Text: Joshua 5:13-15
“Who is on the LORD’s side? Come to me.” –Exodus 32:26
“You’re just taking [his or her] side,” our children used to say in their younger years when they were in a spat with a sibling. But a parent’s responsibility is never really about choosing a side as much as bringing both sides to what is right. It’s not about one side winning, but all parties finding “the win” collectively. As our children got older, they began to realize that winning the argument became much less significant than winning at reconciliation.
You know, God not only wants to reconcile us in regards to forgiveness and salvation, He wants to daily reconcile us to His ongoing Kingdom agenda in the world around us.
So many of us want to know: Is God on my side? Do I have the moral authority on an issue? I imagine if you were to poll every person standing up for a cause in these polarizing times, each individual would confidently state that his/her cause is just, righteous, and all-important. I can’t remember the last time I had a conversation with a person who assumed their values might be misaligned. When defending individual or societal values, people presume they are on the right side of history. I think we all do.
That’s why this passage in Joshua 5 is so critical for each of us. Joshua is a young commander of an army getting ready to face a daunting opponent. Just before going into battle, Joshua has an encounter with a man standing before him with a drawn sword in hand. Joshua needs to know where this man’s allegiance lies. He asks, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” The man’s response: “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord.” In other words, he was on neither side in the human sense of an ally or an enemy. This was God Himself pulling rank on Joshua. He refuses to answer Joshua’s question because it is not the right question.
The question really wasn’t about the Lord being on the side of a human enterprise; the right question was if Joshua was on the Lord’s side. Is Joshua going to fight the right battle here? Will it be a personal agenda, a human agenda with God’s name attached to it, or will Joshua truly have God’s Kingdom agenda as his highest ambition? This battle isn’t about Joshua’s personal freedom, the preservation of his own lifestyle, or his people’s ethnic superiority (Deuteronomy 7:7-9, Ezekiel 36:22); this battle is about the honor and glory of the One True God over all flesh (Psalm 97:9, Ephesians 4:6).
Joshua is humbled. And you know what happens when you are humbled? You worship! “Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, ‘What does my lord say to his servant?’” Worship leads us to lay down our own agenda, our selfish ambition, our pride, our staunch biases, our hatred for our enemies, and our stubborn presumptions that we are always right. Worship brings us to the place where we give up our kingdom come for His Kingdom come. It is here, in humility, that we ask God, “What does my Lord say?” It changes our posture and it shifts our focus so that our perspective is backlit by the light of eternity.
Consider this, beloved: Spend less time asking God if He is on your side and more time humbling yourself in submission to His side. The right side of history is far less significant than being on the right side of eternity. The former is traditionally measured by man’s agenda, or cultural metrics. The latter is signified by God’s favor and His gracious stamp of approval. Think about that as you seek to abide in Him this week.
Heavenly Father, we come to you in the mighty name of Jesus. We lay down our weapons of war and take up your mantle of the cross. The reconciliation that comes from that cross is the only merit we stand on—Christ’s righteousness in exchange for our sinfulness. His sacrificial blood paid for our redemption in full. Lord, conquer our pride and presumption, and lead us in humility to repentance and submission, that we would find ourselves on the right side of eternity. Lord, save us from ourselves, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Questions for personal reflection, small group discussion, or dinner table conversations:
- When have you had a major humbling experience?
- How did Joshua respond when the man who appeared said he was “commander of the army of the Lord”? (Joshua 5:14)
- What is the purpose of worship and why was it the right response for Joshua in this situation? Do you approach worship as something you can get from the experience, or something to which you wholly submit?
- Why do you think it is suggested that being on the right side of eternity is more important than being on the right side of history? What difference could be implied here?
- Where might you need to humble yourself and submit to God’s agenda as opposed to vying for God’s blessing on your agenda? How can you wholly submit yourself to the Lordship of Christ this week?
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