Bulletin Articles

Bulletin Articles

“Who Fights for You?”

Categories: Iron sharpens iron

God rescued the Israelites from Egyptian bondage, made a covenant with them, and gave them his law at Mount Sinai; then, he led them toward the land he had promised to give to Abraham and his descendants.  The plan was straightforward: they were just supposed to march into the land.  But there was a major hitch.  Moses recounts,

“…and I took twelve men from you, one man from each tribe. And they turned and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshcol and spied it out. And they took in their hands some of the fruit of the land and brought it down to us, and brought us word again and said, ‘It is a good land that the Lord our God is giving us.’

“Yet you would not go up, but rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the Lord hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us. Where are we going up?”

(Deuteronomy 1.23-28a)

We can understand their fear—this was not a nation bred for war, and since the land was such a prize, convincing its inhabitants to give it up would be a challenge, to say the least!  But there’s more:

“Our brothers have made our hearts melt, saying, ‘The people are greater and taller than we. The cities are great and fortified up to heaven. And besides, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.’”

(Deuteronomy 1.28b)

The Anakim were literal giants!  No one wants to fight a giant!  A giant defending his homeland, nation, and family was about the worst fight the Israelites could imagine, and they didn’t consider it winnable.  But Moses continues:

“Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread or afraid of them. The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the Lord your God…”

(Deuteronomy 1.29-32)

It was so simple.  It was supposed to be comparatively easy, but they just wouldn’t do it!  As a result, they got forty years of wandering in the wilderness instead, as a punishment for their rebellion.  Eventually, God led them toward the promised land again, coming through the countries to the East of the Jordan River.  The two Amorite kings of those lands, Sihon and Og, attacked Israel.  Israel fought back, won the victory, and took the Amorites’ possessions, their lands, and their lives.  Moses tells about these events in Deuteronomy 2 and 3, mentioning in passing (2.11 & 20, 3.11 & 13) that these were the lands of the Rephaim—who, he mentions nonchalantly, were giants like the Anakim (2.11)!

The point is subtle, but clear.  The generation that was now poised to cross the Jordan and enter the land, had already fought Amorite giants and prevailed.  Could there be any reason left, to repeat their fathers’ display of cowardice when they learned what kind of people they were going to have to fight, in order to take possession of their promised inheritance?  Moses continues:

“Your eyes have seen all that the Lord your God has done to these two kings. So will the Lord do to all the kingdoms into which you are crossing. You shall not fear them, for it is the Lord your God who fights for you.”

(Deuteronomy 3.21)

As usual, God was using Old Testament events to teach New Testament principles.  He was willing to give his people some incredible blessings, and he fought their battles for them, conquering the unconquerable.  The Israelites’ fears had been reasonable—would you be happy to go toe-to-toe with an armed and angry giant?  God’s tactic here wasn’t about winning that fight, but instead was focused on winning the trust and devotion of his chosen people.  He could have simply destroyed Israel’s enemies away from their sight, and allowed them to walk into a pristine new homeland, without shedding blood.  On other occasions, he did this sort of thing (e.g. 2Ki 7.5-7, 19.32-36), but he wanted Israel to stick its neck out, so to speak, in taking hold of its promised inheritance.  That didn’t mean they actually won the victories themselves—as Moses said, “it is the Lord your God who fights for you.”  But he wanted their participation—for them to take a leap of faith, and then another, and another, always trusting that God would see them safely through.

Is it all that different, today?  We also face giants, of a spiritual sort.  A hostile culture, anxiety, depression, addiction, temptation, uncertainty, and creeping doubt all compete to tear us away from our promised home in heaven, and just like the Israelites of old, we are inadequate to the task of defeating them!  “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1Co 15.57).  We don’t have to rely on ourselves.  Jesus can defeat our enemies—and what’s more, he already has!  He’s been through it all, living as a man, yet conquering all weakness and temptation.  He never gave in to Satan, and he defeated death when he rose from the grave.  If we’ll take those constant leaps of faith, follow where he leads, and participate in the story of our own redemption as he has instructed us, then

in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

(Romans 8.37-39)

Jeremy Nettles