Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Sep 1 2011 - E100.25a – Joshua 5:13-15, The Commander of the Lord's Army

This short reading contains vital teaching which each generation needs to learn afresh.

Joshua has been called to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. It's a large task and he is conscious that the Israelites will face violent opposition from the inhabitants of the land. He had been near Jericho, contemplating the difficult task he had been given when he looked up and saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. He asked the obvious question; "Whose side are you on? Are you on our side or that of our enemies?"

The answer is surprising; "Neither. I have come as the commander of the Lord's armies." Joshua had to learn that he cannot claim that God is on his side. God does not take sides. God has his own plan and his own agenda. The key question for Joshua is not whose side this warrior is on, but whose side he is on. He will only succeed in the task given him if he submits to God's plan and is subject to the commander of the Lord's army.

This is a hard lesson to learn. Nations constantly claim that God is on their side. Sometimes opposing armies in battle will both claim God as their patron and will seek to ensure his blessing through the words and prayers of bishops or other religious dignitaries. God does not ally himself to human conflicts. He is intent on establishing his own kingdom and calls us to be allied to his agenda and his purposes. Civil religion is the construction of a false god; it is idolatry.

But such errors are not confined to nations as they seek to baptise their own empire-building; the same errors abound among Christians. Churches develop their own programmes and schemes and claim – or at least hope – that God will lend them his support. This is to put the cart before the horse. God calls us to submit to him not dictate to him.

And each of us individually can fall into the same error. We feed our own ambitions and carefully construct our plans and schemes and pray that God will come and bless them. Again, we need to learn to discern the Lord's calling and to follow him rather than demanding his blessing on our schemes. The question is never, "How can I get God on my side?" but, "How can I align my will and work with the will and purpose of God?"

Jesus, I call you Lord. Help me always to acknowledge that you are Lord and I am your disciple. Teach me what this means to submit and obey in all the practical details of my life. Help me to fall in behind you and follow you closely rather than seeking to take the lead and hoping you will follow. Help me to serve in the work of your kingdom.

Peter Misselbrook