Is God on My Side?
Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” Joshua 5:13,14
Once, years ago, a friend and I swam in the Missouri River at a place where the current picked up speed as the channel narrowed. Wanting to prove ourselves, we attempted to swim against the current. It did not take long to realize the futility of our struggle. Swimming upstream was impossible, as the current was irresistable.
It was not really that the current was against us. The current was constant. From our perspective though, we had two very different experiences depending on whether we swam upstream or down.
In today’s passage, Joshua, leader of the Israelites, had a similar experience. In it, Joshua met a man armed with a sword, whom he challenged. Are you for us or against us? Joshua sought to put this man in his place, but as the man was an emissary of God, he did not submit to Joshua. I am leading God’s people. I am in charge and I am going my way. Which way are you going Joshua?
We often do this with God. In a trial, we feel God’s hand is set against us. Why do you allow these things to happen? Are you not on my side? The question itself betrays that we misunderstand our place. God plan is not to be resisted, but rather, we are to continually follow Him. God is always working His plan, but from our perspective, our experience will be very different, depending on whether we swim against His current or with it.
At any given moment, we are for God or we are not. We like to think there is some third, innocuous option, but there is not. Are we obeying God or not? This is a question we must continually ask ourselves and a choice we must continuously make. When we follow, we will still encounter trials, but we will be on God’s side, which makes all the difference.
Author’s Correction: I wrote two days ago that we must often get our feet wet, like the Israelites, stepping into the Jordan, before we see God move. In my attempt to insist that we must sometimes obey before God works, I may have seemed to suggest that God is dependent on our obedience or that He always works this way.
God of course, is sovereign and is not dependent on us. When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, God parted the waters without asking the Israelites to step in the water first. In the case of the Jordan River though, God asked for obedience first. God is always working, but often, from our perspective, He requires our obedience first.