A Line in the Sand

Posted on: October 7th, 2012

Legend has it that Colonel William Travis, commander of the Alamo’s defense forces, upon receiving a letter from Mexican General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna demanding surrender, went out to his troops and read the letter, drew a line in the sand with his sword, and asked who would cross over that line and join him. All but one stood with Travis and all who stayed with him in the now-famous mission died, but the “line in the sand” was drawn that differentiated the ones who would fight and the one who would not. [Only one man did not stay.]

Drawing a line in the sand may be literal or it may be figurative, but we disciples need to understand that there is sometimes a line we must step across to stand with Jesus and the faithful, and it forever differentiates us from the great majority of mankind when we willingly choose to do so. As we consider this line, let us consider a few other occasions where a line was drawn, and the reasons why.

Moses, in the Wilderness. Not long out of Egyptian captivity and while camped at Sinai, Moses was up on the mountain receiving the commandments from God when God noted the ongoing unfaithfulness of the people (Exod. 32:7-10). When Moses went down from the mountain, he saw the ungodly behavior of the people and threw down the tablets and broke them (v. 19), and had the idol burned and the ashes mixed in water and made the people drink of it (v. 20). Later, after hearing Aaron’s excuses, he said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side—come to me!” (v. 26). In essence, Moses drew a line in the sand and asked those who were with the Lord to come stand with him, while the unfaithful would remain on the other side. The sons of Levi stood with Moses, and it would be they who would carry out his order to go and execute those who had joined in the idolatry and lasciviousness (vv. 26-28).

A line in the sand was drawn, differentiating the faithful and the unfaithful.Joshua, at the Edge of the Promised Land. After Moses had died and Joshua stood before the people to lead them now into the Promised Land, he reminded them of all that God had done for them in the wilderness (Josh. 24:5-13), and then challenged them to make a choice, saying, “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (vv. 14, 15).

Joshua — as well as all the people who stood before him on that day — had seen the power demonstrated by God and they had enjoyed the blessings of His power and deliverance from their enemies, as well as the blessings of His provision, and it was time to make a choice: The one true and living God or the false gods from across the great river.

A line was drawn in the sand, differentiating the ones who would go forward with God, and those who would be left behind and who would not enjoy God’s blessings any longer.

Elijah, at Mount Carmel. Deep into the history of the Israelites and their settlement in Canaan, we find them in the familiar position of being led by an ungodly king [Ahab] and his ungodly wife [Jezebel] and the faithful people of God burdened by the consequences of their idolatry (1st Kings 16-18). It was said of Ahab that he “did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him” (1st Kings 16:30), and “did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1st Kings 16:33). His ungodly wife Jezebel had the prophets of the Lord killed (1st Kings 18:13), and would have Elijah dead, too, if she could (1st Kings 19:1, 2). To say the least, Ahab and Jezebel were no friends of the people of God, nor friends to them.

It was during this time that Elijah had a servant of his tell the king to meet with him (1st Kings 18:8-16), and when he did, it was there that Elijah rebuked Ahab for his unfaithfulness to God and told him to call out all the Israelites to meet at Mount Carmel.

It was at Mount Carmel that Elijah stood before the people and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him” (1st Kings 18:21). Up to this point, the people had not ceased following God altogether, but neither were they following Him alone. They were trying to follow God and follow the idols at the same time. It couldn’t be done! Try as they might, they could not ‘straddle the fence’ in serving God and false gods. They had to make a choice!

A line in the sand was drawn, and they must choose: Would they serve the Lord, or would they serve the false god Baal?

Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount. Before Jesus spoke about the need for faithful disciples to not worry over their basic daily needs (Matt. 6:25-34), He prefaced His remarks with the warning to the audience that they could not split their loyalties, but had to make a choice, saying to them, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24).

A line in the sand has been drawn by Jesus, and we either trust in God to provide for us, or we take our chances and put our trust in what Paul called “uncertain riches” (1st Tim. 6:17) — but we cannot do both.

These are but a few examples where a line in the sand has been drawn and choices must be made, but note that they all were choices to either stand with God and the faithful, or with those ones or those things that stand in opposition to Him and His ways. That is how it will always be, and there is never a time when we can stand with one foot in the world and one foot in the Lord’s church and hope to please God. James said it plainly: “Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (Jas. 4:4).

A line has been drawn in the sand; with whom will you stand?

Steven Harper