I mentioned in my previous post that God used Old Testament Israel in “Holy War” in a very specific time and a very specific place. The command to “devote to destruction” is no longer applicable because in Christ there is no one nation or ethnic group that can lay claim to be God’s special people or instruments of God’s judgment. Now, in Christ, God is calling people from all the different nations of the world. The commands applicable for us today is to do no murder; to love our enemies; to care for the vulnerable and foreigner; and to pray for those who persecute us.
However, Christians can learn much from the fact of Holy War in the Old Testament:
1. Holy War reminds us that sin is still serious
Human nature remains the same since Old Testament times; it remains sinful. As practised by the original inhabitants of Canaan who were judged by God, sexual sin and idolatry and the killing of children is still prevalent. More than that, the reality is that we are all guilty of sin and sin deserves death.
Joshua 8:29 tells of the King of Ai being hanged on a tree as a visible sign of God’s judgment on sin. Interestingly, the New Testament often refers to the cross of Christ as “the tree”.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. (1 Peter 2:24)
The violence of Jesus’ death shows us how dreadful and serious sin is and what it cost God to forgive sin. Jesus died for sin in our place so that those who trust him may be forgiven. As Christians, we too need to be reminded of the awful seriousness sin lest we be tempted to dabble in it.
2. Holy war reminds us that we are still called to be holy
8 “And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. (Matthew 18:8-9)
Jesus said we must be ready to wage Holy War on ourselves to deal with sin.
God wants his people whom he bought with his own blood to be holy. What do we need to destroy, kill or hack-off in our lives to deal with sin? What is the thing that prevents you from following Jesus? It is different for different people: you might need to stop going on internet at night; or stop having coffee with that person of the opposite sex; or exit that chat room; or break off that relationship; or stop messing around and get married; or confess your anger to a friend and get help. Jesus said that we must deal drastically with whatever it is that’s causing us to live in rebellion towards him.
3. Holy War reminds us that God is still the Giver and Taker of life
Jim Elliot believed the gospel and trusted in Christ. He was concerned about an unreached people group in South America – that they would be lost forever without Christ. He strategized, prayed and worked hard to share the gospel with the Auca Indians. The Aucas ended up spearing Jim and his four friends to death before they ever had the chance. Jim died at age 29, leaving behind a young wife and child. You can read his story in the book, “Through the gates of Splendour”. Why did God allow him to die?
Through his death, hundreds of other missionaries have been raised up and many thousands have been won for Christ. God is still the Giver and Taker of life. God can take us young or old, in peace or in turmoil. Every breath we breathe, every pump our hearts give and every neutron sent to our brain, is only by the ongoing grace of God. God gives life and reserves the right to take it when he chooses.
4. Remember we are still called to engage in war – spiritual war
11 Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:11-12)
17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. (Ephesians 6: 17-18)
Our war is not against people or Muslims or atheists or terrorists, but against Satan. We fight the war by praying for people and sharing God’s Word with them. If we want to be part of God’s army we don’t pick up an AK47, but we pick up our Bibles. We study our Bibles and share the truths we’ve learnt with others. Then we get on our knees and pray for conversions.
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