For You have girded me with strength for battle;
You have subdued under me those who rose up against me.
You have also made my enemies turn their backs to me,
And I destroyed those who hated me.
They looked, but there was none to save;
Even to the Lord, but He did not answer them.
Then I pulverized them as the dust of the earth;
I crushed and stamped them as the mire of the streets
(2 Samuel 22:40-43 NASB)
Would it bother you if I told you that God sometimes incites His people to violent acts? Probably. In our culture we would probably shudder or start calling for the guys in white coats, nets, and extra-long-sleeve jackets with buckles in the back. It sounds like the ravings of a lunatic blaming God for their lunacy, ‘hearing voices’, and foaming at the mouth. Not something we like to think about. To be fair, most of the times (or all the times) this sort of thing has been reported in the news, that was pretty close to what it was, lunacy; perhaps even demonic activity.
Why We Fear Religious Warfare
In history, many nations have marched under the belief (or excuse) that ‘God was on their side’ against ‘evil’. Even recently (sort of), former President Ronald Regan, borrowed this imagery when he called the Soviet Union an ‘Evil Empire’. This sort of thing certainly doesn’t help us honestly, and faithfully explore passages like we find here from David’s pen. In fact, considering David’s life, he’s not being all that wildly poetic, more descriptive of his life to that point. Such passages bother us, make us unsettled, cause us to wonder if crazed people will be using such passages to justify horrors and excessive evil.
And I think that, that thought that we should fear this passage or psalm or hymn, that is a success on our enemy’s part. When he can cause us such fear that we stop looking at the One inspiring the writing and ascribe more importance to the world in which we live, then this monster who does more damage to humanity than any one person or nation has ever done wins yet another battle. The one inspiring the likes of Adolf Hitler and so much of the German nation in World War II wins a battle against the One inspiring Scripture; and does so precisely because of the likes of Hitler and his rogue people.
Why We Should NOT Fear Religious Warfare
Here, in this inspired passage from the pen of one after God’s own heart we see that God empowers and participates with the utter destruction of people, enemies of David. It is as if the enemies of David were also the enemies of God! Could it be? Well, if that’s true, then what happens to these enemies of God when our sensibilities keep us from engaging in battles our Master and Lord has for us, against His enemies? How can our failing to engage not serve to usher in defeat, for ourselves, but also for our Master and Lord? Consider that He will win the war, and one day remake this fallen sinful world, but until then a battle rages and we way too often sit and watch it from the sidelines. We don’t even seem to realize that we’re sitting with the very enemy we’re supposed to be engaging!
Engaging In Warfare For God
So, what am I advocating here? Am I saying that all those claiming to follow Jesus should take up arms and slay those around us who aren’t followers? No. There are plenty of very clear examples of God bringing ‘foreigners’ into the life of His people Israel even in David’s day, and even through David, His warrior-friend.
Am I saying that we, as believers and followers of Jesus should kill those of opposing faiths? Nope, not that either. Again, the missionary work of Paul and others in the apostolic period demonstrates that this is not the ‘method’ of our warfare. In fact, there seem to be no recorded examples in the Christian Scriptures where Jesus or His apostles advocate taking up arms against their foes, with one exception. The ‘abomination that makes desolate’ seems to imply a battle is raging at the time. At least the way the early Christians understood it there was definitely a battle raging, and when the Roman legions broke through into the temple and began desecrating it, they followed Jesus’ example and left. There was a battle.
What I am saying is that we have battles raging all around us where our enemy is rampaging unhindered through our land. We do so little it should be embarrassing, but instead, we barely notice. We look around and using popular psychology, popular philosophy, and cultural mores, we classify these spiritual defeats as ‘regrettable social ills of our day’. Regrettable? More like reprehensible! What is our problem? Can’t we see that when these things are allowed to happen without us addressing the spiritual devastation that surrounds it our enemy wins! What is so hard to understand that the utter rape and destruction of entire biomes of this planet are not the activities of our Master but His enemy, Satan? Yet way too many of us sit by and watch and wring our hands, and lament the ‘social ills’ and ‘excesses of industry’ and whatnot.
I believe we should engage! I believe that we are missing a call to arms, to battle, the Shofar of our God is blowing, and we simply turn up the music on our stereos to drown it out. What we loose when we do that is that this spiritual war is left so our enemy works ‘both sides’ and the camp of God is encircled. If we don’t engage, we will be swept away in a social tide, destroyed, and not even missed. We will become an irrelevant footnote in our culture’s history if we don’t change our attitudes, and become the ‘counter culture’ our Master has always called us to be.
Engage without regard for political appearances! That’s part of the ‘camouflage’ our enemy uses! Engage under the banner of our God! This is His world, and the human creatures on it are His greatest treasure. We have been given the responsibility to fight for this world and His people. We are not being responsible, or rather, most of us aren’t.
But, on the bright side, there are plenty of opportunities to work with those in the camp of God who are engaged already, but they are drowning in a lack of resources. Churches can’t get their people to contribute so no ministry happens in their neighborhoods. Food pantries in churches can’t get food because their sources are drying up. The liberal political debates on the environment exclude us who should be in the vanguard of movements to protect this world, yet that means any time we engage in the debate we attract more attention – precisely because we’re so unexpected! We have opportunities! Let’s seize them!
One warning though: Once we engage in such a battle on a large scale, we will attract the spiritual forces of darkness in the heavenly realms in a very bad way. Be ready! ‘War is hell’ and ‘spiritual warfare is a spiritual hell’ often times. Yet if you do take this passage to heart, you will learn that we fight, but our God wins the battle. We stand, but our God enables us to stand. We engage in His war He is already engaged in and has been in for centuries; we’re just a little late.
Grab your swords (Bibles), hit your knees (in prayer), and get up and engage the enemy with your church, with your community’s Christian services, and even in local politics! Engage! Hear the trumpet and muster with those in the service to our Master!
Okay, I’m off my soapbox now. So, anyone else have a view through this knothole? I’ve got some work to do, so have at it!