The Battle Within Self
“The weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God … bringing every
thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5 RVIC).
by Larry McClellan
There are key lessons that God is teaching us through the battles of the Bible. These true accounts are for our admonition and instruction (Romans 15:4).
Consider the battle of the kings (Genesis 14) and the lessons we can glean from father Abraham, a standard for faith in the Old Testament. Abraham demonstrated exemplary faith many times, including his faith that God would be with him in taking 318 trained men against four kings and their great armies. His nephew, Lot, had been taken captive, destined to enslavement. We should emulate Abraham’s strong faith in delivering his nephew.
We should also note Abraham’s courage to take action — to show works in his faith. Abraham knew the promised seed should come through him, but he was also duty-bound to help his nephew. Even after victory over the kings, Abraham might face retribution from these opposing kingdoms; that might jeopardize God’s promise about a blessed seed. So Jehovah not only gave him His word, but also sealed His promise by an ancient oath called a Covenant of Blood, to put Abraham’s concerns to rest (Genesis 15).
Do we have the courage and faith to step forward, in word or deed, when we see our brethren in danger, physically, or even spiritually, like the Christian martyrs of the past? (See also Galatians 2.) Because Abraham believed God and gave him his all, his total heart loyalty and confidence, God told Abraham that He would be his shield and his great reward (Genesis 15:1). What a superb-powerful shield; and what a reward of rewards. Think of it — GOD was his reward. What an exceeding great return for Abraham’s full belief in God.
It is simple, but profound: God wants people to believe him. Do we ever find ourselves questioning God’s care and His precious promises? How much more reassurance of His existence, His care, His wisdom, love, and power, can He give us in the testimony of Scripture, the Harvest message, and even nature itself (before it crosses the line of faith and demands tangible proof by scientific investigation alone)? Even His Son, Jesus, raised a man that had been four-days dead (Lazarus), yet most still did not believe.
We know Abraham as both a man of faith and peace and a man of valor and courage when it came to freeing his nephew (John 15:13). The battle of the kings was a lesson in loyalty, faith, courage, and reliance on the promises of God, especially in the face of adversity and opposition. God rewards individuals with courage and a strong spiritual backbone, as well as those that truly believe Him.
The Cost of a Soldier’s Disobedience
In Joshua 7 and 8, Israel won a great battle at Jericho but then lost the next battle at Ai. Why? Because of Achan’s disobedience to God’s command. God had told Israel not to take any of the (non-metal) plunder from Jericho. But Achan saw a beautiful garment and a lot of gold and silver and could not resist the temptation. Disobedience at the dawn of human history caused horrible results to the human family. Achan’s greed, disobedience, and secrecy resulted in 36 deaths in the battle at Ai. What a price to pay! The Apostle Paul says that covetousness is idolatry.
However, do we condemn Achan, but try to acquit ourselves from divine judgment? Did we not promise God at our consecrations to give all our time, all our talents, all our means, and all our influence unto God? So do we give all the means we can — or do we hold back some of it to serve our own pleasures? What happened to Ananias and Sapphira? Did they hold back some of what they promised to give God? And what happened? We know the story (Acts 5:1-11).
Do we need to introspectively assess our own situation, confess our sins if need be, change, and try our personal best from today forward? God is willing to forgive or give stripes if needed if we confess our sins and ask forgiveness (1 John 1:9). The battle at Ai was lost and 36 men were killed in battle, compared to none at Jericho. Achan and his family suffered dearly for his sin of covetousness. Let us as Christians look carefully, inwardly, cleaning out any leaven, perfecting our intentions, even in thought — lest we come short of a full reward — or worse, the second death. Let us never covet wealth. Let us be cleansed from secret faults and seek the heavenly riches of glory, honor, and immortality that God has promised (Romans 2:7).
Women of Faith
Similarly, we must admire and glean lessons from many of the faithful women of the Bible, like the prophetess Deborah (Judges 4-5). Israel had ignored God’s commandment to not intermarry with heathen women; because they would turn the heads of their families toward idol worship. Many in Israel had not obeyed God’s commandment; so they suffered the consequences that God foretold. Over the centuries the creeds of other religions had infiltrated Israelite thinking, and the doctrines given by God were gradually being diluted or forsaken. Israel lost the cohesive strength of their Jewish faith — and consequentially, lost the power and strength that comes from faith and a strong relationship with Jehovah.
Israel’s heart devotion to God and His doctrines became mixed with erroneous doctrines. Similarly today, with the creedal doctrines of heathen tradition, practice, and belief that have permeated the paradigm of institutionalized Christianity. Consequentially, believers have been weakened in a true and heart loyal faith that rested on the sure promises and doctrinal understandings that reflected Jehovah’s true personality, as well as His Son’s. Mainstream daughter church systems of Protestantism have intermingled faith with the wisdom and leadership of this world, as did their mother church system of the Apostate Church (Revelation 17:5, the mother has daughters).
The Canaanites had conquered the Israelites. The Canaanite General Sisera felt empowered with his 900 iron chariots of war to put down an Israelite rebellion. While most of the men of Israel were weakened in their faith and judgment, the prophetess Deborah was highly admired for her wisdom and faith in God, and was petitioned for her counsel. Deborah advised Barak to dispatch 10,000 soldiers (Jehovah alone could then get the real credit for victory). Barak wisely listened.
Because of Deborah’s full consecrated devotion to God, the Israelites proved victorious over their enemies. Similarly, there have been many deep, fully-devoted, very-consecrated sisters in Christ over the centuries — to whom many go for counsel, guidance, and wisdom in life’s issues, and are very blessed. These highly-respected sisters characteristically demonstrate complete confidence and loving devotion to God, His Son, and the principles, doctrines, and practices of God’s holy word. And even in modest submission to God’s arrangement for the Church, they shine in exemplary adherence and humility to the direction of God, though often being superior in talents, intelligence, and ability to those given authority to teach and given leadership roles (1 Timothy 2:12).
There are also marvelous lessons we can learn from Gideon (Judges 6-7). First, Gideon’s humility shone when obeying God’s angel to destroy the local idols. But Gideon’s faith in following God’s direction to defeat 135,000 Midianites needed reassurance. He put out the fleece twice, with signs of dew on, then around, the fleece, for reassurance of Jehovah’s will. Today, we should not need to put out a fleece to know if God is with us (or what His will is). We have considerably more in scriptural testimony of God’s direction, principles, practice, and examples in the Scriptures for us to determine, with prayerful contemplations, His will.
Gideon was less advantaged; but once he had conviction of the divine will, he was unstoppable. Someone once said, “Conviction that our work is of divine authority is a power of itself in the heart of any man or woman.” For if God be for us then who can be against us? After Gideon destroyed the idols, and Israelites realized that these gods of Ashtaroth and Baal could not defend themselves, the people were broken free from the shackles of their mind. Gideon mustered a host of 32,000 to defeat the Midianites. So too, the Gideons of the Gospel Age, like Waldo, Huss, Wycliffe, Luther, Russell, and others, fought the citadels of nominal Christendom’s idols, like the Nicene Creed, statues of Mary, homage to popes and colluding civil powers, and erroneous creedal giants that threatened true Christian doctrines and liberty in Christ taught in God’s word.
Gideon’s men were reduced to seemingly impossible odds against winning. By tests of heart loyalty, zeal of conviction, and vigilant watchfulness, we see how the two classes of soldiers drinking water might typify Christians. An ox will drink water without regard to its surrounding (even if being hit with an attention-getting rod), but a dog will lap up water with eyes open and looking around. So too, Gideon was instructed to pare down his soldiers to a little flock of 300 who were vigilant while they drank.
So we may also have two classes of Christians depicted here. Both love and appreciate the truth. One class drinks more for their own satisfaction, their insatiable thirst for knowledge. Others drink with alertness for any divine indicators in Scripture or divine providence. Some imbibe for themselves to give a good show of Biblical awareness and study; but others with a motivation to be sanctified by the Truth, so they can be of greater service to Him and His. They watch, internalizing the water of truth so that they may be more fit for the Master’s use. Had Gideon gone into battle with even 10,000 men against an army of 135,000, he and his men might have been tempted to take credit for any victory. However, because victory with only 300 men was miraculous, Jehovah God alone can be credited.
God is a jealous God, but not jealous the way we normally think of jealousy. God is not jealous of anything or anybody — he does not have to be, He owns it all. God is jealous for the best interests of the individual or nation He is working with. He knows something we do not readily see as humans: only God can truly be our shield, our deliverer, our rock, and high tower. Only God can spare us needless pain and suffering, even death. Only Jehovah God can make everything — everything — work out together for good, or in our case as Christians, for our spiritual good (Romans 8:28).
Some Christians are like the first group of men; 22,000 left Gideon’s band when given the chance. Some do not make a consecration today because they fear death of the flesh; and they may fear the hardships, loss, and endurance involved in the process of Christlike transformation and suffering with our antitypical Gideon, Christ Jesus. But is their perceived life really an easier path to take?
True Christians are heroic in the sense that they take the higher road, the harder path; but only by relying in faith on the promises of God that He will co-labor with them, hold them by His right hand, and be their shield through the hardships of life. Their loving, devoted zeal, faith, and alertness will bring them special privileges and greater opportunities for service in the future — for all eternity. It is amazing what giving our little all as a human being can do — with alertness to our Father’s eye of instruction, to bring rewards of insurmountable joy and privilege, to even some of the most challenged and imperfect human beings on this earth. Yet that will be to God’s glory — that no flesh, as no Gideon, or Deborah, or Abraham, can glory in their own skills, intelligence, or wisdom. (I Corinthians 1:26-31, 3:9).
Facing our “Philistines”
Finally, consider David and Goliath, the clash of the Philistines and Israelites on the battlefield at Shochoh (1 Samuel 17). Christians also have many Goliaths to fight in their consecrated walk — they war daily with the “Philistines” within themselves. Just as David risked his life against Goliath to save Israel and glorify God, so too our antitypical David, Christ Jesus, risked his eternal life to save Israel and the whole world from condemnation. And just as David fought a lion before the victory over Goliath, Jesus fought a crafty lion, the great Adversary, in the wilderness just after his baptism (Matthew 4).
Likewise, we as Christians are confronted by an army of Philistines that tempt our souls throughout life, and the many formidable Goliaths that challenge and taunt us in our Christian warfare. We too fight the lion that walks about seeking whom he may devour. Sometimes it feels that he is making a direct attack of temptation on us just as he did with Jesus, with similar weapons of sophistry and deceit to detour us from our ultimate goal: to glorify the name of Jehovah God, our Father.
But David had full confidence, heart devotion and loyalty to Jehovah, and slew Goliath with just a stone and a sling. Jesus slung an “it is written” in answer to each of Satan’s temptations; we too should memorize and take our stones from the brook of the Bible. Then be ready to propel the truths of God’s holy word: fighting discouragements, adversaries, fighting Satan’s doctrinal errors, and all the negative inclinations and temptations to our fallen flesh — and bring down whatever is in our way of making our calling and election sure. Why? Because we love God with all our heart, with all our mind, with all our strength and with all our soul. We can do all things through Christ Jesus, God’s son, and because “this is the victory overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4).
These battles have even more lessons for us if we carefully turn the pages of Scripture in study, prayer, and reflection. But nothing comes easy that has great value. The greater the effort in the daily battlefield of our mind, the greater the ultimate reward. Like noble Abraham, through all the battles of faith in his life, may the Lord God of Israel tell us also: “Do not be afraid, for I am thy shield and thy very great reward.” Indeed, believing is receiving (Hebrews 11:6).