Joshua walked past the outlying sentries chuckling to himself as he left the camp. The glimmer of starlight replaced the safety of the evening fires surrounded by groups of huddling soldiers.
He knew the men saw him as a caring leader. He always put the safety and care of their families ahead of the strategy necessary for the battles they knew were coming.
But his decision to circumcise everyone at God’s command had reduced the fighting men to invalids, huddling around campfires, limping to their posts, sharing prayers mixed with good-natured grumbling that he couldn’t help but overhear.
“Yes, we needed a reminder that God is in charge, but there must be a better way. We’re no better than helpless sheepherders if they attack!”
“Quiet. Joshua will hear you. You sound like a child complaining over his hurts.”
“I did not say it hurts!”
“You almost did.”
“I did not!”
The days of pain had served their purpose well, however. Joshua knew his men’s commitment to God was strong, and his commitment to them propelled him into the darkness separating camp from the enemy city of Jericho.
“I need to see the city again. The walls. How do we breach them? Forty thousand men. Is it enough? How many will die in the siege to come?”
Joshua’s thoughts tumbled over themselves as he looked at the walls in the distance.
He froze. There had been no enemy contact since the city gates had been closed days before, but suddenly he knew he was not alone. Another presence gazed on the same walls a short distance away.
Light glinted off the shadowy figure’s sword and Joshua quickly prepared to defend himself.
The shadow didn’t move. Joshua saw the armor of one in command as the figure turned his head gazing silently at Joshua.
Joshua walked closer, tightly gripping his sword.
“Are you for us or against us?”
“Neither.” The armed figure spoke softly but with authority. “But as commander of the army of the Lord I have come.”
The presence of God’s warrior forced Joshua to the ground where he lay with his face in the dirt.
“What message does my Lord have for his servant?”
“Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.”
Joshua slipped off his sandals and listened to his instructions for the battle to come. His questions about the walls were answered as Joshua slowly realized that he must be in the presence of God Himself.
But how was he able to see Him and talk to Him? Joshua had no idea. But as he returned to the welcoming campfires he breathed a prayer of thanks for God’s protection in the days to come.
Jesus still stood looking at the doomed city. He knew that by commanding Joshua’s worship he had shown himself as more than an angel. But Joshua needed to know that judgment was in God’s hands. After hundreds of years of warning, time had run out for Jericho.
Joshua knew all this, Jesus thought, but he would never know the other reason Jesus stood there. Even though the darkness hid the outline of the scarlet rope hanging from the window, the faint light in the wall showed that Rahab was still awake with her family.
Joshua would never know that this woman of the streets who believed God would become one of the grandmothers of the son of God Himself.
Jesus smiled and turned away from the doomed city with one faint light that shined with hope for the whole world.