27 October 2015

The Battle is the Lord’s: Where are the Men? Part 3

In the previous two parts we've looked at David and Gideon's stories in the Scriptures. Now, I would like to just mention two biblical stories, one from each testament, both with similar results. The first is from Leviticus 10 and the story of two of Aaron’s sons, who were just ordained as priests in the Lord’s service:

Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.

Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD has said, ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’ (Lev. 10 1-3 ESV)

Two new priests, sons of Aaron, on their first duty in the temple, and what do they do? They stray from what they are supposed to do. Now, it says they offered “unauthorized fire” – or as the KJV puts it “strange fire.”

Theologians go back and forth on what this fire was, and what made it unacceptable, but without going into detail on that, we know that it was fire that was not supposed to be used in the temple service. God expected all aspects of the service to be specifically what he laid out, and this was obviously not what he had specified; and it cost them their life. 

Then we jump to the familiar story in Acts of 5:

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.”
When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. (Acts 5:1-5 ESV)

Obviously Ananias lacked the fear of God, but the people around got it real quick. And as the story continues, three hours later the wife arrives, not knowing what happened to her husband before, and she repeats the lie and drops dead too. And we are then told again:

And great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things. (Acts 5:11 ESV)

Instead of fearing the Lord, this husband and wife feared what those around them might think of them, so they concocted this lie to impress people. So, in both of these stories lives were lost for crossing the Lord, and that is a fearful thing for sure. In both cases a wrong was committed, and a lack of fear on the part of the involved parties could be partly to blame. May we always take heed that:

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb. 10:31 ESV)

While I do not want this to become a message on the fear of the Lord, I do feel it obligatory to at least show the same type of language appear in the New Testament:

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. (2 Cor. 7:1 ESV)

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Pet. 2:15-17)

The fear of the Lord is what we should all be living under. Fear that drives us to reverence, awe, love and worship of the one true Lord. Fear that knows we serve the Lord that rules over all of mankind, over the actions of everyone from rulers to animals, each step is guided by a supreme hand that loves those who fear him. When we live in that fear, we have no need to feed anything around us.

At this point I would like to jump forward in time and take a look at a character not too far removed from our time in history, and how his faith and belief caused him to do his duty with little to no fear.

On January 21, 1824, Thomas Jonathan Jackson was born in Clarksville, Virginia, and at age three he became an orphan and was bounced around between relatives and other homes. At age 18, he entered into West Point and began his training that would make him well known in history. While at school there, another of his fellow cadets shared with him the gospel message. For some time afterwards, he investigated Christianity, and eventually made his public profession of faith at the Presbyterian Church in Lexington, VA.

After graduation he went on to serve with distinction in the Mexican war, and eventually because a teacher at the Virginia Military Institute, were he taught from 1851-1861. On Sunday, April 21, 1861, he and his cadets received orders to join the Confederate army. He and his wife knelt in their bedroom and prayed, and afterward he stood up, marched out – never to return home again.

Thomas had become quite a student of the Bible, believing that every need in life could be met through it. Many of his military strategies that made him famous had been taken out of the book of Joshua. He read the Bible and lived his life as much as he could be what was contained within it.

Those who fought with him used to say "He lives by the New Testament and fights by the Old."
As he read his Bible, or when his wife read it to him, he would often stop and underline passages. That Bible is now preserved in a museum, and you can see his underlining matched how he sought to live.

During the war, he sought to always provide a good example to those under his command, and he witnessed to them also, leading many of them to the message and life of salvation.

Thomas was a man of prayer, never entering a battle without first praying, and many give testimony of his praying during battles. He said prayer had become a habitual permanent fixture in his life.

Thomas had a strong unshakable belief in the sovereignty of God, that God is always in control even when it seems the world around is falling apart. At the first battle of Bull Run, while shells and bullets were flying around, Thomas stayed on his horse and remained calm and collected like nothing was going on. Brigadier General Bernard Bee saw this and told his own troops “There stands Jackson like a Stone wall.  Men, let’s determine to die here with him.”  After that battle Tom Jackson’s brigade became known as the Stonewall Brigade, and he would forever be known as Stonewall Jackson.

Jackson’s courage and composure really came out in this great battle.  During the heat of the battle a messenger came and handed Jackson a letter to sign.  He dismounted and when he did a canon ball blew up a tree that was near by.  Wood chips rained down on Jackson, but without missing a step, he calmly brushed the wood chips from the paper and continued reading.  He then mounted his horse like nothing happened.

Others saw this and were amazed at his composure when danger was all around. Someone asked him how he could do it. Jackson’s response was right on, and if you are one that lives in fear of those things going on around you - if people are bigger to you than God is - I pray that you’ll take to heart Jackson’s words, because they are true, Biblical, and reliable. Jackson answered: 

“My religious belief teaches me that I’m just as safe on the battlefield as I am in my bed.  The Lord has already appointed the day of my death so I need not worry about that.  I live my life and prepare myself so I will always be ready to meet my Lord, when death does overtake me.” - Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson

If we rest in the sovereignty of the Lord, what do we have to fear? If we believe all is under his control and providence, and nothing can be done to change that path, then what can we possibly fear or seek to change by our fear?

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Tim. 1:7 ESV)

So, as Christians we do not have a spirit of fear, but of love and control. We can march forth into life knowing that while the battle is the Lord’s, we are the instruments by which he has established to take down the Goliath’s around us. However, instead of this peace in the face of fear, most people today have no fear of God, and so they fear for their life most everyday.

A few years ago, the news was filled with an event most everyone is familiar with. The news event I speak of is was the shooting that took place in Aurora, Co. when James Holmes opened fire on the movie crowd during the opening night of the new Batman movie.

Now, let me say before going any further, that I agree this was a great tragedy, and my prayers go out for the families who suffered through that. Please do not construe anything I am not saying as a way of playing down that disaster at all. I simply wish to use this as a recent example, and toss out some observations that can be applied to this or any similar tragedy.

Actually, what I am saying is not really necessarily directly connected to this item, but it was this item that caused me to rethink some things that brought me back to the direction of teaching on this topic. I had not followed the story beyond what was said those first couple of days, so please excuse me if I state anything that had changed as far as the details. But really, the details are not as relevant to my point here.

As the news reported, the man entered the theater, and then at some point during the movie, went to the emergency exit door, opened them, where he had awaiting for him weapons. He then re-entered the theater, tossed a gas grenade into the theater, and entered wearing a gas mask, and started shooting weapons into the unsuspecting audience.

Some witnesses who escaped reported that the shooter slowly stalked the aisles of the theater, shooting people at random, as panicked movie-watchers in the packed auditorium tried to escape.
One survivor stated to a news crew. “I froze up…I was scared. I honestly thought I was going to die!”

Now, I was not there, I have not heard all of the reports of what happened, or all that the survivors reported. I have no way of knowing what all of the details were or what thoughts went through the minds of the participants. That is why I use the example as strictly an example, not a detailed look at this event.

So, in strictly taking a look at the scenario in general, I couldn’t help but think to myself, where were the men in that theater - men who feared the Lord and not just fearing for their own safety? Out of a theater of probably a hundred people or more, you would expect at least one, if not a mob of people to attempt to go after the one man that was against them?

Instead, in these types of cases, fear grips them – fear for their lives, and they panicked and fled; kind of like the armies of Israel fleeing before Goliath. It just made me think of how much fear has become so prevalent in the hearts of man these days, and how the fear of the Lord, which leads to courage and fighting for protection, has dissipated in general.

Years ago I kind of wondered a similar thing about the 9/11 plane ordeals. A plane full of people, and a few men with razor knives they said, you would think in such tight quarters as they were in, that it would be fairly easy to overpower the men. Sure, in doing so someone might get hurt, but bravery and a trust in God’s protection should cause people to do their duty of protecting others.

People have lost the knowledge of what God’s word tells us:

Psalm 27:1 – The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps. 27: 1 ESV)

In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? (Ps 56:11 ESV)

Of course, I cannot fully blame just them for this inaction and mentality. This is pretty much exactly the type of people and reaction that was planned all along for the last 150 plus years.

One of the last major rebellions against tyranny and oppression – one of the last major battles for truth and freedom, took place in the middle of the nineteenth century. Properly referred to as the War Between the States – it is more commonly known by the inaccurate title of the Civil War. And it is there that we will pick up in the final part to come.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4