Evidently, sandals can tell you a lot about someone. Whether it’s what you do with yours or what you aren’t worthy to do with another’s. In two of my readings this morning sandals are mentioned. Both, I believe, relating to the Son of God–one incident pre-incarnation, the other post. But both reminding me of something of His glory.
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 LORDs 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)
The transfer of power from Moses to Joshua was complete. Joshua had been exhorted by God to be strong and courageous. Joshua had been encouraged by God as the men sent to spy out the land reported back that the hearts of the inhabitants were “melting away.” And Joshua had been exalted by God as everyone saw that at his word the Jordan had stopped flowing so that Israel could enter the promised land.
But as they prepared to take Jericho there was one more thing needful for Joshua to be reminded of before entering the fray. That though he would lead the army, it would be the LORD who fought the battle. So Joshua is introduced to the One from heaven who in righteousness judges and makes war (Rev. 19:11). I think what Joshua saw was a Theophany, an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ. The Warrior on the white horse. Him who is called Faithful and True. And while His glory is masked somewhat, at His name, “I am the Commander of the army of the LORD,” Joshua knew the only response was a facedown one. And when he asks what to do, God’s Warrior Son says, “Take off your sandals . . . for to be in My presence is to be on holy ground.”
Then, I’m reading in Mark . . . and sandals are mentioned again.
Now John was clothed with camels hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, “After me comes He who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
(Mark 1:6-8 ESV)
By Jesus’ own testimony, among those born of women there had arisen no one greater than John the Baptist (Matt. 11:11). But whatever notoriety John might have had, his “greatness” paled in comparison to the One he had come to proclaim. He too would be content to be barefoot at his Master’s feet. His awe and esteem for the Christ keeping him from even presuming to be worthy of performing the most menial task on His behalf.
Sandals. Ours to be taken off on holy ground. His to be consider too high for us to even touch.
Such is the attitude of reverence due the Son of God. Such is the veneration worthy of the One who goes into battle before us.
Whether it was before the walled city of Jericho, or the enemy of our souls, He is victor in the battle. Whether that battle was to be won by causing Canannite walls to fall or by being lifted up on a Roman cross, the Commander of the LORD’s Army has promised to go before us, to be with us, never to leave us nor forsake us.
And ours is to worship at His feet mindful that to abide in His presence is to enjoy privilege beyond full understanding.
Our sandals off. His unworthy to be untied. Even as we stand on holy ground.
Such is the wonder of grace. To Him be all the glory.