And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD.
As they had miraculously left the land of Egypt, Israel had now entered the land of Canaan by a similar miracle. All the people were safely across the swift waters of the Jordan. The army of Israel encamped at Gilgal. Having settled in the land, Joshua and the people were now ready for their first great test--the capture of the outpost of Jericho.
Since Jericho was the most secure stronghold in a string of fortifications defending the eastern front of Canaan, there were many anxious Israelite hearts the night before the conquest began. Joshua himself was pacing the ground at the edge of the Israeli encampment. While meditating on how to attack Jericho, a man appeared to Joshua with a sword drawn in his hand. Intrepidly Joshua asked, "Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?" (Joshua 5:13) The powerful figure identified himself as the Captain of the host of the Lord. This title, so often afterward applied to the Son of God, revealed to Joshua that this was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. Joshua must have known immediately the identity of this warrior for he fell on his face to the earth and worshiped Him.
Joshua 6:2 records, "And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor." Although it was the night before the once-a-day treks around the city of Jericho, the Lord's promise to Joshua was, "I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof." Their lines of battle had not yet been drawn. The fighting had not yet begun. Yet the victory was certain. Even before the event occurred, God said "I have done it."
How can this be? How can God say the battle is won before it is begun? The answer is that God is above time. He has no futures nor pasts, only an eternal present. He always deals in what is for Him the "now." Frequently God uses the words "I will" and "I have" interchangeably.
Consider the similar experience of Abraham, recorded in Genesis 17. Abram was ninety-nine years old when the Lord God appeared to him and, as Joshua did, he fell on his face before the Lord. The Almighty God was about to make a covenant with Abraham that he would become the father of many nations. To Abraham God said, "Neither shall thy name anymore be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee" (Genesis 17:5). To a childless ninety-nine-year-old man, whose wife was nearly that age, God said, "A father of many nations have I made thee."
In quoting that promise in Romans 4:17, the Apostle Paul notes, "And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb" (Romans 4:19). It did not matter that Sarah was well beyond the age of childbearing. God said He had made Abraham the father of many nations and we can count God's "wills" as God's "haves."
As twentieth century believers, the promises of God to us which have yet to be fulfilled are in the eternality of God already fulfilled. Thus the Lord Jesus promised, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again" (John 14:2-3). Although this is an event in history future, nevertheless, it is a promise as certain as if it had already been fulfilled. God calls things that are not yet as if they already are.
Hence, even though the battle plan was strange to Joshua, the defeat of the enemy was sure. Trusting the God of completed promises, "Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD" (Joshua 6:12) and the children of Israel proceeded to the conquest of Jericho. Another great victory was won for the Lord God whose "haves" and "wills" are interchangeable.
Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as He has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.