I love the story of Joshua, in the Old Testament. He had served well under Moses. When he and Caleb first visited the promised land, along with ten other men from among the Israelites, only Joshua and Caleb had sufficient confidence in their God that they could possess the land. The nays won that day, and the Israelites failed to move into all that the Lord had for them.
Move forward a few years, and Moses is no longer the leader. Joshua is given that role, and he is continuing to be faithful to all that God asks of him. Two spies had been sent into the land and they had stayed with Rahab. She hides them from the king of Jericho and gives them encouragement that God is going to give them the land. They return to Joshua and inform him that the Lord was certainly going to give the whole land into their hands, and that all the people were already melting in fear before them.
Joshua leads the Israelites across the Jordan, and the Lord is beginning to make clear to the people that he was with Joshua just as he had been with Moses. Then when Joshua, in response to the Lord, commands that all the men be circumcised, they are obedient. The people are ready to attack Jericho.
Joshua moves towards the city and suddenly there is a man standing in front of him, with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua is not sure who this man is, so he asks him if he is for them or for their enemies. I love that he is not jumping to any conclusions here. I think if I came across a man with his sword drawn I would be inclined to think that he wanted to fight me. Yet since after the man replied we see that Joshua is on his face in reverence, one has to wonder if he knew earlier who it was who was speaking to him.
Previously when we read of an angel speaking with someone, that person is told not to worship the angel. Here Joshua is not told that worshipping this man in front of him was wrong, which strongly suggests that the man was actually the Lord. Joshua meets the Lord and asks him if he is for them or against them. And I love the answer. “Neither.”
“Neither, but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”
I wonder if we have asked the Lord the same question? “Lord, are you on my side? Are you going to help me get what I want? Are you going to help me get that job that I want? That relationship that I am longing for? That home that I really like? Or are you against me?” And if he replies “Neither”, do we give up on him? Do we walk away thinking that the Lord doesn’t really love us after all?
There are times when the Lord would say to us that we need to be on his side. We need to lay aside those things that we have been praying for, those things that we so badly want, and we need to choose to follow him. We need to lay down our requests and ask the Lord what he wants to say to us. Is there something that we should be doing?
Joshua fell on his face before the Lord, and then he asked him if he wanted to say something to him. And what did the Lord say? He told Joshua to take off his sandals, for the place where he was standing was holy. That was all. And Joshua had just circumcised all the men of Israel – he was already putting the Lord first in his life and the lives of his people. But this is what the Lord asked of him, to take off his sandals. Recognize and honour the fact that God is holy, and where he is, that place is holy. It was not a rebuke. At that point in time the Lord simply wanted Joshua to take off his sandals, because the place where he was standing was holy.
Despite the fact that the Lord did not inform Joshua that he was on the Israelites side, he did deliver Jericho into their hands. The Lord gave Joshua very clear instructions on how to attack Jericho, with marching and trumpets and shouting at the right time, and Joshua communicated these instructions to the Israelites who followed them carefully. And Jericho was given into the hands of the Israelites.
You may not get everything you want when you want it. You may face disappointments in your walk with the Lord. I know I have. You may wonder if God is on your side. And maybe you are asking the wrong question. Are you on God’s side? I mean completely on God’s side. Taking your shoes off and lying face down before a holy God, who wants you to fight his battles with him. And you think that you have such pressing needs right now. Can you lay those needs to one side and choose to be on God’s side?