Jos 4-6; 2 Tim 1-2; Psalm 132
Whenever we read the Scriptures, we need to read carefully – attentively. Scripture is littered with hints to those who read with care that there is a much bigger story behind all of this. That things are not as they seem.
In Joshua 5 we read such a hint – it is but a single word, but it dramatically re-orders our understanding of vast swathes of the Scriptures, if not the entirety of them. It is the word ‘neither’.
Joshua has come to Jericho with the children of Israel, and whilst he stands and ponders this mighty city, he sees an angel – the ‘Commander of the army of the LORD’. Perhaps the one who will become revealed as The Archangel Michael. [Note :- The phrase we commonly translate ‘Almighty God’, is a little obscure in Hebrew, but is perhaps best rendered God of the heavenly host. It is in this light that we might understand Jesus’ command to Peter to put away his sword in Gethsemane] It is significant that he announces himself in such terms – for he is being explicit – he is the Commander of the army of Yahweh – the God of Israel – Israel’s God – but This God is unlike Any of the gods of the nations. He is Radically Free from the agendas of Israel. God does not exist for Israel – Israel exists for God.
Joshua asks the angel – ‘Are you one of us, or one of your adversaries?’ Whose side are you on??
In the First World War, the German troops wore on their helmets, ‘Gott mit uns’ ‘God with us’. Of course, the opposing forces were taught just the same. Sobering film of troops from the era shows Army chaplains leading the soldiers in rousing choruses of Onward Christian Soldiers.
‘Whose side are you on, God?’
The third commandment which the Israelites were given was – ‘you shall not take the name of Yahweh your God in vain’. In popular parlance ‘Don’t use God’ or ‘Don’t attach the Name to your projects’ However Righteous they seem to you. ‘My ways are not your ways, My thoughts are not your thoughts, says the God of Israel.’ How slow we are to learn this – how quick to forget that ‘The LORD will not acquit anyone who attaches His name to their project’ This is Holy Ground.
‘Are you one of us, or one of them?’ Neither.
God is working HIS purpose out, and as we shall see, when Israel tries as it were to take the law into its own hands, it pays a heavy price for standing shod on Holy Ground.
That word ‘Neither’ is just one word – hidden in an obscure text in the Old Testament. But it reminds us, this is not about us, our schemes, our plans, our wars. It is about God.
Thus Jesus calls us from preoccupation with our lives – God does not exist as an agent of our personal happiness. We pray YOUR Kingdom come, Your will be done. We need to avoid the presumption we know what that is. Passing from death to Life is no less than acknowledging Him as God and serving Him only
The Cross of Jesus is the End of all presumption that our stories about our lives are the centre of things – they are all judged and found wanting. The Risen Lord commands us follow – this is God’s work, not ours.
The question is not ‘Is God with us?’ – The question is ‘Are we with Him – following Him wherever he leads’
Following the Resurrection, there is only one way of life.
PS It is interesting to note that there is little if any older artwork concerning Holy Things. It is only this present age that presumes to represent the Archangel