The Movement of God.
Joshua 5-6, Acts 8
So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. – Joshua 6:20 ESV
The Bible gives us a glimpse into the history of God’s interactions with man. It reveals moments in which God intervenes and interjects Himself into the affairs of men, revealing His divine presence and displaying His incomparable power. When it was time for the people of Israel to begin their conquest of the land of Canaan, God showed up in the form of the Captain of the Host. Joshua found himself face to face with the Lord Himself, dressed for battle and with drawn sword in hand. Joshua, not immediately recognizing who this individual was, asked Him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” (Joshua 5:13 ESV). In other words, Joshua wanted to know if this warrior and His army were friends or foes. Did the Israelites have two enemies to contend with, or was this an unexpected ally? But the Lord’s answer was basically, “Neither.” He simply replied, “No, but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come” (Joshua 5:14 ESV). And Joshua immediately bowed down and worshiped Him. We know that this was no ordinary man, because of what He instructed Joshua to do next. “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy” (Joshua 5:15 ESV). These were the same words God spoke when He appeared to Moses in the burning bush years earlier. This was a sacred encounter with God. He had showed up and was letting Joshua know that His presence was going to have a dramatic impact on what was about to happen. The conquest of the land was not going to be done conventionally or by human means alone. It was to be a movement of God. It was going to have the fingerprints of God all over it, so that the people of Israel would know that their success was due to Him, not themselves. God’s instructions to Joshua regarding the siege and fall of Jericho had to have sounded farfetched and a bit ridiculous. But Joshua’s obedience brought victory. His willingness to do God’s work in God’s way resulted in God’s will being done.
What does this passage reveal about God?
It is so easy for us to question the will and the ways of God. We sometimes wonder and question why God does things the way He does. In reading the story of the spread of the church in the book of Acts, it is difficult to understand why Stephen had to die a martyr’s death. It is hard to comprehend why Saul had to persecute the church, dragging off men and women to prison. But the movement of God is not always recognizable to us. Luke records the events just as they happened. He makes it clear that “Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3 ESV). But even this was a work of God. It was all part of the plan of God. Because at this point, the message of the good news of Jesus Christ has been confined to the city of Jerusalem. But Jesus had told His disciples, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8 ESV). The gospel was to be preached around the world. So God moved in the midst of men, bringing about a persecution that would result in a dispersion of the people of God so that they might spread the message of Christ. “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:4 ESV). God moved and so did the people. And Luke makes it clear that Philip went down to Samaria, exactly where Jesus had instructed His disciples to go. And because Philip was forced to leave the safe and familiar confines of Jerusalem, many of the Samaritans heard the good news of Jesus Christ and believed. God moved and the Spirit of God came upon all those who believed. He put His seal of approval on the lives of those who placed their faith in Jesus. Philip even got the opportunity to share the gospel with an Ethiopian – someone who represented “the end of the earth.” Philip would end up traveling through Judea and settling in Caesarea, a busy trading hub on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The good news was spreading. This was clearly a movement of God.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Mankind has always needed a movement of God. If you take Him out of the story of human history, it would be a bleak and hopeless affair. God’s movements among men have always resulted in powerful and significant outcomes. He moved at creation and brought mankind into existence. He moved again and brought about the destruction of virtually all mankind because of the prevailing presence of sin. But He moved in the life of Noah and provided a means of salvation. He moved in the life of Abraham and brought about the creation of the people of Israel. He moved in the life of Moses and delivered His people from captivity in Egypt. He moved among the Israelites, providing them with provision and protection all the years they wandered in the wilderness. He moved at Jericho, and the walls fell. Mankind desperately needs to see God move. But God almost always moves through men. He used Noah. He used Abraham. He used Moses and Joshua. He used Stephen, Peter, and Philip. God used the people of Israel to march around the walls of Jericho, but it was God who caused the walls to fall. God used Philip to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the people living in Samaria, but it was God who caused His Holy Spirit to fall. The movement of God among men always uses men of God. Simon the magician failed to understand that fact. He wanted the power for himself. He thought he could purchase the ability to display power like God possessed. But the movement of God is reserved for God alone. It can’t be bought, replicated, or manufactured by human means.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
As a child of God I should long to see the movement of God in my life and in the world in which I live. The lost among whom I live don’t need to see my handiwork, they need to see God at work in and around my life. When the nations living in the land of Canaan got word about how God had miraculously dried up the waters of the Jordan River, allowing the people of Israel to cross over, the book of Joshua records, “their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them because of the people of Israel” (Joshua 5:1 ESV). They knew that the people of Israel had a powerful God who moved on their behalf. He displayed His power in practical and unprecedented ways. He moved and the world took notice. When God moves, it is always difficult for the world to ignore, explain or understand. They may try to discount it or deny it, but a true movement of God among men is usually undeniable and unavoidable. When God moves, men notice. We should long for a movement of God among us. As the people of God, we should pray for and expect God to move on our behalf and in our midst. When God moves, things happen. In Jericho, walls fell. In Samaria, the Holy Spirit fell. God wants to move in our midst. He is still the Captain of the Host, ready to fight on our behalf and defeat the enemies we face.
Father, I want to see You move today. We desperately need a movement of God in our midst. Sometimes I don’t always understand how You work. I don’t always like how You choose to move, but I recognize that when You choose to move among men, it it always obvious and undeniable. That is what we long to see. You are here. Let us see You move. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men