Whenever I watch a movie that pits a small force against a larger enemy, I always look for the battle strategy by which the smaller army conquers the larger one. It excites me to see a bigger enemy, who comes into battle confident of gaining the upper hand because of the sheer number of people on their side, made to bite the dust by a smaller opponent through their sharper wits and smarter battle plans.
It thrilled me to watch: Prince Caspian’s force emerge from beneath the ground to encircle the enemy in the film of that name; Scottish King Robert Bruce vanquish a larger English force by impaling the enemy cavalry with spears hidden in the muddy terrain in the movie The Outlaw King; the American Robert Martin hoodwink and rescue his men from the English Lord Cornwallis in The Patriot and other such clever strategies in military and combat movies.
Interesting though these warcraft are, nothing can beat God’s battle strategies and plans that help His people win over foes stronger than themselves. The instances portrayed in films can be appreciated, the superb planning involved marvelled at and, even though these appear as unexpected twists in the tale, they can be fully understood. However, when compared to the art of war in the Bible, these pale in contrast to that which is exhibited by the Lord. God’s warfare and strategies are truly out of this world because they are often dependent on irrelevant and irrational actions that are precursors for victory or defeat.
Take, for example, the time Israel fought the Amalekites in the desert after the Red Sea Crossing as reported in Exodus chap 17. Fresh out of Egypt, rescued from bondage through ten miraculous acts of God that brought the then world power to its knees, led by an able warrior, Joshua, Israel had the ability and mental capacity to overcome this attack. Yet their victory and defeat did not rest on such strengths, but were hinged on their leader Moses holding his hands raised in the air or not while watching the battle from a hilltop. It seems such an irrational way of winning a battle, but that was how God worked it out for them!
Why did God make such moves as the battle turning for good or bad depending on whether Moses kept his hands raised or not? The reason is not hard to figure out: Four hundred years of bondage under a violent and harsh nation would have taught them the efficacy and advantage of brute force as well as strength. Israel was chosen to be God’s people, His royal priesthood and the people of His pasture. They had to learn to do everything not by might nor power but by Him.
They had to understand that their dependency on Him would be the reason for their success or failure. They were to cleave to Him and obey Him fully and totally. They had to learn this lesson before they entered the promised land and started live among others who did not follow Yahweh. God was teaching them this lesson and inculcating this into their beings so that when they were among other people groups, they would function as His people. Israel had to learn the secret of their existence – their relationship with Yahweh and their allegiance and obedience to Him!
Consider another time when they had crossed over the river Jordan to the land God promised to them through their ancestor Abraham. The first city they had to conquer was Jericho, one of the strongest cities of their times, a walled and defenced city, strong enough to withstand any invasion. It was a veritable fortress and conquering it would be the key for their conquest of the whole land.
Joshua, their commander is met by the commander of the army of God who then outlines the battle plan to conquer the city they are targeting. He tells Joshua that for 6 days the whole army of Israel should walk silently around the city once each day. On the 7th day they must go around 7 times, 6 times in silence as before, but the 7th time they must shout and charge straight ahead of them at the sound of the trumpet.
Any commander would consider seeking out the weak points in the battlements and using them to attack the city as the logical battle plan. God asks Joshua to do something that looked foolish in the eyes of men. The people of Jericho must have first looked on with incredulity, then with astonishment and finally with ridicule at the spectacle of an army marching in silence around the city they wanted to conquer. Israel had to bear it all and quietly rest in their tents, without reacting to their taunts and mockery.
Nothing is more difficult to bear than ridicule and it is hard to stand by or keep quiet or be without reacting at such times. Israel could not allow itself to be triggered into action or do something to prove they are not sissies. They remained faithful to the strategy given them by God through Joshua and won a great victory. They did not allow their own doubts or misgivings to distract them and they did not allow their own thinking to disrupt their obedience to God’s battle plan.
In the case of the Jericho strategy, it was not Israel who had to learn a lesson, but the nations around them. They had go know that Israel had a supernatural protecting force that would fight on their behalf. Israel was coming into the land as new settlers and the nations around had to be made aware of them being the people of Yahweh, so that the other nations would beware His power and allow Israel to dwell in safety and security. It was an object lesson for the nations around and indeed the Gibeonites came to make peace for this reason and because of the demonstration of God’s power on behalf of Israel!
It would often seem that God is a poor general and indeed this is a comment by Rameses, Pharaoh of Egypt in the movie Ten Commandments when he finds Israel trapped before the Red Sea. Pharaoh thought he had the Israelites under his mercy for he didn’t understand God’s battle plan. The Lord totally destroyed the Egyptian army, burying them in a watery grave under the waters of the Red Sea when they thought they could easily overpower Israel by their military prowess. Egypt that day ended up, not only losing its firstborns, but also its army, one that was feared for its invincibility during that period of world history. Moses’ song at that time declares His might: The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh’s officers are drowned in the Red Sea. The deep waters have covered them; they sank to the depths like a stone. Your right hand, the Lord, was majestic in power. Your right hand, the Lord, shattered the enemy (Exo 15:3-6).
To answer the question why God allowed this confrontation and made Israel go throw this crisis when they had just escaped 400 years of tyranny and bondage is again answered in Moses song: In your unfailing love, you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength, you will guide them to your holy dwelling. The nations will hear and tremble; anguish will grip the people of Philistia. The chiefs of Edom will be terrified, the leaders of Moab will be seized with trembling, the people of Canaan will melt away; terror and dread will fall on them. By the power of your arm they will be as still as a stone – until your people pass by, Lord, until the people you bought pass by. You will bring them in and plant them on the mountain of your inheritance – the place, Lord, you made for your dwelling, the sanctuary, Lord, your hands established Exo (15:13-17). This is what exactly happened!
God never wastes His moves, but is always completely in control of the fight. He is an able General, a Master Strategist and Victorious Veteran of many successful missions. He knows what He is doing or how He is directing, and as His people we need to fully trust Him. The way He directs or plans the fight will be contrary to ours, often incomprehensible and seemingly foolish.
Apostle Paul well puts it in his second letter to the Corinthians and answers the question of why God’s combat operations are different and His plans appear nonsensical. It is because We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. He points out that this so since We are not fighting against human enemies. Instead, we are fighting against the rulers and the powerful spirits that have authority over this dark world. We are fighting against the bad spirits who live in the heavens (Eph 6:12 EASY).
God’s war mode may not fit our thinking process or our working style, but it brings total vanquishing od the enemy. It is ok to not be able to comprehend His strategy, but it is very important to obey it. If you want a complete rout of the enemy, you better hear and obey His strategy, unintelligent though it may seem to you. God knows what He is about and He plans with a far reaching eye about what is to come, who is to be touched, how it should effect and where it should impact. Therefore, it behoves us to follow His instructions implicitly, even when we don’t fathom them. He has more experience and expertise than anyone on earth or heaven. We must trust that God knows what He is about, even if we don’t!
In this pandemic period, let’s take care to follow His leading in our daily fight against negativities and negative situations of life that we are seeing and facing, daily!