02Jun20 - Preacher Diary
God fights our battles usually by helping us to fight the battle, not by taking over the battle while we sit with ice cream and salad, waiting for Him to finish the job and hand us the trophy. In Deuteronomy 20:1 it says, “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies…”; who has enemies is you; who should confront them is you; how to do that is by ‘going out’ against them – in ‘battle.’ The attitude for that conflict is no less specified: “be not afraid of them.” The beauty is, they never step out alone who step out then; their confidence: “for the LORD thy God is with thee” (v.1) and He “goeth with you, to fight for you” (v.4). God does not go out for or with those who do no go out. If they sit back, He sits ‘with’ them; when they ‘go out,’ He goes out “with” them “for” them. So, God’s presence in battle is activated usually by stepping out, despite apparent disadvantages, especially when He calls to step out, as He called Peter out of the security of a boat into the watery platform of the stormy sea in one uncertain night (Matthew 14:27-29).
Even when God says to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord (2 Chronicles 20:17), it is usually to those who have obeyed the first instruction to march forward, to ‘go out’ and confront the enemy (2 Chronicles 20:21-22). In other words, even ‘standing still’ is not at home but in the battlefield, doing something, fighting with a different set of weapons: praise.
Happy art thou, O Israel: who is like unto thee, O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency! and thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee; and thou shalt tread upon their high places (Deuteronomy 33:29).
This passage speaks in significant figures. There is a shield , there is a sword , there is God , and there are enemies (in the plural). A ‘shield of help’ – to protect from what or whom? If Israel is a “people [already] saved by the Lord,” why enemies? Who are the enemies? How did they come? What is the intent of enemies – to support or to destroy?
What is the meaning of a shield in combination with a sword? Shield + swords = soldier = battle. Why does anyone need those weapons if they already have God on their side? Is their God weak? What is the use of a sword? To hang it at home as decoration, or use it against enemies? Might there be fatalities and casualties in the process of shield and sword against malevolent enemies? Does such a scenario convey the love of God or represent the God of love? What will enemies do to a loving psychedelic soldier who chooses to discard shield and sword? Will they give him a thankful kiss, or then use their own swords against him? What picture of His people does God convey through such martial figures? When Paul says to “Put on the whole armour of God” (Ephesians 6:11), is it so we can pose with the costume for a selfie?
“O people saved by the Lord, the shield of thy help, and who is the sword of thy excellency!” It will appear that an active sword is a path to excellency – in the hand of God or man – “the sword of thy excellency.” On the contrary, idle swords and discarded shields might sometimes explain a paused or aborted excellency. A “people saved by the Lord” – God saves, but sometimes not without shield and sword! Is God so weak as to depend on carnal tools in mortal hands? “Thine enemies shall be found liars unto thee” – without the deployment of shield and sword? Of course, the figures speak of God in action, but they picture His people no less.
Jesus ordered a man who had been sick for the better part of his life to do something he had never done; to pick up his mat and walk away (John 5:2-9). That was no mean feat for a man who had been on his back for thirty-eight years. Why did the man have to ‘do something’? Why did not the ‘power of God’ then at work simply jack that man up to his feet, if that power was genuine? Jesus was at the tomb of Lazarus to raise the dead man back to life, yet He asked the people to roll the stone away from the mouth of the tomb, by manual hands in ‘help’ of a divine process! (John 11:39). Until then, it seemed, Jesus was not about to fight ‘for’ them.
Do you have enemies? Are there battles? “Be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee”; He “goeth WITH YOU, to fight FOR YOU.” Should you choose to patrol your palatial roof tops in the day of battle, like David (2 Samuel 11:1-4), or sit back in your room by the cosy fireplace awaiting the trophy from the field, may the Lord sit ‘with you’ and wait, but “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Amen. Fight. These are no normal times.
From The Preacher’s diary,
April 29, 2020.