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The Great Warrior, Would Be Victorious

The prophets Isaiah and Micah spoke of a day when nations would beat their swords into plowshares. Nation would not lift up sword against nation, and no one would study war anymore. That day was far off, in the last days, when God would rule the earth with a rod of iron. Yet even before then, God himself would go to war against his enemies, crushing all opposition. God, the great warrior, would be victorious.

Joshua is the Book of Wars .... the War of God fought by men. After the conquest of Jericho: Israel is warned that if she does not practice herem, she herself will be herem - under God's judgment. This warning went unheeded however by Achan and his family who decided against practicing the ban, when it comes to some costly items found in Jericho. Because of Achan's sin, Israel fights without God's help in their next battle: 36 men perish ... and Joshua is absolutely devastated.

The Book of Joshua, at least in part, is ancient. It mentions 31 kings defeated in bloody battles ... and after every battle, the city and everyone in it he put to the sword, as ordered by the Lord. With a "war of extermination" killing all defeated gentiles after the victory ... This war of extermination is called the ban, herem, of the law of anathema. Later on, when this horrible practice was forgotten, the Israelites married gentile women, and they induced the Israelites to adore false gods, to sin, and it was the main reason of the chastisements of God. Moses gave the Israelites specific instructions on how they were to wageGod's wars:

  1. The priest initiated any war by reminding the Israelites that God fights for them. This clearly shows the war's sacred character - that is, this is God's war. He fights through His people.
  2. Cities outside the land of Palestine do not need to be entirely destroyed, but attacks on cities inside the land require destruction of all life.
  3. They are specifically to show no pity to inhabitants of the land. God believes they will not want to fully carry out His directions, so He warns the Israelites against pity!

When Israel is sent into the land of Palestine to destroy the Canaanite nations, the nation is like a child sent to get his own paddle. Israel is being graphically taught its need to obey God, who indeed is the God of the whole earth. And God takes His duties seriously! Israel is warned that failure to remove the cancer of wickedness would eventually bring her own infection with sin and hence, their own judgment.

So Joshua's war of total destruction is a final judgment of God against these nations. God has always reserved this right of judgment. Those who object to it here would object, no doubt, to the Flood and to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

The Amalekites came and attacked the Israelites at Rephidim. Moses said to Joshua, Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands. So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. When Moses' hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up - one on one side, one on the other - so that his hands remained steady till sunset. So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

Joshua at The Walls of Jericho: With the Tabernacle and the Trumpets of Praise the battle was not won with swords ... the huge walls tumble down with the Tabernacle and the Trumpets and shouts of praise ... and there was no casualty in the army of Joshua. When Joshua had spoken to the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets before the LORD went forward, blowing their trumpets, and the ark of the LORD's covenant followed them. On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the people, Shout! For the LORD has given you the city! When the trumpets sounded, the people shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, the wall collapsed; so every man charged straight in, and they took the city.

A total of 13 wars are in the Book of Judges: First, the Israelites sinned adoring the false gods of their gentile wives ... so, God punished them with foreign invaders ... then, they repented... and God sends a Judge, a Liberator, who freed the country from the foreign invader.

At the Battle of Gibeon swords were used, but the LORD hurled large hailstones down on them from the sky, and more of them died from the hailstones than were killed by the swords of the Israelites. The sun and the moon stood still for about a full day! ... to help Joshua into final and complete victory ...

Gideon gathered 32,000 peasants to fight the Medianites ... but God made him reduce the number to 10,000 and eventually to just 300 people ... and with 300 peasants Gideon route an army of 135,000 Medianite soldiers, by blowing trumpets, smashing jars, and waving torches ... because it was the battle of God!

Samson and the Philistines is one of the best known stories of the Bible. Samson was a strongman who led raids against the invasion of the Philistines to the south ... the same Philistines that later on had Goliath. Samson became a judge over Israel for 20 years. He killed a thousand Philistines with a donkey's jawbone. He fell in love with Delilah, a Philistine pagan, who nagged him into revealing his secret of his strength: His uncut hair! ... She told the Philistines, who cut Samson's hair and then blinded him ... his sin made him weak! ... but he repented, and God filled him again, his hair grew back, his strength returned, and he pulled down the two pillars supporting a temple, killing many Philistines and himself.

On of the best known stories of the Old Testament is David and Goliath. The giant Goliath was about 9 1/2 feet tall ... he was a profesional soldier in the Philistine army, and his huge armor weighed approximately 125 lbs. The Bible tells us Goliath taunted God's people for 40 days. Goliath said the outcome of the battle would be that the loser's people would serve the victor's people.

David was a young shepherd, not a soldier, without any armor, only with a stick, a sling and five smooth stones ... and some skills: He killed the lion and the bear in defense of his flock. "You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted. This day the Lord will deliver you up into my hands ... for the battle is the Lord's ...". With the first stone, David penetrated the forhead of Goliath and he fell on his face to the ground. The stone from David's sling incapacitated Goliath, but it did not kill him. When Goliath fell to the ground, David took Goliath's own sword and cut off his head. When they learned of their champion's death, the Philistines turned and fled. Forgotten was the "deal" which Goliath had made. Rather than becomingthe servants of God's people, the Philistines attempted to escape but were pursued by the men of Judah and Israel. Many of the Philistine were killed.

Among the great warriors of Israel was David. Eventually David rose high in rank in Saul's army. The people proclaimed him a greater warrior than Saul. This lead to Saul's infamous jealousy and David's flight, during which time he lived as a guerilla leader or brigand. However, David never attacked any Israelite, including Saul and his supporters, during this time. During all these trials God was with David, preparing the way for David's assumption of Israel's throne.

David understood that his military victories came only because God was with him. In Psalm he wrote: No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love.

Although David did not trust in his weapons or in the size of his army to bring victory, he did not disarm himself or his nation. David understood that it was God who worked through his weapons and his army to bring the victory. David uses poetic imagery in attributing his deliverance in war to obedience to God. Particularly interesting is David's description of battle and his training for it.

Whatever David's excesses may have been, he clearly understood that part of his natural strength came from God. God trained David for war. Those who canonized the Scripture kept these words in the Bible. If we understand the Holy Spirit to have influenced and inspired the canon, then we must balance the biblical statement that God judged David to be a bloodthirsty man with those scriptures that say that God gave David his fighting ability, trained him for war and gave him success in battle.

We read of the blessings God would have bestowed on Israel for their obedience to the Mosaic covenant. They were told that if they obeyed, God would "grant peace in the land." They would lie down and no one would make them afraid. The sword would not pass through their land. Yet this promise did not mean that Israel would be free from warfare. Quite to thecontrary. God said: You will pursue your enemies, and they will fall by the sword before you. Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.

Victory in war, not freedom from war, was the blessing. Israel's enemies would flee from them: The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.

So obedience and faith did not mean an end to war. It meant that Israel would have victory in war and that their land would not see war's ravages. (Though obviously the soldiers who fought would experience the ravages of war.) Fighting in war was not an ipso facto evidence of a lack of God-fearing faith. From an Old Testament perspective, in most circumstances (though not all) the refusal to fight Israel's enemies meant a lack of faith.

Do these examples teach pacifism? If so, why is it that in all cases, God never required Israel to disband their army or lay down their arms? God's prophets never taught a pacifist ethic. God fought for Israel, but he never counseled them to disarm. In other situations where Israel needed less dramatically miraculous help, Israel fought. Even during the reign of Solomon, the typological Prince of Peace, the nation maintained a standing army.

The blessings for obeying God's law included victory in battle, not freedom from battle. The Old Testament people of God were not pacifists. Capital punishment and killing in war were not considered different forms of murder. Such killing was not sinful. The days of the Garden of Eden were past. The people of God lived in the present. The present required killing some criminals. It required killing in defense of one's people and home, and in the occasional deliverance of other people from oppression. At times it was required to fulfill the command of God.



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