Blog - Doing Earthwork

God as Warrior

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"I tell you,” said American Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman, "war is hell.” The idea of God as a "warrior,” then, may seem unbearable. Let’s first strip away all the baggage human history has attached to warfare: injustice, sexual violence, mutilation, and the like. Minus all such overtones, the Bible describes God as a warrior.

"Lord of hosts,” found in many translations, means "Lord of armies” (Jehovah Sabaoth). When David faced Goliath, he did so "in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel,” (I Sam. 17:45). Revelation 12:7-9 even reports "war in heaven” with the devil and his angels being hurled to earth. In 19:11, Jesus Christ "judges and makes war” with justice, and following him are the "armies of heaven” (14).

Why would he "make war”? Evil has invaded what God made "very good.” It has spread destruction, disease, and death everywhere—even enslaving creation itself to decay and causing it to groan (Rom. 8:20-22). Failure to fight such a malicious intruder would in itself be immoral. So God’s holiness opposes evil to the finish. This is one way our working God works.

As in other areas, to those made in his likeness God has delegated work in the likeness of his own work. Romans 13:1-7 says he has made human government "an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” To give that punishment "teeth,” God has put the death-dealing "sword” into the hands of government authorities.

That does not, of course, give any government the right to abuse its power to make war. General Sherman was right. War is the nearest thing to hell on earth. The old debates over the idea of a "just war” continue today. Even if a war meets all the criteria for a just one, many still ask: should Christians serve in the armed forces?

Some soldiers asked John the Baptist to explain what repentance would mean for them. He did not tell them to stop soldiering. Soldiering, like countless other forms of work, can demonstrate our having been made in the likeness of God. If he fights evil, then it follows that among those to whom he gave the task of ruling his earth some would do so as well.

Even though Jesus "makes war,” as already mentioned, he is always the Prince of Peace. The presence of evil in the earth today makes war unavoidable, even for those committed to peace. But with the coming of the kingdom Jesus taught us to pray for, the situation will change dramatically. The prophet Micah describes those days: "Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Mic. 4:3).

Come, Lord Jesus.

Comments (3)

John Clum (3/18/2014 6:56:02 PM)
Well reasoned, Larry. Thanks,
Jack Lovern (3/19/2014 11:25:17 AM)
Physical warfare against evil is something most of us have personally escaped; leaving such ugliness to those trained and paid for it, like our military, local police and SWAT teams.

Spiritual warfare, on the other hand, is something to which we are all called. Some, like Paul and those who have written books on apologetics, have been deeply involved. The rest of us may be involved on a less dangerous and cerebral level, yet simply speaking up for the reliability of scripture, the truth of the Gospel or the goodness of God - when those we find ourselves associating with are trashing these things we hold dear- is a part of spiritual warfare. The greater one's knowledge of scripture, and the more his life conforms to what it teaches, the greater will be his calling to and engagement in spiritual warfare.
Jared Hoffman (3/19/2014 6:53:17 PM)
First of all I would like to thank Larry for a great discussion topic.

As a child I was drawn to bible stories like David &; Goliath and dreamed of one day becoming a warrior of God. I have served in the Army for 5 years now and am currently preparing for my second deployment as an attack helicopter pilot in the AH-64 Apache. There is no doubt of the war I will face against an enemy that fights a physical warfare because of their spiritual beliefs. There is no separation for them. Should there be a separation for us?

Our country has strayed a bit from the "In God We Trust" nation we once were. However, I believe Christians are being called to join the forces, serve in governmental roles, and take hold of this nation to fight for our beliefs. God is a warrior and he wants us to fight with him in what ever way we are called.

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