It is common for people to think that the Eternal is on their side. In the United States, for example, there are broadly two camps of politically religious, and both of them passionately believe that God is on their side. I know, because I read and review their books, and they make it plain their belief that God fully backs their point of view. Neither side is right, but just as well it should be noted that neither side entirely misunderstands God as well. This is where most contests come from, where there are two sides, neither of which are totally right or wrong, but which pit themselves against each other urging us to take a side, and tending to be harsh on those who intuitively do not wish to do so. It is not my intent to explore this tendency in any particular detail, but rather to reorient the discussion from the lure to take sides in a dispute to the need to reverse the process.
All too often we begin with two camps seeking supporters for their battle over power and position. In life, politics is inevitable because there are limited resources to do all that can and should be done, and limited positions of honor and respect for all that are interested in them, and often that are worthy of them in some fashion. The making of these decisions, by whatever manner they are made, is itself a political act. As choice is a political act, we cannot avoid being political even if we wished to do so. Often people who do not want to be labeled as political will try to define their politics out of the definition of politics, but this sort of self-serving definition creating is generally self-defeating in convincing anyone other than themselves. A more honest and proper approach is to seek to engage in a godly process, and in order to do that we have to start beginning with what God says and stop beginning with parties and cliques and divides.
When the Bible looks at God’s side, it does so with much more nuance than we expect to see from our own political discourse. Exodus 32:25-27, for example, reads as follows: “Now when Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies), then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. And he said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’”” Here we see a call from Moses for people to be on God’s side, with serious consequences, of life and death, ending up resulting in generations of service of God for the Levites who obeyed God’s call. God wasn’t siding in one side or another, but rather God had His own standards, and called for people to follow them.
We see this same sort of call in Joshua 5:13-15: “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.” Here we see that even if God was sending forces to help the army of Israel, that God’s agendas were not necessarily those of Israel. God does not give His followers a blank check as far as support. He has His own will and His own purposes to fulfill, and we do not understand them perfectly.
Looking at this perspective, then, the questions we ask are mostly about ourselves. In glorying that God is on our side, we tend to have unwarranted pride in successes and despair over disappointments, as the failure of our plans seems to signify that God has abandoned us. We also have the tendency to emphasize those areas where we are in harmony with God and dismiss or disregard those areas where we are not. Instead, to the extent that we begin from the whole Bible and work out rather than work from a conclusion and seek to justify it, we can better be on God’s side rather than expecting God to be on our own. After all, much trouble comes when we expect God to support our plans and goals when clearly He has other matters in mind rather than our own ambitions and wishes. Someday, His plans may even include our pleasure and the longings of our heart, though not always in a straightforward manner.