Every day, you are at war. You confront tests, trials, temptations. You combat Satan, society and yourself. God’s Church wages warfare as we deliver God’s warning message to the world.
As a Christian soldier, you need to be training for war every day. That is the nature of our calling as the Bride of Christ. Christ needs a strong wife who has conquered the devil! So He allows Satan to wage war against us, and then He trains us how to fight back using God’s power and taking the victory! God absolutely blesses this kind of righteous warfare.
If the ancient Israelites had completely trusted and obeyed God from the beginning, they would have never needed to wage physical warfare. But they chose the path of war. In response, God told them exactly how He wanted them to go about it. Through His laws, God taught Israel how to wage righteous warfare. When Israel kept them, it won incredible victories. These laws apply directly to us in our spiritual warfare.
King David was a mighty spiritual warrior. Toward the end of his life, he wrote Psalm 18 to thank God for delivering him so many times from his enemies. (It is also recorded in 2 Samuel 22.) In verse 34, he said, “He trains my hands for war” (Revised Standard Version). God trained David for conquest. In Scripture, God trains our hands for spiritual war!
God Fights Your Battles
The book of Deuteronomy records Moses’s messages to the Israelites right before they entered the Promised Land. Deuteronomy is about preparing God’s people to conquer Canaan! The Israelites didn’t have to fight to possess the wilderness. But the Promised Land was full of idolaters, and the tribes of Israel had to fight for every foot of it! God allowed that for the same reason that He allows Satan to come after us today: to build character. This history also teaches us: The Promised Land is a magnificent reward, and we are going to have to fight for it.
The number one strategy for winning battles is one that armies in this world would ridicule. Read it in Deuteronomy 11:18-21. This hardly seems like a military strategy. But notice the promise in verses 22-23.
The most important principle God gave the Israelites was, Let me do the fighting! Concentrate on obeying me, keeping my commandments, loving me, walking in my ways, cleaving to me. Then I will drive your enemies out! Notice that God said the surrounding nations were greater and mightier than the Israelites. But Israel didn’t need to worry because He would conquer their enemies.
Our foremost battle tactic must be to stay close to God. Satan is stronger than us—but God is far stronger than Satan! When we truly possess His character—are born of Him—God will use us to drive out the evil in this world just as He used the Israelites to drive out the Canaanites.
Why, then, did God have Israel keep an army? He used it to demonstrate His power. Israel repeatedly won overwhelming victories with tiny armies against superior forces. It proved to the surrounding nations—and to the Israelites—that the God of Israel was the true God!
Read the promise in verses 24-25. In every instance where the Israelites allowed God to fight for them, they enjoyed miraculous victories! God drowned the enemy army, blinded them, rained fire on them, stoned them with hailstones, opened up a huge hole in the ground to swallow them, killed them in their sleep. He sent hallucinations or delusions in order to lure them into a trap, or to run from the Israelites, or start killing each other! Understandably, the fear and dread of Israel among heathen nations spread far and wide!
Whatever battle you face, trust God to fight for you. That is how to win awesome victories! Christ is our “Captain”—our military commander! The way to victory is not to make yourself stronger or more cunning than Satan, your enemy. It’s to draw close to God. To fast when you need to. To cry out to Him for deliverance. To get counsel. And then—to believe and to act on that belief! This is how you will conquer.
Consider a few of the laws of war God gave Israel that show who was to do the fighting. God wanted the Israelites to believe not in themselves, their weapons, or their allies, but in Him. He commanded them not to make alliances with foreign nations (Exodus 23:32; 34:12, 15; Deuteronomy 7:2) or to trust in foreign armies as allies for victory (e.g. 2 Chronicles 16; 7-9; 18:1-3; 19:2; 25:6-8; Isaiah 30:1-3; 31:1). He commanded them not to trust in amassing weapons or technology to outmatch their enemies (e.g. Joshua 11:6; Psalm 20:7). He commanded them not to trust in the size of the army for victory. In fact, He did not want them even to number their army! (e.g. 2 Samuel 24). God knew that if Israel kept a small army with insignificant weapons, it would increase the incentive for the people to trust in Him! And it would show who was really winning the victories!
Read Deuteronomy 20:1. God didn’t allow the Israelites to use horses or chariots in battle. God commanded Joshua to attack cities and nations. When God then delivered the victory, Israel suddenly had scores of horses, chariots, weapons and supplies at its disposal. Yet God commanded the Israelites to hamstring the horses and burn the chariots (Joshua 11:6). He didn’t want the Israelites to add those physical implements of war to their arsenal and then to trust in those. When they went into battle, the Israelites actually had smaller numbers and inferior equipment and technology—and that’s the way God wanted it!
God’s command in battle is, “Be not afraid.” Do you ever fear in your spiritual battle? Do you feel you will never conquer? Like the odds are too great—your carnal man is too stubborn or strong—the pulls of this world are too great—Satan is too subtle, too relentless? Soldier, never allow yourself to think that way! It breaks this fundamental law of war! God’s law says, “Don’t be afraid! God is with you, who brought you up out of Egypt!” In other words, God drafted you out of this world and deployed you into this fight. It’s no accident that you’re facing this battle. And God didn’t bring you here to fail!
God looks upon warfare as having a very spiritual purpose. Righteous warfare is an act of faith. For further proof, think on the law in Deuteronomy 20:2-4. Often in war movies, there is a major scene just before the big battle where the army commander stands before his troops and rallies them with a stirring speech. In Israel, God commanded that such a speech be given before battle! And it was to be given not by a military commander, but by a minister of God. A priest would accompany the men to the battle—and give a sermon beforehand.
This priest was specially set apart for this purpose; he had the title “the anointed of the war.” He was actually a type of Christ, the Captain of our Salvation, standing before these soldiers and encouraging them. Today, Jesus Christ, the Anointed of the War, is with you in your battles!
Read the basic substance of the message that minister gave in verses 3-4. Remember these points when you are on your knees each morning, getting ready to go into spiritual battle. You are about to head into war. This is a spiritual battlefield, and you will be tested—the strength of your weapons and your will are going to be under enemy fire. This battlefield is no place for the timid. Don’t allow your heart to be tender, soft or weak. Don’t faint. Don’t allow yourself to fear! Steel your heart against fear. At the same time, don’t trust in your own strength. Don’t make flesh your arm. Don’t be self-confident. Realize that God is with you! You are there on His mission—He will fight for you and deliver you!
We are soldiers, and we need to equip ourselves every day! That starts with our morning prayers. Ask God for the faith to fight and the spiritual courage to battle.
God was far more concerned with the faith of these men than He was in their skill. Consider God’s instructions in verse 8. God didn’t want any soldiers in His army who didn’t want to fight! Fear is faithlessness. Not only do these things render a man unfit to fight, but they are also contagious. One man’s faithlessness will spread to the other soldiers. In His army, God wants all of us to be able to stand shoulder to shoulder in faith, totally unified in our determination to face the enemy.
God wouldn’t have recorded these admonitions not to fear if it wasn’t our natural tendency to fear! No one likes war. God hates war! But it is necessary in Satan’s world. We have to fight and win in order to build Bride-of-Christ character. Whatever battle we face, if we feel overwhelmed, that the enemy is too strong and we lack confidence that we can overcome, we must draw closer to God and allow Him to increase our faith.
Purity of Soldiers
A few other laws of warfare tie into this theme and further demonstrate our individual responsibility to ensure the success of God’s army.
Read Deuteronomy 23:9. The New International Version translates this, “When you are encamped against your enemies, keep away from everything impure.” God’s soldiers were fighting for God, and they needed to be clean! Most people would dismiss this as having nothing to do with combat readiness. But God was clear: Israelite soldiers’ success depended upon their purity. Why? Because God was doing the fighting!
Continue reading verses 10-13. This is talking about keeping the camp clean and sanitary. Why would God even care about that? Read the answer in verse 14. He gave them these specific duties so they’d remember that God was right there—walking in the camp with them! God wanted the presence of their Captain to be real to them. There is a spiritual lesson here.
We are on God’s mission. He is walking around the camp in our midst. That means we must keep our quarters holy! Think about that as you’re going about your day-to-day activities in your home, at your school, in your car, at your job, in the congregation. God wants to be right there with you in order to deliver you from your enemies. Remember that and conduct yourself accordingly. Stay clean and pure. Keep your camp holy! All of us must do our part to keep the spiritual camp of Israel clean. Just one person’s uncleanness can really hurt the rest of the army.
When Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land and they overthrew Jericho, it was clear that God won that battle. It was an impressive, supernatural victory. However, at the next city, Ai, 36 men died! When Joshua found out, he tore his clothes, ran to the tabernacle and bowed before God for the rest of the day. God revealed that Achan had disobeyed and taken something from Jericho. Israel had sin in the camp. When God revealed who had brought in this impurity, the Israelites destroyed the accursed thing and killed Achan (Joshua 7).
Did you know that when the Israelites fought God’s way, they didn’t have a single casualty? God provided supernatural protection to His army when He fought for them. Today, a soldier dying in war is viewed as heroic. But in God’s view, dying in warfare can be a sure sign that God isn’t blessing the effort. Even a single death may be a sign of sin in the camp. Read 2 Timothy 2:3-5. If God is going to fight for you, you must live in a way that pleases Him. Be disciplined. Stay away from the pollutants of this world.
No ‘Halfway’ Warfare
When God told Israel how to wage war, He was clear that the nation was not to go halfway. It was not to engage in humanitarian efforts or “nation building.” In order to defeat its enemies, Israel was to utterly destroy them. That’s how God deals with sin, idolatry and evil.
Read Deuteronomy 7:1-2. God doesn’t compromise with evil—He routs it. Consider God’s instructions against idolatry in verse 5. The heathen inhabitants of the Promised Land were steeped in many evil practices that were destroying them spiritually. God was judging those people for their sins—and simultaneously protecting the Israelites from that evil rubbing off on them.
See why this was so important in verse 6. God wants you to achieve the same thing spiritually. You are part of a holy people. And to remain so, you must wage spiritual warfare the right way. When you face the enemy, you must rout it completely! When you repent, you can’t think, Well, I hope I do better the next time. You need to attack that sin and destroy it!
The Apostle Paul said godly repentance means having indignation against your sin—vehement desire and zeal, taking revenge against it! (2 Corinthians 7:10-11). He said you must revenge all disobedience! (2 Corinthians 10:5-6). Don’t be timid—go after it! And have faith that God will give you victory!
Another law illustrating this point is the one God gave regarding peace treaties. Believe it or not, God is not against peace treaties! But those He advocates are very different from those you see in today’s world. Read the terms of the peace agreement in Deuteronomy 20:10-11. Then, see in verses 12-14 what to do when an enemy didn’t accept those terms.
This was how God wanted Israel to handle cities that were far distant from the land it was to live in (verse 15). To those living close by or within the Promised Land, God didn’t even want the Israelites to offer that kind of deal! That is where they were to apply the law of Deuteronomy 7. See God’s clear instructions in Deuteronomy 20:16-18. God wanted to ensure that nothing would tempt the Israelites to turn away from Him.
This world is always trying to accommodate evil. Modern Israel thinks it makes us stronger when we exalt pagan religions and “celebrate diversity.” Satan has completely infiltrated its ranks and made that kind of lawbreaking look righteous.
We must learn to think differently. God does love everybody and wants to save everybody, but He is going to do that not by striving to accommodate their sins, but by working to bring all men to repentance. He will rescue them from the slavery of such idolatry, and they will come to the knowledge of the truth.
A Two-Part Formula
Read in 1 Timothy 1:18 the words from an embattled spiritual warrior, the Apostle Paul, to one of his sons in the faith, the young Evangelist Timothy. Paul knew he was at war. But this is a good warfare—warfare that leads to being Christ’s Bride! God had trained Paul’s hands for war, and here Paul turned around and trained this young minister the same way.
See in the first part of verse 19 a reiteration of the two main points we have covered. To be a good spiritual warrior, you must have strong faith that God is with you, and a good conscience, free of the sin that makes you weak and fearful. This is a basic, two-part formula for what you need in order to conquer in warfare: faith and obedience. See this two-part formula again in 1 Timothy 6:11-12. Follow righteousness and godliness—and fight the good fight of faith. You need obedience and you need faith in order to prevail!
God has drafted you to be a soldier. He put you into this battle. He’s given you a charge in this good fight. He wants you to take the victory. That is why the Bible is filled with instruction and training on how to conquer. Read this reiterated in Revelation 3:21.
In the Millennium, people will stop fighting, they will beat their swords into plowshares, and they will not learn war any more (Isaiah 2:4). The devil will be banished, and people will no longer face a war with Satan and society. They will learn war no more! At that time, these laws of warfare will be out of date. There won’t be any need for them.
That means that in the big picture, the Old Testament laws of war uniquely apply to us, and to our Christian warfare. Warfare is really a Bride-of-Christ skill. Only the Bride of Christ has to learn war in order to develop the character necessary to fulfill that office in God’s Family! Look at the exalted reward we will receive if we conquer as Christ did.
That is why it’s so important that we make use of this valuable instruction, and allow God to train our hands for war. Strive to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ—a soldier who conquers and overcomes, a soldier who pleases God! That is what Christ needs in His Bride!