The New Testament Warfare
Sung Psalm 144:1-8
Read II Cor. 10:1-10
In Isaiah 11:10-15 we read that God’s and Israel’s O.T. enemies will serve Christ. God uses O.T. imagery and names in a prophetic way which has a N.T. fulfilment. This is likewise true in Amos 9:11-12 where it reads that David’s kingdom will include Edom and all the heathen nations but again we know that this is a prophecy fulfilled in the N.T. age when the elect among all nations come into the church (Acts 15:16-17).
Whereas in the O.T. the enemies were heathen nations and the goal was territory through offensive war either to possess the land (Joshua), or extend the empire (David), although there were also defensive wars, when we get to N.T. times there is no actual land to possess (heaven is assured) but rather the extension of the kingdom of God to the ends of the earth through missions is the goal. In order, the great cities central to this purpose were Jerusalem, Antioch and then Rome.
The king of God’s N.T. army sits enthroned in heaven. He too undoubtedly has fought and does fight (Isaiah 59:17). His captains were initially apostles, prophets and evangelists but now ministers, elders and deacons. The foot-soldiers are all believers. The armour and weapon are outlined in Eph.6:10-16 and Heb.4:12. For defence, the helmet, the assurance of salvation; the breastplate of (Christ’s) imputed righteousness; the belt of truth (Christ and his word); the sandals of the gospel of peace with God and a readiness to share it; the shield of faith; the sword of the Spirit. From the Corinthians epistle which in context refers to self-control and church discipline we see that winning arguments is not enough, the battle is in the mind. To win over an enemy God must regenerate them. In the battle faith is vital as is discipline, effort and patience (I Tim.6:12, II Tim.2:3-6) and we must not be distracted and be over-occupied with civilian (worldly) pursuits.
Sung Psalm 68:17-21
Christ’s last week begins with his “triumphal entry” to Jerusalem (Zech.9:9 quoted in Matt.21:5-9) where it is clear the populace had a wrong view of his kingship. He came as a lowly king (Matt.22:15-22) who submitted to the Romans and told his disciples to pay their taxes and clearly taught that rebellion was forbidden. In Matt.24 he predicts the national destruction of Jewry as a picture of the end of time tribulation under antichrist just before his return in glory. In Matt.26:51 Peter’s foolish violent act showed he misunderstood the nature of Christ’s kingdom and the nature of his disciples’ warfare. What Christ said to Pilate underlined this (John 18:36).
Christ was a rejected king nevertheless there was no time when he was not ruling over all his enemies, exercising his sovereign kingship, bringing thick darkness signifying Satan’s work, but also opening graves and raising the bodies of believers and ultimately himself showing that his final earthly battle versus sin, Satan and the wicked world was won, all having been publicly judged as evil, wicked and murderous by their treatment of the Son of God. He won this spiritual battle single-handed just like David won his physical battle with Goliath (Isaiah 63:5-6). He now incarcerates Satan and the demons (Ps.68:18), destroys all Satan’s deathly power over the elect (Heb.2:14, Col.2:15, I Cor.15:57) and makes death serve his purposes (to free and glorify his people). The Psalm also shows the vital importance of praise (v25) and the power of grace to sustain us (v28).
So in tabular summary:
|Old Testament Holy War
||New Testament Holy War
|For a physical kingdom (land)
||For a heavenly kingdom
|By force of arms (physical weapons)
||By spiritual weapons (Eph.5) Word, prayer, praise, humility, suffering)
|Physical enemies-Canaanite, Philistines etc.
||Spiritual enemies-world, flesh, devil.
||Power of grace
|Various victorious kings of Israel/Judah
||Christ the victorious king
Sung Psalm 144:1-8
Read Judges 11:12-28
We reviewed Judges 9, the history of Gideon’s son Abimelech and his unholy war with Shechem in which according to the curse of Jotham, they destroyed each other (9:57).
Judges 10:6 details Israel’s wicked, many-faceted idolatry.
The next major Judge (given significant space in Bible) is Jephthah in chapter 11. Jephthah leads Israel against Ammon after the people beg him to do so. vv12-28 detail Jephthah’s argument in the land dispute in which he manifests his knowledge of Israel’s history in the Pentateuch. Ammon was claiming land that was not theirs (they also intruded into land west of the Jordan). The battle (vv32-33) was a holy war because:
- The Spirit of God came upon Jephthah (v29)
- God delivered them (v32)
- It was a just war (” Lord judge”), the land was theirs.
- Jephthah’s rash vow (v30). The aftermath of which we believe was Jephthah’s daughter’s perpetual virginity.
In chapter 12:1-6 we read of a civil war between Jephthah’s forces and the proud Ephraimites with massive loss of life (42,000 men). Jephthah is mentioned in Hebrews 11:32-24 in the context of acts of faith which included holy war (“subdued kingdoms”).
Just a reminder that this series of studies concerns the antithesis. The battle fought through the ages between the seed of the woman (Eve), the church, God’s people, and the seed of the serpent (the reprobate wicked), God’s enemies. In the Old Testament these wars were fought with physical (and spiritual) weapons whereas in the New Testament age, they are fought with spiritual weapons alone.
Sung Psalm 83:5-15
Read Judges 6:1-24
The enemies that this judge will confront are Midian, Amalek and the children of the east (likely nomads). Large numbers are involved─135,000 men and myriads of livestock which were devastating the countryside (6:5-6, 8:10). The enemies had been ravaging the land in fulfillment of God’s curse in Deut. 28 esp. v33.
Gideon was a humble, youngest son in an inauspicious tribe. His call is the longest of all the judges, he is tested as he is commanded to destroy his father’s idols, and he is given signs to encourage him notably a food offering consumed by fire, an angel ascending in the flame, fleeces dry or wet and a dream among the Midianites. He is also given promises (7:9,14).
His army is whittled down from 32,000 to 300 to show that God it is who fights for Israel.
The enemy kings are all beheaded. Gideon is among the heroes of faith in Hebrews (11:32).
Reading Judges 2:20-3:7
The cycle oft─repeated in Judges is the people are disobedient, God chastises them by oppressing enemies, they cry out to him, he raises up a Judge who delivers them, and then when the judge dies they revert to rebellion again.
God left pagan people in the land to test the resolve of his people (3:1-2, 4). Many became tributaries paying taxes or serving menial tasks. Methinks this is why we still have our old man or sinful flesh to fight against throughout our lives!
There followed seven years of war with Gilgal as the Israelite base in which they did not absolutely disable the Canaanites or take all their cities (Josh. 13:1, 13). Some of Judges 1 is recapitulation of Joshua 15:16-17 e.g., 1:8 and 12-13 and the rest describes the occupation of the land with individual tribes mostly fighting for their inheritance. Noteworthy that God directs proceedings in answer to prayer (1:2)–probably by High Priest’s Urim and Thummim.
Sadly the Israelites failed the test and intermarried with the pagans causing many to fall into idolatry (3:6)─this is almost inevitable if a believer marries an unbeliever (II Cor.6:14).
Sung Psalm 46:6-11
Reading Isaiah 37:21-38
Moses’ commands at the Red Sea (Ex.14:13-14) included “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.”
This then was expanded upon as we looked at other instances where God’s people did not need to fight.
It’s noteworthy that the unbelieving Israelites believed after they saw God’s miracle (v31).
In II Chronicles 20:15-18 we see Judah under King Jehoshaphat being attacked by Ammon, Moab and Edom-they end up destroying themselves. The people fasted, the King prayed, God revealed himself, the people praised, and God won the victory.
In Isaiah 37 Hezekiah in Jerusalem is besieged by Assyria, and once again God intervenes. He told them to rest and be confident and not seek help in Egypt.
All these episodes and typical of redemption in Christ where all we need to do to be saved is believe, that is trust God’s word and the work he accomplished on the cross.
By the way, II Chron.20:12 is a model prayer for us in many circumstances, “neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee”. God may intervene without us (as in the above examples) and as he did in our redemption but he may equally call us to some action in the battles we have to fight, and this is certainly true in our sanctification.
The Holy War
Sung Psalm 60:1-6
Reading Deuteronomy 20.
This topic is related to death and issues in that clearly death is inevitable in war and men who had intercourse were unclean and not to fight till ceremonially clean (evidence to come).
We discussed the “just war” (Augustine), crusades, jihad, genocide, ethnic cleansing etc.
The key issue is God’s justice and his sovereign prerogative. I see many of the Old Testament wars and killing as the eternal judgement of God brought into time.
This passage is prescriptive. The key issue for God’s people is faith versus fear (spiritual). Key issues today are weaponry, tactics, numbers and money.
Four kinds of men were excused: just built a house but not dedicated, just planted a vineyard but never had a crop, just been betrothed to a wife and the fearful. First three are social issues and the last one of morale (see example of Judges 7:3). Today there are few issues that preclude national service like health or perhaps bereavement (short term)
The captains were to lead from the front.
The city was offered terms of peace or alternatively siege and war.
Plunder was an incentive to the troops.
The Christian’s Holy War is the inevitable consequence of the ANTITHESIS (Gen.3:15).
In our spiritual battle against world, flesh and devil our Captain had led and still leads from the front, has already been victorious and enables us to fight and win using spiritual weapons including armour, sword and all prayer.