What should I make of the Battles in the Bible?
by Robert Krumrey
Last Sunday, I talked about one of the battles of the Bible. Barak and Deborah versus King Jabin and his general Sisera. There are chariots and swords. Blood is spilled and God’s people come out on top. This can be really uncomfortable for us modern people when we see a religiously motivated war between two people groups sanctioned by the God of the Bible. What are we to make of these battles?
The most important thing to understand is how Israel and the church are different AND the same. The Old Testament people of God are an actual nation that is established on an actual piece of land. The New Testament people of God are a people who are made up of every tribe, tongue, and nation. This new people of God were made possible in part by the groundwork that was laid by the Old Testament people of God. Israel the nation becomes the landing pad for Jesus - the promised Jewish Messiah who comes to save all peoples.
In order to establish and maintain the Old Testament people of God they must do what nations often have to do - wage war. They wage war to get their land and they wage war to keep it. No nation exists without war either to establish themselves or protect themselves or both. The U.S. was established in the midst of a revolution and has rarely seen a time when there wasn’t some kind of military conflict.
This is NOT the kind of people that Jesus is establishing when he says he’s building the church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it (Matthew 16). He is constantly hinting at this different kind of vision. Here are a couple of examples:
To the Samaritan woman at the well: John 4:21-24
Jesus to Pilate: Luke 18:36
It seems obvious in these passages and many others that the New Testament people of God are not a geopolitical unit . The “place” of worship is no longer an issue. Instead it will be the nature of that worship. Supernatural (Spirit) worship grounded in right belief (gospel truth). This Spirit empowered gospel will bring about a Kingdom that will not be advanced with swords and shields. If it was, Jesus’ followers “would have been fighting” in order to deliver them from Rome. Instead, they proclaimed the gospel to Rome and 300 years later Christianity was the majority religion of the empire. Not a drop of blood was spilled in hand to hand combat. The only ones bleeding were the martyrs who proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom.
So how do we wage war now?
I mentioned in Sunday’s sermon that we wage war by prayerfully proclaiming the word of God. One of the places I get this is from the Apostle Paul’s writing to the Ephesians. He spends a good bit of chapter 6 of that book telling his hearers to put on armor. Armor is defensive and there are a lot of things that can be said about those important pieces of defense. He then follows up with the offensive weapons in these verses from Ephesians 6:17-19:
Here Paul shifts from defense (helmet, etc.) to talking about offense and mentions two things. The word (which is a sword) and prayer. He tells the Ephesians to pray at all times and then asks for prayer for his own ministry of proclamation. It’s the primary way that the Kingdom of God is advanced in the hearts of human beings. This certainly doesn’t negate the importance of demonstrating that gospel with actions of love and justice, but it cannot take the fight to the enemy if prayerful proclamation is not happening.
So forward march! You are in a war and you’ve been equipped by the Spirit with everything you need - Word and Prayer. You’ve also been given the church as both an equipping center and a place to serve alongside others in the mission of God.