging day. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.