Having God on our side: Meditation for The 16th Sunday after Trinity
Sometimes, we hear such statements as: “God belongs to us or my group or club”, “God is on my side”, etc. But does God really take side?
The truth is that God is for everyone, but He honours those who honour Him. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…” (Jas 4:8). If you think that God has become far from you, then, it is you, not God, who have moved. You need to examine yourself. God loves the world (Jn 3:16), but according to the Collect for the day, it is for those who love Him that He has prepared “such good things as pass our understanding”. He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Heb. 11:6).
The question in the Bible is not who has God on his side, but: “Who is on the LORD’s side?” (Exod. 32:26). To be on the Lord’s side is to have Him on your side.
Certainly, it is God that has called us to Himself and to be to Him a people. But our positive response is needed. We must not take Him for granted and do whatever we like, believing that He is always our Father and with us (cf Lk 3:8 – “Therefore, bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones”). Therefore, to ensure having God on our side, we must ensure being on the side of God.
The Old Testament passage for matins today (Josh. 5:13-6:20) is about the conquest of Jericho. Jericho was a well-fortified city and militarily stronger than the Israelites. But God was with the people of Israel and “delivered Jericho into (their) hands along with its kings and its fighting men” (6:2). In fact, God sent down his angel in form of a man with a drawn sword in his hand for the people of Israel (5:13). However, Joshua’s interaction with the man shows that God was not just with them as a supporter, but as the LORD of host. He asked the man: “Are you for us or for our enemies?” Without mincing words, the man declared: “Neither, but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Joshua wholly submitted to the Lordship of God. He hearkened and complied with the specific directives of God on what to do and not to do. That is how to have and retain God on one’s side – submitting to God and fighting or walking under His command. Thus, Joshua emerged victorious.
The story that follows of the woeful defeat by the much less powerful Ai is an affirmation that sabotage and unfaithfulness make God not only to stop being on the side of His people, but also to be virtually against them.
Jesus promised to be with us to the very end of the age (Matt. 28:20). But that is only if we ourselves do not leave Him like the disciples. Surely, “the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13).
Many people start well with the Lord, but along the way, they derail. The question now is the question that God asked Adam: “Where are you?” How you honestly answer this question and the subsequent one: “Have you done what I asked you not to do?”, determines whether you are still with the Lord or not. If you are not with the Lord, you are heading for destruction, because the Lord is surely not with you but actually against you.
To have God on our side is to be on the Lord’s side. And to be on the Lord’s side is to love Him “above all else” as enjoined in the Collect. It is to serve Him and stand for Him. It is to renounce the world, flesh and Devil. It is to walk with the Lord and work for Him.
Ven. Dr Princewill O. Ireoba is the Rector,
Ibru International Ecumenical Centre,
Agbarha-Otor, Delta State.
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