Whose Side Is God On?

In ancient times, people had to decide which deity they would serve. There were many from which to choose. There was Yahweh the God of Israel, and the pantheon ruler Zeus, Egypt’s Amon-Ra, the fertility god Baal, the “detestable” Molech, to whom child sacrifices were made, and many more. The list of possible candidates was long.

The idea that one must choose between the gods is presented numerous times in the Bible. For example, Israel’s aged leader Joshua issued an ultimatum to his contemporaries: “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Other examples include the famous prophet Elijah’s challenge: “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” To this challenge, we are told, “the people said nothing.”

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul praises the Christians in Thessalonica who “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” In each of these situations, ordinary people came to a decision about which God they would trust and serve.

But the choice between competing Gods is only one aspect of the decision that needs to be made. It is not enough to say that this or that God will be my God; I must go on to relate to this God as Lord – the one whose authority I acknowledge. The decision now is not about which God I will serve, but whether I will serve him, or he will serve me.

This decision predates the other, for it predates the gods. The Bible tells how Adam, the most ancient of humans, chose. His was not a choice between the Gods, for there was then only one. The choice was between the one God and himself or, put differently, between going God’s way and going his own. He chose badly.

This archetypal decision is made by each succeeding generation, and by each person in every generation. Though universal, the actual moment of decision can pass unnoticed. Rarely does someone think, “I will choose myself over God.” Instead, they think, “I must do this; I have no other choice.” The mind has camouflaged the true nature of the decision.

There is a fascinating biblical account that sheds light on this. The nomadic Hebrew people had gone to Egypt for refuge during a time of famine and had remained there for hundreds of years. When societal sentiment and public policy turned against them, they left Egypt in one of history’s largest refugee flights. Poised on the border of “the Promised Land,” their newly installed leader Joshua had a God encounter.

On the eve of the Battle of Jericho, Joshua was alone when he met a soldier with a drawn sword. Being a man of extraordinary courage, he immediately approached the stranger with the challenge: “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

The stranger, it turned out, was no mere soldier but the “commander of the army of the Lord” and, quite possibly, the Lord himself. He answered Joshua, “Neither.” It seems that God was not on Israel’s side nor their enemy’s. The question, as Joshua learned, is not whether God is on our side but whether we are on his.

Joshua learned the lesson that everyone must learn. The true God will not serve us or our cause, no matter how just or noble. But we can serve him—or not.

Yet throughout history, people have tried to indenture God and claim him for their side. They have expected him to render service, as if they were the God and he were the servant. When he does not comply, they are reduced to using him as propaganda in their crusade.

This makes it difficult for people to believe. They suspect that the God about whom they have been told is a fiction, a propaganda tool, for the people from whom they have heard treat him that way. How will they believe otherwise until we who claim to believe start acting like we do?


About salooper57

Husband, father, pastor, follower. I am a disciple of Jesus, learning how to do life from him. I read, write, walk, play a little guitar, enjoy my family.
This entry was posted in Bible, Faith, Theology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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