Charles Simeon Commentary - Joshua 5:13 - 5:14

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Joshua 5:13 - 5:14


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DISCOURSE: 247

CHRIST THE CAPTAIN OF THE LORD’S HOST

Jos_5:13-14. It came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as Captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant?

MOST seasonable are the mercies which God vouchsafes to his people. His interpositions for them at the Red Sea and the wilderness, and at their entrance into Canaan through the river Jordan, are ample illustrations of this truth, as is also the peculiar fact recorded in my text. Joshua was now surveying Jericho, which was the first fortress that was to he attacked by him. That he had no fears about success, was evident; because, from his first entrance into the land to that hour, he had acted rather like a person at peace with all men, than as one in the midst of enemies whom he was commissioned to destroy. Still, the visible manifestation of Jehovah’s presence with him could not but greatly strengthen his faith, and increase his assurance that every enemy, however powerful, should fall before him.

The points for our consideration are,

I.       The character which our blessed Lord assumed on this occasion—

The person who now appeared to him as “a man,” was no other than the Son of God himself—

[Many were the occasions on which, at that period of the world, the Son of God assumed either an angelic or human shape, for the purpose of encouraging his believing people. To Abraham [Note: Gen_18:2.], and Jacob [Note: Gen_32:24-30.], and afterwards to Manoah [Note: Jdg_13:6; Jdg_13:22.], were manifestations given similar to that which was here vouchsafed to Joshua. That the person who here appeared to Joshua was more than either man or angel, is clear, I think, from the worship which Joshua, on discovering who he was, paid to him: “Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship.” Now, I grant that Joshua might have made a mistake; but if he had, it would have been corrected by the person, who, if he had not been God, would not have suffered these divine honours to be paid him [Note: Compare Rev_19:10; Rev_22:8-9 where such a mistake was made indeed, but rectified with holy abhorrence.], But, so far were these honours from being declined, that the bestowment of them was sanctioned by an express command, similar to what had been before given to Moses. Jehovah, when he appeared to Moses in the burning bush, commanded him to “put his shoes from off his feet, seeing that the place whereon he stood was holy,” being sanctified by the divine presence [Note: ver. 15 compared with Exo_3:2-6.]. But indeed, in the beginning of the next chapter, the very person who thus addressed Joshua is called Jehovah: “And the LORD (Jehovah) said unto Joshua [Note: Jos_6:2.].” I think, then, that we are in no danger of mistake, when we say that the person who here appeared to Joshua as “a man,” was no other than the Son of God himself, the Second Person in the ever-blessed Trinity.]

He, in answer to the question put to him by Joshua, declared himself to be “the Captain of the Lord’s host”—

[This, in its primary import, signified that all Israel were under his special protection; and that under his command they might be assured of victory. But the same is true of God’s spiritual Israel, in all ages of the world. They are one great army collected under him, and fighting the Lord’s battles, in order to a full and undisturbed possession of the promised land. Of these the Lord Jesus Christ is the Head and Chief. He has received a commission from his Father to be “the Leader and Commander of his people [Note: Isa_55:4.]:” and whatsoever a general is, or can be, to his army, that is he to all who fight under his banners. Instruction in the use of arms—provision for their whole campaign—encouragement to meet their foes—succour in every difficulty—protection from every danger—and all the rewards of victory, are assured to every one of them, in due season [Note: These several ideas may be somewhat amplified with good effect] — — —]

Seeing, then, that we have such a Captain, let us contemplate,

II.      Our duty towards him under that character—

Doubtless our first duty is to enlist under his banners: for we are not his soldiers by nature: yea rather, we are his enemies, and fight against him in every possible way. But He is held up “as an Ensign to the people; and to him must all people seek [Note: Isa_11:10.].” And, as a man entering into the army of an earthly monarch surrenders up himself altogether to the disposal of the general who is placed over him, so must we voluntarily devote ourselves to the service of Christ, before we can be numbered amongst his host over whom he presides. But, supposing this to have been done, then we say that,

1.       We must execute his commands—

[Observe the question which Joshua put to him, the very instant he knew the Lord under this character: “What saith my Lord unto his servant?” A similar question was put by the Apostle Paul, the very instant that the Lord Jesus Christ revealed himself to him: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do [Note: Act_9:6.]?” In truth, there is not a soldier in any army who does not look for orders from his commanding-officer from day to day, or who does not feel himself bound to carry them into execution. Now the reading of the Scriptures with diligence will, for the most part, supply the needful information: yet are there many particular occasions whereon we must be peculiarly attentive also to the voice of his providence; and in those instances must we seek, by prayer and supplication, his special guidance, which he has promised to us in answer to our prayers. For instance: in the attack which was to be made on Jericho, nothing was left to the direction of Joshua, but every the most minute particular was given in command from this great Captain. And we also, if we will look unto Him, may expect all needful directions: to which, of course, we must adhere with all fidelity, in order to approve ourselves good soldiers of Jesus Christ.]

2.       We must go forth in an entire dependence upon him—

[Soldiers of necessity confide in their commander; and in proportion as is their estimate of his talents, will be, for the most part, their expectation of success. Amongst men, however, this confidence is mutual: for the best general in the universe can effect nothing, if he hare not good soldiers to carry his orders into effect. But, in the Christian camp, the confidence must be altogether in the Captain; without whom the most gallant army in the universe must fail. We must be strong indeed, and of good courage: but we must “not lean to our own understanding,” or “trust in an arm of flesh.” In fact, we are really strong only in proportion as we feel ourselves weak, and look to Christ to “perfect his strength in our weakness [Note: 2Co_12:9-10.].” We must therefore be strong, not in ourselves, but “in the Lord, and in the power of his might [Note: Eph_6:10.].”]

3.       To disregard difficulties, and even death itself, in his service—

[A soldier necessarily expects to encounter difficulties, and to expose his life to hazard in the service of his king and country. And the greater the difficulties which he has to sustain, the more he rises to the occasion; insomuch that, if a service of peculiar danger is proposed, a whole army will vie with each other in their readiness to undertake it. Now, if this be the case with those who have enlisted under the banners of an earthly monarch, shall it not much more obtain amongst the armies of the living God? St. Paul “gloried in distresses and necessities for the Lord’s sake:” and the same spirit should animate us also. Indeed, at our very first admission into the service of our Lord we were forewarned, that “he who loved his life, should lose it; and that he only who was willing to lose his life for Christ’s sake, should save it unto life eternal [Note: Mat_10:39.].” We must “be faithful unto death, if ever we would attain a crown of life.”]

Address—

[Inquire now, I pray you, whether this Saviour he to you a friend or an adversary? He is here in the midst of us, “and with his sword drawn,” though we see him not. And to every one of us is he either a friend or a foe. There is no neutrality, either on his part or on ours. Our Lord himself has told us, “that he who is not with him, is against him; and he who gathereth not with him, scattereth abroad [Note: Mat_12:30.].” Would you, then, ascertain whether he be a “Captain” unto you? Examine your own hearts; and ask, Whether you have ever enlisted under his banners by a voluntary surrender of yourselves to him; and then, Whether you are habitually regarding his will as your rule, and his arm as your stay, and his glory as the one object of your life? These are points easy to be ascertained: and on them your eternal happiness depends. If these things be true, then will he be a “Captain of salvation” unto you [Note: Heb_2:10.]: but if this be not the experience of your souls, then you have nothing to expect, but that he will say concerning you, “Bring hither those that were mine enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, and slay them before me [Note: Luk_19:27.].” Oppose him, and you have nothing to hope; submit to him, and you have nothing to fear, to all eternity.]