God is for God (a meditation on God’s glory and the one thing that will save us)

And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” ~ Joshua 5:13-14

As Joshua led the people into the Promised Land, Jericho became the first city that fell. Before detailing the battle plan, which involved marching around the city and blowing trumpets as God caused the walls to fall, Joshua had an encounter with a mysterious figure (5:13-15).

This man stood with drawn sword. When Joshua approached, the one question on his mind was: “Are you for us or our enemies?” And the man answered, “No,” meaning neither. Here we find a truth that is carried throughout the rest of scripture: God is for God.[1]

In Isaiah 48:9-11 God said he withholds his anger and refines his people for his own sake that his name not be profaned or his glory shared with another. In Ezekiel 36, God said the same thing about rescuing his people from exile and giving them a new heart and a clean slate. In his creation, God is most concerned for his glory.

And that’s a good thing for us.

We live in a world where no one is good but for God (Mark 10:18). We are righteous only because God makes us righteous through Christ. After coming to Christ, God delights in our righteous deeds but before hand they are like filthy rags and do not earn us his favor.

Because of God’s goodness and his love, he decided that saving lost sinners is more glorious to his name than leaving us cursed under his judgment and wrath. God still will be glorified in the judgment of his enemies, all who refuse him (Revelation 15-16); but his great delight is salvation and not condemnation (2 Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 18:23).

So because God is for his glory, we have the hope of experiencing his love. More than this, because God his for his glory, the God who refuses to let another steal his glory welcomes his people to partake in his glory through Jesus (John 17:22, 24). This is why in salvation we’re not merely forgiven and welcomed into his kingdom as servants, we’re forgiven, lavished with grace, and welcomed into his home as family.

Another thing we see from the man’s response to Joshua: God is not interested in pedigree. One may be inclined to think that because God chose Abraham and promised him a great nation, and in the Old Testament built this of Israel; and because God led this people out of Egypt with great signs and wonders and promised them many things; that being a native born Israelite would confer God’s special favor.

Yet, when they rebelled in the wilderness, God judged them and even excluded an entire generation from the Promised Land. Just before the new generation marched into the Land, Moses warned if they rebelled against God he would strip them from the land and exclude them from the promises (Deuteronomy 28). So also Jesus told a group of Jews they were children of Satan because of their hatred of him (John 8:39-47).

Old Testament Israel was special on a national level because they were the nation to whom God chose to give his Law and covenants, and through whom God birthed the Messiah into the world. But it is only by faith and not according to national background that a person is counted among the offspring of Abraham (Romans 9-11).

The people’s pedigree did not save them then, nor will it save us today. Is God for us because we are Baptists or Presbyterian or Methodist or Non-denominational? No. Is God for us because our name is on a membership roll of some church? No. Is God for us because we are from the United States or Britain Israel or Argentina or Afghanistan? No. Is God for us because we are white or brown or black? No. Is God for us because we give more to charity than our neighbors? No.

God is for God; which means that God is for Jesus. If we belong to Jesus through faith then God is for us. Here is the grace. None are included for who they are or what they have and none are excluded for who they aren’t or what they lack, so long as one has Jesus. In this and this alone we rest in the comfort that God is for us (Romans 8:31).

This post is part of our ongoing journey through the Bible as a church.

[1] I take this Commander of the Lord’s Army to be one of several Old Testament appearances of Jesus. The reasons for that are too long for a devotional such as this, but one reason is from the text itself: Joshua fell down and worshiped the man, and throughout scripture God alone is to be worshiped and mere angels who serve God always deflect attempts at worshipping them.

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