I find it interesting that God waited until the Israelites had crossed the Jordan to command that all those who had been born and grown up during the wilderness years should now be circumcised before they began their conquest of the land He had promised them. Wouldn’t it make more sense to take care of that on the other side of the natural barrier between them and the people they were going to drive out? Didn’t that place them in a position of vulnerability, where the inhabitants of the land (had they not been melting in fear) might have attacked their camp while they were recovering and defeated them easily? Sometimes God calls us to do radical things that don’t make sense to us. He calls us to place ourselves in a position of vulnerability in order for Him to demonstrate that He is able to protect and to save. He calls us to trust Him, rather than our own strength.
The other point in this story that is fascinating is the angel’s response when Joshua asks, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” The angel of the Lord’s army says, “No. But I am the commander of the Lord’s army. Now I have come.” But that wasn’t a yes or no question!
How often do we want to say the Lord is on our side — whether it is in an argument with our spouse, a political debate, or an international conflict. We want to have God on our side. But God says NO. Even in His plan to drive out the inhabitants of the land and give it to the Israelites, God was not on the side of the Israelites. God’s purpose, of which establishing the nation of Israel was one step along the path, was to bless all nations through Israel with the ultimate salvation through Christ. Although the nations being driven out did not follow God; in fact, they practiced pagan worship that was detestable to God, still God’s overarching plan was for the salvation of people from every tribe and nation.
Abraham Lincoln is often quoted as saying he was not concerned about whether God was on the Union’s side, but rather, he was determined that they should be on God’s side. Aligning our goals and purposes with God’s ultimate plan ensures that we are on His side. God’s ultimate plan is the redemption of mankind, not the destruction or defeat of a people group. If our plans are based on an ethnocentric view of our particular group as superior and if they include dominating or destroying another group of people, we have fallen prey to the same thinking that Peter had when the Lord rebuked him, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
What disagreements do you need to reframe with the concerns of God, rather than human concerns?