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Sermon – 9/8/02 –
Pass The Ammunition - Joshua 5:13

Pass the Ammunition

Are you for us or for our adversaries?” (Joshua 5:13)

Back in the 1970’s, someone was speaking about war.  “What about World War I?” he asked.  Both of us had recently taken history classes in college and I had just completed a term paper called “The Summer of 1914,” about the events that led directly to the First World War. 

I thought I would have the answer for anything, as college students do, but I was not prepared for his next observation and question.  He said, “A lot of people on both sides were praying for victory in that war.”  And it was true.  Much more so than now, there were men and women of all nations involved that were praying for their side to win.  He continued, “If there is a God who answers prayer, why did He take the side of the one, and not the other?”  A disturbing but great question.

United States President John F. Kennedy subsequently said, “Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.”  Those in the European nations, early in 1914, thought they had put an end to war.  In America, people still tasted the after-affects of the Civil War, just a few decades before, but Europeans of that generation had only seen decades of peace (after centuries of war).

The Churches in Europe felt this was caused by the affects of Christianity in those lands.  Their doctrines were that Christians would usher in the kingdom of God, feeling they would bring in the millennium during their lifetimes.  Most were confident, stating that things would get better and better as time went on.  World War I was an incredibly rude shock to everyone.  Formerly complacent people everywhere began to pray.

And they adjusted.  Shells flew overhead and bullets whizzed by.  Mustard gas ruined the lungs of many, and others were destroyed mentally, as terms like “Shell Shock” entered the vocabulary.  Songs like “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” came into being, reflecting a great change in the thinking of people on both sides of the trenches in Europe.  Many died, but others lived on in war, one day at a time.

The man who asked me the question was given some kind of answer, but not a satisfactory one, and I pondered his question for years.  When two people are praying for opposing outcomes, whose prayer will be answered?  And why?

This question acquires a special poignancy right now, as we meet the anniversary of September 11th.  What happened is so SHOCKING to all.  It is important to note, by the way, that death is – universal!  We’re headed for death and we need to be prepared for the journey.  “Denial” just does not work anymore for those who have had a “brush” with death.  A statistic in a newspaper Religion Section article said that more people die in Africa from AIDs every day, than were killed in the Twin Towers a year ago.  The “Grim Reaper” is everywhere, and is a shock to all.

In relation to universal death, does God answer prayer?  The answer is: Yes, He does!  Today’s Scripture is fascinating, because Joshua, the leader of Israel at that time, had become convinced that God was on the side of his nation.  He had plenty of reason for that belief, based on God’s own words on numerous occasions. 

The angel of the Lord suddenly appeared to Joshua, who was surprised and essentially asked, “Sir, Whose side are you on; theirs or ours?” (“Are you for us or for our adversaries?” - Joshua 5:13). 

You probably want the Lord to be on YOUR side in the circumstances of life at this moment.  In that setting, you should carefully read the angel of the Lord’s answer to Joshua: “No, rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord” (Joshua 5:14).  He was neither on the side of the enemy, nor was he with the men of Israel – It was JOSHUA (and through him, Israel) that was allowed to be on GOD’s side.

God is not on the side of your job or your business, though He loves you and will bring you through.  He is not on the side of your marriage (though He loves marriage, and will JUDGE the person who attacks a marriage, inside of it or out).  He is not on the side of your health or wealth, or any OTHER condition or institution of this world.  He expects YOU to be on HIS side, no matter WHAT the circumstances of your life may be.

In the book “Springs in the Valley”, the question is asked, “Is it midnight in your experience?  Is it an interminable time since the gold and crimson hope died out in the west – and a seemingly longer interval before the hoped-for dawning of day?  Midnight!  Still, dark, and eerie! It is time to pray! And it is time to sing!  Strange how prayer and singing open prison doors – but they do!

It isn’t that He will run to your every beck and call, though He longs to respond to your prayer - He just answers in ways you would not expect.  You would remain in your selfishness, demanding all be done YOUR way, in YOUR time.  But He will bend you to HIS way, His will, His time.  And you will find yourself gradually changed into His “likeness” (“image”), discussed often but so little understood.

He has in mind you will be on HIS side, living His will, His way.  And when you praise Him and the “ammunition” is passed, you will find yourself firing “bullets” of faith, praise and love that enter the hearts and lives of other people, instead of giving out the vengeance that came from you before.  “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition”.  Bless the Lord and praise His Name.  This world has always been full of war – Let Him fill you with His peace.

Father, let us no longer try to run things our way, but instead trust in You, through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  We may be called to enter actual war, but let our hearts be filled with the peace that comes from God.  Empty us of our selfishness, Lord, and fill us with Your love.  In Jesus Name.  Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
P.O. Box 92131
Long Beach, CA  90809-2131

"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us"
(Romans 5:8)

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