Whose Side Are You On?

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.

(Joshua 5:13–15, ESV)


The state of Alabama is consumed with the Auburn vs. Alabama football rivalry. Ask anyone who grew up there and they’ll tell you the same thing. As a kid growing up in Birmingham, the first question you would ask a new student in your class at school was this question, “Who are you for, Auburn or Alabama?”   That was a question that established your identity and the balance of power between the fan bases in your class.

“Whose side are you on?” is the question Joshua puts to this mysterious figure standing before him in the hours before Israel was to begin its marches around the walls of the city of Jericho.   Is this a warrior for Israel or for Jericho? The answer is- neither.

The figure is self-described as “the commander of the army of the LORD.” Some speculate that this could be an appearance of Jesus before He took on human flesh by being born of the Virgin Mary. Theologians call this a “Christophany.” Note how Joshua worships him in this encounter. Regardless if this is a Christophany or not, he clearly represents the Lord in this encounter.

The commander of the Lord’s army’s answer to Joshua’s question, “are you for us or our enemies?” is “Neither.” The Lord has no need to be on either side, the need is to be on the Lord’s side. What follows in the life of Israel is the taking of a great walled city of Jericho simply by marching in silence around the city for six days and then on the seventh to see the great walls of the city fall and the city itself taken by merely a shout from the people. The lesson that is to be learned? All victories come from the Lord’s hand. His side is the only side.

God, through Jesus, has given His people victory over sin’s penalty and power. Our great need is to align our agenda with His. Our challenge is to trust Him when His agenda doesn’t appear to match ours. That’s when we, like Joshua, need to be reminded that the Lord is holy and righteous in all that He does. Joshua learns this as he takes off his shoes as He stands on holy ground. God, through Jesus, has proven His trustworthiness at the cross.

Whose side are you on? That’s the ultimate question, isn’t it?