Learning War…the Christian Life

“And the Sons of Israel once again did the Evil in the eyes of Yahweh when Ehud died. Ans Yahweh sold them into the hand of Yabiyn who reigned in Chatsor; the commander of his army was Siysera, who dwelled in Charosheth-Hagoyim.

(Judges 4:1-2)

Again, note that Shamgar seems to be an overlapping judge as the account of the people’s fall into sin and God giving them into the hands of Jabin follows the death of Ehud. As for names, while we know the king of Hazor as Jabin in the English language (in fact, the letter “J” is more or less a more modern invention, originally being a variant of the letter “I” when “I” was used as a consonant and not as a vowel…). Similarly, the “Ch” of Chatsor would be pronounced as a hard sound, like the ch in “Loch Ness.”

Hazor is in the northern portion of Canaan, just north of what we would know as the Sea of Galilee.  We are also introduced to Sisera, the general of Jabin’s armies and the man who will become the enemy of God’s people due to his harsh oppression and his mighty force of chariots.

As we continue into this account, let us not lose sight of two things…first that the oppression is a direct result of the sin of the people…they continue to do “The Evil” in the eyes of God. And second, we must remember that God is disciplining his people in this specific way so that they will learn the art of war (see Judges 3:2). God could have chosen a variety of ways to discipline his own, but this was what God deemed proper, not only with respect to defending their homeland, but also to the end of taking the whole of the territory that God had promised to the people.

To put this notion into perspective requires us to look at history. At the creation, God gave Adam and Eve dominion over the whole of the world (Genesis 1:28). Of course, after the Fall everything changed. Yet, as God brings Abraham into the land, the promise of dominion is renewed, but on a smaller scale — the land of Canaan is promised, but with much larger borders than we typically think of — these borders extend from the Euphrates river to the Nile and as far north as what we would call modern-day Turkey (Genesis 15:18-21). Yet, once again, the people fell into sin and never took over the land.

Later, after the Resurrection of Christ, Jesus affirms in what we know as the Great Commission that the “Dominion Mandate” of Adam has been renewed in Christ, for “all” authority in “heaven and on earth” was given to Him (Matthew 28:18). We are told in that same passage that the dominion will be enacted through the spread of the Gospel and the process of making disciples of all the nations (Matthew 28:19-20). In turn, at the Ascension, the same commission is given to the Apostles — a restored Dominion Mandate, where they are to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

Sadly, much like the history of the Judges, the history of the church has been marked by falling into sin again and again and Christians have been unable to fulfill this mandate and commission. We are given the instruction that we are to tear down the strongholds of the devil in this world and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God (sounds an awful lot like the discipleship portion of the Great Commission! — 2 Corinthians 10:4-6), we are given the promise that the gates of Hell cannot prevail against the forward march of the church when we seek to tear down these strongholds (Matthew 16:18), and we are given spiritual armor to fight these battles (Ephesians 6:10-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:8; Romans 13:12). We are even given the weapons to do battle in the Word of God (Hebrews 4:12). This sounds a lot like military language, does it not? Has not God chosen to teach us war as well? Yet, this war is spiritual in nature as we fight against the spiritual forces of evil that have entrenched themselves in this world (Ephesians 6:12).

Ultimately a new Judge will come to restore us to peace…that is the Lord Jesus Christ who will destroy those who oppress his people and who will restore peace and freedom from “The Evil” all of the land that belongs to him — the whole earth. And, just as the people remain faithful during the lifetime of the Judge who delivers them, so too will the people remain faithful to Christ for his entire lifetime…and he lives and reigns forever! Praise be to God!

We are told that the things we find in the Old Testament are meant as shadows of the fulfillment found in Christ (Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5; 10:1). Let us not lose sight of that. And let us also not lose sight of the reality that we have been called to a lifetime of war, not peace, as we live out the great Commission in this world…but note something, war is to be had with the enemy, not with those inside of the church body we might not agree with…how often the church has gotten that principle backwards.

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