Not too long ago, someone from Shema attended a church service in which the pastor said God is not a fighter. His purposes are not achieved through fighting, but through sacrifice, sharing and generosity. The implication is that we should not be fighters too. While at first hearing it sounds right, it’s not right. Here’s why:
The Word of God makes it clear that God is most definitely a fighter. Consider this from Psalm 24: Lift up your heads, you gates; be lifted up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your heads, you gates; lift them up, you ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is he, this King of glory? Adonai Tz’vaot, the Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory. The Word of God is teaching us that God is mighty in milchama – mighty in battle, mighty in war. God is a warrior – a strong and mighty warrior. And He is Adonai Tz’vaot, the Lord of Hosts, the Commander in Chief of armies of powerful angels, armies of people who serve Him; and He in control of the forces of nature – which He can use to fight His enemies. This name, Lord of Hosts, reveals this warrior aspect of God.
Throughout history, there have been great warrior kings – King David, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan are a few of them. The Lord of Hosts is the greatest warrior king. And a day is coming when this great and victorious warrior king will enter His capitol city, Jerusalem, and receive from its inhabitants the greatest honors.
In Isaiah 63, we are given another description of this great warrior. It’s a prophecy about the second coming of the Son of God. When Messiah returns, He will slaughter His enemies and save His people. Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? Here is the answer of this splendid, powerful warrior: “It is I, proclaiming victory, mighty to save.”
The great warrior is asked another question: Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress? And here is His answer: “I have trodden the winepress alone (spoiler alert – it’s not a literal winepress; it’s not grapes that are crushed); from the nations no one was with me. I trampled them in my anger and trod them down in my wrath; their blood spattered my garments, and I stained all my clothing. It was for me the day of vengeance; the year for me to redeem had come. I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support; so my own arm achieved salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me. I trampled the nations in my anger; in my wrath I made them drunk and poured their blood on the ground.” This is a description of the Son of God in battle. He destroys the soldiers of enemy nations. So much blood is spattered on His clothes that they are blood red.
God is a warrior. Therefore we should not be surprised that many of the great men of faith were warriors; and that’s a good thing. In a fallen world that is satanically controlled and in rebellion against God and under a curse, we need warriors to protect us. The exploits of Israel’s mighty warriors were causes for delight and celebration. Consider this from 1 Chronicles 11: This is the list of David’s mighty warriors: Jashobeam, a Hakmonite, was chief of the officers; he raised his spear against three hundred men, whom he killed in one encounter. Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite, one of the three mighty warriors. He was with David at Pas Dammim when the Philistines gathered there for battle. At a place where there was a field full of barley, the troops fled from the Philistines. But they took their stand in the middle of the field. They defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory.
Three of the thirty chiefs came down to David to the rock at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” So the Three broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out to the Lord. “God forbid that I should do this!” he said. “Should I drink the blood of these men who went at the risk of their lives?” Because they risked their lives to bring it back, David would not drink it. Such were the exploits of the three mighty warriors.
Abishai the brother of Joab was chief of the Three. He raised his spear against three hundred men, whom he killed, and so he became as famous as the Three. He was doubly honored above the Three and became their commander, even though he was not included among them.
Benaiah son of Jehoiada, a valiant fighter from Kabzeel, performed great exploits. He struck down Moab’s two mightiest warriors. He also went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion. And he struck down an Egyptian who was five cubits tall. Although the Egyptian had a spear like a weaver’s rod in his hand, Benaiah went against him with a club. He snatched the spear from the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear. Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada; he too was as famous as the three mighty warriors. He was held in greater honor than any of the Thirty, but he was not included among the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard. Great warriors of the Chosen People were honored and their victories were celebrated – and memorialized in the Word of God.
Thousands of wars have been fought since the ark landed on Mount Ararat. Many of those wars were unjust and should not have been fought. However, some of those wars were just. Just wars that are recorded in the Bible reveal that the Lord of Hosts raises up and works with His warriors on Earth.
Abraham was a great man of faith; and a warrior. After the battle of the kings, in which the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, including Lot, were captured, along with their possessions, Abraham took 318 trained men born in his household and went in pursuit. During the night Abraham divided his men and routed the armies of the four kings. He recovered Lot and his possessions, together with the people of Sodom and Gomorrah and their possessions. Abraham won a great victory.
After leaving Egypt, the Amalekites attacked us. When Moses held his hands up, the army of Israel prevailed. When his hands got tired and he let them down, Amalek prevailed. So Aaron and Hur supported Moses’ hands until the Amalekites were defeated. They were defeated because the Lord of Hosts was empowering our army when the hands of Moses were held up. God, faith, prayer and victory in battle go together.
When five kings of the Amorites heard that Joshua had taken Ai and destroyed it, and that the people of Gibeon had made a peace treaty with us, they attacked Gibeon. Joshua responded, and after an all-night march, our army took the Amorites by surprise. They fled, and we pursued them and killed many of them. And the Lord of Armies got involved and used the forces of nature. Large hailstones fell on the enemy so that more of them died from the hail than were killed by the soldiers.
And there’s more. Joshua wanted more daylight to kill more of the enemy. So he said: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.” And the Lord listened – and the sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the Lord listened to a human being. Surely the Lord was fighting for Israel.
Jericho was a strategic city. It was a strong city. It needed to be conquered for us to take control of the land the Lord promised to us. The Lord told Joshua to defeat it in an unusual way: March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the shofars, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in. And it happened exactly the way the Lord of Hosts said it would – because He was fighting with us and using His power to help us.
In the time of the judges, our people turned away from God. To punish us and correct us, the Lord allowed the Midianites to conquer us. They and their allies invaded us for seven years, destroying all the crops and killing or taking all the livestock. We suffered terribly – and began to return to the Lord. The Lord responded by enabling Gideon to overcome our enemies. He assembled an army, and 32,000 men volunteered to fight against 135,000 invaders. But the Lord wanted us to learn that He prefers to bring victory by means of the few, not the many, so that our faith would be Him and not in ourselves. So whoever was afraid was encouraged to leave, and 22,000 people left. However, the 10,000 who remained were still too many to accomplish the Lord’s purposes. So the army was reduced again: everyone who drank water by putting their hand to their mouth, 300 men, were chosen, and the other 9700 men were dismissed.
Gideon and his 300 courageously took the initiative, and came to the Midianite camp at night. They blew trumpets and smashed pitchers that were in their hands, so that the torches inside the pitchers were suddenly revealed. The Midianites thought they were being attacked by a large force, and they panicked and started fighting – and killing each other! The rest of our men were summoned, and we pursued the Midianites, killed their two leaders and destroyed most of the army, which ended the Midianite invasion. This was a just war; led by 300 courageous warriors who had God helping them.
I love the story of the single combat between David and Goliath. In the time of our first king, Saul, the Philistines were invading our territory. Saul decided to fight them. The armies met but didn’t engage in battle. Instead, a giant Philistine warrior, encased in heavy armor, with a huge sword, spear and javelin challenged the army of Israel to send someone to meet him in single combat. This went on for 40 days. Eventually young David accepted the challenge.
David didn’t have any armor. And he refused to use a sword – the basic weapon of a soldier. Trusting in the Lord’s ability to empower those who have faith to overcome a superior enemy, David took his stick, his sling, and five stones, and with these simple weapons he approached the giant warrior. David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin but I come to you in the name of the Adonai Tz’vaot – the Lord of armies, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.
When it was time to engage in battle, David did not hesitate. He courageously ran toward the Philistine. He took a stone and put it into his sling, swung and released it – and it struck Goliath in the only place where he was vulnerable. The stone penetrated the giant’s forehead and he fell to the ground. David then took Goliath’s sword and killed him with it.
When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran. Then the men of Israel and Judah pursued the Philistines and killed many of them. It was a great victory, inspired by David, who would become a great warrior king.
In the days of good king Yehoshaphat our nation was again threatened with destruction. A coalition of Moabites, Ammonites and Meunites decided to invade. Yehoshaphat was afraid of this great army and assembled the nation to Jerusalem to fast and pray. The Spirit of the Lord came on Yahaziel, who said: You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf. We wouldn’t need 300 men to fight like Gideon had. All we would need to do was approach the enemy and stand and watch the Lord destroy them.
The people got up early the next morning and headed toward the invading army. However, we went out in unusual military formation. Not great soldiers, but our worship leaders were at the front of the army, saying: Hodu l’Adonai kee l’olam chasdo – give thanks to the Lord, for His love is everlasting. As they sang and praised the Lord, He destroyed the unity of the invading coalition. Instead of fighting us, they fought and killed each other. Not one enemy soldier, officer or leader survived!
The Word of God makes it clear that God is a warrior and raised up and used warriors to save His chosen people.
Ah, but Rabbi Loren, that’s the Old Testament. It’s no longer relevant. It’s been replaced by the New Testament. We’re under the New Testament now, which is all about grace and love and mercy and gentleness – not fighting. Was Yeshua gentle and kind, or more like a fighter, when, at the temple, He found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money, he made a whip out of cords, and drove them from the temple courts; and he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”
How about this description of the Son of God in the last book of the New Testament? John records a vision of Messiah fighting the greatest battle in history and slaughtering His enemies: I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war … He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations … Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to wage war against the rider on the horse and his army. But the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet … The rest were killed with the sword coming out of the mouth of the rider on the horse, and all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.
It’s true that the Lord is the God of peace. It’s true that He is full of sacrificial love and grace and mercy. It’s true that the gentle and the peacemakers are blessed. However it is not true that God is not a fighter. He is. He makes peace; and He makes war. There is a time for peace and there is a time for war. The Lord allows just wars. And He has ordained human government and allows its representatives to use the sword.
Can a follower of Messiah serve in the military with honor? Yes. Be in law enforcement and use deadly force if necessary? Yes. Be an ordinary citizen and authorized by the state to carry a concealed weapon and use it under the right circumstances? Yes.
Now, most of us won’t fight in a war or be in law enforcement and use deadly force to protect ourselves or someone else. But some will serve in the armed forces or law enforcement, and their service should be understood to be in the will of God. They are servants of the government whom God has ordained, and therefore they should be commended for their service.
Another thought: while most of us won’t serve in the military and experience combat, each Christian, each Messianic Jew is to be engaged in spiritual combat. The truth is that are in the midst of a war, a war between God and Satan, the good angels and the fallen angels – for the souls of human beings. Rabbi Paul told us how we are to fight this war. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Messiah.
Each one of us is to be fighting for the minds of people. Using the Word of God, and the Gospel – the Message about the Messiah, and sacrificial love and prayer we overcome wrongs ideas and false beliefs so that they are replaced by the right ideas and beliefs. In this spiritual battle, we are to fight with awareness; with intentionality; with wisdom; with courage.
May the Lord of Hosts enable each one of us to fully engage in this spiritual battle, and be wise and courageous spiritual warriors; and also be kind and gentle when we need to be kind and gentle, and fighters if we ever need to fight. Amen?