May 26, 2015

Can I be continually ready to resist my enemies?

1 Chronicles 18:1–20:8, 2 Timothy 2:1–13, Psalm 85:1–13

In the story of King David of Israel, there comes a turning point when his battles and victories are not as glorious as they once were. Here are the verses that show that change:

“Then David put garrisons in Syria of Damascus, and the Syrians became servants to David and brought tribute. And the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went.... Then he put garrisons in Edom, and all the Edomites became David’s servants. And the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went.” (1 Chronicles 18:6-13) .... “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, Joab led out the army and ravaged the country of the Ammonites and came and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. And Joab struck down Rabbah and overthrew it.” (1 Chronicles 20:1)

I first thought this was another time when David didn’t go out to battle, but a little research shows that this was the same occasion when he stayed home, walked on his rooftop, saw another man’s wife, and took her, later killing her husband. Most know the story of Bathsheba.

My college professors say this was David’s downfall, that his life went sour from this point where he committed adultery murder. After that, his life was never as victorious as before. However, I noticed something here in these verses. First of all, all his victories came as a gift from God, not because David was a perfect man (he already had several wives and had killed many people).

Second, the chronicler did not mention Bathsheba. That struck me too, for the people who trust the Lord have their sins erased from God’s records. Is this a reminder that David’s great transgression is not in the books of God because it is covered by the blood of a Lamb?

Third, as a child of God, I have battles too, but they are not against flesh and blood, but against evil spiritual forces. When I fight them with faith in prayer, God gives me victory. However, if I ‘remain in Jerusalem’ and neglect or refuse to go to battle, then I’m a sitting duck for the next temptation. I need to trust God and I need to pray. Winning isn’t about saying no to evil, but about saying yes to God and being fortified by spending time with Him. David’s downfall began when he refused/neglected to get into the battle. If he had gone to war as he was supposed to, then Bathsheba would not have been an issue.

My devotional reading says that God is longsuffering, but sometimes we take His patience for granted. I say that God is here for me, but I should not take that for granted either. I need to speak with Him continually so that when temptation strikes, I am armed and ready, not gazing off the top of my roof.

The NT reading reveals a similar principle: “No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.” (2 Timothy 2:4) If I am going to win my battles, I cannot let anything pull me away from the battle, certainly not the ordinary details of life.

To be honest, just about anything I do is easier than prayer. It is easier to wash windows or scrub floors, pay bills, or work a 16-hour day. While talking to God is delightful, interceding for others is hard work. For this I must deny what is good that I might pray for what is better.

“Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:10–13)

It seems also that the psalmist gives expression to those times when I ‘remain in Jerusalem’ and become vulnerable to the enemy. He describes what I feel like when smacked by the enemy....

“You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger. Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.” (Psalm 85:2–7)

God forgives. He renews my heart so I can engage again in this war for myself and others. This prayer does not mean God takes away eternal life from those who have it. Already I am saved from the penalty of sin (eternal damnation). Instead, the psalmist is talking about “salvation” as being saved from the power of sin. To be victorious, I must constantly rely on God and say no to those vacations from spiritual warfare.

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