Picking sides

As a pastor people will tend to ask what my favorite book of the Bible is. I can’t really say I have a favorite. I enjoy different books for various reasons, but one book that will always at least come to my mind when this question is asked is the book of Joshua. Why Joshua? That is the book others always use to explain how cruel God is for ordering the mass genocide of a people (He didn’t by the way). My reason for liking Joshua is simple. The theme is too good to ignore. It is a theme you should be familiar with if you visit this blog because it is a theme that has defined my name for this blog. Joshua is all about total dependence on God.

Joshua starts out with a bleak event. Moses is dead. The greatest prophet Israel will ever know has died. This is the man who led God’s people out of captivity. When he stuck his staff in the sea it parted, when he raised his staff in the air they won battles, when he faced Pharaoh’s stubborn heart he refused to back down and performed miracles. This giant is now dead. There is a new leader. His name is Joshua. These are some crazy shoes to fill. How can Israel ever expect Joshua to be a guy worth following after a guy like Moses? It’s pretty simple. Israel was never following Moses.

God tells Joshua a very telling thing in the first chapter. “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” Boom! There it is. God bluntly tells Joshua not to freak out because Moses was never the real big guy, God was. Israel was never just following Moses. They were following Moses as Moses followed God. Joshua is promised that as long as He pursues God then the Lord will be with him. His might best my favorite promise God ever gives someone.

God means business too. A few chapters later Joshua is scouting out Jericho trying to figure out how he is going to take this impenetrable city. The commander of the Lord’s army appears. This encounter may be the most defining moment in Joshua life. This is for two reason. The first is because of the answer to a question. Joshua asks this being if he is on his side, or on his enemies side. The man responds, “No” What kind of an answer is that? Why would he respond with that? Because Joshua is asking the wrong question.

We often ask God, “Are you on my side?” What we should really be asking ourselves is, “Are we on God’s side? God does not pick sides. God carries out his own will we simply either choose to be with Him or against Him. Joshua learned this lesson that day and never looked back. He was then told the very same thing Moses was told the first time he encountered God, “Take of your sandals because you are standing on holy ground.”

His mind must have been blown. Here God comes to him in a similar fashion as He did to Joshua’s mentor. He makes it clear how Joshua will have success. Depend on God. There is no other option. Stop asking God if He is on your side. If you need to keep asking if God is with you then you need to reevaluate things. Is God with us? As if He works on our timetable, and according to our will.

I have had to make choices in life. Some of them have been hard choices. I have had to learn in those moments to stop asking if God will be with me in this course of action. Instead I ask myself if this choice will place me on a path God desires. The question is not if God is with me, but am I with God? Am I depending on my own strength and ability to lead me forward? Or am I depending on a God who is bigger than me?

No wonder Joshua was willing to give crazy orders to march around some walls and blow trumpets. To him it became a no brainer. He made the choice to be on God’s side, and in the process Israel was once again not simply following the leadership of another man. They were following a man who followed and feared the Lord. His dependence placed the tone of dependence for his people. What a relieving realization. Joshua was a firm leader because He did not try and maintain control. Thus near the end of his life he posed a question to his people. “Who will you serve? Will it be God or worthless idols?” Joshua made his choice on what to depend on. What’s yours?

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