13th March 2014

Whose Side is God On? 

“Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, ‘Are you for us or for our enemies?’  ‘Neither,’ he replied, ‘but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’”
Joshua 5:13-14 (NIV) 

Who is the mysterious visitor? He does not name himself. He states only the purpose of his current visit, implying that he has power and authority beyond the role of commander. He allows Joshua to worship him, adding that in his presence the ground became holy. The correlation with the visitation to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-6) indicates that this is a manifestation of God himself. 

So, Joshua has (inadvertently) asked God whose side he is on, and God has answered, “Neither.” 

This works as a clue to Joshua that this is no ordinary visitor. It also works as a correction of Joshua’s human-centred viewpoint: he was to be on God’s team rather than God joining his. The field of action was larger than he was aware of, and much more was in hand than the present and the visible. How far do we take this? When sharing this story, both my children took it as, “God doesn’t take sides.” 

Really? If God watches events and directs outcomes, as the Bible suggests he often will have done through history (Daniel 4:31-32), how is that different from taking sides? Every non-atheistic political entity that has ever gone to war has called up religion, pulled and stretched their scriptures, stood upon their “divine right”, claimed to have “Gott mit uns” and fought “with God on their side”*…. and the winners of each conflict have assumed that God not only willed their victory but also concurred with their politics. 

It may seem a fine distinction, but God’s hand in the destiny of nations—and individuals—should be seen as their opportunity to join his side rather than as his endorsement of theirs. The flip side is that those who are offered this opportunity are held responsible in a whole new way (Matthew 11:20-24 and James 3:1). Because, in that sense, God doesn’t take sides. 

Lord and Commander of heavenly powers, teach us to stop trying to recruit you or even to make alliance with you, but to listen and obey.

Study by Fiona Jones

*One of those quotes is Charles I, another is an old German military motto and the other is Bob Dylan. 


fionajones1About the Author:
Fiona Jones attends the Worldwide Church of God UK in Perth/Fife where she assists her husband in his pastoral role there.

Local Congregation:
Worldwide Church of God Perth
Combination of house churches and monthly outreach service and lunch
Gillespie Centre, Dunfermline, fortnightly
House churches on other Saturdays
Meeting Time:
11am Saturday,
Email:  info@gracecom.org.uk

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