I want God to be on my side. But good ole’ “Honest Abe” Lincoln was right; the important thing is whether or not we are on God’s side. I wish Abe had been a little more specific because it’s terribly easy to think you’re on God’s side, that you’ve joined up with God, when really you’re just concerned about God signing on to your agenda.
Joshua finds this out – in both good and bad ways.
In Joshua 5, the Israelites are about to topple Jericho. They have a string of successes, they’ve sent in spies who came back with a favorable report, and the time is right for battle. Then something happens. As Joshua travels near Jericho he encounters a man along the road, sword drawn, and I imagine a little intimidating.
Why does this guy have a sword out? I’m just trying to ease on down the road.
Joshua, in a moment of calm I’m sure would have escaped me, simply asks, “Are you for us, or are you for our enemies?”
Instead the man tells Joshua he is “the commander of the Lord’s army.” A fairly, powerful position, I would imagine. But wait….
Aren’t the Israelites about to take Jericho? Doesn’t the LORD go before them? Didn’t YHWH bring them out of Egypt, lead them access the Jordan, give them the Law and PROMISE to lead them into a land “flowing with milk and honey?”
What gives? The commander of the Lord’s army must be confused! He must have missed the meeting, deleted the e-mail, or lost his notes, because God has given us this land already. It’s in the can. What does he mean, “neither?”
The best I can tell is that God is on God’s side.
As a matter of fact, in just a few verses, the Israelites will conquer Jericho, but some dudes – who missed another meeting – decide to help themselves to some “dedicated things” which God said to destroy. So when Joshua sends a few thousand men to conquer Ai, they get their butts handed to them.
Here’s the deal: God does what God does and He’s not concerned with your agenda…no matter what it is!
Joshua is right when he pleads to God after the defeat at Ai, that other nations will see them as weak. God just opened the door for potential catastrophe in Joshua’s eyes, but God doesn’t care.
There was disobedience in Israel. Somehow, a few back-benchers thought that since God was in the midst of fulfilling His promise to bring them into the Promised Land, that they could leverage God’s will for their agenda. God was backed into a corner. The clock was ticking, God couldn’t back out. What kind of God would let’s us be defeated as we are trying to fulfill His will? We’ve got God on a downhill pull.
We see this everyday in America. Left, Right, and Center say, “God is against this,” or “God is for that,” (insert whatever flavor you choose — debt reduction, abortion, pro- or con- gay rights, feeding the hungry, etc… I get all the e-mail) and we foolishly believe that holiness and success will be found in assent to what we think is God’s agenda, therefore God is on our side. Yet the great danger of believing that God is on our side is that we come to believe we can think, act, and behave any way we want to in the midst of God’s work.
The danger of “knowing God’s will” is thinking that the attainment of God’s will is divorced from how we behave in the midst of it. Heck, God is on our side after all.
Guess what? He’s not! At least not in that way.
Joshua and Israel learn – through the death of their fellow Israelites – that God’s will won’t be achieved by methods God doesn’t ordain. Unholy behaviors produce deadly results.
So the next time a group of Christians wants to go to war with this group or that group, the stance you take may be honorable, just make sure you tactics are equally honorable.
“Are you for us or for our enemies?”