Joshua was scoping out the enemy’s fortifications when he saw “a man over against him with his sword drawn,” so he asks him a question, “Art thou for us, or for our adversaries” (Joshua 5:13-14). We learn this is the captain of the Lord’s host and he gives Joshua an intriguing answer: “No.” This wasn’t a yes-or-no question, but Joshua learned that he had developed a third side in his mind.
We often live like Joshua’s question. We like the people who are for us and we do not like the people who are against us. This is dangerous thinking because we forget it’s not about us! We are either on God’s side or we are against Him. This third side—our side—is an invention in our mind.
Victory is sweet. Moses reminded the Israelites how sweet it was when they were on God’s side. “Sihon came out against us…and the Lord our God delivered him before us” (Deuteronomy 30:32-33). Moses wanted the people to remember, when you are on God’s side, you will be victorious.
The psalmist faces opposition and he reminisces about the destruction of Sisera’s iron chariots because of the storm of God (Psalm 83:9; cp. Judges 4-5) and Gideon’s victory because God confused them (Psalm 83:11; cp. Judges 7). When Israel was on God’s side, they were victorious!
However, when they formed the third side, they ran into trouble. Isaiah warns Israel because they wanted to make an alliance with Egypt. The third side—our side—made them believe they needed allies in order to overpower their enemies. If they would return to God’s side, they would “in returning and rest be saved” (Isaiah 30:15). But they would not. Now they would flee before the enemy. It was never about them in the first place.
Jude tells us it’s a constant problem. He encourages believers to contend, not for their own sakes, but “for the faith” (Jude 3). There is a cause, and it’s not our own. It’s the cause of Christ for which we contend. “There are certain men crept in unawares…turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). There were people then and there are people now who want to invent a third side by denying God! “Let’s work together,” they say. All the while, they are dangerous, deceptive, and destructive. “These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts” (Jude 16).
Your side is self-seeking and self-gratifying. Whose side are you on?
When we are on the Lord’s side, “the Lord God is a sun and shield…no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:10-11).