Wednesday, March 21, 2007

OT Enemies and the Spiritual Warfare of the NT Believer (3)

The most common complaint about the Old Testament is that people are offended by the violence and bloodshed depicted in the accounts of the battles fought by the Israelites against their enemies. There are justifiable reasons why God allowed , even commanded, the annihilation of heathen nations but that is really another study.
For this study I want to focus on what the accounts of the physical battles in the OT mean to us in the spiritual New Covenant.

We are all familiar with the concept of the believer’s spiritual struggle being depicted by imagery of war.
In Eph. 6:10-18 we have the familiar passage of ‘putting on the whole armor of God’
In II Cor. 10:3-6 we have the oft quoted scripture “ for the weapons of our warfare”
II Tim. 2:4 , and I Tim. 1:18 also refer to the ‘warfare’ aspect of our Christian life.
Scripture passages use words such as: weapons, warfare, fight, armor, shield, sword, breastplate, helmet, wars, conquering, overcomers, adversary, victorious, enemies, foes, soldiers, battle, wrestle – all terms pertaining to combat.

Where then should we look to understand the teaching of this analogy? To Afghanistan or World War II or the Middle East? Not very reliable sources if we want God’s mind in this.
The only place - if we hold to the rule that scripture must interpret scripture- is to look in the Old Testament. Is the Old Testament not abounding with stories of war and warfare and the battles of God’s ancient people? What if God recorded the stories of these battles in such a way that they teach us how New Testament believers are to fight their spiritual enemies?

The NT scripture teaches us that every believer has three enemies that he must deal with in his spiritual life.
1> Satan and his demons – Rev.12:9, I Peter 5:8
2> the world – John 17:15,16 – I John 5:5
3> our flesh - Gal. 5:17, Romans 8:5,6

The thought came to me that if the Old Testament battles were the shadows of ‘how’ we are to conduct ourselves in battle against these three enemies, then perhaps the Old Testament battles were also divided into three enemy groups. I realized that IF they were I was truly onto something very exciting.
To my delight , I found that indeed they were!!!!

If you look at Deut. 20 God lays out the principles governing warfare and He Himself identifies three different kinds of enemies His people would encounter. He gives instruction governing the rules of battle against each of them.
The three enemy groups were,
1> an oppressing enemy too big for them to conquer (Duet. 20:1, Deut. 1:30, Ex.14:13,14)
2> the cities that were afar off ( Deut.20:10)
3> the cities of their inheritance ( Duet. 20:16-18)

The New Testament enemies are a perfect parallel to the Old Testament enemies.

1> The oppressing enemy – a conquering, powerful enemy that struck fear in the hearts of the bravest soldiers – that came to put God’s people into bondage of course parallels with the believer’s enemy, Satan.

2> The battles against the cities that were afar off were battles the Israelites fought against cities they encountered in their journey. If these cities extended a hand of peace then all was well, and the cities served the Israelites. If they reacted with intention of war, then God had specific instructions on how they were to fight against them.
The cities that were afar off – parallels to the world. Acts 2:39 and Eph. 2:13,17 even use the code words, ‘afar off’ in referring to the world.

3> The battles against the cities of inheritance were fought to conquer and posses the territory, or cities, that God had promised to His people. These battles correspond to the believer’s battle against the flesh. Eph.1:11– 3:11,12 – 4:1, Col. 3:9,10, Gal. 5:17,Rom. 8:5,6
We inherit the spiritual kingdom when we are saved but there is always the flesh that hinders us from victoriously living in the spirit.
(Some might argue that the cities of inheritance would parallel to heaven but that doesn’t fit because we will not have to ‘fight’ for our heavenly city of inheritance.)

Let’s look at each of these OT enemy types and examine the instructions God gave governing how they were to do battle against them, and how those instructions teach us how to fight our spiritual warfare.

The Oppressing Enemy

If you study the battles of the Old Testament involving an oppressing enemy , you will find that this enemy God Himself fought against. In Duet. 20:4 he says ,”For the Lord your God is He who goes with you , to fight for you against your enemies to save you.”
We looked at an example of this kind of enemy in my yesterday’s post. In Gideon’s battle God’s people did not fight… They simply STOOD in obedience and God destroyed the enemy.
If you read the familiar story of the Egyptian’s army threatening the Israelites, there too it was God Himself who drowned them in the sea and sent angels to remove the wheels off the chariots. The Israelites did not have to fight – they stood and watched.
There is another example in Joshua 10:8-11. Five kings joined forces to come against the Gibeonites who had allied themselves with the Israelites through false pretence.
Joshua was bound by his promise to protect them but knew that he had no power to prevail against a formidable foe as powerful as these five kings and their combined army. But God said, “Do not fear… they shall have no power against you ! I have the victory over them”.
And God Himself did the fighting. The bible account tells us that GOD routed them (rout is an old English word that means a disorderly retreat following an overwhelming defeat)
Then God killed them with a great slaughter and chased them along the road continuing to strike them down and then He cast down large hailstones from heaven to kill even more!
All the Israel army had to do was mop up!

Do these Old Testament battles shadow for us our relationship with our enemy Satan?
They do. No where in the New Testament are we told that we must do battle against Satan. We are told that Jesus has already defeated him and has put him under our feet. Luke 10:19, “Behold I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy and NOTHING shall be any means hurt you!”
We also have a passage in Jude 9 where even Michael the archangel dared not accuse Satan but said, “The Lord rebuke you !” If you read through the New Testament you will find no instruction at all on how we are to fight against Satan. Which perfectly fits the shadow – that the oppressing enemy is defeated by God Himself.

If you think about it, we are really not equipped to fight against him… he is invisible and working in a spiritual realm which gives him an incredibe advantage over us. How do we even know where he is – he is a created being and as such is only in one place at one time – Yes, his demons are everywhere doing his bidding but we don’t really know where they are either, or what they are doing , unless we see someone possessed and then we have the power in Jesus name to cast them out - but other than that we are really helpless against them.
Satan’s only power against a believer is to confuse him or bring fear upon him – there is a fascinating shadow of Satan’s tactics against the believer in Nehemiah … but that’s for another post!! As far as battles go… God fights on our behalf against Satan.

We are busy enough with the other two enemies we must do battle with. How well we fight those battles determines how much of a foothold we give Satan in our lives….

Tomorrow - God’s rules for warfare against the cities that are afar off…. and the cities of our inheritance

2 comments:

Yokoso~ said...

I totally agree Julie!!! That we have three enemies in our Spiritual lives...Satan, the World, and our flesh!!! You know there was so much going on in my head as I read this post that i can't even remember now...I guess you could say my flesh has gotten in the way a bit here causing me to forget and I have to go to the bathroom...but you know I am so delighted with this TRUTH you so beautifully portrayed~ Thanks again and I think my fav. part was reading about how we just need to let God do the work and stand by Him while he does or perhaps even rout if that is His will! Thanks again beautiful Julie~

Lovella said...

what I always find amazing is how subtle the enemy is. He wants nothing more than to rob us of our joy.
I again realized yesterday (when doing a little battle in my own little life) that usually I just need to submit and be obedient to what I know God's word says, and then the battle with the enemy is suddenly powerless. My joy is then returned.