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When Israel had crossed the Jordan River into the promised land, God directed them to revisit some of the central characteristics of their special relationship with Him. They renewed the circumcision symbolic of their identity as God’s covenant people (Joshua 5:1-9) and observed their first Passover in the land, receiving the produce of their inheritance (vv.10-12). Then Joshua had an encounter with God resonant of Moses’ experience with the burning bush, for, like Moses, Joshua is told “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy” (v.15, ESV).

In this encounter, God’s manifestation to Joshua is described: “a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand” (v.13). Joshua greets this martial figure with the question of whose side he’s on: “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” He receives the wonderful response, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come” (v.14).

God is no one’s instrument. God is Master. He is not a tool for man’s machinations; His Name is not a password for our own ends; His Word is not a prop. He is accomplishing His purpose, and we should ask not so much if He is on our side as if we are on His side.

Because He will come with drawn sword to destroy His enemies (Rev. 19:1-16). God’s victory is certain. For all the discouragement of things going on in this world, Christians should have a total confidence in the triumph of their cause–because it is God’s cause, to which they have given themselves. The cross advances. If we have faith, we have nothing to fear. Our God is near.