April 23

Joshua 5:13-14 (NIV) 13Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?" 14"Neither," he replied, "but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, "What message does my Lord have for his servant?"

Joshua was ready to go to war, but He needed direction from His commander in chief. As he approached Jericho, he saw this great warrior with sword drawn. "Whose side are you on?" he asked. "Neither!" came the reply. This is none other than Jesus. He appears a number of times in the Old Testament. These appearances are referred to as Christophanies. Notice that in the following verses He told Joshua that he was on Holy Ground, just as the I Am told Moses at the burning bush.

Whose side is Jesus on? Jew or Gentile? Neither! He is not willing that any should perish. The Canaanites would die because of their iniquity and the devastating pain they were inflicting on one another and their own souls. Their cup of iniquity was full. That does not mean that God did not desire for them to repent, or that He is only for Israel. Rahab and her family were about to be spared. They were the only ones that were receptive to the God of Israel. This Warrior is on her side. He is on the side of anyone of any nationality, in any place and any time, who is willing to receive the truth.

Consider: When we are confronted with the Commander we should do as Joshua did. We should ask, with great reverence, what message our Lord has for His servant.

April 23

Luke 1:13-15 (NIV) 13But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth

Luke was the only Gospel writer who was not an eyewitness to the events. It seems that many of his accounts came from Mary and the other disciples. His Gospel is one of the three synoptics, Matthew and Mark being the other two. They cover many of the same stories. He covers in much greater detail the events that surround the birth of Jesus, including this story of John the Baptist's birth.

In that age and culture, it was a great shame for a woman to be childless. It was as if their purpose in life had not been accomplished. Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, were getting up in years. Zechariah was a priest that served in the Temple. His name had been drawn for this special service of burning the incense. The other priests would have moved to the outer court to wait for the smoke to ascend. It represented the prayers of the people. There, in the Holy Place, the angel Gabriel appeared. The familiar greeting is given, "Do not be afraid." The angel announced that his prayer has been heard, and that they would have a very special child. This child would be filled with the Holy Spirit from birth. He has the specific task of preparing the Jewish people for the coming of the Messiah. He would be instrumental in turning the hearts of many back to the Lord. Zechariah had trouble believing it was even possible at their age. The angel gave him the sign to verify it. Zechariah became unable to speak because of his refusal to believe the messenger.

We come with our petitions to the Lord, but when some answers are delayed in coming, we lose faith. We are still praying, but we don't expect it is even possible. With God, all things are possible. Don't give up hope, but pray with expectation. John's birth was all the more joyous because it came when they thought it was impossible.

Remember: Believe the word God sends to you.