March 5, 2012

My Commanding Officer

Yesterday’s vote in our church resulted in a decision that seemed unexpected for almost everyone, no matter what side of the vote they took. There will be division, but it was division that brought us to a vote in the first place. Some are upset. Some are taking sides. There is confusion and I know that, “God is not the author of confusion but of peace…” (1 Corinthians 14:33) 
I had trouble sleeping last night and felt confused too. It seemed that none of this needed to happen. About 3:00 a.m. I got up and turned on Logos 4. I did a word search and found several articles that settled me. These explained the why’s and what to do about such confusion and division. After reading them, I was able to sleep.

It is no coincidence that this morning’s devotional reading again clarifies and settles my anxiety. It speaks of a leader of Israel who faced great conflict. Joshua was about to lead his people into the land God had promised them. The first obstacle was the city of Jericho. 

Earlier reports from spies sent out told Joshua that the cities of Canaan were “great and fortified up to heaven” (Deuteronomy 1:28). Despite Joshua’s military experience, he had never led an attack on a fortified city that was prepared for a long siege. Of all the walled cities ahead of them, Jericho was probably the most invincible. Besides, his army had no siege engines, battering rams, catapults, or moving towers. Their weapons were slings, arrows, and spears. Not only that, this battle must be won. His troops had already crossed the Jordan leaving them no place to which they could retreat. If they bypassed the city, their women, children, goods, and cattle would be exposed to destruction.

As Joshua surveyed this fortress, he could have wondered how to attack and what strategy would bring success. Then his thoughts were interrupted by a man with his sword drawn. Immediately, Joshua asked the man to declare himself as friend or foe.
When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And 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.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. (Joshua 5:13–15)
What strikes me about this story is that man, later identified as the “Angel of the Lord” did not identify Himself as friend or foe, but as “Commander of the army of the Lord.” While He was there to support and encourage Joshua to move ahead in obedience, He did not take sides. God and His will stands above the division between pagans and His people. As I read it, I thought that He also stands above the factions and divisions between His people. Besides all that, He makes it clear who our real enemy is and who it is not…
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Jesus called our enemy a liar and a destroyer. He calls His people united and part of His Body. We are not foes but family.

Other parts of the Bible indicate more about this “man” who came to Joshua with drawn sword. This was a very special appearance of Christ called a theophany. That means a temporary or ‘pre-incarnate’ appearance of the Lord to His people, looking like a man or an angel (angel means “messenger”). A theophany is not the same as Christ’s incarnation, which would come centuries later. In the incarnation, God became a man, identifying himself with us by adding human nature to His divine nature, and offering us eternal life. 

I notice also that this “man” had his sword drawn. This signifies to me that that the Lord himself would be fighting for Joshua and the people of Israel. It was not Joshua or the army of Israel that would give them victory, but the Lord, and He would do it for His holy purposes and glory, not merely for their sake. He had already told them He had not chosen them because they deserved anything special.
“Know, therefore, that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. (Deuteronomy 9:6)
As I think of all these things, I realize that God has a purpose. He wants His people to live in victory over sin and to have a positive impact on a dark and sinful world. He may lead us in ways that puzzle us, but we are called to trust Him and do as He says. We need to follow our Commander if we want to conquer the enemies that come against us, and we need to be united in our efforts.

Lord, I’m always asking You to give me the right attitudes. Sometimes the problems, like Jericho, seem insurmountable. Yet You are here, with a hug as well as a sword, bidding me to remember that the place where I stand — the solid Rock that supports me — is holy ground. Keep my eyes on You and help me remember who my enemies are and that You will do battle against all evil forces that oppose Your people.

1 comment:

Dave Winter said...

It is sad news Elsie. We will be praying for you guys and FBC.