May 10

Questions with Strange Answers, 5

Joshua 5:13-15 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”
And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?”
Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?”

This exchange is one of the most electric in the Bible. Joshua is, quite understandably, in a military mindset. His experiences have led him to see things in one narrow way—you are with us in this war, or you are an enemy. War and survival had given him a pinched perspective where there were only two categories of being—with him or against him. When we’re engaged in warfare, or we think you are, having this point of view is either necessary for victory or is one of the first casualties of war.

Unhappily, what happened with Joshua is often what happens with us: He was unable to discern the Lord, even when He was right in front of him. Happily, the answer of the Angel of the Lord, considered by most to be a pre-Christ manifestation of God, jogged Joshua out of his paradigm, and he was able to see.

Have your experiences in life led you to categorize people, or to squeeze reality? Are things simply one way or the opposite with you? If it’s not “A,” must it always be “B”?

That kind of thinking is not only unfair to other people, it’s also not a reflection of reality. It’s an easy temptation, and it makes thinking simpler and easier to put everything into boxes and categories. But like, Joshua, we miss God when we think this way.

The next time you’re tempted to make assumptions about someone because they didn’t fit into an expected pattern, or to make up your mind about a circumstance that was surprising or confusing, can you resist making the quick judgment? (This can be particularly difficult for very organized or administrative types.) Even if you don’t “judge” in the condemning way, can you resist making a decision on how you’re going to think about or look at someone or something until you get the mind of Christ on it?

As this passage in Joshua shows, there are always other categories and perspectives than the ones we’re comfortable with. In fact, those categories not only limit us and others, but they can eventually become idols.

But if we, like Joshua, back up and stay open, we might begin to think more clearly and may actually see the Lord!

Prayer: Lord, forgive me for how quickly I put people and events into boxes. I see how I can miss You when I do that. Help me the next time I’m tempted to do that and cause me to see the reality of the situation—and You.


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