When Joshua was nearing Jericho, he looked up and saw a warrior holding a drawn sword. Joshua approached the warrior and asked, “Are you with us, or with our enemies?”
The warrior replied, “Neither! I come to you as commander of the army of Adonai!”
Joshua fell face down on the ground and said, “What command do you give your Servant?”
The commander of Adonai’s army told Joshua, “Remove your sandals, for where you stand is holy ground.” And Joshua obeyed.
"Neutral" is not what I want God to be. Queers are oppressed and I want a God like Moses had. I want a God who will finally hear our cries and takes action against our oppressors. I do not want Joshua’s God. I do not want a God who sends to me the commander of the armies of heaven carrying the news that neutrality is the new divine plan.
Joshua must have been devastated. He has to remove his shoes as his old friend and mentor, Moses, did. Yet Joshua is doing this without any promises of God’s favor. Did God not see in Joshua what God saw in Moses? Was Joshua less of a leader? Less of a person?
Although the holy ground motif invites comparison between Moses and Joshua, the scriptures are far too subtle for a simplistic contrast. The difference between Moses and Joshua is not a distinction between more and less. Rather we are being invited to reflect upon the discrepancy between the social location of the two men.
Moses was on the lamb, a murderer known to be an offspring of common slaves. No real Egyptian royal blood flowed through his veins. Like his people, Moses was outside the circles of power. God’s people were in need of liberation. Moses, the hero of the exodus, was God’s instrument for that deliverance.
Joshua is the hero of the conquest. Israel is no longer in need of liberation. Rather Israel is ready to engage her neighbors and begin her struggle for self-identity and self-determination. The issue facing us in the fifth chapter of the book of Joshua is not whose side God is on, but rather who side Israel is on. The Sacred is neutral for the choice here does not belong to God. The choice belongs to the people seeking to connect with God.
We often blame God for our plight and turn our backs to that which gives life meaning and completeness. We have confused the very human institutions of the church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or coven with the voice of God. They are not, and we should quit blaming the Sacred for the tyranny of bigoted people. If God is neutral with us it is because in our struggle for self-realization the choice of allegiance is ours, not God’s.