Joshua 5:13-15 has a great scene. Joshua sees a warrior. Joshua asked a very reasonable thing… “Are you for us or our enemies.” The response was, “Neither, I have now come as commander of the Lord’s army.”
Strangely, this reminds me of a Monty Python skit. The scene was in Medieval times… perhaps the 100 year war. Two kings are praying to God, asking Him to be on their side and bring them victory. In the skit… God looks down from on high, appears to be uncertain who to favor. In the end, He flips a coin and then sides with the winner of the coin flip.
As silly as that skit is… it is the way we are. We want God to be on our side. We know that if God is on our side… we have the most powerful, most awesome being in … well in all there is. If God is on our side, we will be successful… surely.
But that is not true, not really. Joshua discovered this. The warrior (or angel or theophany) made it clear… it is not whose side he is on, but who is on his side.
Joshua and the people of Israel were on God’s side in Jericho and were successful. They turned from God’s side to their own soon after at Ai.
What does this have to do with ambition?
1. We want success… but success needs to be defined by our submitting to God’s work and plan. This sort of success may NOT FEEL like success. It may not impress others. It may not bring fame, wealth, or popularity.
2. Trying to do things to lure God onto our side and into supporting our plan is foolish. It is pure hubris. It lessens God.
Luring God to be on our side has also been done for millenia. Isaiah 58 describes believers who were fasting to try to get good stuff from God. Isaiah made it clear that this was a foolish and selfish behavior. (This is especially poignant today as fasting has become a particularly popular recently as a way to manipulate God. Curiously, mourning, the partner of fasting, hasn’t gained such recent popularity.) Micah 6 talks about people doing sacrifices to impress God. In both passages they told to love God through caring for the needy and poor.
In other words, the people in Micah and Isaiah need to do what we need to do… stop trying to get God on their side, but move over to God’s side.