I want to focus today on one of my favorite passages in Joshua. It is Joshua 5:13-15.
Let’s read it again and then look at our holy Lord and what holy servants look like.
Joshua 5:13-15 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.
The Holy Lord: Who God Is and Why It Matters
As this scene opens, Joshua is out on the edge of the city of Jericho by himself, and he looks up. What is he doing?
Well, back up 40 years before. The Israelites are out of slavery and headed back to their ancestral land, but this land is now occupied by another people.
Which means if they are going to get it back, there is going to be a fight.
So, just like we still do today, they sent in spies or scouts before marching in, just to survey the enemy to see what they were up against.
Every one but two of the scouts said they would never overcome those huge fortified cities. They would die in there. The only two who had confidence they could do it were Joshua and Caleb.
Because the people rebelled against God and showed Him no confidence, God sent them back out into the wilderness for 40 years, until a new generation was ready to follow God.
Now an older Joshua who has been put in charge after Moses’ passing is ready to lead them into battle to claim the Promised Land.
So Joshua is standing outside the huge fortified walls of Jericho on the eve of their attack, and it is clear that the other scouts were right about one thing: The Israelite people did not have near the amount of needed resources to take that city by human effort.
Only with God’s mighty, divine provision and power would they be able to conquer the fortified walls of Jericho. During this time, Joshua is out there most likely seeking God for his battle plan, because Joshua knows his battle plan is already worthless.
But we read he looks up to find he is not alone but lingering on the shadow of an unknown man with a drawn sword lifted high.
Now when a man is in your space with a drawn sword, it’s probably not to offer you shade.
So, Joshua draws an immediate line and asks, “Are you for us or against us?”
Meaning, “If you are for our people, you will bow before me as your leader,
or if you are for the enemy and you have your sword drawn, it’s about to go down.”
The stranger’s response is unique. He says, “NO!” in verse 14.
What he means is neither. What he is saying is, “You are asking the wrong question. I am the commander of the army of the LORD. The question isn’t am I for or against you; the real question is are you for or against me?”
Realizing who this is, Joshua falls to the ground in worship.
Joshua 5:14 … And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?”
Now this is very revealing because faithful Israelites did not worship other men, nor did they worship the created angels. →They only worshipped God! Joshua knows who he is in the presence of.
Joshua 5:15 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.
What is cool about this is it is a very similar interaction that God had when He calls Moses at the burning bush.
Just like the burning bush, this mighty warrior is both breathtaking and scary all at the same time.
This is a picture of God’s holiness.
The question for us is do we really get the holiness of GOD?
The Holiness of God is the perfection of God. God’s holiness will be the attribute that we praise Him for, forever and ever.
Revelation 4:8 ... day and night they never cease to say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!"
It is an essential understanding of God that He is holy, that His nature is holy, that He is infinitely and perfectly just, that He is morally flawless and perfect, that He is perfection. Everything in Him and of Him and for Him and from Him and by Him is perfect. And so whatever He says is what justice is.
“We must not think that God does a thing because it's good and right, but rather the thing is good and right because God does it." -William Perkins
The holiness of God is His unmatchable, majestic perfection and purity.
Do we really get the holiness of God?
If you do, then you, too, will fall face down before Him. Why?
Because you have nothing to offer that comes close to matching Him.
Because you are so stained with impurity in your sin in the brightness of His perfection.
For example: When Isaiah is given view of God high and lifted up and the seraphim cry out to God in song, shouting “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is the LORD God almighty”, Isaiah’s response is, “Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips.”
What is so profound about this is Isaiah was a prophet and preacher, and his lips were what he was most proud of. But in the presence of God, he admits his best attribute is garbage compared to God.
We must get the holiness of God.
We cannot “just say” Jesus is the main thing. We have to mean it by how we live!
Our utter speechless, humble, selfless, prayerful, faithful, obedient lives must bow before His utter holiness.
We need to get the holiness of God. We need to come face to face with how unmatchable He is, how perfect He is, how pure He is, how mighty He is! Why? Now it is so important we understand why.
Because only in light of His holiness will you and I see who we really are in His shadow.
Only then do you and I really begin to see our sin.
Because if you just look to your fellow man to see how you stack up, you will look hard enough and long enough until you find people that make you feel good about yourself compared to them.
This is why man’s love affair with the old adage, “I am a good person,” is so damning!
Because compared to man, maybe that is true.
→ But compared to the HOLINESS OF GOD, it is a laughable lie.
We need to see the HOLINESS of GOD, so we can see the fullness of our sin and the DEPTH of OUR DEPRAVITY. Not just so we can feel bad about ourselves or for ourselves!
This is the response of SOME and, oh, how they tragically miss it. They MISS THE GOOD NEWS!
We need to see the depth of our depravity in light of the holiness of God so that we see our need for one thing: THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST!
THE CROSS OF JESUS CHRIST is the only thing big enough to mend the enormous gap that rightly separates me in my sin from GOD in His glory.
Praise God for the cross of Jesus Christ! AMEN?
ONLY when God reveals Himself to you and shows you His unmatchable, majestic perfection and purity--His holiness—is your utter wickedness and weakness in sin thereby revealed.
Only then will you fall face down before Him and lay your deadly doing down and worship Him.
Only then will you realize by none of our efforts will we ever conquer the fortified walls of those that are in front of this club that separate us from all that God has for us.
In light of this, it is the mercy of God on us that is the source of all our praise. WHY?
Because He should have righteously taken out His sword of justice and cut our guilty heads off.
But He didn’t! God’s people needed delivering, so God became human!
This leads us back to the text.
The Holy Servant Lord: What Christ Did and Why It Matters
In this encounter between Joshua and the man holding up his sword, who is the man holding the sword who claims to be the commander of the Lord’s army?
It is an “angel of the Lord,” who is both identical with us and also distinct in the most holy way. Does this remind you of anybody?
One who without abandoning the full essence and power of deity or diminishing the divine holiness is able to accommodate Himself to the company with sinners while affirming the wrath of God.
The angel of the Lord in the Old Testament can be appreciated only if we understand Him as a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ Himself.
This is another reminder to us of the grace of God who sends His Son to do the unthinkable.
He sends Him to take the sword on Himself in place of His people so that we can have His holiness!
And as a result, watch the walls of sin crumble at our feet, so we can march into the promised land and forever feast with the KING!
This is the good news of the HOLY LORD! It is so amazing!
In Genesis 3:24, after man sinned, we read that God drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden, He placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
The sword of eternal justice blocked the only way back to God. You could say then that to pass the sword of justice one would have to pay the ultimate price, or the only way back to God is to go under the sword.
The spotless Jesus, who was crucified in our place, is the promised One who was able to take on the sword for His people, and He did!
In John 17:19 (NLT) Jesus says, “I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth.”
Back to Joshua…
So, Joshua is rightly scared and full of reverence before God, and what does he then get up and do? He leads his people in great courage up to the wall, and what do they do?
They don’t lean on the power of their flesh. They don’t lean on their best laid plans and great tools of war.
No. He walks them around while blowing trumpets so that when the walls fall down, the One who receives all the praise is only GOD Himself.
Joshua is a Christ-like servant leader that faithfully surrenders to his God and obediently serves his King.
And like Joshua, we, too, can faithfully surrender to our God and obediently serve our King in the battle He has put us in. This leads us to part three.
3. His Holy Servants: Who We Can Be in Christ and Why It Matters
There are two main things here that we must see to understand who we can be in Christ and why it matters.
In CHRIST, we can be:
Exclusively, undividedly, unconditionally obedient to God
Different than the world
A. To be exclusively, undividedly, unconditionally obedient to God
Why does Joshua need to take off the sandals?
In Leviticus, there was holy use and common use.
The difference was things used exclusively for God were holy, and things used for man were common.
God calls us to be radically and exclusively for Him. The problem is we are really good at sometimes living for Him! We are good at saying, “God I will serve you if you do this or that!”
“I will serve you if …” Do you realize anytime you give God this ultimatum, you are highlighting the fact that it is not really God you are serving or living for? You are really living for the things you want Him to give you.
The IF is the rival against God for your greatest affections. But God will have no rivals.
The first commandment says, “Have NO OTHER GODS before me”.
If you have ifs that you put between you and God, you are placing conditions on Him.
The life of a HOLY SERVANT means you are wholly devoted to Him and not partially devoted.
→ “Partially devoted” is an oxymoron.
In Christ we must be exclusively, undividedly, unconditionally obedient to God
In order to be obedient to God, we must know what we are to obey.
Meaning devotion to God is stoked by the fire of His living word reigning in and through us.
Let’s first look at the other way in which we need to be in Christ:
B. To be different than the world
When rightly understanding the word “holy” in the Bible, it often means “separate.”
It is separate than other things used for common things. It is set apart.
→ This means holy people will be different than the world. We live set apart.
A good example of this is the early church that we see in the book of Acts.
Why was the early church so revolutionary in the Roman-dominated culture they lived in?
Why was the gospel so transforming in that day? Because their faith was truly radical!
There are four BIG areas where we can see how they lived very different than the world around them.
Integrity -- In a “lie to advance yourself” culture, they were honest to a fault.
Sympathy – In a “quick to shame the guilty” culture, they were forgiving.
Chastity – In a “loose and hedonistic” culture, they were faithful to the covenant of marriage.
Generosity – In an “acquire wealth and personal success at all costs” culture, they were recklessly openhanded in sharing what they had.
The early church was an amazing example of what it means to be “holy servants.”
They were honoring God with their lives and generously serving those in need.
The key to this is who they were “IN CHRIST.”
The key is this phrase “IN CHRIST,” because apart from Christ, we will not be exclusively, undividedly, unconditionally obedient to God. We will not be different than the world.
Apart from Christ, we will look to all the stuff this world is selling for our hope and joy.
Paul says in Colossians 1:27 one of my favorite phrases in the Bible: “… Christ in you, the hope of glory!”
Notice that it doesn’t say it is Christ and you, like you make a good team.
→Like sometimes I give Christ the ball, and sometimes I take it myself.
It also does not say Christ then you.
Too many Christians are out there trying their hardest to follow Christ’s example.
“Christ came 2000 years ago, and now it is up to me to carry on His work--to be all I can be for Jesus!” Do you realize without Jesus at your center in everything you do, you will never live up to His example? All of that is religion.
Paul reminds us it is not Christ and you or Christ then you; it is Christ in you, and that is your hope of glory.
Christ who is HOLY makes us HOLY!
Joshua got this and fell on his face in worship.
He surrendered it all for God. It wasn’t about him or his fame; it was all about GOD!
And when it was totally about God, God used Joshua to lead an army unto great victory.
So, I want to make it personal with the goal of being most helpful:
Is it Christ and you? Sometimes you are doing good enough that you don’t need Him, and sometimes you do?
Is it Christ then you? You are constantly trying to follow His example but somehow can’t seem to even conquer the armies that await you?
Is it just you?
Christ in you the hope of GLORY.
Our only hope for glory is Jesus! So, we truly live and lead for Him. We truly are enjoying Him more than anything else. Jesus is the key to holy living.