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Who goes there?Friend or Foe?

When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked ….. 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.”            Joshua 5: 13-14 [circa 1300 BC]


Question to the armed man: “Friend or Foe?”      Answer: “No.”   Result?


Interesting, isn’t it? Who in his right mind would give such a reply (see bold above)?


When a month’s rain fell on Madeira in eight hours, many would ask the same question, “Is God for us or against us?”


For Joshua the question, “Friend or Foe?” received the answer, “No”. And the explanation was immediately forthcoming. “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD”, the God whom you worship, the only true God who just 40 years ago released you, Joshua, along with 1.5 million others from slavery in Egypt....


Surely Joshua wanted to know from Almighty God whether his God was still, at this crucial stage for all the people of Israel “Friend or Foe”.


Crucial stage? Yes – because the wandering crowd of 1.5 million Israelites has just crossed the Jordan River (the one in present day Israel) to take possession of their Promised Land. They had walked through countryside on the west bank - until now. Now they faced the walled and heavily fortified city of Jericho.


Was God still with them then - BC 1300? Is God “with” the Madeiran people AD 2010 in all their present suffering? Is God friend or foe to Jersey people (90,000 of them approximately) AD 2010 as they face the serious (for us) economic issue of the unscrambling of the Zero Ten tax policy at the behest of Europe with its 500,000,000 people?


Joshua had a personal need also. He had never before – never ever – engaged in city or siege warfare. He was leading a people and an army and needed skills and training that were not on his CV as competencies. What about you? You face ..... (please insert...). Is the LORD for you in this? Or against you?


Joshua was highly privileged to be able to speak directly with “the commander of the army of the LORD”. No sooner had this “Friend or Foe” identified himself than Joshua “fell on his face to the earth and worshipped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant.””


“What does my lord say to his servant?” What is the answer for Madeiran folk – and for Jersey folk – and for you today?


This was the answer for Joshua. “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.”


This was far from the answer he expected and that we expect. For the crucial issue was not whose side the LORD is on but who is on the LORD’s side.


Joshua promptly answers that question beyond doubt. The ancient writer of this book, preserved over millennia in the archives of the Jews (and now in the Christian Bible), records, “And Joshua did so.” He took off his sandals and acknowledged the holy Lord of all.


So did Joshua’s army. (And Jericho was captured in fairly short order.)


What about Madeiran folk? And Jersey folk? And you? And me?


The question amidst all the turmoil is not, “Whose side is God on?” but “Who is on the side of Jesus of Nazareth who gave himself for his (and God’s) enemies?”

‘If anybody is not disturbed by the problem of pain, it is for one of two reasons: either because of the hardening of the heart or else because of the softening of the brain.’ (G A Studdert Kennedy, Army chaplain and poet, 1883-1929)
 ‘God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains; it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.’(C S Lewis, Author: The Chronicles of Narnia, 1898-1963)
Richard Syvret

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