Like our favourite movie that we can quote from start to finish, or that pitch perfect GRAMMY performance we love to lip-sync to, there are Bible stories so precious to us that we know them inside out.
Which is, of course, a good thing.
Isn’t it? Sometimes we need to take a clean look to remind ourselves of the certain elements we can overlook.
Take Jericho, for example. It’s one of the most perfect and powerful depictions of the power of worship as you can ever hope to read in the Old Testament. But if we skip straight to the part with the music and the marching and the walls that come tumbling down, we miss this:
‘Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord* have for his servant?” The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.’
They had come a long way. For forty years the people had been led across and around the wilderness, until the generation that had disobeyed God had died out [Numbers 14:23] and the people were ready to enter the promised land. They had crossed the Jordan in style, with the ark parting the waters. Next stop: Jericho. Time for the ungodly nations of the region to know that the Lord’s people had arrived.
So Joshua was focused on the battle. He had the whole nation backed up behind him. No wonder he was nervous. But what he says to the swordsman indicates something more significant than a simple case of butterflies in the stomach. Whose side are you on? It’s a reasonable question in many ways, but it reveals the fact that he has failed to comprehend the truth of the situation.
This is God’s battle, not Joshua’s.
This isn’t a case of God pitching in to help the Israelites crush the Canaanites, it’s another step in the establishing of God’s kingdom, another move to bring salvation to the world. The real question that needs to be asked is whether Joshua is on God’s side. Is he fighting the Lord’s battle or his own?
Worship is a powerful, powerful thing. It can change the course of history. It can turn a life around. It can send the enemy fleeing.
At no point is worship intended as a tool for our own personal agenda. The power is not for us. The battle is not ours.
Are we willing to put aside our own agenda and serve God’s instead?