Joshua 5:13-15 13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” 14 “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” 15 The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
I just couldn’t move on past chapter 5 today. This passage of scripture has so stuck with me since I read it yesterday. This situation takes us back even to Exodus 3 and the burning bush when God spoke the same words to Moses. It was holy moment that would not be forgotten. And as I read this, I tried to put myself into Joshua’s sandals and imagine what the experience was like. Here he is, having crossed the Jordan – he is now approaching enemy territory. A man with a sword drawn appears before him. Now get this: Joshua walks up to him. He doesn’t ask him if he is an enemy from a distance. He walks up to him and THEN asks.
There must have been a sense in Joshua that there was something very different about this man. His spirit must have resonated with the fact the someone mysterious was standing before him – someone heavenly. It’s that sense we get when God seems to be in the room. It’s that place of peace where we know that God is right here, right now. And Joshua found himself in that place. He was in the presence of heaven.
What strikes me with this exchange is the contrast between what I believe was Joshua’s expectation and the man’s response. It seems as though Joshua was awaiting some kind of marching orders. After all, if God was going to send the commander of His army, he must surely be here to tell him what the battle plan is. So he asks what the message is. The response, I believe, was unexpected. In fact it must have been alarming. This messenger instructs him to remove his sandals because the place where he was standing was holy. In other words, “you are in the presence of God, so respond to that.” I can’t help but think that this was no angel at all. Does an angel really make a place holy with it’s presence? Or was this Jesus, the true commander of all heaven and earth? Certainly His presence would bring holiness to this desert place.
I love Joshua’s response to being told to remove his sandals due to the holiness. He didn’t ask a whole bunch of questions. He didn’t wonder, “is that you God?” It says this: And Joshua did so. He realized that God had chosen him to appear to. He realized that He was in a real encounter with God. The response was beautiful, it was a response of awe. He allowed himself to simply BE… in the presence of God. He allowed himself to take in the holiness of that moment.
What about us? We live on the other side of the cross, the side where God has made his presence available to us on a regular basis. It is not a once in a lifetime experience in His presence. It is an everyday experience if we choose to go there. But what do we do with that time? Do we bring our wish lists, our letters to Santa, or our complaints? Do we talk more than we stand in awe and listen? I wonder if we ever respond like Joshua did to the presence of God. I wonder if we ever just simply BE in His presence. Where God shows up is holy ground. So the next time you find yourself in His presence, I challenge you to figuratively take off your sandals and be in awe that He showed up to you.