In the Bible reading plan today (see scans) we had I Samuel 17 and Acts 9. These two chapters clearly illustrate the grace and power of God. In the first God, through David and his slingshot, fells Goliath to the earth and shows that the battle is his (v47). The Lord will destroy his enemies. In the second reading, the Lord again fells an enemy namely Saul of Tarsus but this time in grace he makes him into a servant-friend, a new man by his powerful call from heaven. Known unto God are all his works. He slays his enemies but saves some of them and makes them his friends. This is his prerogative. Which are you? And if like me you are a believer, our calling as his people is to say to his enemies, as we have opportunity, “be reconciled to God” (II Cor.5:20).
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Sung Psalm 18:36-42 (graphic imagery!)
Read Micah 4:9-5:6
First century Jews wrongly expected a king who would deliver them from and defeat the Romans. In John 6:14-15 they clearly expected a king like David and a prophet like Moses, both of whom fought holy wars. That there were Jewish freedom-fighters is clear from Acts 5:36-37 and 21:38. Matthew 24 is a warning against false prophets and christs who through their physical rebellion, would bring about the mass killing of the Jews in AD 70. All these ideas were based on misunderstood prophesy and eventually led to the death of their true Messiah.
In Micah, another prophet from Judah contemporary with Isaiah, we read of the coming shepherd king who will have worldwide dominion. In 4:1-3 we read of the last days, or N.T. age of peace between God’s people when physical holy war against their enemies ceases.
The latter chapters of Isaiah cast more light on the messianic king. Metaphorical roads would be made for him (40:3-5), he would be a shepherd king (10-11), no rallying cry (42:1-3), he wields a metaphorical sword (the words of his mouth 49:1-4), and he would suffer (50:4-11). Isaiah 40:10, 51:9 and 53:1ff speak of the arm of the Lord who is Christ. Zech.13:7 is a clear messianic prophecy describing how the messiah must suffer to deliver his people from slavery to sin and Isaiah 59:16-21 shows him to be the warrior Redeemer. The messiah starts his ministry proclaiming liberty to captive sinners and the coming day of judgment. This messiah will eventually tread down all his enemies (63:1-6) c.f. Revelation 19:11-13 on the final day.
Now we need to learn how to fight our battles for the kingdom following Christ and the apostles’ example as per Paul’s exhortation in I Timothy 1:8, to “wage a good warfare.”
Sung Psalm 60:5-12
Read Isaiah 7:1-14
Holy War by the major prophets
The major prophet writing most about this was Isaiah. Specifically, we hear about the Assyrian invasion under Sennacherib in the days of Hezekiah when God miraculously saves Jerusalem by an angel that destroys 185,000 of the enemy. Check out Is.30:15 and 37:36 where we have another example of pacific expectancy, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.” This is the last major holy war in the O.T.
In this chapter (7) we have a wicked confederacy of Syria and Israel seeking to install a puppet king in Judah (v6) and hence together resist Assyrian dominance. Judah is afraid (v26). Ahaz, perhaps the most wicked ever king of Judah, refuses to ask God for a sign yet nevertheless God uses the Assyrians to defeat this confederacy.
Scripture links the later victory of Judah over the Assyrians (vv4-6) with the coming of Christ who brings victory to the church as their King (v7) and establish his eternal kingdom. The King of chapters 7,9 and 11 will be victorious (11: 6-9) by his zeal and ultimately will usher in the new heaven and earth. The new Davidic empire typified here includes the Gentiles (v10, 14).
Thinking ahead about 750 years we have all the enemies of the church and God defeated at the cross and in the resurrection.
- the wicked world is destroyed and renewed (Daniel 2:35, Romans 8:21, II Peter 3:13).
- The flesh or old man in every believer is dealt a death blow (Romans 8:10-11).
- Satan defeated and ultimately destroyed (Hebrews 2:14).
Is it not amazing and contrary to all this world’s thinking, that the moment of utmost human helplessness and weakness when Christ gave up the ghost on the cross, was the most powerful event in God’s holy war and ultimately the efficient means whereby he will renew all of creation?
The result is an exultant song of victory (11:12) just like Miriam’s at the Red Sea and Deborah and Barak’s.
In a whistle-stop review quiz of the history of Israel from Moses to David (500years) we covered things like:
- God using forces of nature to defeat enemy e.g. water, earthquake, hail and thunder.
- His people won battles through praise, prayer, angels and technical inventions.
- Wars often inspired songs
- Wars resulted in the deaths of thousands including major figures like Samson, Saul and Josiah.
- Summons to battle could be the usual trumpets but unusually a dismembered concubine or oxen.
- Individuals warred and also partners.
- David was the greatest warrior (typifying Christ ─ Heb.2:14).
- Some general principles: God often judges and chastises his people by war and oppression and many die but Psalm 44:9-26 reveals that God’s people despite doing good, may also suffer and in this case we call it persecution. This will eventually lead us to consider war in the New Testament, which of course is spiritual.
Sung Psalm 78:58-66
Reading Judges 15
The situation was dire, Israel because of their rank idolatry, was under the domination of the Philistines (10:6 and 13:1). They were so for forty years and there was no cry of repentance yet God intervened by calling Samson indirectly through his parents (13:5) who would begin to deliver them. Their full deliverance would only come later under Samuel, the last judge (I Sam.7). We think Samson may have overlapped with Jephthah and Eli.
The Nazarite vow which was really upon his mother and Samson came from Numbers 6:1-6 and meant:
- Hair was never to be cut
- No wine or food or drink made from grapes
- No touching of a dead body (this must have been rescinded in Samson’s case!)
- Nazarites normally vowed for a time period but Samson was one from birth to death.
Judges, by the way did judge legally among the people and also fought to deliver them between the time of Joshua and Saul the first king.
Samson was unique: poetic and intelligent (his riddles and figures of speech), supernaturally strong through his consecration (signified by his hair) and anointing by the Spirit of God, he fought alone, he used unusual weapons, he also fought several battles and he only began to deliver Israel.
Among all Israel he was the only one who cared about their sorry spiritual state, the rest compromised and in fact handed him over to the enemy (15:11).
However his great weakness was the lust of the eyes through which he wanted three different pagan women, with two of whom he fornicated, God yet choosing to use his sin as a means of causing a fight against the Philistines. His taking the gates from Gaza to Hebron involved nearly forty miles walk mainly uphill with a great weight! In the end in severe chastisement, God took out his eyes.
He died fighting slaying more than at any other time of his life.
The antithesis is especially a Reformed doctrine teaching the Biblical truth that all of history is the history of a war. That war, the antithesis, is God’s work and was taught Adam and Eve in the beginning after the fall in the mother promise of the Gospel that God would put enmity between the seed of the woman Jesus Christ and the elect, and the seed of the serpent, Satan and the reprobate wicked. That truth underlies every instance of temptation, sin and persecution against God’s people in history, the cross, which was the central overarching victory and the lifelong internal battle in every believer between his flesh (old depraved man) and the Spirit of God in the renewed man. Here is how Rev. Brian Huizinga* puts it, ” The evidence of regeneration is not the glory of sinless perfection. Regeneration makes us perfect in principle, but not in full. Our incredibly powerful and relentlessly militant sinful flesh cleaves to us until it is abolished on the day we die and go to heaven. Regeneration decisively breaks the dominion of sin within us, yet sin remains. Do not doubt your regeneration and salvation because you sin, and sin, and sin, and sin, and sin. This side of Eden only one man will ever walk this earth perfectly consecrated to God. You are not that man, nor am I. Jesus is. The evidence of regeneration is that you fight. You know you are regenerated—born again from above with the life of the Lord by the Spirit of the Lord—if you fight. You know with unshakable confidence that you belong to Christ now and forever if you fight. The dead do not fight; the living fight. You fight against sin in and for the kingdom of God. You can see the kingdom by faith. You love the kingdom—the church, its gospel preaching, its holy people, and its living truth. You love God’s King, your Saviour, Jesus Christ. You love and set your heart upon the treasures of the kingdom—righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit. Because you love God, you hate and want destroyed the lie of false doctrine, wicked attitudes, alluring temptations, and all that is full of the vanity of wicked man. You fight for the Bible and the truth of the Bible contained in the Reformed creeds. The evidence of regeneration is not that you no longer sin, but that your sin bothers you before God. You fight against your own sins by sorrowing over them, hating them, and fleeing from them as Joseph fled Potiphar’s house.”
*Standard Bearer Dec.15th 2016
The judges were deliverers of oppressed Israel as well as those who upheld the law. The first Judge, Othniel was a link to Moses and Joshua being son in law to Caleb. He fought the king of far-off Mesopotamia (3-11). The second Judge Ehud killed Eglon king of Moab.
The third Shamgar fought the Philistines and killed 600 of them with the unlikely weapon of an ox goad.
The fourth was a woman, Deborah who encouraging Barak, fought the Canaanites specifically King Jabin and General Sisera who had 900 iron chariots. God who fought with and for Israel in all these battles overthrew these chariots with a flooded Kishon river in the boggy waterlogged vale of Megiddo (5:21). Deborah’s song is full of history and mentions ten of the twelve tribes!
Sisera fleeing on foot was also killed by a Kenite woman.
Just to reiterate that these were Holy Wars. God through Israel fought his and their enemies, in answer to prayer often though supernatural means.
“And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” Luke 10:18
Satan underestimates and does not know the power of God and the grace of God. He believed Job would curse God if all he had was taken away, he believed he could take over the throne of God in a revolt, he believed if he killed Christ he would overthrow all God’s salvation of men, he believes he can deceive and devour God’s people ─ he is wrong on all counts. Because he is NOT omniscient, because he is a liar and deceives even himself, his thoughts are wrong, his evil is exposed, and it will not be long till he is publicly, eternally and finally exposed as wicked and banished to everlasting torment in the lake of fire.
We need to pray that more people will be shown by God how deceived they are in his camp, repent, believe and enlist under Christ.
For his part, that great saint Job, in and through his terrible affliction, did not know what glory he was giving God and how his life would impact many others who have lived with affliction ever since.
“The evidence of regeneration (that you are a Christian, born from above-JK) is that you fight. You know you are regenerated—born again from above with the life of the Lord by the Spirit of the Lord—if you fight. You know with unshakable confidence that you belong to Christ now and forever if you fight. The dead do not fight; the living fight. You fight against sin in and for the kingdom of God. You can see the kingdom by faith. You love the kingdom—the church, its gospel preaching, its holy people, and its living truth. You love God’s King, your Saviour, Jesus Christ. You love and set your heart upon the treasures of the kingdom—righteousness, peace, and joy in the Spirit. Because you love God, you hate and want destroyed the lie of false doctrine, wicked attitudes, alluring temptations, and all that is full of the vanity of wicked man. You fight for the Bible and the truth of the Bible contained in the Reformed creeds. The evidence of regeneration is not that you no longer sin, but that your sin bothers you before God. ”
The Reformed call this battle the Antithesis. It was instituted by God in Genesis 3:15, the enmity between the seed of the woman (Christ and the elect in him) and Satan and the reprobate wicked, and the battle between our old totally depraved nature and the new man animated by the Holy Spirit.
From Knowing War’s origin by Rev. Brian Huizinga in Standard Bearer 15/12/2016
Read whole article here.
Sung Psalm 135:8-15
There are a surprising number of wars in the Pentateuch. In the first of these after the Red Sea crossing, namely against Amalek the outcome depended on Moses’ arms being held aloft with the rod of God the symbol of his authority and God’s power.
The first wars were all defensive, in that Israel were attacked first. They lost the next battle in Num.14:40ff. The next three (Num.21) concerned King Arah, King Sihon and King Og, all of whom were defeated in a holy war (as per Ps.135). The war against Midian (Num.31) was one called by God to exact his vengeance on the wicked people who had caused Israel to sin at Baal-Peor.
When we come to Joshua, the whole book is about the conquest of Canaan and the distribution of the land. God often promises victory beforehand e.g. 3:10. He causes great fear among the opponents 5:1 and the first great battle of Jericho (Josh.6) is typical in that priests, trumpets and the ark are involved (because it is a spiritual war too) and of course the miracle of city walls falling down flat. All had to be destroyed (consecrated to God). Ai was a defeat because of sin. Ai the second time ended in victory after God’s promise, the command not to fear, and the use of the spear as Joshua’s symbol of authority. It was also the battle thus far with the most strategy involved.
The battle against Adonizedec in Joshua 10 was remarkable in that God suspended the normal running of the universe to stop sun and moon in their course and also rained massive hail from heaven upon Israel’s enemies. In Joshua 11 a confederacy of Kings are defeated.
So these battles in the holy war were characterised by certain recorded facts:
- God instigated them (either in defence or offense)
- God commanded the people not to fear
- God promised victory
- God performed supernatural feats
- God used unusual instruments (apart from arms) to gain the victory.