I’ve been attending a study of the Book of Joshua that runs through February. Last week we read chapters 3 and 4 and next week, we’ll look at chapter 6. The jumping ahead is fine. But I HAVE to read chapter 5 even if we aren’t going to discuss it specifically.
And, there’s the coolest thing in chapter 5. Joshua and the Israelites are on their way to conquer Jericho. They’ve just walked across the Jordan River on dry ground, so God must be with them. I mean really with them. I’m thinking Joshua might even be feeling a little cocky. So far, everything has gone just as the Lord promised.
The people have been circumcised (yikes!) and they’ve eaten the Passover. Finally, real food after all that manna. Things are moving right along. Then Joshua nears Jericho and sees a man (some translations say angel) standing there with a drawn sword. So Joshua, in what I see as a bold, sassy move, runs up to the man and says, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
This makes me think Joshua was pretty sure he already knew the answer. And aren’t we all at this point? These are God’s people who escaped slavery in Egypt and have finally made it to the Promised Land. Clearly, God has been on their side for some time, now. So this man–this angel–must be, too.
But the man says the most interesting thing. “’Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.’”
Um, wait a minute. Neither? How can the army of the Lord not be on Joshua’s side?!? This really hung me up. I couldn’t go on to chapter 6 with this seemingly incongruous statement hanging over me (and Joshua.) So I didn’t move on. I thought about it. And prayed and thought and pondered. And finally I asked myself, “If the commander of the Lord’s army isn’t on Joshua’s side, whose side is he on?”
And then it all became so clear. The man/angel is on God’s side. God isn’t for Joshua–Joshua is for God. At least he’d better be. So often I want God to be on MY side. When, what I should be worrying about, is whether or not I’m on His.
God doesn’t pick His favorites and then stick with them no matter what. He loves us all more than we can comprehend. He’s more than happy to favor anyone who will work with Him. So, the next time it feels like God’s with someone else over me, I’d better stop and check to see in what way I’VE fallen out of step with Him.
Joshua 5:14-15 – Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lordhave 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.