Saturday, November 19, 2011

"Neither."




<--- Translation = "God is with us." This is the belt buckle that the German army wore while invading, raping and burning Europe under the leadership of the Nazis.



"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 YHWH I have now come." Joshua 5: 13 & 14



Last Sunday Pastor Scott was preaching in Joshua, and part of the sermon included this portion. I was struck by how the Angel responded to Joshua's question. This was going to be the first major battle for Israel after they had crossed the Jordan river to take possession of the land. I figure that Josh was a bit on the nervous side about all of this, so his question to this stranger with a weapon in his hand seems perfectly logical to me.

I'll come back to it in a moment, but first to say how the story ends. Most likely anyone who went to Sunday School knows that The Israelites marched around the city of Jericho for 7 days. On that last day, they marched around the city 7 times, blew their trumpets, the people shouted, and Jericho's walls collapsed. BOO-YA! The Israelites really didn't have to do much at all...and I think that may have been the point. God was demonstrating his power to the people that he chose for himself.

Now back to the Angel...


Joshua asks him whose side he is on. The Angel says "Neither."

I think that this response says a great deal about the God of the bible. Why would the Angel be on anyone's side but Gods? Ultimately, maybe it means that God isn't on anyone's side but his own. And before that sounds like a complaint or judgement, let me say for the record that as uncomfortable that might make me, I think that YHWH has every right to be like that. He IS God after all. If you are prefect and holy, why would you be on anyone's side but your own?

Maybe a better question to ask is, "Are we on God's side?"


So YHWH makes Israel march around a city for a few days playing trumpets. Then YHWH makes the walls of the city collapse. I think he may have been trying to make the point that he didn't need them, but they REALLY needed him. If you are the perfect and holy supreme being of the universe, it stands to reason that you might want to point that out every so often to a bunch of sinful people who have a tendency to think they are all that and a bag of chips...which includes you & I, by the way.


There is a common complaint that bugs me. In one form or another I will here people say something along the following lines when telling me why they reject the God of the bible; "I don't want to worship a god like that." Or, "I would never worship a god that does things like that."

Seriously, that is such a stupid argument if you think about it.

It's the equivalent of living in Minnesota and saying "I refuse to believe in a January that's cold." It just IS, OK so get over it. If there really is a Supreme Being, then it isn't up to me or you to decide what that Being is like. We don't get to set or dictate terms to that Supreme Being. We are just finite, mortal humans. Does a two year old get to order her parent around? If the God portrayed in the bible is who he claims to be, then he has every right to do whatever he sees fit. I can dislike it all I want, but it doesn't change reality.

I admit that I have my frustrations with God all the time. There are things that happen that I don't like. But if I am honest with myself, these frustrations come from a lack of understanding, and that, in turn, points to my own limitations as a mere human.

As for the bible, I have a hard time with much of the killing that went on. It kind of creeps me out that God would tell the Israelites to wipe out almost every living thing in Palestine. To be fair though, God warned them that if they didn't, those other people in the promised land would be a poison to Israel and lure her into idolatry. (Surprise, surprise, guess what happened?)

Also, way back in Genesis 15, God informed Abram that his great-great grandkids would be enslaved for 400 years before making it to Palestine to do this bloody mission. YHWH ends his talk with Abram with an explanation as to why it had to be so; "For the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached it's full measure." (Gen. 15:16)

To me, that is fascinating. For starters it displays God's foreknowledge. Second, it displays God's patience and mercy. In essence, one can look at that statement and see that YHWH was giving the people in Canaan 400 years to repent and avoid punishment. But it also shows that YHWH knew that they wouldn't. Because of that, in the end, he orders Israel to wipe them out.
I'm still uncomfortable with that, but I have to concede that maybe God knows a few things I don't.

To put it in perspective: I don't know about you, but when that guy started turning into my lane WHILE I was still there yesterday, and almost causing an accident, I wasn't going to give him 400 years to repent. (Another reason I do not "Conceal & Carry.")



Humanities biggest problem with God stems from the original sin. We want to be God. We do! We STILL want to be God. We don't like the things God does because we wouldn't do them. We would be different and do a better job. But then again, we probably wouldn't volunteer to become sin itself and be crucified either.


The next big sin that humans seem to fall into after wanting to be God, is when we assume that God is always on our side. (Like a nice, quiet guest in the passenger seat that lets you blare what ever music you want, as loud as you want, and never utters a word.) It's this attitude that drives me the most crazy because I see it all the time.


<--- "In God we trust." Really? Since when??? When has America, or ANY other kingdom of man ever truly put it's trust in God? Do we think by stamping that on our money we are somehow more righteous than other countries? We may as well put that on our belt buckles for a good luck charm the next time we go to war. (Teddy Roosevelt wanted to take that off our money because he thought it was blasphemous. I agree with Teddy.)

I don't even like seeing "God Bless America" on bumper stickers. Who are we, who is anyone, to insist that God should bless us? I would much prefer a bumper sticker that said "MAY God PLEASE bless us," OR "America, praise YHWH." It just strikes me as such arrogance and presumption.

Why in the world should the sovereign "Holy One" ever have to be on anyone or any countries' side? If he chooses to for what ever reason, that's his business. But if you ask me if God is on our side versus China for being the strongest country on earth, my answer would be "Neither!"



Unfortunately, there is also plenty of arrogance in the American church, too.

<--- You may have to click on this cartoon to read the small print. The point it's making is that so many "Christians" out there seem to believe that they are the ones who have Jesus all figured out. They are the ones who have the "Correct" theology and "True" biblical interpretation. Jesus is, indeed, lucky to have them. And thankfully, due to their proper understanding of the bible, God is surely on their side in all matters of being. After all, YHWH owes them because they do it right.

I have been told that, at best, I am a second-class christian because I do not speak in tongues, I'm not a Calvinist, I'm not a Catholic, I'm not Lutheran, I'm not whatever. I'm not an Arminian either, but for some reason they don't throw as many rocks as Reformed-types do.

I've grown up Baptist, and still am. I did notice a bit of smugness on my part when I was younger. "Those silly Lutherans & Presbyterians with their Confirmation classes. If they came to MY church, they wouldn't have to do that." Thankfully I've grown out of that.


I am a mortal, finite, sinful man. Who am I to assume that God is on my side at any given moment? Who am I to challenge God? I don't really think he cares all that much if like or don't like what he does and may do. I think that maybe what he hopes is that I will simply trust him that he knows what he is doing. It makes me itchy when I realize that. No one really enjoys not being in control of their situation and circumstances. But in the end, that's reality.

God doesn't have to be on my side. I'm the one who has to be on his side. That's where he wants me to be, and that is where I will be safe. Why should I expect anything else?

So one more time; if you ask me if God is on my side, your side, this countries' side or that countries' side, I'll just say "Neither." So let's call the whole thing off.



Peace

Joe




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