By Jason Soroski, Crosswalk.com
Have you ever asked God a question, only to receive an answer you didn't expect? As we read this amazing encounter in the book of Joshua, we see that God tends to answer our questions with what we need to hear instead of what we expect to hear.
Facing the Unfamiliar
In Joshua 5, something new is about to unfold in the lives of God's people. After the desert wanderings with Moses, they are walking into a new moment. The nation of Israel, now led by Joshua, is finally ready to enter the Promised Land. The covenant promise is now being fulfilled.
There is both excitement and nervousness among the people, as it is clear that the new promise also means a new kind of conflict. Although the land has been promised to Israel, it does not mean that there will not be opposition. The battle lines are being drawn, and nations are lining up for Israel or against them. Taking the Promised Land will not be easy, and it will require fighting.
It is in this tense moment that Joshua has a fascinating encounter with an angelic being:
"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." -Joshua 5:13
In this moment of high emotions, Joshua runs across a man with a sword. Who wouldn't be a little unnerved by this? There is generally no reason to draw a sword unless you are planning to use it. Yet this man is in the middle of Joshua's camp, sword drawn, so there is something unusual going on here.
Whose Side are You On? – The Wrong Question
Joshua wants to know if this man is an enemy or a friend, so he asks him,
"And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” -Joshua 5:13
As God's people, I feel like we are asking that same wrong question on a regular basis.
- Democrat or Republican?
- Christian or Atheist?
- Pro-Life or Pro-Choice?
- Traditional or Modern?
- Calvinist or Arminian?
- Egalitarian or Complementarian?
- For Us or Against Us?
Sometimes we wrap it in theology, sometime in politics, but the heart of the question remains the same - are you like me or are you different? We ask the question of one another, and we even ask it of God. It honestly seems like the obvious question for Joshua to ask - ' hey you there with the sword, whose side are you on?’ Yet, it was the wrong question.
The Answer We Don’t Expect
Joshua asked, ‘Are you for us or for our adversaries?’, and he was expecting an "us or them" answer. Joshua plans to fight this guy or embrace him as a friend. It is an either/or scenario. Or is it?
"And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” -Joshua 5:14
Did you get that? He doesn't answer "for you" or "for them". He answers...."No." The answer doesn't fit the question. It's like asking someone if they are hot or cold, and they say 'no'. His answer suggests that Joshua asked the wrong question, and there is another conversation that needs to be had.
What Do You Have to Tell Me? – The Correct Question
"And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” -Joshua 5:14
Now we're talking. This is the question Joshua needed to ask, and the question we need to be asking. We walk around with our hand on our sword looking for enemies and friends. We keep a running list of the folks who are 'for' and 'against'. When we operate like this, we miss that the conversation in front of us demanding our attention is not with today's trending controversy.
The conversation that awaits us each morning is with the Lord. What does my Lord say to His servant? How could our lives and interactions change if this was the question that started our day? If this is the question we asked throughout the day?
Standing On Holy Ground
"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 5:15
The correct question changes the entire focus of the conversation. The shift has gone from 'for us or against us' to 'God, you are Holy! What do you have to say to me today?'
Before you go to to social media, go to God! Before you speak, kneel on holy ground! We learn daily that the more we saturate ourselves with 'stuff' the less effective, content, and joyful we become. We are always looking for an enemy and always in fight mode, and it is draining us down to nothing. Yet the battle belongs to the Lord, and we find peace and joy and purpose in life when we first go to him, kneel on holy ground and ask, "what do you have to say to me today, Lord?" As Joshua discovered, this is the right question to ask daily.
Jason Soroski is a homeschool dad and author of A Journey to Bethlehem: Inspiring Thoughts for Christmas and Hope for the New Year. He serves as worship pastor at Calvary Longmont in Colorado and spends his weekends exploring the Rocky Mountains with his family. Connect on Twitter, Instagram, or at JasonSoroski.net.
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