What About Those Shoes?

Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.
— Joshua 5:15 ESV

Sometimes what makes perfectly good sense to me is not the perfectly sensible thing to do. I learned this from Joshua.

Joshua, the newly minted leader of God's people, was preparing for his first big military conquest -- the battle of Jericho.

As Joshua stood some distance from the city, he looked up and came face-to-face with a soldier he did not recognize. Joshua was not alarmed. He did what any good leader would do. He assessed the situation and asked the essential battlefield question:

"Whose side are you on? Are you for us, or for our adversaries?"

"Neither," came the curt reply. "But I am the commander of the army of the LORD."

Interesting! In a divine version of Undercover Boss, Joshua comes face-to-face with the Lord himself, and "the leader" bows down to THE LEADER.

What happens next set my mind spinning. Joshua, still wearing his leader hat asks:

“What does my lord say to his servant?”

That is the leader's approach isn't it?

  • "God, what's the plan?"

  • "Give me my marching orders!"

  • "I'm ready for my assignment. Let's do this!"

But God doesn't order him to march. God orders him to stop.

Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.

Joshua was a leader. Leaders think, "Go!" But Joshua was first a follower, and the follower's primary task is always, "Stop, take off your sandals. Worship."

Joshua's encounter with the commander of the LORD's army is my helpful corrective. I am often reflecting on the task God has for me:

  • "God, what's the vision?"

  • "What is the strategy?"

  • "Which way do you want us to go?"

This is a leadership mindset: Vision, progress, accomplishment. Okay, next hill!

Then Joshua -- the celebrated successor, the respected leader, the military general -- has this divine encounter. God tells him, "Joshua, there is something far bigger than the battle, something far more significant than Jericho: It's worship!

  • Worship before work!

  • Adoration before assignment!

  • Marvel before moving!

  • Pause before power!

  • First God!

This may seem obvious on Sunday. But what about on Monday? Joshua had a big "To Do List": invade a land of giants, conquer multiple adversaries, lead two million people to a new kind of freedom . . . and that was for starters.

Joshua had multiple pressing responsibilities, but there was something more important: Worship

Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy. And Joshua did so.
— Joshua 5:15 ESV

"And Joshua did so." Those last four words are telling. In spite of all his work, Joshua stopped to worship.

Interestingly, the Scriptures do not give us a detailed list of what worship looked like in that moment. There is no carefully scripted plan for us to follow. No doubt, this was purposeful. If God detailed a worship plan, many of us would begin to put the plan before the Person.

I wonder if this was simply a holy moment of solemn silence, a readjusting of Joshua's gaze from all that he had "to do" to all that "God is."

Today, remove your shoes. Pause on your little plot of holy ground. Acknowledge that you are His follower before you are anyone's leader.

Rest in his sovereignty. Ask for his help.

First, worship. First, God.