God’s response to Joshua and the elder’s long expression of grief and humility surprisingly did not please the Lord. Although these things looked good in man’s eyes, something important was missing. The Lord said to them, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face?”
Even if they had missed something, I think God would have been a bit more compassionate. “Hey guys, you really tried hard. I saw you today on the dust. I appreciate your attempt to please me.” But this is not how God answers. He tells them to get up off the ground! Why? We need to better understand this because as was earlier said, some of us never get beyond this stage of despair. It doesn’t please God and it doesn’t solve matters. We are proud of our so-called spiritual responses but totally miss out on what God really wants in our lives. Fortunately for Joshua, they listened to God and changed their ways. But often times, we are so confident of our ways, especially the real spiritual ones like prayer, giving, attending services and fasting, that we just completely miss what God really wants from us. The difference between the Christian religion and genuine following Jesus is great.
People who are satisfied with a religion or a religious experiences do not need God. They like what they do. They are proud of their humble expressions. Some love to give. Others fast. Others do all sorts religious ceremonies. Some put ashes on their face. We are not saying that they are not right activities, but that religious activities without true repentance are insufficient to please God. I would say that they in themselves never can satisfy God. We remember that the Pharisees had these great prayers and made their offerings in public. Jesus however told them that they would not get into the kingdom. I know this sounds confusing to some of you. On the one hand I said that Joshua misled the soldiers because he didn’t pray and here he prays but it is not accepted. Why so?
The text is provided so that each of us might remember that trusting in a religion whether it is called Christianity or not will not save us. If you go and practice all the things that seem to make you a Christian on the outward but never get down to a true look at your disobedience, you will fail. God is after the heart. He never has a soft spot for religion like man does. Man depends on religions and their works to appease God. But we are to confidently reject the works of religion whether it is Catholicism or Protestantism.
Some ask, “If the church is God’s people, why are the churches dying out?”
First of all, we should recognize that there is hidden sin in the church. We should not play games. The sin is often not what we think it is. But in the end it all results in trusting in religion rather than in Jesus. A person might perform all kinds of religious rites, but that is not what really pleases God, is it? If someone really wanted to obey God, then they would do what He told them. They would obey Him. We have millions of so-called Christians that are on their way to hell. They trust that their attendance at a service will bring them in good standing before God. They are totally disillusioned. God wants obedience.
Lets look at how guilt works in here. A man has guilt because he had an immoral relationship. In response to his guilt (not God) perhaps he will give a bigger offering or go to church more. He has learned that the more one gives, the more he can forget his guilt. Maybe a sister feels guilty because she repeated a rumor against someone that she was secretly jealous of. Perhaps she would attend three Sunday services in a row. Do you think God is happy with this? No. what if she fasted? She prayed? God hates this. He is angry with disobedient people especially when they claim to be His people. What should these two people do? The man should immediately stop all forms of immorality. The woman should confess her rumor and fix things as needed. This is where repentance really starts.
Many people think that religious behavior appeases God. They are totally deceived. They need to repent. And we think through some religious activity God is appeased. Listen to Jesus’ rebuke to the church in Thyatira. ‘But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. ‘And I gave her time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality. (Revelation 2:20, 21).
Oh, that our trust might only be in Jesus. “My little children, I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world. (1 John 2:1, 2). We must not trust in our activities for forgiveness but in repentance and trust in Christ’s sacrifice for our sins. Religions including mainstream Catholicism, orthodoxy, charismatic and Protestantism use religious rites to appease ones conscious but this only further deludes the one in sin. They need to repent. They need to get out of their lousy rites and go to Jesus. Only Jesus can save us. Without Him we have no hope. In finding Jesus, we repent and are saved.