TODAY’S READING: Joshua 5–8
It will be impossible to reach 56 million Turks unless there are powers greater than ourselves in the fight. The lesson of Joshua is that God fights for us and that there are forces at war we cannot see. When missionaries enter new lands, like Turkey, God has gone ahead of them and there have been battles raging in the heavens long before they arrived to “save the day.” Joshua got a bit of a wake-up call in this regard. He thought he was the first one in. He thought he was pretty central to the invasion plan, being Moses’ heir and all. Seeing a warrior in front of him (Josh. 5:13), Joshua asked the obvious question but received the surprising answer—that God is not for or against us (v. 14). God is for God, and the question rests on whether or not we fall on our face and take off our shoes before Him.
Missionary service has some treacherous ground—some ground that can secretly hide our demise. Joshua was not actually in charge because the battle was not actually his, but the Lord’s (6:16). Joshua and friends didn’t even have to fight. They just walked in circles, for on this day the unseen forces did all the heavy lifting. God gave the city over to Joshua, and God was to receive all the credit. The “accursed” things mentioned in the text (7:1) were of two varieties: either those things destroyed or those things dedicated to God. The purpose was the same: to show who the real conquering warrior was. Not Joshua, not you, not me, but God. When the citadel of Islam falls in Turkey, it will be God who did it. We go and walk in circles a few times, and unseen powers bring the walls down.
The treacherous ground, then, was when Achan took something that belonged to God. Achan took some of the accursed (dedicated to God) treasure. When missionaries take credit for what God does, we take of the accursed things, and God will not share His glory with another, especially silly missionaries who only contributed to the battle by walking in circles. For missionaries to glory in their going, for senders to glorify in their giving, for intercessors to glory in their praying is to steal something devoted to God (glory) and to bring curses on ourselves.
When marshalling to war, we, like Joshua, need to fall on the ground and ask the General of angel armies: “What does my Lord say to His servant” (5:14)? The message for those who have obediently enlisted in the Lord’s army, an army focused on reaching unreached peoples with the gospel, is the same now as it was then: Only God gets the glory. Any attempt to steal (or share) in the glory that results when men and women from unreached peoples come to Jesus will be met with stones and fire and a burial under the curse (7:25–26).
Western missionaries are sent from a culture that loves heroes. Missionaries raise prayer support by telling stories in print and pulpit. Missionaries are ever in danger of exaggeration, fabrication, and glory shifting. Knowing that humility is a virtue, we become adept at the glory share or the secret stash. We don’t brazenly take of the accursed thing, we just bury it down in our heart. And when we do, we find that the Lord of Hosts in that situation is against us. We lose the battle at Ai and Ankara, and all advance of the kingdom is halted until all stolen glory is returned to the King. What is needed today more than ever before are men and women who will go to the Turks to give glory to Jesus, not to take it.