Whose side are you on?
In this devotional, written by an Iranian Christian and shared in Farsi with SAT-7 PARS viewers, we reflect on a question that is so often asked of us in today’s world: whose side are we on? Through the lens of Joshua 5, our brother examines how our Christian faith can guide our answer to this question.
This question is being asked almost continuously and about so many different things. This cause or that cause? This politician or that politician? This party or that party? This country or that country?
Wherever we are, one might imagine that a particular answer to such a question is so self-evidently true that all right-thinking people should agree with it. But a godly perspective is more nuanced and involves more humility. It may be that neither answer is the right one – or that we are asking the wrong question.
We read in Joshua 5 that on entering the promised land, on the cusp of the battle of Jericho, Joshua saw a man standing with a drawn sword. Approaching the man, Joshua asked, “Whose side are you on – ours or theirs?” An entirely reasonable question in the circumstances. So Joshua may well have been surprised to hear the man answer, “No, rather I have come now as the captain of the army of the Lord.”
Even though we know from scripture that the victory was already granted to Israel, this response had implications that Joshua must have understood. He fell and bowed, his face to the ground. Not only did the Captain of the army of the Lord receive Joshua’s worship, but He went on to say that Joshua should take off his shoes, for he was standing on holy ground. Is that not reminiscent of the words of God speaking to Moses from the burning bush? An angel of God would not accept worship (Rev 22:8), so here we see Jesus appearing in His pre-incarnate form.
Joshua’s initial desire to know the loyalties of the man with the sword was understandable from a human perspective, but essentially wrong. He was addressing God and his question was the wrong way around. He should have been asking, “Am I on God’s side, and am I willing to take off my shoes and be submitted to the will of Him who is the Captain of the army of the Lord?”
The answer we give to this same question will impact our position in relation to the smaller questions that create so much heated debate today. In submitting to the will of the Lord of Hosts, we submit to His will and agenda for all things. This does not mean we take no position on the issue at hand – rather that before we take any stand, we must first take off our shoes. As people standing on holy ground before our Creator, we look at all issues through the lens of what He has already said in His word. Being conformed to His worldview may result in unpopularity, but winning people to Christ was never at the expense of truth.
And the truth is that God’s desire is for everyone to choose salvation; to be healed and restored and to have life to the full. Ezekiel 33:11 says: “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways!” Jesus essentially says the same thing: “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:17).
His desire to save is so great that at ultimate cost to Himself He provided a single way – Jesus, our Salvation, who is the way, the truth and the life, that all may be able to be saved.
But it is also true that there is a choice to be made. There are two paths – one broad, leading to destruction, and the other narrow, leading to life. Our role as disciples is to preach the Gospel when it is easy and when it is hard; to help people find the Narrow Way and to love them whoever they happen to be and whichever team they happen to be on. Jesus, the Captain of the army of the Lord, is the one to whom the final victory and the Kingdom belongs.
Are we on His side?