Whose side are you on?

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Joshua 5:13-15

Are you on our side or our enemies?

We all have the tendency to think that we are on the right side of any argument. “I’m right, you’re wrong!” We see ourselves on the winning team, because we know that we are. It is easy to picture ourselves as the good guys. It’s easy to say “we are the one God chooses to bless, God is on our side!” That is our perception, it’s our understanding. It makes us feel better and at times it helps us to justify our behaviour. But are we right? Is God really on our side?

Joshua, the leader of God’s chosen people, stood with the walls of the city Jericho in the background. This fortified city, in the land he had been instructed to go and conquer, was a big challenge. But there was nothing to worry about, God was on Joshua’s side, right? Or was he? Our natural reaction is to say “Yes! of course God was on Joshua’s side!” Joshua was the leader of the Israelites, he was the apprentice of Moses. But when we look at the Bible and the encounter Joshua had with the commander of the Lord’s army, we get a slightly different picture.

Joshua encounters this commander of the Lord’s army, who could well be the pre-incarnate Jesus himself. But this commander does not identify himself with either side in the growing conflict. He is neither for those in Jericho nor does he say he’s on the side of the nation of Israel. The Lord does not “take sides” in this conflict.

Instead, the Lord stands above the conflict. He is righteous, He is true and just. The Lord is Sovereign and thus acts for His good will and purpose. In this case, it was for Joshua and the Israelites. But at other times the Lord would let Israel’s enemies have the upper hand.

So the Lord works his purposes out. The Lord is on His own side. After all, he created the people on both sides of this situation. His love is present for his creation, but where sin has separated the people from him, the consequences of judgement will come. When Israel disobeys the Lord and Akin keeps some of the plunder from Jericho for himself, Akin’s sin becomes a problem for the whole community. The Lord withdraws his hand from Israel leading to the defeat at Ai. Akin eventually receives the consequences for his sin.

Our world is full of division, whether it is political, religious, or social division. Yet in the midst of this division everyone seems to claim that God is on their side of the argument. However much we may want God on our side, we need to remember that God is on His side. His side is one of holiness, righteousness and truth. The Lord is looking for people to be on his side. He is looking for people who will seek to walk in righteousness and holiness. After all, the Lord tells us “Be Holy because I am Holy”.

In the battle at Jericho, God did not take sides, but he did work with Joshua. He guided, empowered and brought the walls of Jericho down. He did it to further his greater sovereign purposes for the chosen nation of Israel. God’s will was done.

So before we presume that God is on our side in a conflict we need to pause and ask ourselves whose side are we on? When Joshua met with the commander of the Lord’s army he was given the following instructions…

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 5:15)

That is perhaps the best attitude we can have, to humble ourselves, remove our shoes and recognize we stand on Holy Ground. Seek the Lord’s direction and understanding rather than our own. So whose side are you on?

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