Friday, August 28, 2009

Learning the Art of War

I don't like battles. There's nothing about the heat of the battle that I find appealing. I sometimes think that I want an easy, boring life - but that would be a disaster! Because then I would mistakenly think that I have a little, boring God. He is anything but! You see, it's the heat of the battle that drives me to my knees and to His Word and that's where I learn the vastness of His victories and His limitless grace and mercy when I succumb to defeat. It's as He trains my arms for war that I know, that I know, that I know that He is alive and an amazingly awesome God!

I "stumbled" upon a really interesting passage recently. Judges 3:1-4 says, "Now these are the nations which the Lord left to prove Israel by them, that is , all in Israel who had not previously experienced war in Canaan; it was only that the generations of Israelites might know and be taught war, at least those who previously knew nothing of it. The remaining nations are: the five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites...They were for the testing and proving of Israel to know whether Israel would listen and obey the commandments of the Lord, which He commanded their fathers by Moses."

God had left a handful of warring nations in the Promised Land that He had given to Israel - on purpose! He intended to prove the Israelites by them and I believe to prove Himself to the Israelites by them as well. You see, the generation that had seen the miracles of the Lord as He redeemed the people of Israel out of Egypt had passed away. The generation that was left had heard the stories but they needed to see the Hand of God in almighty action and they needed to learn that victory comes only through listening and obeying the commands of the Sovereign God.

We live in a sin-filled, fallen world. And we can study all we want and have an intellectual knowledge of who God is, what He can do and what we can do through Him but if we never practice what we've learned, we never actually know if what we've learned is true. Soldiers need to train and practice so that they can be proved on the battlefield.

In God's great mercy, He hasn't declared this war over. He still has children that haven't chosen Him and He's giving them every opportunity. He could shield us from every trouble and let those who have put their trust in Him have an easy, boring life but what kind of testimony is that to those that are still making up their minds? What does that show them about God? It's the way believers can come through the battles that proves God genuine. So how are you doing at listening and obeying?

Flip the page to the next generation of Israelites in Judges 4 and 5. The battle was looming. The Israelites had enjoyed 40 years of peace yet in that time they had turned to idols. Judges 5: 8 reads, "Formerly they chose new gods; then war was in the gates. Was there a shield or spear seen among 40,000 in Israel?" The Israelites had gotten soft and forgetful. They had laid down their weapons and forgotten where they were. They had forgotten their All-Powerful God.

Now war is at their gates. Verses 15-18 of chapter 5 say, "And the princes of Issachar came with Deborah, and Issachar was faithful to Barak, into the valley they rushed forth at his heels. But among the clans of Reuben were great searchings of heart. Why Reuben did you linger among the sheepfolds listening to the piping for the flocks? Among the clans of Reuben there were great searchings of heart. Gilead remained beyond the Jordan, and why did Dan stay with the ships? Asher sat still on the seacoast and remained by the creeks. [These came not forth to battle for God's people.] But Zebulun was a people who endangered their lives to the death, Naphtali did also on the heights of the field." Let me ask you, when war is at your gates, do you rise up in obedience to the command of God or are you like Reuben who lingers about considering but never engages? Perhaps you are like Gilead and Dan, afraid to leave your home and your things? I have been all three.

But Zebulun... which reads to me just like "but God..." in His limitless power took Zebulun, who was willing to go - probably in fear and trembling but obedient all the same - and raised them up to be mighty warriors! Up until now, "Zebulun, formerly known only for its experts with the ciphering-pencil, had now become a people courageous unto death." (F. Davidson, ed., The New Bible Commentary.)

Don't you want to be strong and courageous? Does it help to know that there is a purpose behind the battles that God allows us to face? Are you allowing yourself to learn and be trained in the art of war? The battle plan is simple but not easy - listen and obey. It requires practice. How's your listening? Your obedience? Your testimony? Remember, God is in the business of making you into a mighty warrior. He's looking for those willing to answer the call and follow Him. He's not stressed about the victory. It's already His. He's already won the war! He's looking for those He can train and prove genuine in battle. Will it be you? Will it be me?

Lord, I so often run and hide when war is at my gates. I enjoy times of peace only to find that my eyes so quickly turn aside to other things. Thank You for leaving some areas in my life that train me for war. Thank You that You prove Yourself way bigger, way smarter and way more powerful each time I see You in action! Thank You for keeping the battle plan simple - listen and obey. Please tune my ears to the slightest sound of Your Voice and stop me when I'm tempted to just contemplate going with You but never rise up to follow. Please help me to hold my home and possessions loosely. I want to be close enough to You that I see Your miracles! Please take the head-knowledge that I have of You and allow me to experience Your awesomeness! For Lord, I know, that I know, that I know that You always prove genuine!

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