The Lord, Faithful and Capable
by Dan Kidd
Over and again, throughout our Covenant series, we've examined and experienced Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph making promises to his people and then keeping them--even when the odds were terrible. In the past few weeks we journeyed with the Israelites and Moses through the desert led by a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night until, finally, they found themselves helplessly pinned between the Red Sea and the furious bluster of six hundred of Pharaoh's closing in on them. But the Lord intervened and cut the sea in two and the Israelites passed through to safety. Even when all seems lost, the Lord intervenes.
But Joshua 5 has a different kind of story for us; equally important. In Joshua 5, the Israelites are no longer the vulnerable, hunted people portrayed in Exodus 14. The Lord has led the Israelites through the parted sea again (this time the Jordan), and they are on a forward advance towards Jericho, the border of Canaanite territory, that the Lord said he would give over to Israel. The news of their march, and particularly the detail about the Lord cutting the Jordan in half for them, had spread to the surrounding kings. "Their hearts melted in fear and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites." The determined, strong legion of Israel were bound to sack Jericho in a powerful display of their might.
Only, that's not how this story goes. The Lord came to Joshua and directed him to have the Israelites circumcised, "rolling away the reproach of Egypt." After this, they celebrated Passover together, remembering together the faithfulness of the Lord of their mothers and fathers. God's promise to the Israelites was part of his plan for his priestly nation--and he did not want them to mistake his power and provision for their own achievements. Chapter 5 concludes with an exchange between Joshua and the "commander of the Lord's army," who states in no uncertain terms that he has come neither on behalf of the Canaanites or the Israelites, but on behalf of the Lord. It would not be the might, or cunning, or prowess of the Israelites that would secure their home in this land of honey and milk. This was the work of the Lord.
Which leads me to wonder: how often do I imagine that I'm fighting battles in this life on my own? How often do I overcome or accomplish one thing or another and think to myself, "Excellent work! You're really something!" without even pausing to consider what part the Lord may have played in it all? This is one of the many reasons routine Table-side reflection of what the Lord has accomplished is so crucial. I wonder too how often I might be tempted to imagine that the Lord is on my side, against someone else? It's so very natural to think my ways are more righteous than others'--after all, if they were more righteous, I'd be more like them--and so then surely, if there's a conflict between us, the Lord is on my side. Surely?
There's Gospel in this: The Lord is faithful and capable. Even in times where we know we can grit our teeth, clench our fists and overcome, perhaps we don't have to. Certainly we don't have to do it alone. Why would we charge ahead by ourselves when the Lord is faithful and capable? And, in times where we are clear-eyed about how inadequate we are, the Lord is faithful and capable.
Because of the Lord's faithfulness, and because of Christ's life, death, and resurrection, we can pray these words: Father, you have been faithful and good to me. Forgive me for not recognizing--not appreciating--the things you've done for me and through me, that I've credited to myself. In my struggles, in my seasons of pain, sorrow, and oppression, bless me even then with the evidence of hope; hope in you, your goodness, and your Kingdom. You are capable. You are faithful. Praise to you, Lord. Amen.