26 October 2015

The Battle is the Lord’s: Where are the Men? Part 2

In part one we began looking at the story of David and Goliath, and David's reliance on God for the battle. Now we turn to the story of Gideon, from the book of Judges, where God made it especially clear that the battle would be won by him and not by the might of the army. When they came up against the Midianites the army of Gideon numbered 22,000 troops. 

The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ (Judges 7:2 ESV)

So, Gideon told the people that whoever was fearful should return home, and 12,000 departed, leaving the army at 10,000. Now that was a lot of scared people there.

And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.”

So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water.

And the LORD said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.” (Judges 7:4-7 ESV)

So with 300 men, Gideon went forth and chased down the Midianites and destroyed them. 

The Lord had fought for his people numerous times in the past, with one of the largest being how he brought them out of Egypt; and surely these stories were probably quite well known in the tribes.
Though one should question why Saul and those in the army did not have the same type of faith as David. Why was there not one godly, confident man among the entire army that was willing to stand up for the name of the Lord? Of course, in reading the book of Samuel up until this part, I guess we can see how the past was filled with idolatry and ignoring YHWH, plus their demanding of a king in His place – so they are not too far from that disastrous past, which may explain their lack of trust at this time.

Now, as we consider David and his actions, we must remember why David took the actions to begin with. Author Peter Leithart states it like this:

Though the story of David and Goliath is popularly known as an example of a great underdog triumphing over great odds, the accent in the biblical account is not on David’s heroism or his glory. Of course, he did receive honor, as the women sang his praises on his return from battle (18:7). But David’s heroism was not like the heroism of an Achilles or an Odysseus. David did not fight because his honor had been violated, but to vindicate the honor of the Lord. (Peter Leithart, A Son to Me, pg. 97)

David knew that his Lord was all powerful and sovereign over all men, even this giant, and while the Lord had the power to strike Goliath down where he stood without the aid of man, there were plenty of stories of old where the Lord required man to be faithful and act, and he would grant them the victory. For the people of God, these things were not left up to chance, and they lived in the comfort of that faith.

Since the time of David, we have additional stories of how the Lord has continued to do battle for his people. Like in 2 Chronicles 20:

And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the LORD to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s.’” (2 Chron. 20:15)

These are but a few examples of the great and powerful sovereign Lord that Christians everywhere today worship and follow. However, in today’s day and age, acknowledging the sovereignty of God in all things is so misunderstood, ignored, or outright disbelieved; and so we find the church is weakened and crippled by fear.

At this time, I am not going to go into any long discussion to prove the sovereignty of God in all things. I simply wish to discuss some of the effects of having and not having a strong faith in our sovereign Lord.

The Scriptures tell us much about fear, and we are exhorted time and time again to cast out all fear. Fear is a big enemy to people, and it is fear that causes us to often ignore our duty and hope someone else steps in to do it.

There is only one kind of fear we should all strive to have, and that fear will dispel the others and keep all things in perspective – that one fear is of course, the fear of the Lord. Probably the most well know verse on the fear of the Lord for most Christians, comes from Proverbs and Psalms:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Prov. 1:7)

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!  (Ps 111:10 ESV)

Even in Job, one of supposedly the earliest stories in the Bible, we are told the same thing:

And he said to man, 'Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.'" (Job 28:28 ESV)

Of course, the Lord warns of the flip side of this later in the chapter from Proverbs:

If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.

Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster." (Proverbs 1:23-33)

In Malachi we have a similar teaching as the Lord speaks of His judgment:

"Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the LORD of hosts. (Mal. 3:5 ESV)

Now, when we speak of the fear the Lord, it is not in a manner of dread and terror as we normally think of when we consider fear. The word here for fear is a noun of the same origin as the word reverend. So to fear the Lord is to have reverence for him, to worship and acknowledge him as Lord.

Fearing the Lord in this manner produces love, because we know the Lord is on our side and protects the ones who revere and honor him alone. We see in the first testament, following after the declaring the law of God in Duet. 5, that the people are told:

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. …take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. It is the LORD your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear. (Duet 6:5-6, 12-13 ESV)

The people were to love and obey the one true Lord, and in the same breath they should fear him. So love and fear are not so far apart that they cannot be reconciled, but in fact they should flow from one another when it comes to the Lord. If we love and fear him alone, what else have we to fear? In Kings we see the people exhorted again to this reverence and worship:

…but you shall fear the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm. You shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice. (2 Kings 17:36 ESV)

The people are to worship and give reverence only to the Lord for he has done mighty works for them. The Lord promised peace to the nation if they continued to fear the Lord.

If you will fear the LORD and serve him and obey his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God, it will be well. (1 Sam. 12:14 ESV)

In the ancient world there were many gods that were worshiped by the nations (for an excellent YouTube mini-series on who these gods were, see here). Throughout the Scriptures, there are exhortations to give fear or reverence to only one, and that is YHWH our Lord. The first testament is filled with what this reverential fear brings to the people:

…but you shall fear the LORD your God, and he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies. (2 Kings 17:39 ESV)

The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. (Psa. 25:14 ESV)

Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. (Psa. 33:18-19 ESV)

But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him (Psa. 103:17 ESV)

What can be implied from this verse as far as the love of God and those who do not fear him? So the steadfast love of the Lord is NOT on those who do not fear him. But….I thought God loved everyone? That is what most churches teach, right? Well, I won’t go down that path at this time. Let’s look at just a few more verses, these from the book of Proverbs:

The fear of the LORD prolongs life (Pro. 10:27 ESV)

The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death. (Pro. 14:27 ESV)

The fear of the LORD leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm. (Pro. 19:23 ESV)

The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life. (Pro. 22:4 ESV)

With all of the health and wealth, name it / claim it, mark it / park it preachers out there with their claims that God wants you to be rich, I wonder how many of them connect that richness to humility and the fear of the Lord as we see here in Proverbs?

As I just said, most in the church teach nothing but the love of God, and rarely teach on what it means to fear God. Now admittedly there are still plenty of hell-fire and brimstone preachers teaching a more extreme view of anger and fear, and that is not the type of fear we speak of – but in general, the majority of mainline teachers are all about the love of God.

After all, God is not to be feared, he is the one providing blessings to us they say, and it is the devil who is out to get us at every turn, right? So they blame every bad thing on Satan, and attribute every good thing to God. I assume they haven’t read or understood the book of Job and even the works of Satan being under the Lord authority, but that is a whole other discussion. 

Will pick up with a cor stories in the next part.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4