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.
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.
Fabian Tactics in the Church
“These are the peoples which Yahweh caused to remain settled to train Israel by them — all those who did not know all the wars of Canaan. It was only in order that the descendants of the Sons of Israel should know, to teach them war — only those present who did not know.”
Many of our English translations will render hAsÎn (nasah) as “test,” though, in context, it seems like, “to train,” is perhaps the better rendering. Because the people had sinned with idols and disobedience, God is leaving these pagans in the land to train the people in war. But why would God do such a thing? Why not remove the people from the land (indeed, God will do that several centuries down the road)? Why not bring the people peace and woo them while they are free from the shadow of war (certainly, that would be the mindset of the health-wealth movement). No, God trains us through the most difficult experiences we face. God teaches us reliance when we face insurmountable obstacles. God teaches us obedience most often as we are given a taste of what the path of disobedience brings.
Thus, this “testing”, this “training” was never meant to be a pleasant thing, nor is God trying to raise up a warrior nation. God is the warrior of Israel (Deuteronomy 20:4), the victories do not come from the might of Israel’s warriors. God will prove that over and over again. They don’t need to learn war to become warriors; they need to learn war because war is awful and grievous to the heart. The people need to learn that wars take place because of human sin, not for human glory.
The question that we must ask ourselves is, “Will we learn?” In other words, will our own commitment to idolatry keep us from obedience? Will we learn the lessons from hardship and persecution to walk in faith and not by worldly-sight? Paganism is in our midst; how will we respond? Will we engage the pagan world with the Gospel? The promises to the church exist in the context of the church marching in battle (the gates of Hell will not prevail), not to a church that seeks to fight a defensive war — defensive campaigns are losing campaigns anyhow, ask Quintus Fabius Maximus if you doubt that. Fabian tactics delay and frustrate the enemy, but they do not win wars. Sadly, the church has largely practiced such tactics for a generation, all the while losing ground in the culture.
So, what is our solution? We follow the lead of Scipio (and more importantly, the Apostle Paul) and take the battle to the enemy. We tear down every argument that stands against the knowledge of God in our community, in our school systems, in our collegiate environments, and yes, even in our churches (too many churches have compromised so much of the Scriptures that their witness is not effective and hardly even can be considered Christian). We evangelize. And we intentionally disciple with the aim of a church body that both knows the Word and practices the Word in obedience. We create an environment where even the non-Christian benefits from the presence of Truth in their midst. We train, train, train ourselves and our children, we read good books and we utilize good resources so that every Christian Culture Warrior that is sent out is equipped for the battle. We learn the lessons of war so that we and future generations will walk in obedience.
“But he said, ‘What evil has he done?’ But they screamed with more intensity, saying, “He should be crucified!’”
“Pilate said to them, ‘What evil has he done?’ But they screamed with more intensity, saying, ‘Crucify him!’”
“And for the third time he said to them, ‘What evil has this man done? I find no grounds in him for death, therefore after punishing him I will release him.’ But they pressed him with loud voices demanding that he be crucified. And their voices prevailed.”
Luke has an interesting way of relating what is taking place. The language he uses is in essence military and the picture that is being portrayed is that of a battle where the voices of the people have gone to war against Jesus and even against Pilate. Pilate raises his voice in opposition, appealing to the principle of justice. The people raise their voices and press him with them, almost like an army pushing back in hand to hand combat, and their murderous cries push back against Pilate, forcing him into submission.
Pilate is no hero and his motivations to appeal to justice are anything but noble. But like wisdom crying out in the streets in Proverbs, so too is Justice crying out in the streets of Jerusalem — and like their choosing to ignore Wisdom, they also choose to ignore Justice — one of those things that their God demands of them. Of course, like Pilate, when it comes to the pressure that others place upon us, how often we too ignore justice.
And here, the greatest of injustices is being done. He who had no sin is being condemned for the sins of the wicked…not just the wicked in his own day all of those years ago…but the wicked through the ages — your wickedness and mine as well. And he will go to the cross to bear the punishment for our sins. That is injustice, though a blessed injustice it is. Because of this injustice that is being done, in God’s design, we are given life and hope and reconciliation with God. What could be more blessed than that, yet it ought to cause our heart to grieve to see our Lord undergo this for us. May we indeed lay down our lives for him who first laid his life down for us.