Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Remove Your Sandals

Daily Readings
Proverbs 22 + Joshua 5 + Deuteronomy 34 + Romans 16

Quote of the Day
The commander of the army of the LORD said to Joshua, “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so. Joshua 5:15

Daily Text: Joshua 5:13-15
13 Once when Joshua was by Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you one of us, or one of our adversaries?" 14He replied, "Neither; but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and he said to him, "What do you command your servant, my lord?" 15The commander of the army of the LORD said to Joshua, "Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place where you stand is holy." And Joshua did so.

Remove your Sandals
The commander of the army of the LORD stands before Joshua and he falls to his face and worships him. This passage is so like that of Moses and the burning bush that it must be mentioned. Perhaps because this is its reference there is an anomaly here that is pointed. Joshua sees the figure and when the figure announces who he is Joshua falls to his face. He is not on his feet when he is commanded to take off his shoes because he is ‘standing’ on holy ground! But the point is made.

There are two issues to be commented upon. Who is the man with the drawn sword? Is he an angel or is he the LORD himself? John Calvin [99:I,XIV,5:166] references ancient Christian writers who suggested that the man is Jesus. I find it hard to read Christian and trinitarian references back into the Hebrew Scriptures. However, there are numerous occasions when God appeared in human or angelic form and was worshipped without demure [cf. Genesis 18:1, Genesis 32:28-30, Exodus 34:6,8, Judges 6] the humans believing they had encountered God himself. There were other occasions where an angel, presumably a different order of being, refused worship [cf. Revelation 19:10; 22:8,9]. My tendency in this instance is to assume the encounter is with God, much like the encounters of Moses.

The second issue is that of the holy ground. What is the command? “Remove your sandals.” This is not an experience of place. Note that earlier in this chapter there are experiences of place where evidently circumcision occurred, perhaps for centuries just prior to Passover, Gibeath-haaraloth, and the place, Gilgal, where the Passover itself was celebrated not only on this occasion, but perhaps for long years. These ‘places’ are unlike the ‘place’ that was holy for Joshua. That ‘place’ was holy because of his experience of the holy, and no further reference is made to it. What was required of him? Only that he take off his shoes. This is Joshua’s encounter with the holy. God may have spoken to him before. He may have participated in marvelous works like the rolling back of the Jordan River, but this is his Sinai encounter—and no more is heard of it. He lives out his life on the strength of this vision of the holy. All meaning, all behavior, all of life is thereby lived in the light of this encounter.

No Man Saw Awe
Emily Dickinson

No man saw awe, nor to his house
Admitted he a man
Though by his awful residence
Has human nature been.

Not deeming of his dread abode
Till laboring to flee
A grasp on comprehension laid
Detained vitality.

Returning is a different route
The Spirit could not show
For breathing is the only work
To be enacted now.

“Am not consumed,” old Moses wrote,
“Yet saw him face to face”-
That very physiognomy
I am convinced was this.


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