I think every God fearing person has asked themselves this question multiple times throughout their lives. It’s one a dear friend and I discussed some months back. And, while pondering the #dailydoctrine for today in Joshua 6, the memory of this conversation came back to me. Now, it may seem at first that I’m not addressing the question, but stay with me and I’ll bring it around.
In Joshua 6 we see the Lord telling Joshua and the Israelites how to conquer Jericho. It’s an extremely unconventional battle tactic. Jericho, who is already shaking with fear from hearing about the miracle of the parting of the waters of the Jordan River, is cowering behind its walls. Big walls, if all the ideals are true. And what does God say? He says, march around it a bunch, don’t speak a word. Just blow trumpets. Then, on the seventh day, march around it seven times and on the last time blow the trumpets and everybody yell and shout.
If I had been an Israelite during that time, I might have said,
Seriously? With all the known ways of conquering a city, this is what God is asking me to do? I know He just parted the Jordan for us and all, but now I’m confused. Why aren’t we taking ladders to the walls, throwing ropes up, or breaking a hole through with some pick axes? I know all sorts of ways God could get us in. I don’t see how stomping around the city and shouting like crazy people is going to make a difference. Seems silly. I think I could come up with some political peace talks with the rulers… Maybe it’s not God, maybe it’s the prophet? How can I be sure that Joshua hasn’t just lost his marbles? He is getting older, you know.
It’s quite easy in retrospect to see the ridiculous nature of all these questions. We know stomping, and shouting, and marching, and blowing trumpets worked. But, these questions are similar to the ones we ask when considering choices in our lives.
God’s commands and answers are, as this example teaches us, often unconventional. But the question is, why? What do we gain, as His children, from receiving and acting in faith upon such unconventional commands?
- First, we gain a clear witness that God is behind us and behind our path in life. If we do it His way, the unconventional way, and it works, we know whose power hath guided and blessed our lives. It gives us a memorial, a firm hook in our memories that we can look back on when other trials of faith are before us. We can look back and say, “that was of God and I can trust Him to lead me again” (Proverbs 3:1-2,5-10).
- Second, others watching us gain a witness of the God we follow, and that though His ways seem unconventional, or “the long way around,” or other things, they work. God instructs all of us to follow Him, and for those who have yet to hear His call to come follow me, the seeds are planted as they watch us follow Him (1 Nephi 18:11-22).
- Third, it teaches us just how much God knows that we do not. When we draw a straight line between two points, it looks straight to us, but in reality it’s winding or the ending point we have drawn to is not actually leading us where our heart really wants to be (Isaiah 55:8-9).
It is clear from the Jericho example, that God knew that the walls were unstable. Sure, God can knock anything down anytime He wants, but He doesn’t ever extend His hand to such measures if less will do. God is powerful but He is also efficient. Whether it was a sink hole deep in the earth, or a weakness in the foundation of those walls, God knew about it. No one else did. And, marching around the walls, stomping on that ground, and then using a great deal of vibration was sufficient to bring those walls down.
And, who looking on would see any less than a miracle? Who looking on might not for a moment wonder if the God of Israel was The God? An unconventional battle tactic, that appeared a bit interesting and odd, suddenly turned into the best possible idea to destroy the walls of the city rather than other methods. Genius! God’s hand was plainly evident! It was the right path, though it didn’t make sense at the time. It was the best path. It was the most direct course between the two points that God had drawn and which Joshua and the Israelites were willing to submit to.
So, now we come back to is, “How do we know if a choice before us is one that God wants us to take?”
While discussing with my dear friend, we came up with the following points about the paths that God leads us in and how to know if we are making choices that follow that path.
- God’s path is always a path of resistance, the aim of which is to develop or increase godly attributes within us and strengthen our relationship with Him. He never connects the dots the way we do, and He often chooses an end dot/point that hasn’t even entered our wildest dreams.
- God’s path rarely coincides with worldly or conventional wisdom. While we may be encouraged by the Spirit to use worldly resources wisely in our search for information and services, what the Lord eventually has us do with that information and those service tools is never exactly what we would have chosen or come up to do with on our own.
- God’s path is not about our arriving at some future stasis or comfort. It is about providing us the resources we need to learn about Him, become like Him, and help others to learn about Him and become like Him.
- God speaks through His prophets. We may be tempted to think they are out of touch or misled, but if we follow their counsel we will be shown that it is God’s counsel and will for us (Amos 3:7, Doctrine and Covenants 1:37-38).
Ultimately peace is the one thing the world, and Satan, cannot duplicate
We can do what seems to sound right to other people, what makes the most sense to us, what the world agrees with, and even with what we can imagine is possible. But, ultimately, though these ways may be exciting, or even fulfilling for a moment, they won’t grant us peace.
On the other hand, we can do what God’s prophets counsel us to do even though it doesn’t make sense with worldly wisdom, we can choose to trust the feelings or promptings we’ve had that sit well in our gut; though they take us down a path we can’t completely see the end of or even imagine how it ends. And despite the unknown in these paths, the trials, the struggles, and even the ups and downs, we will have peace that we are on the right track.
Everyone gets answers from God differently. But, I do believe that peace means that something sits well in your gut. It’s not a pillar of light or an earthquake. It’s a center of spiritual gravity that keeps all the rest of life’s turmoil and persuasions from pulling you off firm, godly ground…if you trust it. And, we each learn to identify that deep, small, part of our gut that simply says, “Trust me on this.” And, we don’t like to trust it. It’s scary to trust that feeling sometimes. But, trusting it leads to peace.
On our journey to learning to identify that gut feeling and to trust in that peace, this example from Joshua 6 can teach us so much about how to see how God works with us, what He’s like, and how to know if our path, our choice, is that which He would have us follow.