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.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” (Joshua 5: 13-14 NIV)
This summer, Pastor Mark has been leading us through a series on how Joshua became a leader among the Israelites, and he has brought up the above text on more than one occasion. I find repetition does me a lot of good, and I’ve loved hearing the different talking points that bring home the fact that we aren’t supposed to expect God to be on our side, but that we are expected to be on God’s side.
I’ve heard a lot of “patriotic” talk lately about how God is on our side, as if God is an American. The last time I checked, the USA is only 242 years old, and God is older than Time itself. There may have been some biblical language woven into the founding of our nation, but we were never founded as an exclusively Christian nation.
I ran across a quote from Abraham Lincoln recently: “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” President Lincoln said this in response to one of his advisors asking whether or not God was on their side in fighting the Civil War. God doesn’t choose sides, he makes the sides.
I’ve heard people talk about our current president as if he is God-ordained, as if no other president has ever been appointed by the Lord. On the one hand, God didn’t choose these people to be in charge; we did. Whether it was a line of succession, or a vote of the people, we still controlled that. Now, that’s not to say that God doesn’t lead or nudge things in the right direction, or that an election result isn’t God’s will, but we still have Free Will. In John 7:17, we are reminded that, “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (emphasis added).
On the other hand, if we’re going to claim that our current president is God’s choice, shouldn’t we make the blanket statement that all 45 presidents have been placed there by God? After all, some have taken oath as the result of a Supreme Court decision. Others, because of the sudden death of their predecessor. It’s all part of God’s plan.
I have trouble believing that we’re hitting all the nails on the head. I wonder if we’re on God’s side of environmental stewardship, border control, education, family planning, health care, immigration, national security, helping the homeless and the needy… God is always right, but are we? Historically, we haven’t always been right. It is my hope, though, that we can do a better and better job, and that God can smile upon us and bless us. Not all of us are living in a “land of milk and honey” at the moment, but we can all hope that, whatever wilderness we may be coming out of, we’re on God’s side and we will be blessed!
At the end of the day, I find it important to remember that I’m not an American first, but a child of God first. After that, I’m a wife, mother, and daughter. Then I’m a friend and neighbor. Being an American falls further down a long list of titles. Does God even care what my nationality is, or who my national leader is? I think rather that God cares that I’m doing his will, and that I’m trying my best to be on his side.
Nicole can be reached by email here.