Thursday, May 23, 2019

Battles Won in Unlikely Ways

When I was a young adult, we landed in a church whose biggest strength was it's Bible teaching. We not only heard expository sermons, we had many opportunities to participate in Bible Studies through the week. One of the Bible study leaders said he loved to read the Bible because it is book full of love stories, epic battles, and stories in which flawed main characters were redeemed, transformed, and thrust into the middle of God's epic story. Under his teaching I became more interested in the battle stories, especially ones fought and won in unlikely ways. These battles contain valuable lessons for us because it is written on the heart of every believer to be a hero or a heroine fighting battles, whether they be physical, emotional, or spiritual in nature. If you don't believe me, threaten a parent and you will see either a "papa gorilla" or a "mama gorilla" rise up to protect their young ones. Let's look at four different battles fought and won in the most unlikely ways.

First, we have the battle between Israel and Goliath. The Philistines gathered for battle at Socoh, which belonged to Judah and Saul and his men had essentially "drawn a line in the sand" for them. A Philistine named Goliath was a giant of a man who was dressed in heavy armor and carried a huge spear. He taunted the men of Israel twice a day, yelling for them to send someone brave enough to fight him so the winner of the fight with him could settle the battle between Israel and the Philistines. Saul and his men stayed put because they were all afraid. When David brought his brothers food, he  heard Goliath mocking Israel and asked, "Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" David's brothers thought him presumptuous, but it didn't deter him from volunteering to fight Goliath. David armed with only five smooth stones and a slingshot approached Goliath. Goliath came closer with his shield-bearer in front of him and when he saw how young David was, Goliath cursed him, evoking the names of his false gods. Undaunted, David shouted back, "You come to me with a sword, spear, and javelin; I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. He will deliver you into my hand. I will strike you down and cut off your head and feed your body to the birds so all will know the Lord saves." When Goliath rose to meet David for battle, David slung one stone, striking the Philistine in the forehead. When Goliath fell, David took Goliath's sword and cut off his head. Israel won because David knew who how powerful His God was and trusted Him for the victory.

Second, we have the battle of Joshua at Jericho. God told Joshua he would give the city, its king, and its men of valor to him. As God instructed, Joshua told his men to take up the Ark of the Covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the Ark. He had armed men pass before the Ark and a rear guard follow it. He had the priests continually blow their horns as they marched around the city once a day for six days. Then on the seventh day he had them march around the city seven times and on the seventh time when the priests blew their trumpets, he had the men shout in recognition that the Lord had given them the city. When they shouted, the wall fell flat and they captured the city. I wonder what Joshua's warriors thought when he told them to march instead of waging an attack. I wonder what it would have been like to shout in joy for a victory that hadn't even happened yet. Their actions exposed their faith. Israel won, because they listened to God and did as He instructed.    

Third, we find God instructing Gideon to downsize his army so Israel wouldn't take credit for the upcoming battle. Gideon sent home 22,000 soldiers and kept 10,000. But, God told him that was still too many soldiers. He had Gideon tell the men to go down to the water to get a drink. Most of the soldiers knelt, leaning over to get their water, but 300 of them dipped their hands in and lapped water from them. God told Gideon he would win the battle with these 300 men. God sent Gideon, who tended to be fearful, down to spy on the enemy and he overheard a man telling a dream to one of his comrades. The comrade recognized the dream as a prophecy about Gideon and His army being victorious. When Gideon heard this, his heart was filled with encouragement and he worshiped God. He then returned to his camp and told the army of 300 to get up. He divided them in to three groups and gave them all trumpets and lit torches that they hid in jars. They surrounded the city, blew their trumpets and smashed their jars and cried out, "A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!" The Lord set every man's sword against his comrade. Can you imagine coming against a large army armed only with a trumpets and torches? Can you imagine seeing a battle waged and won in front of you without ever having to raise a sword? Israel won because they believed God and did what He commanded.

Fourth, we have a battle won by Jehoshaphat. His men warned him a huge army was coming to wage war. He was afraid and proclaimed a fast and went to God's House to pray. He said, "O Lord, God of our fathers, aren't You God who rules over all kingdoms and nations? In Your hand are power and might, so that none can withstand You. You drove out the inhabitants of our land and gave it to us as a forever possession. We come to you now because the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, whom You would not allow us to invade are coming against us. Will you execute judgement on them? We are powerless against them and do not know what to do. But, our eyes are on you!" The Spirit of the Lord said, "Do not be afraid of this great army, for the battle is God's. Go against them tomorrow. You will not need to fight. Just stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord." The next morning Jehoshaphat rose and said, "Hear me, Judah and believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed." He appointed singers who wore holy attire to march before the army. When they began to sing and praise the Lord, the Lord set an ambush against the armies of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir so that they destroyed each other. Israel won because they believed God and stood firm.

I believe God was very intentional in about sharing these accounts with us. Maybe God put the story of David and Goliath in the Bible to remind us not to be like the men in Saul's army who were afraid because of they listened to the enemy who has a very big mouth. The enemy wants us to cower in fear, believing he has more power than he does. If we are  not careful, we can become paralyzed by  fear that is irrationally based on the enemy's lies about God. We can cower in fear as He reminds us of our insecurities, our weaknesses, and our failures. We can hide in shame as we listen to the names he ascribes to us--names that are meant to shame. Maybe God also wants us to understand that one man or one woman who has faith can defeat the enemy and impact a whole community.

Maybe God put the story of Jericho in the Bible to remind us that God uses a lot of different methods to accomplish His plans and that His methods may not make sense to our finite human brains. All we have to do is keep marching, keep trusting, keep obeying, and keep praising God for the victories He will give. Maybe He was also telling us that there is no wall too big, no enemy too powerful, no temptation too strong, and no spirit so evil that He can't defeat when we fully trust Him and are obedient to that which He calls us.

I love the battle of Gideon and his small little band of men. I can relate to Gideon having fear. He thought he was showing God trust when he sent home 22,000 men and kept 10,000 men with him. But God stretched His faith by sending home 9, 700 more men home, leaving Gideon with only 300. That isn't typically done when there is a large army nearby. I love that God understood Gideon's fear and graciously turned that fear into courage by allowing him to hear the prophetic vision to which Gideon responded with faith and worship. Maybe God put this story in the Bible so we would understand that when he calls us into new territories filled with darkness, it doesn't take huge armies to make an impact. It only takes a small band of faithful warriors bearing the light of Jesus and proclaiming God's truth to the nations. We tend to think these battles are ours, but in reality they belong to God who is sovereign over all. The enemy cannot thwart the plans of our great God.

Maybe God put Jehoshaphat's battle in the Bible so we could learn how to face fear by understanding its source is often rooted in a sense of powerlessness. Maybe He put the story in the Bible to remind us that when we are afraid, we can unashamedly bring our fear to Him, declaring who God is and who we are in relationship to Him and by reminding ourselves of His promises. This story show us that we can defeat the enemy through worship. Max Lucado says worship isn't about performing, preparing our hearts for sermons, or making our hearts feel warm and fuzzy, it is spiritual warfare! Worship defeats the enemy by drowning out his lies and melting our fears and doubts by reminding us who God is and what He has done and what He will do in the future. We can become victorious believers, filling our lives, our homes, our places of work, and our churches with worship. We can even be victorious over besetting sin, by facing down the strong temptation with worship, after all  temptation is nothing more than a call to worship.

The Christian life is a war zone and will continue to be so until Jesus returns for His Bride. Because of this, there will be times we experience fear. It isn't a sin as some would have you believe. It is merely an emotion. What we do with that fear will determine whether or not we are victorious. Our battles, like those fought by David, Joshua, Gideon, and Jehoshaphat, will be won in unlikely ways when we live worship-filled lives. For in worship, we find ourselves taking thoughts captive to God's truth, admitting our powerlessness, re focusing our eyes on the all powerful One, and becoming overcomers by the word of our testimonies. The battles are not ours, they are the Lord's and they will be won in the most unlikely ways. 

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Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!