Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” (Joshua 5:13-14, NIV)
It is popular today to criticize the actions God takes in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. Atheists are quick to accuse God of being evil due to the actions He commands Israel to do, especially in telling them to destroy the Canaanites, of which Jericho was the first battle. For a more lengthy response, see here.
I heard a presentation today (from John Njoroge) that gave one additional explanation of God’s actions in this instance. If we tell our children that it is time to go to bed, but we as parents are allowed to stay up, the child views this as unfair. Yet we know it not to be so, for we have perogative as parents that make us able to set rules for them that do not apply to us. Yet as parents we are required to follow a much more profound set of moral rules which are much more important than bedtime. We are not immoral when we do not follow the same rules as we put on our children. What reason do we have to say that God is not in a simialar relationship? Is it reasonable to say that God is following a higher moral law?
In the passage above, it would appear to the people of Israel and to the people of Jericho that they themselves are right, and the other side was wrong. God shows up, and Joshua wants to know whose side this mysterious visitor is on, the good guys or the bad guys? God’s answer is neither, He is on His own side, and will act accordingly.
As such, we have no moral high ground to truly judge God.