You are in a war. Whether or not you are aware of it, whether you choose to fight or abstain, you are in a war. Believer or not, you are in a war. Believers know who our King is and who we fight, or we should. The lost usually don’t know who their prince is, who the war is against, or even that they are prisoners in the war.
The instructions Moses gave Israel for the wars she would fight can help us today in the battles we fight. But believer, I do not want you to think we fight governments, the lost or any person. We do not. Our enemy is not flesh and blood. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:12,
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
The Israelites fought the people who lived in the Promised Land, they fought the countries who would try and take it back from them. Some of those armies were very large, but God encouraged them that the size of the army, the might of the army meant nothing compared to what they had. Verses 1-4 read,
“When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. 2 And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people 3 and shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, today you are drawing near for battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint. Do not fear or panic or be in dread of them, 4 for the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.’”
We don’t need to be afraid of the enemy. He may look fierce, he may look strong, but The LORD our God is more powerful, His power is limitless and He goes before us; He is with us. If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31). We have Jesus Christ, our Warrior King and Prince of Peace, our Victory. Romans 8:37-39 reads,
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Those who fight need to be able to put their entire hearts and minds into the battle. God does not need a big army, He’s God. Those in the battle need to be certain that The Lord and what He is fighting for is the priority. But we have been given this life to enjoy it too. We have been given abundant life and if we do not experience that life, then will we really even know what it is we fight for? Verses 5-7 read,
“Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying, ‘Is there any man who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it. 6 And is there any man who has planted a vineyard and has not enjoyed its fruit? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man enjoy its fruit. 7 And is there any man who has betrothed a wife and has not taken her? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man take her.’”
While those who had unfinished business attended to it, the battle would still rage on. They would dedicate their home or consummate their marriage and then they could rejoin the fight with a clearer understanding of the fight. They could enjoy the fruit of their labor and then come back to the fight, stronger and ready. It is not always time for us to fight. Sometimes it is time for us to rest. Sometimes it time for us to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn. Sometimes it is time to make love. And sometimes it is time to have a party. Ecclesiastes 3:1-13 reads,
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2 a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3 a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
9 What gain has the worker from his toil? 10 I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man's heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. 12 I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; 13 also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God's gift to man.
What about those who look at the chariots, the weapons and the size of the army they are against and fear? Verses 8-9 read,
“And the officers shall speak further to the people, and say, ‘Is there any man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go back to his house, lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own.’ 9 And when the officers have finished speaking to the people, then commanders shall be appointed at the head of the people.”
If you are afraid of the war, go home, don’t spread your fear. Go home and let God teach you not to be afraid. Let God show you the battle will be won with the remainder, and maybe next time you will remember what God has done and you will have the courage for the battle.
The ones who are left will be the ones from whom commanders are appointed. The ones who fight are not afraid. They know what they fight for and they know who is doing the fighting. They know they may die, but the battle is worth it. It is important. Israel fought for their land. We fight for the souls of the lost, for our efficacy in the Kingdom, and for eternal life. Jesus laid down His life for us and for the lost. If we love, the way He loved, we are willing to lay down our lives too (John 15:12-13). Death is not something for the believer to fear, it is a door from temporary life to eternal life. 1 Corinthians 15:53-58 says it this way,
For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.
While we fight the enemy, who is not flesh and blood, his prisoners may sometimes be in the wake. We do not fight them for their death, we fight to free them from the bonds they may not be aware of. The battle doesn’t always have to get bloody. Verses 10-11 describe how the Israelites are to approach each city.
“When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. 11 And if it responds to you peaceably and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you.”
If the people surrendered then they were spared from death, they were no longer the enemy, they were taken as slaves. A large part of the war is in freeing the captives. This is done through evangelism, being a witness to Jesus Christ, and testifying to His greatness. Jesus talked about this in Matthew 10:11-15 when He gave instructions to the disciples He sent out to tell people about Him.
“And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”
We offer peace. We give them a chance to join The Lord of Hosts, and if they choose not to, then they are joined with the enemy of their own volition, and they will pay on Judgement Day with the rest of the army of Satan. Verses 12-18 read,
“But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it. 13 And when the Lord your God gives it into your hand, you shall put all its males to the sword, 14 but the women and the little ones, the livestock, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as plunder for yourselves. And you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the Lord your God has given you. 15 Thus you shall do to all the cities that are very far from you, which are not cities of the nations here.16 But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes,17 but you shall devote them to complete destruction, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, as the Lord your God has commanded, 18 that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices that they have done for their gods, and so you sin against the Lord your God.”
We can’t allow any of the abominable practices of the enemy seep into the Way of Christ. We are in this world, yes. But we are not of this world. We are separate, holy, chosen and peculiar. We do not make peace with their ways. Adopting their feasts and calling them The Lord’s does not make it right, it makes it perverse. It gives a battle victory to the enemy and allows him to keep prisoners. It makes it our fight rather than The Lord’s war.
We have to know who and what we are fighting. We don’t want to destroy the trees and the land, the inheritance God has given us in order to wrestle it from the enemy. What sense does that make? Destroy the enemy, not our souls. Verses 19-20 read,
“When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them. You may eat from them, but you shall not cut them down. Are the trees in the field human, that they should be besieged by you? 20 Only the trees that you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down, that you may build siege works against the city that makes war with you, until it falls.”
Be careful what you fight. Fight the enemy, free the captives, and lay the foundations for eternal life. Live the abundant life you’ve been given and do not be afraid. The LORD our God, the Creator, Lord of Hosts, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, and Wonderful Counselor fights for us.