My sons last week finally successfully convinced me to download and begin playing the game Clash of Clans. This is bad. In this game you must build the defense of your village while strategizing how to raid and destroy the defense of other villages. You can team up with other villages to form clans and my boys have graciously let me join their clan. Alas I have digressed into a seemingly never ending world of strategy, looting, and greed. But I’m having fun with the boys, and I’m continuing to learn lessons of relationship and fatherhood in the midst of my plundering.
At the same time, ARPC has begun its fall Bible study exploring the book of Joshua. I love the book of Joshua for so many reasons. I love that Jesus (Yeshua in Hebrew) was named after Joshua not by Joseph and Mary, but by God through the message of the angel Gabriel. This alone should give us ample cause to study this book. I love how Joshua calls his people to be set apart, consecrating themselves in anticipation of what God was about to do among them. I love the typological nods to the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Table in crossing the river Jordan, and in their celebration of Passover. I love how we can see their participation in circumcision as a way of renewing their covenant faithfulness. The whole idea that what we see Joshua doing in Canaan and specifically in Jericho is what Jesus has done and continues to do in expansion of His Kingdom is inspiring. Jesus has infiltrated the land of darkness and claimed us for His own. He has broken down the walls of the enemy- indeed the gates of Hell will not prevail against the onslaught of the Lord of Hosts.
And while Jesus is the Captain of the Armies of God we so often don’t picture Him in this way. Most often we see Him as the shepherd holding a small lamb surrounded by children (unfortunately with blond hair and blue eyes, but I digress). We think of Jesus as meek and mild; gentle and kind- and rightly so, for He is all these things in abundance. His compassion and care for the lowly is our example to follow. Yet in Joshua, and also in Revelation we see this warrior adorned in battle armor riding a white steed. How can we juxtapose these two seemingly contrasting views of our savior? We can do this first, by asking how He accomplished the victory. 2 Corinthians 10 says, “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh”; that is, we do not fight the same way the world fights. We don’t fight with swords and guns, tanks and planes. We fight our battles in prayer and love. Our strength is in grace and humility not in armor and weaponry. It is no different with Jesus. His battle field is often in the hearts of men.
This is so counterintuitive to our thinking. When we think of victory we think of standing over a defeated enemy through blood, sweat, and tears. But maybe it is here that we find the missing link. The blood, sweat, and tears shed by Jesus on the cross was the victory. His grace and humility in submission to that demise was His strength. His resurrection power is the strength and courage that He has shown us that, like Joshua, confirms for us that He is the One we should follow. I’ve heard preachers say before that Jesus came the first time in weakness, but He will come again in strength; that He came the first time as a servant, but that He will come again as King. I say that He absolutely came the first time as the King in strength and not weakness. This was the whole point! And if we think otherwise we may need to reorient the way we understand the work Jesus came to do. His example is how we are to live. If you want to be great you must be the servant. If you want to inherit the Kingdom you must be as a child. This is a mystery, but somehow there is great victory and strength in weakness and humility, and His greatest warriors in the battle are ones we might never recognize from a worldly perspective. Praise God for the grace and faith He gives, that we might walk after His example in victory. The literary narrative may be war and conquest, but the victory is in the heart through the weakness of the cross.
The narrative may be that I’m learning how to Clash with other Clans, building my war base, placing my cannons and mortars, and training and upgrading my troops. I launch into battle with other villages with the better troops my boys have given me and I loot and plunder gold. The reality behind that narrative is that I’m building bridges as a father. I get to have these conversations about our strategy and timing, and in the midst of these memories I am placing nuggets of the gospel for my kids to latch ahold of.