By John Miltenberger
He teaches my hands to make war, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.[2 Samuel 22:35;NKJV]
He teaches my hands to make war, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.[Psalm 18:34;NKJV]
Blessed [be] the LORD my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, [And] my fingers for battle— [Psalm 144:1;NKJV]
Much has been written and sermonized about the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness leading up to his confrontation with the devil (Matthew 4), but last night as I began to pray I saw the event in a different light.
I was tired last night, but when I awoke at 0223 hours, I had received just enough sleep to stay awake, so rather than waste the time tossing and turning, I went downstairs and began to pray. And it began as one of those times when I had absolutely nothing in my mind. I asked God, “So, what’s on Your mind, and will You share Your heart with me this morning?” Immediately, my mind focused on Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, and I knew God was speaking.
People might ask, “How did you know that was God speaking?”, and the answer is quite simple: it simply had to be. The wilderness temptation event hasn’t been in my mind for many months, and I’ve heard nothing about it for longer than I can remember. But there it was, lodged in my mind like a toothpick stuck sideways in my throat. Then I opened my mouth and said out loud, “Teach my hands to war.” Wow, was I surprised! I didn’t expect that as an opening line!
Whole banks of lights, that usually sit dark in my mind suddenly turned on – that’s the only way I can describe it, and I knew I was in the presence of God. In moments like that, everything changes and hidden things become visible. More awake than ever, I again thought about the temptation of Jesus, and I realized how little I knew concerning what may have happened during the first 39 days of His adventure.
I’ve always just thought the biblically recorded confrontation occurred for all 40 days, but I don’t think so now. I think God spent the first 39 days of Jesus’ desert fast preparing Him for day 40, and I think that’s what He wants to do with his chosen people right now, if only we’d let Him.
Frankly, it’s a full time job trying to convince God’s people that they are even in a war, but once that’s done, it’s almost impossible to get them engaged in it. I, and many others, have noted that this is a war we are in whether we like it or not. It is a war without mercy, in two senses: first, our enemy has zero mercy, and second, the war will come to us regardless of our knowledge, acceptance or ignorance of it.
There is “no quarter” in this fight, and the stakes are no less than victory for us, and eternal life, or loss for us and eternal loss; there are no higher stakes, and yet we still dither about the fact, as if we ignore it, the whole issue will go away, or dump out on some crazy preacher somewhere.
The Church of God is birthed, generation after generation, into the middle of the biggest, longest lasting, dirtiest and most important war ever fought in heaven or on the earth, and that fact is immutable, whether we admit it or not. And it is a “World war” in the sense that it is upon us because it began universally. In my opinion, it would be far wiser to admit it, and ask that God teach us how to fight. In any event, I’d rather die fighting than die groveling.
I began to think about how God said David was a man after His own heart, but for the first time, I questioned precisely what that meant. Ever think about it? How was David’s heart like God’s? Or we could ask, how is God’s heart like David’s? We do know this about David – he was known as a man of war, and the only time he drifted into the gutter was when he stayed home in his palace rather than fight, and it cost him dearly for the rest of his life. The point I’m getting at is this: our God is a God of war. He has many other attributes, of course, but He is a God of war, and He expects us to be like Him.
We have a relatively new song that we sing in our church about being warriors, and I always shudder a little when we sing it. It’s a loud, bold proclamation, and I wonder when we sing it if we have any real idea what we are proclaiming. Singing a song that we are warriors is a long way from being warriors. There’s that little pesky issue of training…..!!
I remember my army days, when I wore the uniform for the first time. I was proud to display that I was a Private First Class, all trained up and ready to go! A green-behind-the-ears trained killer, but I wanted to take off the uniform in shame when I saw a ragged line of veterans returning home after 12 months in Vietnam. Their uniforms were torn, dirty and ragged. Most of them showed no rank, even their officers, but one thing was not in doubt – these men were warriors, and they carried themselves that way, and even though I wore the same uniform, I was not. It was humbling – it should have been.
Then I thought of the Navy Seal teams. Each man has a specialty, even though they are cross-trained to some degree. The idea is that together, they have a complete, multi-functioning fighting team. I did say ‘together’. They can fight alone if they have to, but they are trained as a team. The Three Musketeers said it best: “All for one and one for all.” And that’s the Church of God.
God is trying to make his people ready for what’s ahead. Don’t believe those who say it’s all going to be downhill, for they are dead wrong (no pun). This war is a long way from over, but it’ll be over sooner if and when, the Church of God casts off her creature comforts, faithlessness and timidity, and commits to take the battle to the gates of hell.
That’s supposed to be our corporate destiny.
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