The Warrior Christ
November 15th, 1959 @ 8:15 AM
THE WARRIOR CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Joshua 5: 13-15
11-15-59 8:15 a.m.
Now the sermon this morning is entitled The Warrior Christ, and it is based upon the theophany, the vision of God, that appeared to Joshua in the fifth chapter of his book. I am reading from Joshua 5:13-15—three verses:
And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a Man over against him with His sword drawn in His hand: and Joshua went unto Him, and said unto Him, Art Thou for us, or for our adversaries?
And He said, Nay; but as Captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto Him, What saith my Lord unto His servant?
And the Captain of the Lord’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.
That is the appearance, the vision, the theophany of the Lord to His servant Joshua. Now it happened on the other side, on the western side, of the Jordan River. Joshua, under the commandment of heaven, had just carried God’s people over the divided waters of the Jordan [Joshua 3:14-17]. And they had heaped up their twelve stones of memorial, teaching their children what God had done for them; and the remembrance of it, the memorial of it, those heaps of stone [Joshua 4:3-9, 20-24]. They had made their camp at Gilgal, just on the western bank of the river [Joshua 4:19]. And from that camp at Gilgal, for seven years, Joshua conducted the conquest of the Promised Land [Joshua 4-11]. Just beyond, in the grove of palms, was the fortified city of Jericho [Joshua 6], at the most not more than three or four or five miles away. For the hundredth time, Joshua had gone out on a reconnaissance, viewing, inspecting that fortified city. The apprehension, the anxiety that he felt over the conquest of Jericho was most explicable and understandable. Forty years before, he had seen the former generation, the fathers of these who were now entering Palestine—forty years before he had seen that generation cry for bondage in Egypt or for graves in the desert, rather than face the terrifying experience of fighting against fortified cities with their giant champions [Numbers 14:2-6].
And Joshua could not but be apprehensive about what the children of those fathers would do. Jericho had to be subdued. To leave it in the rear of his communications in the conquest of Palestine was strategically, logistically impossible. For the Israelites to sit down and wait to starve the city out, would not only enervate the energies of the people, but would also give time and opportunity for the foes in Palestine to organize themselves and ultimately defeat the young and mostly untried army of Joshua. They had overcome the Amalekites, and Sihon and Og, in an open battle, on a plain on the other side of the Jordan River—on the eastern side [Deuteronomy 3:1-11]. But, they had never before faced a fortified and walled city. So, it was that Joshua was out, maybe in the late evening, on one of his innumerable journeys of reconnaissance. And in his meditation, and in his thinking, and in his praying, and in his planning, and in his deliberation, as he sat down on a stone, or on a hill top, or as he quietly walked along—in his meditation he lifted up his eyes. That is what the Scripture says, “he lifted up his eyes” [Joshua 5:13]. That is what we all need to do, isn’t it? The downward look may be very bleak and dark; try the upward look. “And he lifted up his eyes.” We miss the vision when we don’t. He lifted up his eyes, and behold, there stood a Man over against him; apparently an interloper contrary to him. There stood a Man over against him with an unsheathed sword, with a drawn sword in His hand [Joshua 5:13].
Now here is a little personal touch about Joshua. As I have said before in these several sermons already delivered, the more I study this man, the more my unbounded admiration for him. No wonder Jesus was named for this man, who carried across His people into the Jordan’s Promised Land [Deuteronomy 3:28]—Joshua, Savior. Everything that is written about him is fine, everything. They murmured against Moses, and they found fault with the leadership of the man of God [Exodus 16:2-3]. You will never find one instance where the people murmured against Joshua; this noble, wonderful servant of God. Another little trait, another little presentation of him; he did not know who that Stranger was with a drawn sword in His hand. But fearlessly, courageously, bravely he walks up to Him. Is He a phantom? Is He real? Is He a Hebrew? Is He a Canaanite? Is He a friend? Is He a foe? Apparently, no fear in Joshua, the soldier of God, at all; he walks up to Him fearlessly, bravely and asks Him, “Art Thou for us, or for our adversaries?” [Joshua 5:13]. You see, he had no idea the august presence in which he stood. But when the majestic voice replied, “Nay; but as Captain of the host of the God’s heavens, am I now come,” Joshua fell on his face to the earth and did worship and in obedience said, “My Lord, what saith the command, the ultimatum, the mandate, the orders to Thy servant?” [Joshua 5:14]. And Joshua arose to carry out the will of the great heavenly Commander in his besieging and in his conquest of Jericho [Joshua 6:1-27].
Now, just to read the story makes it very apparent who this Stranger was. He is neither man, nor is He an angel. Had He been either, He would immediately have repelled the worship and the adoration and the obeisance by which Joshua fell on his face before Him [Joshua 5:13-14]. Had he been a man—do you remember the story of Paul and Barnabas at Lystra? Those heathen, those pagan Greeks, said, “The gods in human form have come down among men,” and they sought to worship them; to offer sacrifice to them. And Paul and Barnabas rent their clothes saying, “Do it not, we are men just like you” [Acts 14:11-15]. Or, had this Stranger been an angel; do you remember in the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation that you read this morning? [Revelation 19:10]. And in the twenty-second chapter of the Book of the Revelation, when John saw the angel he fell at his feet to worship him, and the angel said, “Do it not: I am also thy fellow servant: worship God” [Revelation 22:9].
He is not a man. He is not an angel. He accepts the worship of Joshua [Joshua 5:14], just like Jesus accepted the worship of Simon Peter when Simon Peter fell at Jesus’ knees in the boat [Luke 5:8]. Or just like the Lord received the worship of the leper, whom He had cleansed [Matthew 8:2-3], so this Stranger receives the worship of Joshua, the commander of the Lord’s people [Joshua 5:14]. Not only that, but He said to him the same words that He said to Moses from the burning bush [Exodus 3:5]; “Your shoes, your shoes, take them off, loose them, for you stand in the presence of the Holy One of Israel.” This is holy ground [Joshua 5:15]. Who is this Stranger? [Joshua 5:13]. This is the Word of God [John 1:1]. This is the second Person of the Trinity. This is a preincarnate theophany of the Lord of hosts. This is the One who, in fullness of time [Galatians 4:4], “was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father)” [John 1:14]. This is the Son of God. This is the Warrior Christ [John 5:13-15].
Now for just a moment, we have just a moment for it. You could spend hours following this through. There is a Person. There is a Stranger. There is an unusual appearance, who appears again and again in the Old Testament Scriptures. An unusual Person, He is called God [Genesis 22:11-15]. He is called the Angel of the covenant [Malachi 3:1]. He is called the Angel of the face, He is called the Angel of the presence [Isaiah 63:9]. And He appears in the Old Testament Scriptures again and again and again. I have just a moment just to point it out to you. We find this unusual presence, Person, in the thirty-first chapter of the Book of Genesis. Comparing the eleventh and the thirteenth verses—“And the Angel of God spake unto . . . Jacob” [Genesis 31:11], saying, “I am the God of Bethel” [Genesis 31:13]. The Angel of the Lord appearing unto Jacob saying, “I am the God that spake to thee at Bethel. Arise; go back into Canaan, the Promised Land” [Genesis 31:13]. I turned the pages of my Bible and read again in the thirty-second chapter of the Book of Genesis: “And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a Man with him until the breaking of the day [Genesis 32:24]. . . . And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” [Genesis 32:30]. Who is this Angel of the Lord who says, “I am the God of Bethel?” [Genesis 31:13]. Who is this Man that wrestles with Jacob all night long [Genesis 32:24], until finally the hard, stubborn will of the supplanter is broken? And he becomes the prince of God [Genesis 32:28], and Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face, and yet I live” [Genesis 32:30]. That is none other than the second Person of the Holy Trinity. That is none other than the Son of God preincarnate. I turn the page again, in the forty-[eighth] chapter of the Book of Genesis, Jacob is blessing Joseph, and he speaks of that Angel. He says, “The God who fed me all my life unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil [Genesis 48:16], bless the lads” [Genesis 48:15-16]. The same thing again, the God which shepherded me and cared for me all my life long until this day, even the Angel which redeemed me from all evil; the Angel, the God, the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus preincarnate.
I turn again to the third chapter of the Book of Exodus, one of the most famous of all the theophanies in the Scriptures:
Now Moses kept the flock of [Jethro] his father-in-law, in Midian: and he had the flock on the back side of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb.
And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush . . . the bush burned, was not consumed. . . .
And when the Lord saw that Moses turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses.
Why, the second verse says, “the Angel of the Lord appeared unto him in the midst of the bush” [Exodus 3:2], and the fourth verse says, “And when the Lord saw that he had turned aside,God called unto him out of the midst of the bush” [Exodus 3:4]. The Angel of the Lord is the God of heaven. Who is this Angel of the Lord who is described as the God that spoke unto Moses out of the bush? It is the second Person of the holy and blessed Trinity. It is Jesus, the Son of God. This is a preincarnate theophany appearance of Jesus. I haven’t time to follow it through. I have taken too much time already.
In the [thirty-fourth] Psalm, “The Angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him, and delivereth them” [Psalm 34:7]. The same Angel of the Lord in the third chapter of Malachi, “Behold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Angel of the covenant . . . behold, He shall come, saith the Lord of hosts” [Malachi 3:1]. You have it translated here, “the Messenger of the covenant”; “angel” literally means “messenger,” but this Angel is a different angel. This is the Son of God, called “the Lord” here. “The Lord, whom you seek, shall suddenly come to His temple”—and He did—“even the Angel of the covenant whom ye delight in” [Malachi 3:1].
All of that I emphasize just to remind us that it is one Book. It is one Lord. It is one Jesus. It is one altar. It is one name. It is one sacrifice. In the Old Testament He is called Jehovah, the Angel of the covenant [Malachi 3:1], the Angel of the presence, the Angel of the face [Isaiah 63:9]: in the New Testament, He is incarnate as Jesus, the Son of God. But whether I read of Him in the New by the name of Jesus [Matthew 1:21, 25]; or in the Old by the name of Joshua, or Jehovah, or the Angel of the presence [Isaiah 63:9]; I am reading of the same One—the same Lord; the same blessed Savior—and here presented as He is in the Revelation [Revelation 19:11-21] and other places in the Bible, in the form of the Warrior Christ [Joshua 5:13].
Now in the few moments that remain, isn’t it remarkable how the time will go by? I have spoken oh twenty-five minutes already. Isn’t it amazing how—when you read and look at the Word of God—isn’t it amazing how the moments multiply and fast fade away? May I speak for a moment of the significance of this vision to Joshua, to us who live in the world? First, the significance of the apparition of the theophany of the vision to Joshua; “as Captain of the host of the Lord am I come” [Joshua 5:14]. By that He means that He is the God that leads all of the armies of heaven—the hosts of the seraphim, the cherubim, the angels. I do not know what hosts God has in glory, but whatever, however, how many, how multitudinous, this Warrior Christ is at their head. He leads them. And think what an assurance that was to Joshua. There with so much before; a whole land to conquer; a fortified city to overcome; a strange and a new experience to the people whom he was seeking to lead. At their head now is not Joshua. He is just to obey. He is just to follow orders. The great Commander and Leader is this Warrior Christ, who is at the head of the armies of glory [Joshua 5:14]. Why, it was the same thing for Joshua as it was for Elisha. When Elisha prayed, “Lord, open the eyes of the young man. . . . And the Lord opened up his eyes . . . and behold, the hills, the mountains, were filled with chariots and horses of fire round about Elisha” [2 Kings 6:17]. That is what it meant to Joshua. The hosts of heaven, the very stars in their courses, were mandated under the great Commander, the Warrior Christ. He could not fail [Joshua 5:14]. No wonder the walls of Jericho fell down. God led in the way [Joshua 6:20].
We have therein a revelation to us of our life in this time and in this history. All through this Bible; and here again there is presented the violent conflict in this world, in this universe. The powers of darkness, Paul enumerated them, gave them names; the powers of darkness. We do not war against flesh and blood, but against—and he named those powers of darkness [Ephesians 6:12]. That conflict is universal. That conflict is in nature. Every molecule and every atom is in motion, and these violent storms, with its thunder, and its cyclone, and its tornado, and its hurricane, and its lightening, and its fury, and its wrath; all of it is but—and it is but the ephemera, it is but the peripheral of the great heart of this universe that is in conflict and that is in agony.
There is a war between God and Satan, between the powers of light and of darkness. And we see that conflict in all nature. God never made our world to be blasted and ruined. God never, He never made this universe to be uninhabited and uninhabitable. God never intended for our earth to be a scene of death, and destruction, and carnivorous mastication, and the sowing of the seeds of hate and war and death. All of that is but a repercussion from the violent conflict at the very heart of this universe. Whether you find it in the atomic world, the molecular world, or the macrocosmic world above us, all of it is in conflict. And we find it in human history. All through the story of mankind is that same terrible story of violence, and greed, and hate, and bitterness, and war, and death. And you find it in your own human life. This conflict, this war, this fighting, this division; it’s everywhere. It’s everywhere!
Now, the great significance of this vision that came to Joshua [Joshua 5:13-15] and which comes to us is the incomparable blessedness in the knowledge that if we have eyes to see, if we will lift our eyes to look, there, standing by our side, is the great Commander of the hosts of heaven and of God’s hosts in the earth. There He stands, walking among His churches as He did among the seven-branched lampstand [Revelation 1:12-13]. There He stands. I do not have to be filled of anxiety or of needless care and worry. The commandment is not in me. It is in Him. And the leadership of the forces is not in us, it lies in Him. And He stands there with a sword unscabbarded, drawn unsheathed in His hand [Joshua 5:13-14]; out of His mouth, a sharp, two-edged sword, the sword of the Word and the sword of the Spirit [Revelation 1:16]. We have no need to be filled with anxiety and care; we who are following the great Commander. It is only that we need to be careful that we are obeying His behest and His will and that He has priority and right in the leadership of the forces of God [Joshua 5:13-15]. It is He that makes the difference.
What is it that a man could preach if Jesus is not in it? What is it that the congregation should meet if Jesus is not in the presence? What is it that we should attempt things for God if He doth not lead us in the way? But ah, a little humble woman with a class of little girls is invincible when Jesus is in the midst. A humbled untutored, unlettered man seeking to testify for God is invincible when Jesus the Warrior Christ is by his side. And when we are in step with the great Commander of the Lord of hosts, an ultimate and final victory is insured and is inevitable. “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord [Zechariah 4:6]. The race is not to the swift, nor is the victory to the strong” [Ecclesiastes 9:11]. By strength shall no man prevail, but by the strong arm of the living God [1 Samuel 2:9]. And the Captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua, “Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; the place whereon thy standest is holy” [Joshua 5:15]. And if Jesus is here, this is a holy place. And if His voice is heard and His commandment is obeyed, God’s people march from one incomparably glorious victory to another. Lead on. “Lead on, O King Eternal”; Thou Warrior Christ.
Now we sing our song. Very briefly, one stanza, and while we sing it, somebody you give his heart to Jesus, somebody you put your life in the fellowship of our church; a family you, or one somebody you, would you come on the first note of the first stanza, while we make this appeal to your heart, would you now? While we stand and while we sing.