When Faith Makes No Sense

Did you ever question the wisdom of Joshua in chapter 5 of the book given his name?  Moses has passed the mantle of leadership to Joshua. God commissions him in chapter 1. He then sends spies into Jericho to assess the prospects of invasion. Once the spies return with a positive report that the hearts of the people of the land are melting, Joshua leads the nation across the Jordan river, swollen in flood stage at that point of the year.  But once over the other side… the side where the enemy is… Joshua orders that all the males are to be circumcised.  The generation of those who came out of Egypt and had been circumcised had now all died.  This generation had never been circumcised.  Circumcision was the sign of the Covenant; it has spiritual meaning.  I can see why they wanted to do that.

My question is, why, just after you have begun the invasion, would you make yourself vulnerable to your enemies? You are now in their territory.  There are no natural defenses left to you. So why would you now incapacitate your entire army for an extended period of time?  Circumcision for an adult male is a painful and debilitating operation.  It doesn’t make sense to do it knowing that at anytime your enemy might strike. It was an act of faith that just didn’t make sense.

We are a people of faith.  That is, there are things we believe that cannot be tested in a laboratory or for which there is empirical evidence.  Because God is an ethereal supernatural being, we are asked to engage with him in an ethereal supernatural way, faith.

But at the same time, we are creatures of “sight”.  Our physicality and intellectual faculties align easily with the observable, sensory world.  We see and observe objects being able to describe them and categorize them systematically.  We hear sounds and are able to use those sounds to communicate words and language.  We feel material things and can mold them and make them into all kinds of useful tools and implements of life.  We correspond quite readily to the material world around us.

But to engage in the spiritual realm, we must do so by the only “sense” available to us, the spirit.  The trouble with a solely material approach to life is that the physical, scientific, observable, and predictable world makes complete sense to us. It is the pool in which we swim.  It is the air we breathe.  It is the commerce in which we traffic. We “believe” things in the material world because they are “proven to us” in our senses and through the processes we have intellectually developed to test the reality, reliability, and predictability of our world. In short, when it comes to the physical and material… we get it.  Not with unwavering certainty, because, due to our sinful condition, we are often wrong about the world and (dare we even suggest it?) science is often wrong. But the physical world is second nature to us.

But because sin has infected our being, we do not have the same ease and certainty with the spiritual realm.  This is the realm where physical laws and exact categories are wanting.  Because we are born dead spiritually, some “making alive” has to happen to our soul.  Even then, we still struggle spiritually because the physical is so prominent… so…dare we say it… “real”.  Faith is not “real” to us. It is thought of fancifully by some as “a wish your heart makes”.  We’ve got no proof of faith, because it’s… well… faith. So, faith doesn’t make much sense to us.

But once we become believers by faith, we are told to live by faith. And sometimes God asks us to do things that make no sense. Giving your money in worship and sacrificially to God makes no sense to someone riddled with debt. Seeking first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness instead of hustling, scraping, and being anxious over where our clothes and food are coming from, make no sense. Telling a wife to maintain submission to a less than spiritual husband, does not make sense. Obeying secular and unregenerate government authorities does not make sense when their edicts seem to clash with what we desire.  To love our enemies and pray for them who spitefully use you, is nonsensical. To stay married to someone you no longer love does not make sense.

Much of what we do and don’t do as believers is based in faith. It is not always based in reason, logic, or pragmatic experience. It is based in faith obeying what God tells us is true and right in the Word. So too, faith in spiritual realities needs to supersede our allegiance to that which we empirically “know” to be the reality.  This is what happened with Joshua.  Faith in the identity they had as God’s covenant people, symbolized by circumcision, was so “real” to Joshua, that even in the face of a menacing enemy, he obeyed the command for all Jewish males to be circumcised.  He did not want to go to “physical” war, without the “spiritual readiness” of their identification as being God’s chosen people intact.

No, faith does not always make sense.  But without it, no one can please God.


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