Whose Side is God On?
Today’s reading: Joshua 4-6; Luke 2:1-24
And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 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?” Joshua 5:13b-14
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. Luke 2:20
In the Luke reading today, there is a curious irony in that Jesus’ birth is set in the historical context of the reign of the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus, and the Syrian governor, Quirinius, but the angels make the announcement to shepherds in the field who are watching their sheep. Shepherds in Bible times were low on the socio-economic scale. Their testimony in a court of law was inadmissible so unreliable were they.
Joshua meets the commander of the army of the Lord, very possibly a pre-incarnate appearance of the Son of God. Joshua has war on his mind as he and the Israelites are camped in the plains of Jericho about to face their first military test in the land. Naturally, Joshua wonders who this Warrior supports. “Us or them?” he asks, somewhat crudely. “No,” says the commander bluntly, ruling the question out of order. Joshua needed to learn that God’s army is independent of all secular authorities and rules over all other forces. God’s army advances God’s glory and purposes and cannot be marshaled by earthly rulers and captains for their goals.
God works in and through human history and earthly powers but He is subject to none of them, not Caesar Augustus, not Quirinius, not even Joshua, the leader of the Israelites, and certainly not any of the nations in existence today. God is on His own side, but He calls people to join Him on His side to serve and glorify Him.
May we be faithful to the Lord, to His calling to serve Him for His glory and submit our needs and goals to Him today and always. God can use a shepherd or an emperor for His purposes, but those He uses worship Him and ask, “What does my lord say to his servant?”