(August 12, 2018) Brian Bell reflects on an ‘old’ but relevant truth…
You may be familiar with the words of this ‘old’ children’s song…
‘I may never march with the infantry; ride with the cavalry; shoot with artillery;
I may never zoom o’er the enemy but I’m in the Lord’s army – YES SIR!’
In recent times to help it ‘relate better’ to a more contemporary generation a verse has been added which speaks about Superman, Spiderman and Indiana Jones!
A vital fact
On the surface, the lyrics may seem to have little ‘spiritual’ content – I certainly was of that view… for a time, that is.
On reflection, however, while the song may not mention the Bible or characters within its pages (such as Joshua) that we would associate with the Lord’s army, as believers we are in the Lord’s army and this is a vital ‘spiritual’ fact.
This was emphasised to me recently when looking at Deuteronomy 20, a chapter dealing with instructions Moses gave to the Israelites about going into battle.
For brevity, I will share only some seed thoughts based on the first four verses – none of which I claim as being ‘new.’ (What I often find is that the Lord reminds me of truths I already know but need refreshed in my thinking).
a) ‘The priest will… speak with the troops’ (verse 2)
We know of incidents in history where troops were addressed before going into battle. Oliver Cromwell, for example, is reported to have said to his troops before a campaign on one occasion, ‘Put your trust in God my boys and mind to keep your (gun) powder dry.’
The role of the priest speaks to me about the role of a pastor or those in leadership in the fellowship of the church (the body of Christ irrespective of denominational identification). We too often get ‘hung up’ on titles and while I recognise various descriptions in scripture, they seem to be to be more about ‘functions’ rather than a hierarchy of leadership.
Thus I believe every role of leadership in the ‘church’ context is in essence a spiritual role and one of the most important exercises in which we can engage is to rally/encourage the troops before going into battle.
This is not only good Old Testament teaching, it is borne out in the New Testament: for example Paul’s letter to the Ephesians and its reference to the whole armour of God. Let’s be honest, every day there is a battle raging – as Paul says, ‘We wrestle… against spiritual wickedness…’ (Ephesians 6:12).
b) ‘Do not be afraid’ (verse 3)
I believe this is a reference to an unhealthy fear as it is not unnatural to have some element of fear (the scriptures are filled with references to fear).
However an unhealthy fear limits or tries to neutralise us from taking positive action, from moving forward. It is one of the enemy’s most subtle strategies (I admit that I have known this experience in my own past!). Primarily this strategy is used to attack our minds, exaggerating the outcome of actions or lack of them, sowing doubt on God’s word.
Paul said, ‘God has not given us a spirit of fear…’ (2 Timothy 1:7). If God is not making me fearful then it must either be me or the enemy. Someone has said, ‘courage is not the absence of fear but pressing on despite it’… so encouragement to not be afraid is worthwhile.
c) ‘Do not lose heart or panic’ (verse 3)
I have always enjoyed reading history – and still do. One of the lessons we can learn from great conflicts is that battles were often won when the troops stood together and supported each other rather than being discouraged and panicked into disarray.
The Old Testament recounts how God gave Israel strategies for battle which were designed to cause their enemies to lose heart and panic – think of Gideon’s rout of the Midianites (Judges 7-8).
Among the enemy’s most subtle strategies for attacking the church is disunity, division, dissension and even deceit (think of how Joshua was taken in by the Gibeonites: Joshua 9:22).
This does not mean we can’t have healthy discussion and or hold differing views, but we need to keep our perspective on the truth and recognise our real enemy. If the Lord is not being glorified or his name is being dishonoured by his people then we are not standing together, I say respectfully it is likely we are following our own agenda – the wrong agenda.
d) ‘The Lord your God is going with you’ (verse 4)
Every day there is a battle going on for the souls of children, young people and adults. There is a battlefield in the realm of sickness which touches bodies, spirits and minds. There is a battle going on to try and bring the Lord’s people into disarray. This is one reason why prayer and fellowship are so important.
Meeting in prayer and fellowship, even if there is only a small number, we are standing together against the enemy, supporting each other and taking confidence that the Lord our God is going with us and he is the one who gives the victory.
If you’ve never heard the song Another Soldier Down (sung by The Isaacs) I recommend you find a way to listen to it: it will challenge and encourage you!
The chorus contains the following words, ‘Go then with haste stand by his side and lend your strength once more, oh bear him up with faith and prayer until the battles o’er…’
In the Lord’s army there are ‘downed’ soldiers, those who have been wounded in battle, some perhaps even unto death. Some of their wounds may be ‘old wounds’ from which they have not fully recovered or which have affected their capacity.
Wherever you are in the world, whatever your present circumstances in life, particularly if you feel the battle is being sore pressed against you, if you have been wounded, be assured, even if you feel you’ve lost a battle, the Lord – and caring, praying brethren – can help you regroup, rearm and he will not discard you but will go with you!
Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould’s best known hymn Onward, Christian Soldier encourages moving forward. The concluding words of Deuteronomy 20: 4Mge would add ‘against your enemies, fighting to win.’
Brian Bell is a diaconate member, Christ Church (Congregational) Abbots Cross, Northern Ireland, and a volunteer with Disabled Christians Fellowship Ireland. He describes himself as ‘grateful for the privilege and opportunity given me to serve my Lord.’ Link: firstname.lastname@example.org