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Our Responsibility And God’s Responsibility In Joshua 5:13-14

Posted by Job on November 15, 2007

Traipsing around the the Internet, I discovered that the verse Joshua 5:13-14 gave people some trouble. The scene is the children of Israel under Joshua’s leadership have crossed the Jordan River into Canaan and find themselves confronted with the city of Jericho strongly fortified by a wall. “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant?

Some suppose that the man that met Joshua was an angel, others posit that it was pre – incarnate Jesus Christ. I agree with the latter for the man received worship. But in any event, the fact that the man replied “Neither” when Joshua asked “whose side are you on” can be interpreted asking “are you on our side” and the answer being “No.” And as such, people wonder “How can God – or an angel speaking for God – give an answer like that? Is not God always guiding, leading, going out before, and on the side of His People? Is this the God that will never leave nor forsake us? And as the pagan inhabitants of Jericho were evil, how can God just stand on the sidelines and be a neutral observer rather than exist evil?” In addition to what implication these questions may have on the nature of God, it also is a seeming Bible contradiction.

Well, let me take an attempt at resolving it. Let us start with Do We Wait On God? Or Does God Wait On Us?, which stated that when God gives us clear instructions such as those given to all Christians in the Bible (preaching the gospel, helping the poor, comforting the hurting, advocating for justice, and opposing Satan’s kingdom) there is no reason or excuse for not simply doing them to the best of our capability. We are, quite simply, to act and have faith that if we obey God, then God’s Will shall be worked through our actions. (This is not to be confused by judging our own success for failure – and God’s by extension – by measuring the results against some preconceived outcome incidentally).

So, the man was telling Joshua that this working of God was not going to be after the manner of God’s delivering them from Egypt, where He in an explicit sense did everything, and all Israel had to do was exhibit the least level of obedience (and at times they were incapable of that). No, this time Israel had to actually DO SOMETHING. Thus, the man was telling Israel that his mission at this time was not to destroy Jericho for them as Egypt had been destroyed, but rather to give them instructions. In other words, it was time for Israel to produce a work of actual obedience and faith in a manner that the acts of God, destroying Jericho for them, would have a direct correlation with their works.

It is not so much that God worked through them or because of them, but rather the way that God wanted to be glorified by and to deal with Israel in this instance. Thus, the man was saying to Israel “I am not coming here to do everything for you. There is a part that you have to do yourself.” This is not some “God helps those who helps themselves” false theology that is not in the Bible but instead is credited to the deist heresy of Benjamin Franklin. Rather, the children of Israel would no longer have the pillar of cloud or the rock traveling with them, nor would they have a leader like Moses or Joshua to guide them every step of the way. Instead, they were going to have to learn how to live, as individuals and as a nation, in obedience to the instructions that God had given them: the law of Moses.

They had seen the works of God, they knew that the law of this same God had come to the appointed prophet of God. As such, they did not need for God to continually justify Himself before them to provide evidence and impetus for them to obey. They were, simply, to begin a life of obeying God’s instructions for no other reason than God expected it of them. And this new life was to start right here: by God acting on their behalf ONLY AFTER they obeyed the instructions to Joshua.

Take the Passover. Either way, God was going to smite Egypt. The only role that the obedience to God in this matter was to prevent Israelis from getting smitten along with them. The same with the manna in the desert. Either way, God was going to give it to them. Their obedience determined whether the manna was going to melt on the ground or become filled with worms. But in this instance, the only way Israel was going to get into Jericho was by obeying the instructions that God gave them.

And this principle should guide us in our Christian lives. Our salvation is the work of a sovereign God. God made the way on the cross, God initiates the process, God completes the process. We are to have faith in God that He saved us by believing on the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit provides us with assurance of that fact. No works required or desired. The Pauline epistles even strongly imply that introducing works into this area nullifies the process.

But after salvation? That is where “faith without works is dead” comes into play. That is where “if you love me keep my commandments” applies. The lifetime obedience, service, and submission to God according to sound doctrine? God will help us and work through us, but ultimately that is our responsibility.

It cannot be said that we are “helping God” or “helping ourselves.” Why? Because these things can only be done by adhering to God’s Word and submission to God’s Spirit, which an early church father Irenaeus called “the right hand and left hand of God.” Rather than deluding ourselves into thinking that we are doing God such a great favor or that we are doing such a great thing for ourselves, we should realize that we are following the Bible, God’s special particular revelation of Jesus Christ to us, and that without such revelation we would be so bereft of hope that it would have been better to have never been born.

So if you are saved, God has already done His part. No need to ask or require of Him to do more or to say more to you before you will act. Rather, now it is time for you to do yours. Other than exceptional situations, your prayers and requests to God for aid and guidance should be for God to help you to do what He has told you to do – to be – to do in the Bible. And if you have not allowed God to do His part in your life, do so now. Follow the Three Step Salvation Plan!


One Response to “Our Responsibility And God’s Responsibility In Joshua 5:13-14”

  1. […] And Gods Responsibility an interesting article as it kind of hit home with each of us Our Responsibility And God’s Responsibility In Joshua 5:13-14 Jesus Christology […]

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