Remove Your Sandals
by Impact Church
Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” He said, “No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?” The captain of the LORD ‘ S host said to Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. Joshua 5:13-15
Finally, the wandering people of Israel made it to the Promised Land. After 40 years of enduring the wilderness, eating their daily manna and shaking off their Egyptian past, they stood in the place of God’s promises, a land of plenty, flowing with milk and honey. Joshua, the faithful servant to the great Moses, stood on the edge of the conquest of the land and the beginning of a new era in Israel’s history. He was prepared to conquer and occupy the land God had promised Abraham. Before he began his campaign, he must be prepared.
In the location of the first battle, Joshua is confronted by a sword-wielding man near Jericho. Expecting that this man was drawn for conflict but unsure of his identity, Joshua seeks clarification on the intentions of this warrior. “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” As a military leader with a history of success, Joshua was sizing up his challenges and performing a recon on the new territory. Seeing a single soldier was no threat to Joshua. He could take one guy alone. But this soldier was not a man alone. Joshua was the man alone.
At the announcement of his role, coming “as captain of the host of the LORD”, Joshua fell at his feet and bowed down and asked, “What has my lord to say to his servant?”. After spending 40 years serving Moses and witnessing the many appearances of the Glory of the LORD, Joshua immediately knew who this was. This was God revealing Himself to the leader of His people. Joshua knew what it meant: prepare yourself for God’s revelation and be prepared to do things as He commanded.
God’s revelation is holy. The captain of the LORD’S host commanded that Joshua remove his sandals because he was standing in a holy place. In Moses’ life, the burning bush revealed the LORD and the same requirement was issued. As the bush was a symbol of Moses’ world and a precursor to the Wilderness wandering, so now the Captain of the LORD’S host, carrying a sword typifies what Joshua is going to do: fight in the name of the LORD. Joshua’s first thought was, “are you for us or against us?”, but he soon learned that it wasn’t to be like that. The Person and revelation of God is not defined in an either/or, black and white world. Who God is and what He is doing transcends our categories of definition. The battle is the LORD’s and Joshua was being prepared to fight His battle in His way. Joshua went from deciding whether to kill his enemy or ask an ally to join him to submitting to the LORD’s Captain. Joshua models a godly leader not because he fought the enemies of The LORD in taking the land but because he submitted himself to God’s character and revelation. Walking around Jericho for seven days and blowing the trumpet to bring down the walls was made possible because Joshua saw the LORD and removed his sandals.
The beginning of a great work of God among His people is always marked by an uncertainty. In the desire to eliminate uncertainty, we size up the surroundings and try to gain an understanding about what’s in our favor or what works against us. At this critical moment of evaluation, we should realize this is when God has revealed Himself to His people. Facing a conflict or a threat, God’s revelation and our submission to it changes our perspective and properly prepares us.
Before walking, remove your sandals.