To stand on holy ground:

Joshua base image Relationship Restored (v2-6a)

In the desert, Israel had to learn humility.  They needed to be dependent on God and not themselves.  The only reason they were now able to enter Canaan was that they had indeed become completely dependent on their God.

During the forty years of waiting in the wilderness, none of the sons born had been circumcised. Now God commanded that this could now be done. The old generation did not obey the voice of the Lord, and take the promise of a land flowing with milk and honey by faith. Only now, a new generation was available to be raised up in place of the generation of unbelief. God’s work will always go on, but the people of unbelief imagecannot share in it.

Circumcision was a powerful act of consecration to God. In it, an Israelite said “I’m not like the other nations. I listen to God and do what He says I should do.” It was a symbol of dying to self and living for God. But this act of circumcision was also an act of madness from the military point of view. All the men of fighting age were made completely vulnerable and unable to fight for a period of several days. It creates another moment of total dependence upon God’s protection.

image Certainty promised  (v6b).

God will perform what we think of as absurd or even impossible in order to keep his promises.  Barren women have children. Slaves are brought out of captivity. Jericho’s walls fall without force. Gideon’s armies win by subterfuge. A child slays a giant. Hosea marries a prostitute. A virgin conceives. A king leads by washing the feet of his disciples. Average people are empowered by the Holy Spirit. And ultimately death is trumped by resurrection.

Walter Brueggemann makes reference to the grand plan of salvation when he writes,

Everything is possible to God – except one thing. The thing not possible is the removal of the cup. What God will not (or cannot) do is to circumvent the reality of suffering, hurt, the cross. Thus, our text does not permit a casual triumphalism that simply believes everything is possible. Because of the character of God, everything is possible for those who stay through the dark night of barrenness with God.

image New blessings (v7-12)

Israel suffered the bitter ridicule of both their enslavement in Egypt and then their forty years of wandering in the desert.  How could they be the people of special blessing of God?

Now they rejoiced in a land of milk and honey and no longer needed the limited blessing of the manna.  Why live with the blessings of past times, when God has so much more to provide now?

This obedient younger generation is prepared to celebrate the Passover, most likely only for the third time in Israel’s history. Neither Joshua or the Lord have prompted it.  It is a heart response of the people in their new dependent state.  This (as with the previous two occasions) was a time of celebrating the next stage of Israel’s national life.

The eating of the Passover presupposes that the produce is from Canaan itself.  It is home grown, allotment food. Even if it is fast food, it represents living off God’s new blessings.

imageEncountering Jesus (v13-15)

Somewhere “near Jericho,” Joshua meets a man standing in front of him holding his drawn sword. The man is a soldier ready for combat, but seems to have appeared “out of thin air”.

The phrase “drawn sword” only ever occurs with the expression “the angel of the Lord” (Num 22:23, 1 Chron 21:16) and strongly suggests that the “man” is in fact the divine messenger.  However, Joshua fails to see that!

Eventually the stranger is identified as the ‘captain of the army of the Lord,” a title that occurs only here, and we are reminded that God has a heavenly army (his “hosts,” hence his title “Lord of hosts,” 1 Kings 22:19; Ps 103:19-21), and that Israel is also his “army” (Ex 7:4, 12:41; 1 Sam 17:45). The Lord leads both as king.

Joshua now falls face down on the ground and worships him, a gesture of high respect, for he has realised that the “army” is God’s almighty, invisible host and the stranger is an angelic figure in human form (Gen 16:7-14; Gen 21:17-21; Genesis 22:11-18; Genesis 31:11, 13; Exodus 3:2; Judges 2:1-4; Judges 6:11-24; Judges 13:3-22; 2 Samuel 24:16; Zechariah 3:1-5). This man is clearly a friend coming to support Israel,  but the words “My Lord” and “his “servant” show Joshua’s submission to the strangers authority.

“’Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy” (v15a), is virtually identical to God’s familiar order to Moses at the burning bush (Ex 3:5). The echo reconfirms Joshua as Moses successor and marks this moment as Joshua’s “burning bush experience.”

“Holy ground” is a sure sign that God is present and about to speak  (cf. Ex 3:2-4:17; 6:2-5), since his holy presence is the only thing able to sanctify space. This is a moment of immense significance. God has turned up with his invisible army to join with Israel in the land which was promised so long ago.  “All at last is ready”.

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