Theme: A Larger View of God
This week’s lessons describe the mysterious encounter Joshua has with a man who identifies himself as the commander of the Lord’s army.
When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. 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.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
I don’t mean to suggest by this quote that doctrine and forms are unimportant. But what I mean to say is that when Phillips titles his book, he is really making a point that speaks to us all, and comes from this response of the heavenly commander to Joshua. Even when we are trying to be most biblical, we are nevertheless in our thoughts limiting God in some way because our minds are finite; and we cannot comprehend the infinite. So, we have to hear that challenge and response personally. We say to God, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” What we mean is that God better be for us because we count ourselves as the faithful ones. And when we say this, we need to hear the kind of response that God gave to Joshua: “Neither—not if you approach it that way. But I’m your commander. And what I have come to do is command you and enlist you in my cause.”
Well, we have talked about this error of partiality as regarding God as our party leader, making God into a member of whatever tradition or denomination we happen to identify with. Let me say that while that is all too common, it is also the case that there are other kinds of people. They’re not people who are indifferent to doctrine. As a matter of fact, they’re very concerned about doctrine. And they’re certainly not indifferent to the way things are done in churches; they’re often very active in them. But when you talk to them, you’re aware that there is something else there. You’re aware that while they may be a Presbyterian, Baptist, Episcopalian, or something else, they are not primarily these things. Rather they give evidence of having a larger view of God—a view of God which fills their heart and mind, and motivates their actions.
This view of God enables them to embrace a wide variety of operations and people. And when you meet them, you wonder, “Well, why are they like that? What is the difference? How do they get this large view of God?” The answer is that they are people who have done what Joshua did. They have met God. God has told them to bow before Him, and they have done that. And then they have asked, “What message do you have for your servant?” And what they’re primarily interested in doing is carrying out that message in the world. That’s the kind of people we need. We need leaders like that because what makes them leaders is that they are following the leader. Because they’re following Him, they lead us not to narrow views of God that revolve around one’s particular denomination. Instead they lead us to that great God who has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ and who will be the object of our learning, worship, and adoration throughout endless ages.
Can you think of any examples from Scripture when the Israelites did put God in a box? How did they do it? What were the results?
Putting God in such a box shows the sins of pride and presumption. What event coming up in the book of Joshua illustrated Israel’s pride?
Pray and ask God to show you any ways in which you might unknowingly be enlisting God for your cause, rather than being a humble servant in his.
It is easy at times to assume that God is most pleased with one’s particular church or denomination. Locate other gospel-preaching churches in your community, and pray for God to be at work in their midst.