God’s Strategy for Complacency
“Now these are the nations which the Lord left, that He might test Israel by them, that is, all who have not known any of the wars in Canaan (this was only so that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war, at least those who had not formerly known it).”In Judges 3:1-2 we see God’s strategy for complacency. God’s strategy is to train His people through conflict. We need to be taught to trust God in battle – to be purged, purified and prepared as soldiers of Christ. “The Lord is a Man of War; the Lord is His Name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea…” Exodus 15:3-4
When you Go to War
The Law of God plainly states: “When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. So it shall be, when you are on the verge of battle, that the chaplain shall approach and speak to the people. And he shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel: today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’” Deuteronomy 20:1-4
Who is on The Lord’s Side ?
When Joshua was preparing to attack Jericho he encountered a man standing opposite him with sword drawn. Joshua challenged him: “Are you for us or for our adversaries? The Man with the drawn sword responded: ‘No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshipped and said to Him: ‘What does my Lord say to His servant? Then the Commander of the Lord’s Army said to Joshua, ‘take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy’. And Joshua did so.” Joshua 5:13-15. When Joshua met the pre-incarnate Christ, the Lord introduced Himself as the Commander in Chief. It was the Lord’s instructions that Joshua carried out so successfully in Chapter 6 to conquer the Canaanite stronghold of Jericho.
The Disgrace of Desertion from Duty
Deborah’s song of victory rebuked those who had failed to fight for freedom: “Why did you sit among the sheepfolds, to listen to the pipings for the flocks? The divisions of Reuben had great searchings of heart. Gilead stayed beyond the Jordan, and why did Dan remain on ships? Asher continued at the seashore, stayed by his inlets. Zebulan is a people who jeopardized their lives to the point of death, Naphtali also, on the heights of the battlefield… ‘Curse Meroz’, said the Angel of the Lord, ‘curse its inhabitants bitterly, because they did not come to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.’” Judges 5:16-23
Called to Conflict
On various occasions God not only permitted war, but commanded it.
God directed Gideon to defeat the Mideanites and rescue Israel from their power (Judges 6 and 7).
The Spirit of God led Saul and Israel to rescue the people of Jabesh-Gilead (1 Samuel 11).
The Lord rescued Israel from the Philistines by the faith, courage and initiative of Prince Jonathan (1 Samuel 14:6-23).
The Lord commanded Saul to utterly destroy the Amalakites (1 Samuel 15:2-3).
The young shepherd boy, David, was enabled by the Lord to defeat the Philistine giant Goliath (1 Samuel 17:45-47).
David sought the Lord’s will and was guided to attack the Philistines (2 Samuel 5:19-20).
In the Bible, military defense against aggressors is given the same status as capital punishment for murderers.
“When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous, but terror to evil doers.” Proverbs 21:15
Many of the Psalms are prayers to God for guidance in war, or Hymns of thanksgiving to the Lord for victory in battle. “I will love you O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my Fortress and my Deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom, I will trust; my shield and the horn of my Salvation, my Stronghold….the pangs of death surrounded me…the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His Temple, and my cry came before Him, even to His ears. Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations of the hills also quaked and were shaken, because He was angry…the Lord thundered from Heaven and the Most High uttered His voice, hailstones and coals of fire. He sent out His arrows and scattered the foe, lightings in abundance and He vanquished them….He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support…for by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. As for my God, His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him….It is God who arms with His strength and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of a deer and sets me on my high places. He teaches my hands to make war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up…I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them; neither did I turn back again until they were destroyed. I have wounded them so that they could not rise; they have fallen under my feet. For You have armed me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me…the Lord lives! Blessed my Rock; let the God of my salvation be exalted. It is God who avenges me, and subdues the peoples under me; He delivers me from my enemies. You also lift me up against those who rise against me; You have delivered me from the violent man. Therefore I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the gentiles and sing praises to Your Name.” Psalm 18
Victory Comes from the Lord
In the Bible, wars were ordained as a means of restraining evil, judging wickedness, purging sin and purifying God’s people. When God’s people rebelled against His Law, then God allowed them to be defeated and enslaved or exiled by the Midianites, Philistines, Assyrians, Babylonians, Romans and others. “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the Voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His Commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God…will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.” Deuteronomy 28:1,7(see also Leviticus 26:7-8 and Joshua 1:5).
Defeat can be a Consequence of Disobedience
“But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these Commandments, and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My Commandments, but break My Covenants…I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you.” Leviticus 26:14-17
War, Peace and Justice
The Scriptures reveal that God is a God of war as well as a God of peace, because God is primarily a Holy God of justice. “Execute judgement in the morning, and deliver him who is plundered out of the hand of the oppressor, lest My fury go forth like fire and burn so that no one can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.” Jeremiah 21:12
God is Not a Pacifist
God, who is the Creator of all life, determines whether you live or die. Through the Flood God killed everyone on earth, except Noah, his family and the animals in the Ark (Genesis 6). God killed every Egyptian firstborn as a judgment on Egypt in order to free His people on the night of Passover (Exodus 12:12, 29). God destroyed the Egyptian army in the Red Sea (Exodus 14). The Lord caused the earth to open up and to swallow Korah and his rebels (Numbers 16). God killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers who were attacking Jerusalem (2 Kings 19). God killed Ananias and Sapphira because of their lying (Acts 5:1-11), and King Herod because of his pride (Acts 12:23). God continues to use “…My four severe judgments…the sword and famine and wild beasts and pestilence….” (Ezekiel 14:21) in order to lead sinful people to repent. “Now see that I, even I, am He, and there is no god besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39
The Lord Jesus is Not a Pacifist
It is also clear from the Scriptures that our Lord Jesus Christ is not a pacifist. Our Lord may have been meek, but He was never mild! His teaching was powerful, dynamic, direct and uncompromising. This touch carpenter from Nazareth was able to survive 40 days fasting in the desert and 40 lashes from the brutal Roman whip. He could walk hundreds of kilometers in the blazing heat of Palestine’s inhospitable terrain and he could walk through a murderous mob with such a presence that no one dared to stop Him (Luke 4:28-30). When our Lord Jesus saw how corrupt men were desecrating the temple, with their money grabbing greed, He made a whip, overturned their tables and drove them forcibly from God’s House (Matthew 21:12-13).
The Bible teaches that the first time Jesus came as a Savior – the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. All who turn from sin and trust in Christ, following Him in obedience are saved. But when Jesus comes again it will not be as a Lamb, but as a Lion – the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. He will return as the Eternal Judge. And all who have not repented and obeyed will be condemned and eternally punished.
King of kings and Lord and lords
The Scripture warns us that when our Lord Jesus Christ returns to this earth, He will annihilate the forces of anti-Christ. When Jesus returns to this earth it will be as the conquering King of kings and Lord and lords. We are told that rivers of blood will flow from the carnage of mankind’s rebellion against God (Revelation 14:19-20). “Now I saw Heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns….He was clothed with a robe dripped in blood, and His Name is called the Word of God. And the armies in Heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. And out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations and He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God…King of kings and Lord of lords.” Revelation 19:11-16
Blessed are the Peacemakers
The Bible declares: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9. Note, it is not blessed are the pacifists. You have to make peace. It takes action. For those pacifists hoping for worldwide peace, listen to the words of our Lord Jesus Christ: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” Matthew 10:34
Soldiers in the Bible
Much of the Bible is written by soldiers and for soldiers.
Abraham, the Father of the faithful, resorted to military action to rescue Lot from the four heathen kings (Genesis 14:11-16).
Joshua was a mighty man of God and a mighty soldier commanding the Israelite army in the battle against the Amalakites (Exodus 17) and in the conquest of the Promised Land.
King David was “a man after God’s own heart” and a writer of much of the Psalms, as well as a great soldier. Hence David was able to say: “Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle – my loving kindness and my fortress, my high tower and my Deliverer, my shield and the One in whom I take refuge, who subdues the nations under me.”Psalm144:1-2
The four centurions (Roman officers) mentioned in the New Testament are all commended in one way or another (Luke 7:9; 23:47; Acts 19:2; 27:43). The centurion at Capernaum was praised for his faith. Cornelius and the Italian Regiment had the great honour of being the first gentiles to be baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ. Throughout the Bible, the work and calling of soldiers are frequently mentioned, yet never with any suggestion that it could be, in and of itself, dishonorable, or un-Christian.
John the Baptist, in answering the question from soldiers as to what they were to do, never suggested that they should leave the army. He replied: “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.” Luke 3:14 He told them how to be good soldiers.
As a Good Soldier of Jesus Christ
The Christian life is often likened to many acceptable and honorable occupations, such as that of a farmer, athlete, worker, citizen, pilgrim and soldier. Many of the aspects of soldier’s life, such as his spirit of self-sacrifice, discipline and loyalty are commended. “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please Him who enlisted him as a soldier.” 2 Timothy 2:3-4
Greater Love has No one Than This
Our Lord Jesus Christ declared: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay one’s life for his friends.” John 15:13. To courageous soldiers who have been true to this teaching of Christ we owe our thanks and gratitude.
God’s standing orders to all Christian soldiers remain “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the Law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and you will have great success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7-9