Have you ever watched a storm roll in? When I was in college, I spent an entire summer working with a ministry in the Smokey Mountains. I learned quickly to carry a poncho on the even the most beautiful days, because the question was not if it would rain, but when.
The sunshine would begin to fade as if God adjusted the dimmer switch on the great outdoors and what was once a gentle breeze is no longer gentle. Humidity thickens this air to the point that you are wet from a rain that hasn’t fallen. Without a doubt, you know what is coming.
We don’t always know when a spiritual battle is coming. There’s no life-road sign alerting you “Hard Times 8 miles ahead.” God doesn’t send a preview of the coming attractions. Nope. Usually, it hits when we are focused on our last victory.
But sometimes, God does give us all the signs hard times are coming. Sometimes he rallies the troops for war. It is in those times, that foresight allows for preparation. There is some level of readiness a soldier should always possess.
So what do you do when you know the battle is coming?
In Joshua 5, we find the nation of Israel after crossing the Jordan, now approaching Jericho – the Fortress with insurmountable walls. This was the first battle the nation must fight to enter the Promised Land from their wilderness wanderings. They leaned on the Lord’s provision for 40 years but were not battle-tested.
Joshua was the leader of the nation of Israel, commissioned by God after the death of Moses. He was one of the initial twelve spies sent into Jericho pre-wilderness. He and Caleb were the only spies to have more faith in God than fear of the Canaanites.
The Israelites had prepared physically through circumcision (neglected in the wilderness) and celebration of the Passover.
Joshua embarks alone and encounters God;
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
Facing a monumental test of his fledgling leadership, he took a walk. Now scripture does not specifically say that he was alone. It’s a fairly safe logical leap as the Commander of the Lord’s army only addresses Joshua and Joshua is the only one who responds.
The task before him had to completely overflow his heart and mind. Shortly before this, God had spoken to Joshua to instruct him exactly how to cross the Jordan River. The Lord had yet to provide any instructions on how to move forward and attack Jericho. So in his waiting, Joshua took a walk.
My husband knows that if I tell him I’m going for a run (okay maybe more of a spirited walk with stints of jogging), my mind is overflowing. As a working mother of two kids, my alone time is usually limited to showers and laundry. When my brain or heart full, I cannot process in the everyday chaos. I need a reset. For me, that means getting alone and wearing my body out. This is how I’m wired, and apparently how Joshua was wired too.
When the battle is upon you, get alone. You create space to process by getting alone. Googling “soul space to breathe” yields about 37,900,000 results – apparently a popular concept and desired. It is almost a given understanding that we all need alone time to think. Jesus frequently went to be alone or with his inner circle. Get alone.
Look for God
It’s when we are alone that we create space in the chaos to listen to God. When you stuff everything in to fill the spaces – car radio, audiobook, scrolling social media, calling a friend – you don’t leave room to look and listen. When Joshua gets alone, he does not fill the space with vain repetitions or chant.
As he is in the area of Jericho, “he lifted up his eyes and looked.” Perhaps he was praying for direction or meditating on God’s provision thus far. Maybe he was simply thinking as he walked. Jericho was in a basin so perhaps he was gazing at the city. Whatever the reason, he was looking down and then looked up
Are you looking for God? Are you so busy that you have dulled your awareness of his omnipresence? He is with you every second of every day – through hell or high water and the mundane, but will you notice him? Lift your eyes, and look for God.
There is never a wrong time to worship. Law school was one of the most stressful periods of my life. I read, highlighted, reread, took notes, compared supplements, went to class, changed all my wrong notes, and began again for three years. A 3-hour exam given in one sitting was usually the sole means of grading my semester of work. Before law school, I never knew I could write for three solid hours and wish I had more time. It’s brutal.
The only thing I loved about law school exams was discovering which random hymn I’d end up humming. Yes you read that right. Every single law school exam, I very unintentionally began humming hymns to myself. For a particularly brutal exam, I distinctly remember walking in humming “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and out humming “Love Lifted Me.”
Joshua is facing the Commander of the Lord’s Army. Theologians identify this as a representative of God if not the pre-incarnate Christ. He falls to his face in worship. Alone, headed into a battle, facing the stronghold, Joshua worships. I don’t know about you, but I needed those very words as I typed them. Alone, headed into battle, facing a stronghold, Joshua WORSHIPS!
There is nothing so terrible, frightening, painful, risky, or impossible that we cannot worship God. Author Trevin Wax tweets daily, “Jesus is Lord today.” there are days that I have needed that powerful reminder. Circumstances do not change God. He is always worthy of worship, and worship is always more powerful than worrying about the problem.
Ask for Direction
One of the epic stories in my family is the time the police were called to search for my sister (helicopters and all) while she was returning a movie rental with my mom. I was in elementary school and both of my siblings were in high school. This was the era before everyone had a cell phone. Dad had a “car phone” for work, but Mom did not.
My parents attended separate meetings that night. I was deeply engaged in television programming when my mom came back by the house to get my sister. She told me where they were going. I responded. Then my show ended and I began to wonder where my sister was. I found my brother. We searched. He called nearby family members and before we knew it, on of the aunts had a helicopter searching the local high school (at least this is how the story has been passed down to me. At this point in my life, I’m fully aware that my local law enforcement does not have quick helicopter access). By chance, Dad pulled up behind them and got Mom’s attention.
By the time they arrived home, all the police-calling family members were gone and I was incredibly embarrassed. I still do not remember my mom talking or my sister leaving. Why? Distractions.
When we get space, look for God, and worship, we have are ready to listen distraction-free. We have cleared the dust off your heart to receive what he has for us. So ask ““What does my lord say to his servant?” and listen to his response. When you earnestly seek his direction, he will provide.
And you can walk forward Battle-Ready.