When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. ~ Joshua 5:13-15
Before the battle with Jericho, we find this brief and seemingly cryptic account in the book of Joshua. Joshua encountered a man with a drawn sword and asked, “Are you for us or our enemies.” This would seem to us to be a reasonable question. The man answered, “No,” and identifies himself as the commander of the Lord’s army.
On first glance, we might think that this is an angel that God sent to fight the spiritual battle alongside the physical (think 2 Kings 6, for example). But Joshua worshiped at the commander’s feet, the commander did not tell him to stop, and then he told Joshua to remove his shoes because he was on holy ground, much like the voice of God said to Moses from the burning bush. It would seem then that this commander was a Christophany, an appearance of the Son of God in physical form before the birth of Jesus.
As such, the commander’s answer shows us a truth we find throughout scripture: God is for God. In The Knowledge of the Holy, A. W. Tozer wrote, “The Christian religion has to do with God and man, but its focal point is God, not man.” Everything that God does is for his own self-exaltation and glory.
And that is a good thing. God is not engaged in an evil pride as he acts to exalt himself. No, we know that God is the highest good and the greatest being. If there was something or someone higher or greater than God, then that person or thing by nature would be God instead. But since God is the highest good, then there is nothing that can be better than the exaltation of God, by himself or by us.
When you factor in the many perfect attributes of God’s being, we find that this benefits us as well. Because God is the greatest good, he delights in doing good to others for his glory.
We see this in Ezekiel 36. There, God promises salvation to his people. He speaks of cleansing them from sin and idolatry, of giving them a new heart and spirit, of putting his own Spirit within them, of delivering them, of being their God, and of blessing them greatly (36:24-38). Yet, this is prefaced by God declaring, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name” (36:22-23).
So it is with our salvation in Jesus: God gives us many wonderful things—forgiveness of sin, adoption into his family, joy and peace, a new heart, his Spirit within, and an eternal and glorious inheritance. We are caught up in his abundant love and goodness in a way none of us deserve. Yet, ultimately he saves us that we might glorify him (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Let us then rejoice over the goodness of God and the great truth that God is for God.
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