In the Disruptions of Life, Christ Wins

Jacob ArmstrongBy Jacob Armstrong7 Minutes

Maybe it’s just me. Or maybe it’s all of us in our flesh. I hate being interrupted.

I’ve been working remotely for almost a year now, and a few months back, I found a co-working place in town, a quiet spot to take conference calls and work undisturbed at a desk alongside other remote workers. One morning recently, I arrived at the co-working spot and there was a sign on the door: “Closed permanently.” In an instant, my workflow—an entire routine I’d established over the course of several months—was disrupted. I was frustrated, and honestly, it sent me into a bit of an emotional tailspin.

Joshua once met a sudden disruption. After leading the people across the Jordan, celebrating the first Passover in the new land, and consecrating a new generation for war, Israel’s general was stopped in his tracks. The Bible says, “Now 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 5:13a NIV). Joshua responds to the warrior with a question we all ask when change and disruption comes: “Are you for us or for our enemies?” (v. 13b). Will this interruption be good for me, or cause harm? Is this new direction for good or for ill?

Who Is This Warrior?

The warrior’s answer is shocking: “‘Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come’” (v. 14a).

Who is this commander of the Lord’s army? Theologians tell us this is either (1) a theophany—an appearance of God akin to Abraham’s visitors in Genesis 18—or (2) an angel representing God. The context shows us that the first option is likeliest. Joshua immediately fell down in worship (v. 14), the Warrior announced that the place where Joshua stood was holy (v. 15), and as the narrative continues, Joshua receives instructions that the text describes as the Lord’s speech (Joshua 6:2).

Just as the Lord met with Abraham (Genesis 22; 32) and Moses (Exodus 3), he’s now meeting with Joshua. Because God was sovereign over and present in the disruption, Joshua immediately responded. He bowed down (v. 14b).

How Do We Respond to His Presence?

We don’t always respond well when we’re interrupted. When change and disruption come, we can feel angry or overwhelmed with dread. In those moments, we’re confronted with the reality that we’re out of control, and often we lose our patience or our temper. But God wants us to see life’s speed bumps as markers of his presence. When we slow down over the bumps and recognize God’s presence, we’ll see our circumstances more clearly.

God’s presence changed both Joshua’s posture and his question. Falling to the ground in reverence, he asks, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” (v. 14c); “What does my Lord say?” (ESV).

Joshua may have thought the Captain of the Lord’s army was ready to assign him a task. After all, when the Warrior arrived with his sword of judgment drawn (Numbers 22:23; 1 Chronicles 21:16), Joshua had been preparing for war with the Canaanites. But once again the Warrior’s answer was a surprise. He didn’t immediately call Joshua to action. Instead, he called him to worship: “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy” (v. 15). Joshua immediately obeyed.

For Us or Against Us?

What if when life’s interruptions come, we respond not with reactive anxiety but with reverent humility and worshipful praise? What if our hearts were trained to acknowledge bow to God’s holiness in all the disruptions? What if, in the little changes (like finding a new co-working space) and in the big ones (sickness, job loss, and grief over death), we bowed to God’s ways?  What if we could see that interruptions aren’t calls to get busy or to figure things out but instead calls to faith, calls to bow before God’s constant love?

We can have that kind of faith because just as the Warrior came to Joshua, Christ has come to us. In fact, the incarnation could be described as the greatest disruption in all human history. The Son of God invaded space and time and made his dwelling among us (John 1:14). The angelic hosts interrupted the shepherds to announce the Holy One’s birth (Luke 2:13). Before the Christ child, both shepherds and kings bowed in worship (Luke 2:16–18; Matthew 2).

But contrary to all expectations, this holy Warrior was born in a manger. And by taking on human flesh, the Captain of the Lord’s army bowed himself and entered our lowly estate. The angel told Mary and Joseph to name the baby “Jesus,” Greek for “Joshua,” “because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew. 1:21; cf. Luke 1:31). Even when Jesus faced the greatest disruption in history, his own death for our sin, he did not protest but bowed his head and committed himself to the Father’s will (Philippians 2).

Though disruptions come in both our circumstances and our souls, we can know decidedly that Jesus is for us and for our salvation. And if God is for us, who can stand against us? Whatever disruptions come, we are more than conquerors with him (Romans 8:31–39).