A Question Worth Asking
And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?”
– Joshua 5:1
One of the most intriguing scriptures in the Bible to me is found in the old testament. It is found as the children of Israel are preparing to go into the promised land and they encounter the city of Jericho. Before attacking the city, Joshua has a very strange encounter.
When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, 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.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so. – Joshua 5:13-15
Here we have Joshua encountering a strange figure who is prepared to fight with his sword drawn in his hand. He asks the man who he is for. If he is for him or his enemies, and the figure replies, “No.”
No I am not for you, no I am not for your enemies. I am for the Lord.
What a statement! Here is the commander of the Lord’s army, the preincarnate Christ, appearing to Joshua and saying that he is neither for him or his adversaries, but for the will and glory of God.
That can be a very difficult pill to swallow. What do you mean God, that you are not for me? Don’t you love me?
These can be tough questions and thoughts to process. But I want to take some time to dwell on them and try to think them through. You may ask why think about this, and the reason is because there are going to be times when we are feeling pressed in on every side, times when we look on the horizon and see your own personal Jericho standing before you, and you will go to God and say, “Hey! Are you for me or my enemies?” There will be times when you feel like the disciples on the stormy sea, and run to Christ in your trials and hardships and say, “Do you not care that I am perishing?” (Mark 4:35-41)
These are very difficult topics. So, in looking at them I want to show two things. One is to show that from scripture, God is undivided in his passion for his own glory. Then secondly, to show that his passion for his own glory is the most loving thing he can do for us.
God Works For His Glory
I have collected a few scriptures for us to consider on this thought. However, if you want to see a more complete list of scriptures about God being God centered, you can find a good group here: God’s Zeal For His Own Glory.
As you read these, I pray you see in them just how much God works for his name, and for his glory.
“For my name’s sake I defer my anger;
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.” – Isaiah 48:9-11
For you who believe and trust in Christ, why does he defer his anger? Why does he restrain it? For his name. Why does he refine you, and try you through afflictions? For his name. He will refine you so that his name is not profaned, and he will do the necessary refining so that he is praised for it, rather than your strength being praised for refining yourself.
…even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. – Ephesians 1:4-6
Why has he adopted you? Why has he chosen to pour his love on you? What was the purpose of his will in doing these things? The praise of his glorious grace. He will receive every ounce of glory for your salvation.
I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. – Isaiah 43:25
Why does God forgive sin in those who trust and follow him? For his name’s sake.
In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:16; also see 1 Peter 2:12
Who receives glory for your good works? Is it you? Is it your commitment? Is it your strength, wit, creativity, wisdom, effort? No. God receives glory. Why? Because he, not you, created you to do them. You are his workmanship. (Ephesians 2:10)
All this talk of God centering on his own glory, brings up a valid question. Doesn’t he love me? The answer, he absolutely does! In fact, his dedication to his own glory is the most loving thing he can do for you.
God’s Love For His Name & His Glory, Is His Love For You.
I hope to do this truth justice as it can be a difficult one to articulate. But I want to start with an illustration. It is kind of silly, but I think it gets the point across. Let’s say you have two bowls before you. One is a bowl of your favorite ice cream and in another bowl are big fat juicy grub worms.
The bowl of ice cream calls out to you, “Hey! I’m delicious, and will taste great! In fact, I’m amazing! I promise, you want to eat me! I mean, I’m the most amazing tasting thing you will ever experience!”
But you say, “You’re so full of yourself, you cannot be interested in me and what I would like or need.”
The worms say, “You’re so amazing, you’re so smart and awesome! You know the right choice here. I’ll make all your dreams come true. By the way, did I tell you that your looking great today!”
“Wow, these worms really love me! I’m going to choose them,” and then moments later you’re puking your guts out.
Was the ice cream totally committed to its own glory? Yep. Was its declarations of its glory to you a loving thing to do? Absolutely!
The truth is, we will never be satisfied by anything this world offers us, because we were designed to be satisfied by God. By his glory. So when he stands up and cries out, “Look at me, see how beautiful I am, see how glorious I am, see how majestic I am. Know me, cherish me, love me, worship me,” he is in fact doing the most loving thing he can do for you. Because he calls out in love that he is the one who will make your heart overflow with joy!
If you are a believer in Christ, when you die and stand before God in all his glory and splendor, would you like to block all that beauty out with a mirror? Would you rather spend all eternity staring at yourself, or basking in the awesome majesty of God? Would you like to look at the one who breathed out stars and all creation, or look at yourself; the one who was made from dirt?
If the joy of heaven in your heart is centered around you, I would say there is a good chance you will not be there. There will be much to rejoice about in heaven. No sin, no pain, no death, reunion with loved ones, but if in your heart those are not seen as manifestations of God’s glory, it will be a worship of you, and not him.
I take my kids through the first questions in the Westminster Shorter Catechism regularly:
“Who made you?”
“Why did he make you?”
“For his glory.”
“Why else did he make you?”
“To enjoy his glory forever.”
You were made to enjoy him forever! To enjoy his glory! And for his name’s sake, he will do everything needed to get you there. He will pull down the walls of cities, he will calm raging seas, and if necessary he will allow you to be grieved in the heat of the furnace.
In [your salvation] you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.– 1 Peter 1:6-9
He will receive glory, as you are fully satisfied in him as you find joy in his presence. Both now in this life, and in the life to come. And he will do everything to make sure that happens, even if it means having some years of struggle and pain in this life. We don’t like that idea, but in reality, it is the most loving thing he can do for us.
In the end, the question you must wrestle with is not if he is here for you or for your enemies, because he will always be for himself. Rather the question is are you for him, or are you his enemy? Matthew 12:30 says that if we are not for him, for his glory, for his name, then we are against him.
But the good news, is that while we were his enemies, he came to us.
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. – Romans 5:10
You see, God being centered on his own glory, yet also full of love for sinners, made it impossible to simply overlook our sin. So to keep his glory, he showed the greatest love for us, in that while were were sinners, Christ died for us.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8
I hope you know that love he has for you, and I hope that you love his glory more than anything.