The waters of the Jordan River had now closed upon the children of Israel; retreat was now impossible, and forward was the only option they had! But their enemies had heard the news of the Lord’s miracle that had just been done for them, and they were quaking in their boots! The Amorite and Canaanite kings realized that their worst fears (voiced by Rahab to the two spies, in chapter 2:9-11) were about to come true. They now knew that their numbers and fortifications would not be any defense for them at all, because the God of heaven and earth was fighting on the side of their invaders. And so they gave up the case as hopeless, and were at their wits’ end. How dreadful indeed is the case of those who thus see the wrath of God advancing towards them – without being able to either prevent or escape it! O that they would take warning now, and flee to the refuge of the hope that is set before them in the Gospel before it is too late!
God impressed these fears upon the Canaanites, and dispirited them. This gave a short rest to the Israelites, allowing them the opportunity for their men to be circumcised. If Joshua himself had decided to do this, it might well have been considered very imprudent in the current time and circumstances; but it was done by the Lord’s direction, for He had made the Canaanites so afraid that they would not take advantage of the Israelites’ weakness to attack them. It may be wondered why the people did not observe the ordinance of circumcision while they were wandering in the wilderness, but it seems to have been a continued token of God’s displeasure against them for their unbelief and murmuring. Circumcision was originally given as a seal of the promise of the land of Canaan; it was in the believing hope of that good land that the patriarchs circumcised their sons. And the omission of this ordinance when the people were sentenced to wander in the desert was a significant reminder to them that the Lord had sworn in His wrath that they would be consumed in the wilderness and never enter Canaan. But now the people had been brought into the land of Canaan, and they had seen the fulfillment of that promise; and so the sign and seal of the Lord’s promise were to be observed again. The people were hereby acknowledged to be the freeborn children of God, having the seal of the Covenant.
A solemn Passover celebration was observed by the Israelites, at the time appointed by the law, in the plains of Jericho – in defiance of the Canaanites who were all around them, but were so afraid of them that they could not give them any disturbance. Now that they had actually entered into the land of Canaan, it was very seasonable to remember those wondrous works of Divine power and goodness by which they had been brought out of Egypt. The finishing of God’s mercies should bring the beginning of them back to our memories.
Provision was also made for the entire camp of Israel to partake of the “corn of the land” – that is, the produce of Canaan. Manna was wonderful food, but it was the mark of a wilderness-situation; and therefore, since they were no longer wandering in the wilderness, they were now furnished with the food of the Promised Land. And notice was taken of the ceasing of the manna, as soon as they had eaten of the produce of the land. This showed the people that the manna had not come to them by chance, for it came just when they needed it; and it continued as long as they needed it, and no longer. The Word and ordinances of God are spiritual manna, with which He nourishes His people in the wilderness of this world. Although these blessings are often neglected or misused, yet they are continued while we are here on earth but when we arrive in the heavenly Canaan, this manna will cease – for we shall no longer need it!
Toward the end of this chapter, we find Joshua in the vicinity of the city of Jericho – possibly in order to get an idea of its fortifications and to think up his plan of attack. But there appeared to him one who looked like a man – and quite an imposing man! He seemed to be a soldier, for he had a drawn sword in his hand. But this “man” was the Son of God Himself – the pre-incarnate Christ in human form! Joshua stepped up boldly to this “man,” and asked Him which side He was on: Israel’s or their enemies’? God had told Joshua to be courageous, and here we see that His grace had made him courageous indeed; for Joshua was obviously ready to attack this “soldier” if he was against Israel’s cause. His question plainly shows the non-neutrality of the great spiritual warfare that is going on in this world; every person is on the side of either Christ or the Canaanites.
When the unknown “soldier” disclosed his identity as the Captain of the Lord’s Host, Joshua gave him Divine honors. The Captain’s drawn sword was an encouragement to Joshua to carry on this holy war against the Canaanites with vigor. Christ’s sword in His hand denotes how ready He is for the defense and salvation of His people.
Although Joshua was the general of Israel’s army, he humbly asked the Captain of the Lord’s Host what He desired to say to him. His inquiry showed an earnest desire to know the will of Christ, and a cheerful readiness and resolution to obey it. All Christians must fight under Jesus’ banner and directions, and then they will conquer by His presence and assistance.
The Warrior-Christ told Joshua to take off his shoes as a sign of reverence in His presence. Thus he was put into readiness to receive the instructions that He was about to give concerning the siege of Jericho. Story to be continued!
Lord Jesus, we beg You to manifest Yourself to us, as You did to Joshua – as the Captain of the Lord’s host, and the Captain of our salvation! Amen.
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