Throughout the American Civil War both sides claimed that their cause was righteous and that the Lord was on their side. When President Abraham Lincoln was asked if he thought that God was on his side, he reversed the question. “I am not at all concerned about that,” he replied, “for I know the Lord is always on the side of the right. But it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I would be on the Lord’s side.”
Far too many of us act like God is on our side and, if anyone dares to oppose us, they are opposing God. Even Joshua had to learn that being chosen as leader and leading Israel across the Jordan was no guarantee that his side was God’s side. When Joshua was by Jericho, he saw a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. When Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” the man said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD.” If Joshua wanted to be on God’s side, Joshua needed to find out what God wanted him to do.
As Abraham Lincoln wisely realized, it is up to us to align our thoughts and our actions to be in line with God’s will. Daniel tells us the Most High rules in the kingdom of men. We don’t know which is the Lord’s side or what His purpose is in worldly conflicts. In World War II, the evil that led to the holocaust painfully set the stage for the formation of the nation of Israel. Our priority must be to obey and serve the Lord and trust in His control of the outcome.
We read in Exodus, “Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’S side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.” Notice that it required movement on the part of the Levites to go to the Lord’s side. We cannot stand still and do nothing and still be on the side of the Lord.
In Hebrews we are told that the Lord has said, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” but these words apply to those who choose to serve the Lord.
We do well to remember the words of the prophet to King Asa. He said, “Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you.” So as much as we want the Lord to be on our side, it is on the condition that we are on His side.
Isaiah tells us, “I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the LORD, and the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD hath bestowed on us, and the great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his lovingkindnesses. For he said, Surely they are my people, children that will not lie: so he was their Saviour. In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old. But they rebelled, and vexed his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he fought against them.”
Truly God was the Saviour of the children of Israel, however that big little word “but” changed everything. “But they rebelled,” and as a result the Lord was on the opposite side, for he turned to be their enemy and fought against them.
Sadly, many think God will be with them when they need Him regardless of their actions or beliefs.
The words of Isaiah give us proof positive that we can change sides and leave the Lord’s side for the wrong side. If we do, we lose all the help and the blessings God was willing to bestow upon us before we rebelled against Him.
The slogan often found on church signs, “If you don’t feel close to God, who moved?” has an element of truth, but doesn’t go far enough. Isaiah advises, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him.” If we want to be on the Lord’s side, then we must seek Him diligently for Him to be with us. James says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” If we forsake Him and go our own way, then He will be against us.
So who is on whose side? We make the answer now, as we sing in one of our hymns. Like the Levites, we must take action; like Abraham Lincoln, we should anxiously and prayerfully seek how to learn the ways of God to guide our actions; and like Joshua we must never assume that because we belong to a group of believers that God is on our side.
Paul gives us the comforting words that “if God be for us who can be against us,” but this sentence also starts with one of those big little words, “if.” If God be for us, then no power on earth can defeat us. Let us resolve to seek the Lord and forsake the ways of wickedness so that we may be on the Lord’s side; then if God be for us, all things will work together for our good.
Robert J. Lloyd