The following few studies are examples of what this ministry does. These Bible studies are written to warriors and they sometimes include Biblical information that is extremely important for people in our occupations. You would probably never hear studies like these in church because the pastor would only be preaching to a few people! I hope they help you as you do what The Lord has called you to do!
The Commander of the Army of the Lord
I must admit that this text is one of my favorite in the whole of Scripture. We see the Nation of Israel just inside the border into hostile territory. The fear of God has been placed into Israel’s adversaries as news of the miraculous river crossing has been spread around as evidenced by Joshua 5:1. The Israelites are camped out, and Joshua goes for a little walk by Jericho. The city is walled up, and nobody cares to go in or out with Israel coming to fight. Joshua then sees something that was a pretty significant event. We read beginning in verse thirteen, “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. And 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.”
As we go into this text a few things are important to ponder. First, this “man” was a warrior. He looked the part of a warrior, and had a drawn sword in His hand. Why else would Joshua ask Him who He was going to fight? Furthermore, when He said He was the commander of the army of the Lord this caused an immediate reaction of Joshua to get down on His face and display respect. The second, and the most important point, is His response to Joshua’s question. Joshua asks if this man is with Israel or against Israel, and He replies, “No.” This is a tremendous statement to Joshua who is doing his best to serve God, and lead the Israelite nation following God’s commands. The man adds, “but, I am the commander of the army of the Lord, and now I have come.” So now Joshua understands that this is the commander of the army of the Lord, who is not for Israel or against Israel; however, He has come to this place dressed for battle with a drawn sword in His hand. Imagine Joshua’s thoughts. He asks a one or the other question, and receives a “no” answer from the commander of the army of the Lord. This being is clearly stating that as the commander of the Lord’s army, He secures the Lord’s interests. Joshua must lead the Nation of Israel within the parameters of the Lord’s wishes, if he wants this being’s assistance. However, if Israel goes astray from the Lord they might fall prey to His sword as well.
We are a fortunate bunch in our lifetime today. We live in a nation that has flourished due to the application of Christian principles, and this can sometimes be a hindrance in our minds when we think of our God. We have the ability to have our every need met, and this causes a tendency towards thinking about ourselves as being central. It’s the “what’s in it for me” idea. If we think that God is all loving, we are right in our thinking. However, does this mean that He will always be on our side in our decisions? If this commander was solely on Joshua’s side what would He do if Joshua went against God? Would He choose Joshua over God? How could the commander of the Lord’s army do such a thing? If we think that God is on our side our thinking is incorrect. It is not Him that moves to us, but it is us that must move to Him. This flies in defiance of many of our thought processes today. The Bible does not hide this fact. As a matter of fact, the text makes it blatantly obvious to the serious reader. This is encompassed in the word “repent” in the New Testament. We become Christians when we realize that we are not on the right side, God’s side, and we change our thinking towards aligning ourselves with His purposes.
There is some debate over who this warrior actually is. The text does not give us a direct answer, but let us observe a few things that might give clues to this warrior’s identity. First, He is clearly on God’s side over that of Israel. Second, He accepted the worship of Joshua. This is in stark contrast to Revelation 22 where the apostle John falls at an angels feet to worship him. The angel quickly tells him to get up, calls himself a fellow servant with John, and admonishes him to worship God only. In the Ten Commandments we are given instructions to worship God alone. Also, when Joshua asks what he can do for this being, he is instructed to remove his shoes as this place is now holy. It is not the dirt outside of Jericho that caused this place to be holy; it is the presence of God, Himself. This being is clearly not a “man” because of the way Joshua responds to Him. He clearly isn’t an angel because of the way He responds to Joshua. I believe that this is none other than Jesus Christ prior to His taking on flesh that will occur in about another 1,400 years. If this actually is the pre-incarnate Christ, then Joshua no longer has an understanding of Israel against their enemies, but there are three players on the battlefield. One is Israel, another is the people living in Canaan, and the third, and appropriately final one, is God.
This is the only time that the words “Commander of the army of the Lord” are used in Scripture. This brief encounter with this figure is formative for our understanding of combat in the mind of Joshua. He believed that He was not alone on the field of battle, and knew in order for him to be successful he must align himself with God’s will. Is this different for Christian men and women in our occupation today? Does God exist on our battlefields? Is the Commander of the Army of the Lord saying, “Now, I have come?” The Lord will accomplish His purposes here on this earth. While He may not appear to each one of us as He did to Joshua, He is here for righteousness. He is here securing His interests. Let us serve Him as warriors that defend the innocent that are created in His image. Let us serve Him as warriors that are aligned with His will for our lives.
A Short, but Powerful One
We teach at the firing range that our bullets never miss when we pull the trigger. It will hit something before it comes to rest. Perhaps the writer of Psalm 127:4 was thinking along these lines when he wrote, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth.” They will land where we shoot them. Our shot placement of our children is a task given by God that should not be taken lightly. We can shoot them towards a fruitful relationship with their creator or shoot them towards eternal punishment for their sin. There are, of course, other factors and grace that God freely gives when we err, but the principle contained in this verse is not lost in these things.
Please accept this word of encouragement this week. Let us lead our children as their eternal fate depends on it, because it does. If this verse is found to be after the fact with your child, I encourage you still to be a godly parent. The dynamics will have changed from their youth, but if you act as Christ, your child can see through you to Him. This is our task at all stages in life.
An Excerpt from a Study in the 10 Commandments
The next commandment is one that may have been in your mind as relating to our job. It is the sixth commandment, and is recorded in Exodus 20:13. We read, “You shall not murder.” There are some translations that render this as “thou shalt not kill,” and I think it is extremely important for us as police officers and military personell to achieve clarity on this commandment. I don’t intend this to be a discourse on the application of lethal force, but I do intend to display the idea contained in the original language. In this light we will singularly focus on the word as it is used here, and delay further inquiry for another time.
The word in question is “kill” in some translations; however, the word from which this is translated does not convey killing as an act in singularity. It conveys an idea of a killing with evil intention. This is conveyed in the remaining 46 times it is used in the text. A notable amount of its usages speak about the killer being hunted by the avenger of blood and the city of refuge for him. Mosaic Law speaks about the intentions of this manslayer while he committed this crime. This word “rasah” is murder, not kill. This word is contrasted with Ecclesiastes 3:3. In this text Solomon writes there is a time to kill, but the word here is harag, which means to slay. This second word carries the idea of the act of killing itself, and does not support intentions premeditating the act.
It is vitally important that we understand that God did not place a prohibition on men and women who apply force with the intention to preserve human life that was created in the image of God. There is a clear and distinct difference between murder and killing in reaction to people’s decisions that place innocent lives in peril. It is for the saving and preservation of life that we take it when forced to do so.
If you have ever wondered about this before, I hope this is clearer in your mind. In all simplicity, the words “Thou shalt not kill” are inaccurate to the proper translation value of the verse. The verse is better translated in the ESV, and many other translations, as “You shall not murder.”