Whose Side Are You On?
Whose side are you on?
Does it matter? The answer depends on the topic! Whether you are thinking about the next football game, the next election issue, or the last family argument, makes a huge difference in the significance of the question.
Several weeks ago, I began reading through the Bible again, following J’s Bible Reading Plan. It’s been good to get back to reading out of obedience, not just out of preparation for a Bible study or for speaking. It gives God the chance to give me new things to ponder.
This morning, I read from Joshua 5-6. There Joshua asked the question: Whose side are you on?
Here’s the background:
God used Moses to rescue the people of Israel from Egyptian slavery over forty years earlier. He promised the people a land of freedom and plenty if they would obey Him. They said they would, but they did not. As a result, God didn’t let them come to the promised land until all of the adults who refused to be obedient had died.
Now, those who were children in Egypt are adults. Their new leader, Joshua, has proven himself to be full of faith and courage. Once again, the huge group of people began to travel toward the promised land. When they reached the Jordan River, the water stopped flowing and the people crossed on dry ground. It was just like they remembered it as children! The Red Sea did the same thing when they left Egypt. Oh, some of them had only heard about it, since they were born later. But now they saw it with their own eyes.
So, when Joshua asked them to do something radical, they trusted his words from God. All of the men were circumcised on the same day in obedience to the Lord. It was a sign of their total loyalty to their God.
While the army rested and healed, Joshua stood alone at the edge of the promised land. Taking possession of the land would be no small task. It required great faith and dedicated obedience. I have no doubt that he was praying for guidance for the battles ahead. His heavy responsibility to lead must have overwhelmed him. Perhaps he was remembering the story Moses told him about his own calling. I can imagine Joshua hoping for his instructions from God to be as clear and concrete as it was for Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3).
He needed to hear from God.
Suddenly, He saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword. I’m sure he went into fight mode. Having no idea if he was facing friend or foe, Joshua responded,
“Are you for us or for our enemies?”
“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord, I have now come.” Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. Joshua 5:14-15
Puzzled, I pondered this passage awhile.
Clearly, this is the Lord meeting with Joshua. You can see that in Joshua’s humble reaction as he falls to his face before Him. You can also hear it in the Lord’s repetition of the same words He said to Moses at the burning bush. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Exodus 3:5) And you can see it in the following verses as the Lord gives Joshua clear and concrete instructions for the battle at Jericho, in direct answer to the prayers of his heart.
But why does the Lord say he is not on their side? (Joshua asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies? God said, “Neither.”)
I had to find some commentaries to help me on this one. I like to go to www.biblehub.com for help on the original language and to read other’s thoughts on the passage when I’m stuck.
There’s a simple answer.
I don’t know why I missed it.
The question was not: Is God on the Israelite’s side? No, the question was: Are they on God’s side? This is the Lord’s battle, not theirs. The people presently in the land are God’s enemies, not theirs. It’s His battle to fight. They are simply to obey. He will defeat His own enemies, and in doing so, keep His promise to the Israelites to give them the land. If they will simply obey.
Wow. No wonder the walls of Jericho simply fell down. They had no defense against God.
That changes my perspective on lots of things. It’s easy to feel like God is not on my side when things are going wrong in my eyes. And it’s easy to ask God to bless the things I’m doing in my own effort to serve Him. But those feelings and questions are focused on me instead of focused on God.
He’s not on my side. That makes me in charge.
He is the commander. I’m on His side.
Whose side are you on? Making that choice changes everything.