“So He said, ‘No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come’ ” (v. 14). - Joshua 5:13-15
Paul’s life was altered radically by his face-to-face encounter with Jesus on the Damascus road. But Paul’s is not the only such encounter recorded in Scripture—they occur before, during, and after Christ’s incarnation. What did those who encountered Christ learn about Him and about themselves? And what lessons can we draw from their experiences?
It is impossible to know who was the first person to come face to face with the second person of the Trinity, but we know there were such encounters even before He began His life in this world. These pre-incarnation appearances are known as Christophanies, and Adam, Abraham, Moses or any number of Old Testament saints may have encountered Him in this way.
Perhaps the earliest recorded Christophany is in Joshua 5. God has commanded Joshua to take command of the people of Israel following the death of Moses, promising that no man will be able to stand before him. Having led the people across the Jordan, Joshua is now preparing his army for its first big test—the fortress city of Jericho. One day shortly before the battle, Joshua encounters a Man standing with a drawn sword. The Man, unfamiliar to Joshua, is clearly a formidable warrior. Joshua is anxious to know whether this is the kind of foe the Israelites will encounter in Jericho, so he asks, “‘Are you for us or for our adversaries?’ ”
The Man’s answer is a perplexing “‘No.’ ” Thankfully, He adds, “‘but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’ ” This is the leader of the army of God, and He is saying, “I’m your commander.” It’s not a question of whether He is with Israel; the question is whether Israel is with Him.
Joshua proves whose side he is on by falling on his face in worship—and the warrior accepts his obeisance! Furthermore, He tells Joshua to remove his sandals, for he is on holy ground. This is no mere angel, for no angel would accept worship. It is Christ, the one the New Testament calls our archegos, our captain (Heb. 2:10). Joshua came face to face with the pre-incarnate Christ and learned that he, the creature, must own the cause of his maker.
It is vital for us to realize that Christ is our captain, and to “accept Him” is to make His purposes our own. He is not just the great facilitator to help us achieve our ends. Above all, we should do as Joshua did—fall before Him in worship. Begin now to prepare for the next Lord’s Day and consider ways you can worship Him more properly.
Passages for Further Study
- Acts 3:15; 5:31
- Heb. 12:2
- Rev. 1:5; 19:11–16
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