Jesus makes many appearances is the Old Testament. Few are as memorable as His cameo at Gilgal.
The first mention of Joshua, Moses’ faithful and fearless lieutenant, comes in Exodus seventeen, immediately after the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. Food and water were scarce commodities in the dessert wilderness, but God provided bread that rained from heaven (Exodus 16) and God provided water that gushed forth from a giant rock (Exodus 17:1-7). Unlike those rare and precious commodities, enemies were plentiful. Their first battle was fought against the Amalekites, a marauding tribe of dessert-dwelling nomads. That’s when we meet Joshua.
“Moses said to Joshua, ‘Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand’ ” (Exodus 17:9, ESV). Joshua, a brick-maker like his brethren, had never led men into battle. But faithfully, fearlessly, with Moses interceding before God’s throne, Joshua led the emancipated slaves to victory.
Following that momentous victory, Moses was instructed to “write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua” (Exodus 17:14, ESV). God talked to “Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11, ESV), but Joshua became a man of the book. God instructed Joshua to keep the “Book of the Law” and meditate on it day and night (Joshua 1:8).
After forty years of wilderness wanderings, Moses waved goodbye as he trekked up Mt. Nebo leaving Joshua as the Nation’s new leader. Joshua’s first challenge was the Jordan River which lay between them and Canaan. There were no bridges or boats and the mighty river was at flood-stage (Joshua 3:15). But that’s no trick for an almighty God. Just as He had done at the Red Sea, He pushed back the water and paved a super-expressway!
That’s when we get to Gilgal, just down the slope from the fortified city of Jericho. There, Jesus appeared to Joshua.
I can imagine that it was early in the morning. The first smell of the morning campfires filled the still air. Joshua, the newly commissioned leader, slipped out of camp. Gazing up toward Jericho, he contemplated the challenges of doing battle against cities encircled by huge rock walls.
Remember, Joshua was a man of the book. He read that God had promised the land to His people. He read that God was able to defeat any and every enemy. But standing outside of the camp, Joshua must have asked, “But how can we fight against these impenetrable walled cities?”
Joshua “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).
Notice, Joshua worshipped Him! So, who was the commander? I have no doubt! The Commander of the Lord’s army was ... Jesus!
“The LORD said to Joshua, ‘See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city...’ ” (Joshua 6:2-3, ESV).
Yep! Jesus showed up at just the right time!
South Georgia Baptist Church
Mike Martin, Pastor