Sunday Sermon: ‘The Battle is the Lord’s ‘

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I wonder if this might be the kind of prayer many of us need to pray –

Dear God,
So far today I’ve done all right. I haven’t gossiped, I haven’t lost my temper, I haven’t been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish or over-indulgent. But in a few minutes,dear Lord, I’m going to get out of bed, and from then on, I’m probably going to need a lot of help. Amen

It was the great missionary J. Hudson Taylor who said, “I used to ask God if He would come and help me. Then I asked if I could come and help Him. Finally I ended by asking God to do His own work through me.”

A few years ago it dawned on me what Jesus was saying when He told us to pray – “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.” (Mt 6:13)

  • It’s God’s kingdom forever and ever, not mine.
  • And it will take God’s power, not mine.
  • Therefore it’s God’s glory, not mine.’

1. Type A Personalities

I’m sure that some of you are familiar with what we often call a ‘Type A Personality.’ Even if you’re not familiar with the term, no doubt you’re familiar with some who have it. A Type A personality is someone who can be pretty intense. They are often impatient, aggressive, someone who experiences difficulty relaxing, workaholics and loves to achieve. Unfortunately I happen to know a Type A person pretty well – me! The Type B personality is more laid back, easy-going and not that worried about what happens. My theory is the reason the Type B’s can relax is because they know the Type A’s will get it done.

Joshua has always struck me as a Type A personality.

Joshua 5:13 And 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? 14 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? 15 And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.

By the fact that Joshua was out the night before, scanning the situation, I would say that he definitely leans a little towards being the Type A personality. But to his credit, you also have to remember that Joshua was a military man. Many of us are familiar with the story back in the book of Exodus where Moses is up on the mountain, holding his staff over his head in his hands, and as long as Moses kept the staff over his head, the army of Israel won. Yet whenever he let his arms down, the army of Israel was defeated. Finally, due to sheer weariness, Aaron and Hur had to come along and help hold his arms up. While all of this is going on up on the mountain, guess who’s down in the valley doing the fighting – Joshua. Joshua was a Type A personality, a military man, in charge and about to take on Israel’s first real test in the new land. Tomorrow they begin the campaign against the fortified city of Jericho. So naturally Joshua was out that night, surveying the situation and perhaps experiencing some jitters.

2. The Captain of the Lord’s Host

As he approaches the city, suddenly he sees a man facing him, with his sword drawn and in his hand. The Bible doesn’t describe the man but we might guess that his appearance was one of strength and vibrancy. I’m sure that he was the most powerful looking soldier Joshua had ever seen. You see – this warrior was from heaven. He was the captain of heaven’s angelic army.

The question many have asked is – ‘Did Joshua see an angel of the Lord’, or did he see ‘the Angel of the Lord?’ What’s the difference?

Let’s suppose for a moment that it was ‘an’ angel of God. We have been studying about angels on Wednesday nights and we have learned that angels can be very impressive beings. In 1 Kings 19 we read of how God used one angel to slaughter 185,000 Assyrian soldiers. Most of the time when someone in the Bible saw an angel, the first thing the angel had to say to them was – ‘Fear not.’ If this man was ‘an’ angel of the LORD and the captain of the LORD’s host, then most likely it was Michael the archangel. Michael often leads the army of heaven and to be the head of such supernatural beings, Michael must be a very powerful angel.

Most however, do not believe that Joshua saw ‘an’ angel of the LORD, but rather, ‘the’ Angel of the LORD. Who or what is the angel of the Lord? Look with me at Exodus 3.

Exodus 3:1 Now Moses kept  the flock of Jethro his father in law , the priest of Midian: and he led the flock to the backside of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. (Mt Sinai ?) 2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, I will now turn aside , and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. 4 And when the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I. 5 And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. 6 Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.

Several times in the Old Testament, men and women had an encounter with the Angel of the LORD. (Abraham, Jacob, the parents of Samson, etc) Whenever this happened, there is often a reference to that individual having seen God. That’s what we find with this occasion with Moses. We read that the Angel of the LORD appeared to him and that Moses fell on his face before Him, because he was afraid to look upon God. Moses saw God, or to be more specific, Moses saw God the Son in an appearance long before His birth at Bethlehem. The technical term that is used in the commentaries is – ‘theophany.’ ‘Theos’ is the Greek word for God (theology) and ‘phany’ means appearance. We might say that Moses witnessed a theophany or to be more specific, a Christophany, a pre-Bethlehem appearance of Christ.

‘Put off thy shoes from thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground’ Moses was told. So was Joshua.

Joshua 5:15 And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.

We might say that Yeshua saw Yeshua. The Old Testament name ‘Joshua’ is the Hebrew equivalent to the New Testament Greek name Jesus. Most likely Jesus was called Joshua or Yehsua as a child, more than He was called Jesus.

When Joshua saw the mighty warrior, he asked – “Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?” Are you on our side or their side? What the Lord said is amazing -’Neither.’ Joshua 5:14 And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come.

Joshua was about to learn a very important lesson that day. The battle was not about Joshua or the people of Israel. The battle was about God’s will being done. ‘For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen’

There’s a great story of a similar incident found in the book of 2 Chronicles, chapter 20. Jehoshaphat is king of Judah and he’s received a report that an enemy army is marching against him. When Jehoshaphat heard this news, he did what every child of God should do in a time of trouble. He humbled himself before the Lord and prayed.

2 Chronicles 20:6 He prayed, “O LORD, God of our ancestors, you alone are the God who is in heaven. You are ruler of all the kingdoms of the earth. You are powerful and mighty; no one can stand against you! 7 O our God, did you not drive out those who lived in this land when your people arrived? And did you not give this land forever to the descendants of your friend Abraham? 8 Your people settled here and built this Temple for you. 9 They said, ‘Whenever we are faced with any calamity such as war, disease, or famine, we can come to stand in your presence before this Temple where your name is honored. We can cry out to you to save us, and you will hear us and rescue us.’

One of the first lessons every believer needs to learn is that God despises pride, but He loves humility.

Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.

2 Chronicles 20:13 As all the men of Judah stood before the LORD with their little ones, wives, and children, 14 the Spirit of the LORD came upon one of the men standing there…  15 He said, “Listen, King Jehoshaphat! Listen, all you people of Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the LORD  says: Do not be afraid! Don’t be discouraged by this mighty army, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow, march out against them… 17 But you will not even need to fight. Take your positions; then stand still and watch the LORD’s victory. He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out there tomorrow, for the LORD is with you!”

18 Then King Jehoshaphat bowed down with his face to the ground. And all the people of Judah and Jerusalem did the same, worshiping the LORD. 19  And the Levites, of the children of the Kohathites, and of the children of the Korhites, stood up to praise the LORD God of Israel with a loud voice on high. 20 And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the LORD your God, so shall ye be established; believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.

21 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed singers unto the LORD, and that should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army, and to say, Praise the LORD; for his mercy endureth for ever. 22 And when they began to sing and to praise, the LORD set ambushments against the children of Ammon, Moab, and mount Seir, which were come against Judah; and they were smitten.

It has been said that there are 5 things in the Bible, that once broken, accomplished something great:

1. Broken vessels of Gideon which brought him a great victory over the Midianites  (Judges 7:18, 19)

2. Broken box of precious perfume that anointed the feet of Jesus (Mk 14:3)

3. Broken bread which Jesus used to feed the multitudes (Mt 14:10)

4. Broken body of our Lord by which He has saved us from our sins (1 Cor 11:24)

5. Broken will of child of God where God is able to abide and accomplish His will (Ps 51:17)

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