Who Are You? - George H. Warnock
CHAPTER 4 - THE SECRET OF OUR VICTORY
Israel was a natural nation, a natural people, and they indulged frequently in natural warfare, even at the command of the LORD. They were simply executing the judgments of God upon the idolatrous practices of the heathen nations round about them. In our day we might be inclined to view ancient Israel's wars as genocidal, and it is hard for a lot of people to believe that the Christian's Jehovah-God was the Jehovah-God of war in the Old Testament. The fact is that God had a plan for the earth for many centuries to come, and had He not intervened in that day to wipe out the almost unthinkable and unprintable practices of heathen nations surrounding Israel, any semblance of an orderly society might have ceased to exist long ago. The same can be said of the day in which we live. If God does not intervene shortly to put an end to the abominations perpetrated today (not in heathen, Muslim, or Communist regimes, but in our so called Christian democracies) our society could very quickly be swallowed up in total anarchy and corruption. It is only His grace that forestalls the inevitable doom awaiting this generation, as He prepares a people to show forth His glory and His power in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation.
As Christians of the New Covenant era we must be assured that "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds" (2 Cor. 10:4). Yet even as we look into the Old Testament we can discover the art of spiritual warfare, and the secret of victory that God has for us in this hour. We will learn that the Captain of our salvation goes before us, and that the plans and strategies of our warfare are His, and His only. We will learn that God's ways are vastly different from ours; and that, foolish as they may seem to be, it is only as we walk in His ways that we are going to emerge triumphant in the day of battle. So let us observe the strategy of our warfare and the secret of our victory, as typified in some of Israel's natural struggles in the Old Testament:
(1) Israel at the Red Sea
When God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, and bore them "on eagle's wings" from the clutches of the enemy, He led them to a dead-end in the wilderness--right up against the Red Sea. He did so on purpose; and His purpose was twofold. First, He would entice the enemy to their doom, for they would boast, "We have them now! There's no place for them to go...!" But secondly, He would test the obedience and faith of the people of God. All they could see was the Red Sea, and the menacing hordes of the Egyptians behind them. God wanted them to see and behold His faithfulness and His wisdom, and to know that the way of the sea would also become the way of victory.
Now "the secret of the LORD is with them that fear Him,"--and as we consider God's pattern of victory here, may the Lord cause us to know that every dead-end in the pathway of obedience will lead us to a new way of life in the purposes of God. He wants us to discover the secret of standing still, and seeing the salvation of the LORD. But He also wants us to know that our encampment at the Red Sea in the will of God, where there is no place to go, no way to turn, is intended in the plan and purpose of God to bring about a defeat of our enemies, which we would not have known without this wilderness experience. He could have led them a different way; and you and I would perhaps not have chosen the way we have walked if we had been in control of our lives, and could have seen the end from the beginning. But somehow He led us this way, and the purpose is that He might be glorified. There may have been failure and disobedience on our part. And Let us be quick to acknowledge that. But He would teach us also that out of every failure and disobedience He will yet be glorified, if we will now learn to walk in obedience... if we will "stand still and see the salvation of the LORD."
And consequently they were able to sing the Song of Moses:
"I will sing unto the LORD,
For He hath triumphed gloriously:
The horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea"
Where were they overthrown? In the Red Sea! In the place of their dead-end walk with God. In the place of their extremity. In the place of their perplexity. In the place of their utter hopelessness.
(2) Israel at the River Jordan
When Israel crossed the Red Sea, they were in fact being "baptized unto Moses, in the cloud, and in the sea" (1 Cor. 10:2). In type, therefore, it speaks of our baptism into Christ: in water, and in the Spirit. But when this generation failed to enter into the land of their inheritance through disobedience, God raised up a new generation that would succeed. They were now under new leadership, Joshua; and before they could possess their inheritance some very detailed instructions were given them concerning the crossing of the Jordan, in preparation for the conquest of Canaan. The priests bearing the ark of the Covenant were to dip their feet in the waters of Jordan, and as they did the waters would be swept back so the people could go over on dry land. The priests would then stand in the bottom of the Jordan while the people passed by. Twelve stones were to be erected on the bottom of the Jordan as a pillar, and twelve stones likewise were to be taken up from the bottom of the river and erected as a pillar on the western bank. In type we have a picture of the nation being identified with Christ in His death and resurrection. But there was more to this "baptism" than that. For when they had set up camp on the western bank there had to be a new circumcision. This new generation had not been circumcised in the wilderness, and they still carried "the reproach of Egypt" with them. The stain, the reproach, the burden, and the very memory of the old life in Egypt must be "rolled away" at Gilgal, for that is the meaning of the word "Gilgal." Circumcision, then, becomes another aspect of Christian baptism. Water baptism (especially here in the Western world) is presented as a beautiful ceremony, and the crowds are especially invited to come and witness it. It can only be because the true meaning of baptism is not known or realized, or fulfilled in the lives of God's people. We can accept Christian baptism, and get along very happily with the world about us. Not so in the early Church, and in some of the nations of the world today. In that day it meant a "cutting off." It meant in actual fact and experience, identification with the Cross of Christ. "Circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: buried with Him in baptism..." (Col. 2:11, 12).
It meant from that day forward you were an enemy of the world, because the world was the enemy of God. It was in fact a marriage ceremony in which you said, "I take you, Lord Jesus, to be my lawfully wedded Husband, to have and to hold, to love and to obey... and forsaking all others..." How often have we committed adultery with the world in this relationship!
"Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (Jas. 4:4).
The soldiers in God's army have got to experience the full implications of baptism. Coming out of Egypt meant for Israel a baptism "in the cloud and in the sea." Perhaps it was sufficient for them in their wilderness journeys. But to conquer the seven strong nations of Canaan we, like Israel of old, must know and experience the dreadful implications of our baptism: identification with Christ in the cutting off of the old Adamic life, that we might rise to walk with Him "in newness of life." We thrill at the thought that the baptism of the Holy Spirit means endowment with power. It is all of that. But most of us who have received that experience have been disappointed to find that the strength of the old Adamic nature remained strong within us, and that many times we were impotent in the face of the foe. It can only be because we have not walked in the pathway of the Cross, and have therefore not experienced the cutting off of the old nature within. We have desired the power of this baptism, without the weakening of the flesh; and I think God has been merciful to us, and has not permitted us to know too much of the power until we have known the circumcision of Gilgal. Too many of God's ministers have grasped for the power of God, without knowing the weakening of their self-nature, and it has been to their own sorrow. God give us of your power--but first of all to minister unto us " life and godliness" (2 Pet. 1:3); and weaken our strength, that we might know only the strength and the power of the Lord.
If we have received a baptism of the Spirit, but have not received a baptism of the weakness of our flesh, we will know very little of the baptism of power. In the fullness of this baptism God would weaken us, that we might know His strength. If the Spirit of God has His Lordship in our lives, He will lead us into the way of the Cross; and if we refuse that way, we will never learn to walk in the Spirit. It is not really an experience in which we become stronger and wiser and mightier in our flesh, but an experience in which we become weaker and more foolish and less competent...in order that God might become our strength and our wisdom and our might.
When Paul said, "The Spirit helpeth our infirmities" (Rom. 8:26), I understand it means literally: "The Spirit joins His help to our weakness." He does not join Himself to the strong, high-places of our nature... He joins His help to our weakness. It is this that makes us strong--"Strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might."
Why must we continually emphasize these things? Because we are hard of hearing; and because God has determined to bring to NOUGHT this whole world system in the Day of the LORD. And in order to do so He must find a people who have come to NOUGHT because of the working of the Cross in their lives. God is not out to bring us down a notch or two, but to bring us down to ZERO. Because it is only in ZERO strength that we will be able to bring the forces of evil to ZERO:
"But God hath chosen the FOOLISH things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the WEAK things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and BASE things of the world, and things which are DESPISED, hath God chosen, yea, and things which ARE NOT (Zero things), to bring to NOUGHT (to Zero) things that are" (1 Cor. 1:28). And what wisdom or what purpose can come out of that?
"THAT NO FLESH SHOULD GLORY IN HIS PRESENCE" (vs. 29). That's what the Day of the LORD is all about, and that day is upon us! The day in which God said He would "stain the pride of all glory"!
So what does God do with this uncircumcised nation whom He is preparing for battle? Circumcise them on the eastern bank of the Jordan, so they will have time to recover in readiness for the great battle? On the eastern bank where they would have the added protection of high waters... for we are told that the Jordan was flooding her banks at that time of the year? No! He takes them across the river first, and totally cripples the whole army of warriors right under the noses of the mighty men of Jericho. He would weaken them completely right in the presence of their enemies. No doubt the hearts of the people of God melted as they saw perhaps 600,000 of their stalwart young men incapacitated for battle in one sudden stroke, at the command of God. But do you know? At this very moment the hearts of the inhabitants of Jericho also "melted" and "there was no spirit in them" when they saw this crippled army outside their fortified walls! What happened? It was the terror of God upon them. Did you hear what Paul said? He uses the FOOLISH things to display His glory and to confound the wise. It was simply their walk of obedience, their identification with the way of the Cross, that brought the fear of God upon the inhabitants of the land and terrified the mighty warriors of Canaan.
Now let us consider God's battle strategy relative to some of the judges of Israel. Time and time again did Israel turn away from the LORD after the death of Joshua; and as they sought the LORD He was always faithful to raise up a deliverer, who became known as one of the judges. In every case we see the same principle involved, and the same pattern of warfare and victory.
(3) Consider Ehud
Ehud was a left-handed Benjamite whom God raised up to save Israel out of the hands of Eglon the king of Moab (Judg. 3:15). Literally it reads, "He was bound as to the right hand." His right hand was a problem with him. Being left-handed, so I am told, can be rather frustrating at times. The left-handed man doesn't quite fit in our society. He has to learn to do things the hard way. Society is geared for the right-handed person.
Benjamin, however, as named by his father Jacob means "Son of my right hand." I used to wonder about this when I discovered how God would use the left-handed Benjamites. But I discovered the secret one day when I realized that when I place my weak left hand in God's strong right hand, suddenly I am linked up with the strength and might and power of God Himself. Now if I try to put my right hand in God's right hand, I am in trouble. I will have to turn in the opposite direction to do that, and of course that means self-will, disobedience, going my own way. Can we not be content to take our insufficiencies, our lack, our weaknesses (our LEFT HAND), and walk side by side with Him in the same direction, and in the POWER OF HIS RIGHT HAND?
Of course this may well mean that at times we will be walking with a Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief. And often the Church will think of us as a sad lot. But then I recall how Rachel looked upon her son also, so I do not want to condemn people for the impressions they might get. Rachel would have called this child, "The son of my sorrow." But Jacob said, "No, not Benoni, but BENJAMIN... He is going to be the SON OF MY RIGHT HAND!" There is no real joy that is not born of sorrow. There is no real joy that is not birthed at the Cross.
"Weeping may endure for a night, But joy cometh in the morning" (Psa. 30:5).
But Ehud had a dagger with two edges. Sharpen your sword, you left-handed Benjamites! Get ready for the battle of the LORD! That's all we need: a living Word that is "sharper than any two-edged sword." You may not be able to use the right hand of proficiency, of eloquence, of intellectual excellence. But you will discover, if you continue to let Him hold you in His strong right hand, what Isaiah discovered in His weakness:
"And He hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of His hand hath He hid me; and made me a polished shaft, in His quiver hath He hid me" (Isa. 49:2).
Let Him keep you there! Young people, zealous to work for God, let Him keep you there! You do not need to fret about preaching, or teaching, or evangelizing, or trying to do something ecclesiastical or ministerial in nature. Just keep your left hand in His right hand; and as you stand face to face with the enemies of God, you will find you can reach forth your hand and draw forth that sharp sword hidden away like Ehud's dagger... under a garment of weakness, and humility, and meekness. And because of these very virtues you have been able to pass through the guards undetected. Who is he? He's got nothing! He can't do any harm!
But Ehud had a secret message for the king, the fat Eglon who sat there in his parlor in peace and contentment. His goods were in peace, because the people of God were under his dominion. The secret message that Ehud bore to the king was this: "God has brought an end to your oppression, you fat old monster. God has brought deliverance to His people." And one fell swoop of the dagger by the left-handed weakling brought deliverance to the whole nation!
(4) Consider Shamgar
God's warriors-in-training are not out there in seminaries and places of learning trying to sharpen their weapons at the grindstones of the Philistines. They are ordinary people, trying to make a living for themselves and their families in some routine, ordinary occupation. They are to be found in all walks of life: fishermen, and farmers, and plumbers, and carpenters, and loggers, and factory hands. White collar workers, and blue collar workers. Perhaps a few professionals and intellectuals, but not too many of these, as the apostle Paul tells us.
Shamgar apparently was just a farmer. What did he know about the art of war? The army of the LORD that He is mustering in this hour will not be loaded with professional ministers. I know there are many precious ones out there whom God is going to use. But they will have to take their place with the rest of us, and learn the ways of God, in order to qualify for this army.
Shamgar had an ox-goad. He was no shirker. He wanted to put in a good day's work on the job, and he used an ox-goad to make sure his oxen kept pace with him. God's warriors-in-training are not lazy men--out there looking for a soft job. They are diligent, honest, reliable, trustworthy, hard-working. At the right moment Shamgar grabbed his ox-goad and slew six hundred Philistines with a startling blow, and delivered the people of God.
God has His Shamgars out there on the job. Many of them are wondering what they were born for, and why they are still alive. One day God will conscript them for active duty in the army of the LORD. Right now they need no other weapons than the ones they are using: faithful on the job, honest, diligent, hard-working, reliable... and following the Lord in all His ways. With these weapons they will be able to face any enemy that comes against the people of God.
(5) Consider Deborah and Barak
Deborah was a prophetess. God had given her a sure word, for this is the ultimate test of true prophecy. The people of God came to her for the word of the LORD in their hour of distress and need. The gift she had from God did not cause her to be exalted. What tremendous grace God must work in the lives of His chosen ones in order that they might speak that pure word, with power and authority, and with prophetic insight... and still that vessel remain humble and meek in His presence and before men. Many of our women feel they have to vindicate their ministry because it seems they live in a man's world. They want to prove that they have a gift and a calling from God. Deborah didn't even have to travel around in ministry--she "dwelt under a palm tree," symbol of peace and rest and victory in God. But the people recognized the word of the Lord that was in her mouth, and they came to her home to hear what God had to say to them. She was just a house-wife, like any other woman in Israel.
When God told Deborah to call Barak out of Kedesh-Naphtali, and command him to raise an army of 10,000 men from Naphtali and Zebulun to deliver God's people out of the hands of Sisera, her only desire seemed to be just to stay right there at home. She simply considered herself to be a "mother in Israel." Mothers are always content just to stay at home, and look after the family. It was Barak's insistence that she go with him that caused her to change her mind. And rather than glorying in the fact that she was needed out there at the front of the battle, she chided Barak a little for the fear that he seemed to have. In her reply to Barak there was a prophecy that would seem to imply something like this, If the man is unfaithful, God just might use a woman to do a man's job. This is what she said:
"I will surely go with thee; notwithstanding the journey that thou takest shall not be for thine honor; for the LORD shall sell Sisera into the hand of a woman" (Judg. 4:9).
Mothers in Israel! You have a very high calling. Do not glory in the fact you have gifts, or can prophesy sure words from the Lord, or perform miracles. But glory in the fact that God has made you a "weaker vessel" that you might know like Deborah of old, the strength and the wisdom of the mighty God of Israel. Rejoice in the ministry that God has given you in your own home and family, and under your own palm tree. And as you instruct your little ones in the ways of the Lord, may they rise up to call you BLESSED!
The First Star Wars
Do you want to get involved in God's Star Wars? In the war that is now getting underway in Heaven? "No," you say, "I'm too busy fighting the Devil down here." Sounds good. But if you will follow through with what we have to say, you may come to understand why you are getting nowhere here in your battle against the Devil down here. It is because you are not known UP THERE in the heavenly ranks of Zion.
In the first Star Wars, nothing was left to human organization and strategy. O how long will the people of God go about wasting their time sniping at the Enemy from tree-tops and church-steeples? God has a master plan, and He wants you and me to come into His secret counsels, that we might come to know His way, and the secret of victory.
God considered the hearts of His people and found 10,000 men whom He knew would offer themselves "willingly" when called to battle. They were from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulun. Naphtali means "wrestling" and Zebulun means "dwelling." God's warriors must learn how to "wrestle against principalities and powers," and they have to know that they can only do this under the power and canopy of the Spirit of God. They are going to have to discover that it is the way of the Cross, of reproach, of suffering, of misunderstanding, of weakness, of foolishness. Zebulun means "dwelling." It is not enough to be zealous for battle, and wrestlers. They have got to know God's REST. They must learn to "abide" in the True Vine. They must make the Lord Himself to be their habitation. And therefore they can have no high towers, or fortresses, or kingdoms of their own.
When Barak called them to the battle of the Lord they "willingly offered themselves" (Judg. 5:2). Not just their money. Not just their tithes, or their double-tithes. Not just their services. But EVERYTHING! "They jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field" (Judg. 5:18), as they fought "by the waters of Megiddo" (vs. 19). Dr. Young the Hebrew scholar says that Megiddo means "Place of God." It was God's war; and Megiddo was the place of God's appointment. God had prepared an army that was known and recognized in heavenly places. He had prepared their hearts, and He it was who had KNOWN them and called them to the battle. Therefore the heavens themselves were aflame with the mighty warriors of the heavenly realms who rose up on behalf of the people of God:
"They fought from Heaven;
The stars in their courses
Fought against Sisera"
The Last Armageddon
Barak's battle was the first Battle of Armageddon. The last one is just on ahead. Barak's battle was the first of the Star Wars. The last Star Wars are about to take place. Once again God is mustering a people for battle. They are "wrestlers" (Naphtali means "wrestling"). "But we wrestle not against flesh and blood." We are learning to abide in Christ (Zebulun means "dwelling"). And because we know the rest and confidence of the Lord, as we abide in Him we will know how to wrestle against the powers of the heavenly realm.
Again they are a people who are offering themselves willingly: not just their talents, a little of their silver and gold, a portion of their resources--but THEMSELVES.
"And they overcame him (the Dragon) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony. And they loved not their lives unto the death" (Rev. 12:11).
Where will this last and final battle of the Lord take place? In the earth, and in the heavens... but it will start in Heaven.
"And she (the woman clothed with the sun) brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up to God, and to His throne... AND THERE WAS WAR IN HEAVEN" (Rev. 12:5, 7).
Notice this, beloved! When this corporate SON comes forth, it is a declaration of WAR IN HEAVEN! But it also embraces the whole earth. For when Michael the archangel (who is in charge of the angelic forces) wars against the Dragon, the Dragon (Satan) is cast out of his heavenly stronghold... that place of dominion in the heavens from which he would harass, and captivate, and torment the people of God and the inhabitants of the earth. And now that he relinquishes those high places of dominance to the victorious sons of God, he comes down to earth, "having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time" (Rev. 12:12). The inhabitants of the world will not understand. There is disaster and calamity everywhere. The woman "in the wilderness" will not understand... because there is tribulation, and anguish, and persecution. But there is a celestial shout of triumph: "Rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell therein!" The people of God are walking in heavenly places, and warring in heavenly places, even while their feet are on the earth where the Dragon is. Now they are able to crush him under their feet, as Paul said they would. (See Rom. 16:20). But what about the earth, now that Satan has been defeated in battle, and cast down from his lofty heights?
"Woe to the inhabiters of the earth, and of the sea! For the Devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time" (Rev. 12:12). And it is all because the victory has been fought and won! It is the Day of the LORD! It is the great Day of God Almighty!
Barak's armies fought in the "high places of the field," and "by the waters of Megiddo" (Judg. 5:19). Megiddo has therefore taken on a symbolic name for the last great battle of God that will be fought in Heaven, with spiritual weapons, but will cause wars and dreadful repercussions all over the world. I am told Har-Megiddo (Or, Armageddon) means Place of God. It is the place of God's appointment for all the forces of evil that have arrayed themselves against the people of God, and which God will destroy in the Day of the LORD. God tells us that these unclean spirits that come forth from the mouth of the Dragon, "are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of the great Day of God Almighty" (Rev. 16:14) Then there is this very solemn warning to God's people, who are in the earth, and who must be alerted and prepared for this hour. Far from giving God's people the consolation of being snatched away from these dreadful times, the Lord sounds a clear call to holiness and watchfulness:
"Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame" (vs. 15) God saw fit to insert this special warning to His people in the time when the forces of Armageddon are being assembled, WARNING AND ENCOURAGING US TO BE ALERT, PREPARED, AND WALKING IN THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF JESUS CHRIST. Then after this parenthesis, John continues writing,--
"And He gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue ARMAGEDDON" (vs. 16).
Let us not be confused with the fact that different facets of truth are presented in the Book of Revelation over and over again, in different settings, and by different symbols. The Book will have more meaning to us when we understand that John saw things as related by the Angel, not always from a chronological standpoint, but from a panoramic standpoint: not as one standing before a high board fence, and peeking through a knot-hole watching a race as the horses ran by; but watching from a watchtower above the fence, and seeing clearly that portion of events that God was showing him from His own perspective, in some particular phase of God's mighty workings in the earth and in the Church. Nevertheless all events were progressively moving forward to the glorious climax of a New Heavens and a New Earth. Let us see ourselves with John, not walking in a straight line chronologically toward the ultimate goal; but observing the unfolding of truth much like you would see the circles progressively stirring the waters in one circle after another, after casting a stone into the pool. A circle, then another circle, and another... until it progressively reaches its glorious climax. And that is why all through the book we will behold trouble, tribulation, victory, and the kingdom... repeated over and over again. And that is why the Book has had real meaning for God's people in every era of the Church, according to their particular circle in the time-frame of God's purposes.
And now we come to the day of harvest, and this wonderful book will have special meaning for those who walk in His ways in this hour. But we must not look at the harvest scene and think that everything before that is a thing of the past. Or see ourselves at the time of the "seven thunders" and feel that everything before that is mere history for us, and everything mentioned later is still future. John was told to "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter" (Rev. 1:19). But we must understand that the things John saw in his day, are also things which we are witnessing here and now. The things pertaining to the seven churches are certainly historical, but they are also very present here and now; and they will continue to be meaningful to the Church even to the time of the end. And the "things which shall be hereafter" may very well be, from our viewpoint, things that have already happened on a certain level of God's workings... even though they are yet to be revealed in another phase of His workings. As God progressively moves in the earth throughout this era of the Church, it is not just a past-present-future situation from God's standpoint. Many of the things which John saw, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter... have been enacted and re-enacted many times in the earth, as one circle after another has issued forth in the outworking of God's purposes, from the beginning until now. In and throughout every era of the Church there has been the conflict of Good and Evil, of Light and Darkness... until in the consummation of it all we see the Lamb standing on Mount Zion with the overcomers who have followed Him, and all enemies are subdued under His feet.
The Book of Revelation begins with the statement that God made it known by signs. The angel "sign-ified" unto His servant John... made it known to him in "sign" language. If we are not real familiar with the Old Testament, we can read the Book of Revelation and fail to realize that the "sign-language" that is used is largely from the types and shadows of the Old Testament--not only from the books that relate to the sacrifices and ceremonies of Israel, but to the words of the prophets as well. There are approximately 400 direct quotations or other references to the Old Testament in the Book of Revelation, as the Holy Spirit saw fit to clothe the "Revelation" in terminology that would be something very "hidden" from those who continued to walk in disobedience and rebellion against God. The "mysteries" of God are secrets, revealed to God's chosen ones, but "secrets" that the world about us cannot know or perceive, except as the heart is laid bare before Him. For He tells us clearly that "the secret of the Lord is to them that fear Him" (Psa. 25:14).
Armageddon, then, derives its significance from the Old Testament Megiddo, where on two particular occasions God assembled the hordes of evil together to bring about their destruction by His own mighty intervention. Both the wars of Barak and of Gideon were fought in the area of Megiddo; and so God in the Book of Revelation tells us that it will be at Armageddon where God will draw the evil forces of this world system together, and bring about their destruction. (See Rev. 16:14-16). It is that great Day of God Almighty, where God sits in judgment upon the whole world. Joel therefore calls it a battle in the Valley of Jehoshaphat. This is not the same valley as Megiddo, but the meaning is clear. Jehoshaphat means "God is Judge." It is that day when God sits in judgment upon the whole world. Joel is the Old Testament alarmist. When God's servants start talking the way Joel talked, they are despised as "alarmists." So were God's prophets of old. May God raise up a few more Heaven-sent, anointed "watchmen" to sound the alarm--in this day when the Church is being taught to settle down, be at peace... Because God will not let us see those dreadful days of tribulation and darkness that the alarmists are talking about. And so Joel was the alarmist of his day, who cried out:
"PREPARE WAR, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round about...." (Joel 3:9-11).
God declares war against all nations for their rebellion against Him. "Get together," He says, "I am ready for battle... Prepare for War! I have an appointment for all men at Armageddon, the Place of God... in the Valley of Judgment. Have your international conferences, and your summit meetings! Have your World Church councils and your Ecumenical gatherings! And UNITE!" God says He is releasing the unclean spirits of devils to hasten on the task that men in high places have in mind, of uniting the peoples of the earth together in alliances of PEACE, and all the while rejecting the Prince of Peace. Let the World Church come together and exalt the leadership of Man. God is preparing a Body in the earth that is exalting the Lordship of Christ. Let the super-powers strive for peace based on human power and strength... based on the false premise that a major holocaust will be averted as long as each block of nations understands that a first-strike would mean mutual destruction! In the midst of it all God is preparing a people, and arming them with weapons of truth, and poverty of spirit, and meekness, and righteousness, and love--and they shall overcome all the hordes of Evil, "by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony"!
(6) Consider Gideon
"Israel was greatly impoverished" because of the Midianites, and cried unto God for a deliverer. In answer to their cry God raised up a man by the name of Gideon. Gideon was threshing grain by (or 'in') the winepress in order to hide it from the Midianites, when the angel of the LORD greeted him with strange words:
"The LORD is with thee, thou mighty man of valor" (Judg. 6:12) God knew Gideon's problem. He knew that Gideon was filled with fear because of the enemy. He knew he was but a weak man in one of the poorest families of Manasseh. He knew that Gideon was the least, and not the greatest, in his father's house. Just the qualities that God was looking for! And so the angel said,
"Go in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel" (vs. 14) His strength was not to be in his own resources, but in his weakness. And the fact that God SENT him would be the only authority and power he needed.
We all know the story... how God had to whittle down the original army of 32,000 men to a handful of 300. Beloved, why can we not learn from the multitude of witnesses, in both the Old Testament and the New... that strength is not in numbers, that riches consist not of silver and gold, that wisdom proceeds from the way of the Cross, and not from the halls of learning?
Gideon demobilized his army at the command of the LORD, by ordering all the fearful ones to go home. He was left with only 10,000 men. These were all anxious for battle; but God said, "The people are yet too many". God took the matter in His own hands and sent another 9,700 home... discharged them from the army of the Lord! And for what reason? Perhaps many of them wondered why, when they were so anxious to fight for the LORD. Whatever the reason was for the discharge of these 9,700 soldiers, I think God would have us know that in the very ordinary things of life, in and about our daily tasks and occupations, we are being tested and tried of the Lord every day, and we are not always aware of it. They were just down at the water quenching their thirst; but God was watching from Heaven, and trying their hearts, and they did not know it! There is something else very significant. God said if He used the whole multitude, then Israel would take some of the glory. So we know that when God hand-picked these 300 men, He knew they would not take any glory for the victory He would give them. God knew He would get all the glory!
God who searcheth the hearts of men is marking His own for involvement in the battle of the Lord, according to His own requirements of faithfulness, obedience, and submission to His will. His standard of judgment is this: "He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in that which is much". Do not expect to be commissioned to a post of duty in the army of the Lord if there is indifference or slothfulness or unfaithfulness or dishonesty in your menial day by day tasks at home or at work... unfaithfulness to your employer, or to your employee, cheating, lying, robbing your fellow-citizens by falsifying tax returns. And we could go on and on in this. Paul observed that there was one requirement of a steward... he must be found faithful. And Jesus said if a man could not be trusted in his dealings with mammon, the fading wealth of this life, God could not trust him with the true riches.
God chose the 300, not to show how mighty they were; but to demonstrate that in the weakness of man He Himself would be glorified. With a lamp, and a pitcher, and a trumpet, they went forth to battle. That was all they needed, because the battle was the LORD's. And so Paul says,
"We have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us" (2 Cor. 4:7).
A lamp within the pitcher. But the pitcher had to be broken that the light might shine forth. And then the trumpet sound of God's Word went forth: "The Sword of the LORD and of Gideon..."
The enemy was routed in utter confusion, and actually destroyed themselves. God's battle strategy against the enemy is to throw them into confusion. "Every man's sword was against his fellow, even throughout all the host" (Judg. 7:22) Satan has effectively used this strategy by bringing division and confusion into the midst of God's people; but all this will be reversed in the Day of the LORD.
The hosts of Satan tremble, and are thrown into a confused state of self-destruction when they are confronted with a people walking in the obedience of Christ, in the way of the Cross!
(7) Consider Jehoshaphat
A great multitude of the children of Ammon, and of Moab, and of Mount Seir had assembled together to strike at Jerusalem. Immediately this humble king assembled the people and the priests together and earnestly sought the Lord for help and guidance. Jehoshaphat stood before all the people and cried out to the Lord for help, ending his fervent prayer with a very NEGATIVE (?) confession:
"For we have no might against this great company that cometh against us; neither know we what to do: BUT OUR EYES ARE UPON THEE" (2 Chron. 20:12) Once again, the people of God were totally helpless. They did not know what to do!
Dear ones, God wants us to know in the day of sudden calamity, in the day of sudden fear, when we know we have no might against the enemy, when we know not what to do, the secret of our victory is this: "Our eyes are upon Thee..." God does not hesitate to expose His chosen ones in their utter weakness before the hordes of the enemy, because He is their Deliverer. And He rises up on their behalf when they cry: "Lord, our eyes are upon Thee..."
Suddenly the spirit of prophecy came upon a certain Levite of the sons of Asaph, and he stood and revealed the exact location of the enemy. Then he gave the people of God explicit instructions as to what they were to do. It was not just a case of every man in Israel doing what he could. Confess it! Break all the rules of the success books, and confess it! "Lord, I don't know what to do!" Then if we can settle our hearts and wait upon Him, He will show us what to do. Here again the battle was to be the Lord's.
"Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the LORD" (2 Chron. 20:17) And the whole congregation fell before the LORD, and worshipped.
How we long for those days when the Spirit of God will come upon His priesthood in the earth, and they shall stand and give forth a clear word from the Lord! Words from the Lord that will penetrate the hearts of His people, convicting the erring ones, breaking the stubborn will, revealing the strategy of the Enemy, and causing the unbelievers to fall down on their face and cry out to God for mercy! (See 1 Cor. 14:24, 25).
Beloved, we are going to see those days... when God's people get involved with his ways, and begin walking in the pathway of obedience, and hearing what the Spirit is saying to the churches. The Lord has been faithful to enrich His people with spiritual gifts and enablements. These enablements are like the faculties of the human body: eyes to see what God is revealing, ears to hear what God is saying, hands to do and perform what God is doing. Too often has there been a very mechanical operation of the gifts, because people are taught "how to do it". But as God's people are nurtured with truth, the gift they have from God will issue forth in the beauty of His Life. We really do not have to teach our children how to see, and how to hear, and how to breathe--though they will require certain guidance as these faculties unfold in their lives. When you hear a prophesy it is generally not too difficult to discern whether God has spoken, or if the one speaking has been taught HOW to prophesy. Amos said he could not help but prophesy, because he heard from God--and as one is filled with fear when the lion roars, so he says, "I have to prophesy, because the Lord GOD hath spoken" (See Amos 3:8).
What happened in Jehoshaphat's battle? The battle was the LORD's, so they sent singers before the army, singing "Praise the LORD; for His mercy endureth for ever!" And once again the enemies of God destroyed themselves. All Israel had to do was go out and gather the spoils! Then enemies of the Lord fight and destroy one another when God's people walk in His ways!
You cannot imitate victory marches like that. Here was a people faced with utter destruction. They assembled together and sought God. They openly confessed they did not know what to do. But when they sought God with all their hearts, He gave them a clear word of direction, and they had nothing to do but to praise God for His intervention and gather the spoils of victory!
(8) Consider Hezekiah
Hezekiah was a good king; and upon coming to the throne of Judah his first concern was to restore the worship and the glory of God's temple... and God gave them a great revival.
The first thing he did was to "open the doors of the house of the LORD and repair them" (2Chron. 29:3) Priests and Levites were assembled together at Jerusalem to begin the task of cleansing the temple of God. There was a battle coming, and God knew that. Why did He not get them involved in military training camps? Because God's armor is the "armor of light", and therefore His first concern was for His temple. The temple had to be cleansed, or there would be defeat in battle. It is time God's people understood this.
God wants truth in the inward parts. This is the day of the cleansing of God's house. Not a mere outward, legalistic sort of thing... but a deep, penetrating work of the Spirit of God in hearts and lives. When God cleanses and changes the hearts of men, then the outside will be clean too.
The burnt offering had to be restored. The hearts of men had to be laid on the altar, and totally exposed to the fires of God.
"And when the burnt offering began, the song of the LORD began also..." (vs. 27) There are lots of nice songs in the Church today, and a lot of good professional music. But "the song of the LORD" is entirely different: songs of the Spirit are songs that penetrate the heart and produce a brokenness, and a sense of awesomeness because of the presence of God. You don't really hear the SONG OF THE LORD until there is a burnt offering, a complete yielding to God, a sacrifice of a broken and contrite spirit.
Next comes Divine order. "So the service of the house of the LORD was set in order" (vs. 35) Generally this is first on our agenda: Get it well organized with a building, a well structured leadership, and have it all ready for God to move in. And so we have man's order, which soon ends in another Babel--disorder, division, and strife. God's order is based upon a people drawn together by the Holy Spirit, coming to fullness of commitment and sacrifice, and offering themselves willingly unto the Lord.
Soon the revival spread to other parts of the land. Messengers went forth from Jerusalem to the various towns and villages, inviting the people to come to Jerusalem to keep the passover, and to turn again to the Lord. Some mocked and laughed the messengers to scorn. Others humbled themselves, and came and sought the Lord. Healings began to take place (though we are not told the names of any who ministered the healing!). The hearts of the people were open for the Word, and teachers were raised up to lead the people of God in His ways. The final outcome of it all was JOY. There was "great joy in Jerusalem". This was far different from the trumped up joy that men are trying to manufacture in our churches today. There is nothing like the joy of the Holy Spirit... the joy that proceeds from a people who are brought low at His feet because of the burnt offering, and who wait before Him in humility and contrition of heart, and begin to learn of Him and walk in His ways.
Next came the breaking down of the images and high places of idolatry that abounded in the land. I wonder just how many idols we are going to discover when God begins to judge His house, and search out His people with the seven flaming eyes of the Spirit of God! May God continue this great work that He has begun in the earth, that His Temple (the Church) might be restored, and the people of God cleansed and purified and enriched with all the glorious provisions of His grace! And let us not be deterred from this vision by ignorant teachers who scoff: "These people are sitting around trying to get perfect, instead of getting out there and working for God".
The Day of the LORD is at hand, and that's what this great preparation is all about. The Enemy has devised a wicked plot to destroy the people of God in one massive blow, and if God's Temple is not cleansed and His people consecrated on the altar of burnt offering, we are not going to survive the burnings of that great day. And so we read,
"After these things, and the establishment thereof, Sennacherib king of Assyria came, and entered into Judah, and encamped against the fenced cities, and thought to win them for himself" (2 Chron. 32:1).
But Jerusalem was ready for them. They did not feel they were ready, and it brought great fear into the hearts of all. But in their commitment to the Lord they had penetrated the very heavens. How we seek to emphasize that it is only as the people of God become KNOWN IN THE HEAVENS AND RECOGNIZED BEFORE THE THRONE, that they are going to know victory over the onslaughts of the Evil One down here.
What did Hezekiah do in the hour of such great distress and peril? He sent a message to Isaiah the prophet in which he confessed (and once again it seemed like a very negative confession): "This is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy: for the children are come to the birth, and there is not strength to bring forth" (2 Kgs 19:3) It seemed to Hezekiah that all the good things God had done for them, and the revival they had known, were about to end in disaster. "No strength to bring forth!" Now Hezekiah means "Jah is Strength", but Hezekiah had none of his own, and there was none in Israel. But the secret of their victory would rest in this very fact... that they were helpless, and they knew it... and that God was their sufficiency. Hezekiah received a long, threatening letter from Sennacherib's general, which amounted to this simple ultimatum: "Surrender or else!" Hezekiah had no answer to send back. So he took the letter to the temple, and "spread it out before the Lord". He said, "Lord, you read this... I don't know what to do about it". Hezekiah had touched the throne. I know we are exhorted: "We must pray more... we must intercede more...!" Very true. But all this will amount to nothing if the hearts of the people have not turned back to God, if the Temple is not being cleansed, if the burnt offering of total commitment to God is not ascending before the Lord from broken and contrite hearts. The people of God had penetrated the Heavens, and were recognized by the armies of Heaven, and God would soon reveal what He was going to do. The battle was the LORD's!
Isaiah sent back to Hezekiah the assurance that God had heard their cries, and gave Rabshakeh the answer that Hezekiah was unable to give. It was a scathing denunciation of Sennacherib and all his armies, and he concluded the letter by saying,
"I (the LORD) will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David's sake. And it came to pass that night, that the Angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and fourscore and five thousand" (2 Kgs 19:34, 35) In school days we had a poem in our reader by the famous English poet Lord Byron, where he dramatically describes this great confrontation, and I would like to include it here:
THE DESTRUCTION OF SENNACHERIB
The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.
Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen;
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.
For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and forever grew still!
And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf.
And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail;
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.
And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal!
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!
(9) Consider Mordecai
Here we have one of the clearest examples of how God enables His people to take away the panoply from the Enemy. We find it in the Book of Esther, where God's Name is nowhere expressly mentioned, but everywhere revealed.
Haman the exalted Prince of Persia had an unsatiated hatred for Mordecai the Jew, who used to sit at the king's gate. Haman had already succeeded in getting the King's signature on an edict to wipe the Jews from the face of the earth, and the day was set. But he just couldn't wait all those months to get rid of Mordecai, the one Jew that tormented him just by his very presence. Mordecai, however, had been a good man in his captivity, not the least rebellious because of his fate, and he had even saved the king's life on one occasion. For this he had received no recognition, not even from the king. But as God's people began to get concerned about their fate, and set their faces to seek God with prayer and fasting, God began to move on their behalf. God has never had any problem dealing with kings and dictators. One angel from Heaven could liquidate any of them at a moment's notice. God's problem has always been with His people, because they are His children, and He desires to nurture them in His ways. From them He requires obedience, submission to His will, and that they learn His ways. And so the LORD troubled the king on his bed at night, and he could find no rest. Finally he called for the royal diary, and had one of his servants read it to him by the light of a lamp. He seemed to have the feeling that something might have happened in his kingdom that he had neglected to look into, and perhaps this was making him restless. Sure enough! "Would you repeat that last sentence please...!" There was the reason he could not sleep! The man Mordecai had saved his life, and he (the king) had forgotten all about it. Immediately he went to sleep.
But not for long. By now it was early morning. Haman in the meantime had been very busy erecting a gallows in his back-yard, upon which he was going to hang Mordecai, and all he needed now was the king's signature. Just a minor detail, of course, but it was necessary. But as he came into the king's court with that little piece of paper in his hand, the king got in the first word, because he knew he must not delay this matter any longer. He must do something noble to Mordecai the Jew.
"There is a certain man in my kingdom that I must honor," said the king to Haman. "What would you suggest?" Haman felt sure he was the man the king had in mend, because he had received so many royal honors of late, so it wasn't hard to think up a real good one.
"Why not clothe the man with your own royal garments," he said to the king, "and put your crown on his head, and set him on your royal horse; then have one of your favorite nobles lead the horse through the city, and proclaim before all the people standing by... Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honor." (See Esth. 6:9) "A very good suggestion," said the king; "Now you are my favorite noblemen. Go and do to Mordecai the Jew everything that you have suggested. Be sure you don't leave out anything that you have mentioned... right down to the last little detail".
That little piece of paper that he had in his hand for the king to sign... well, he just crumpled it up and slipped it in his pocket. And Haman went out and did exactly what the king had ordered. Then he put the horse away, and went home and cried on his wife's shoulder. With that intuition that women often have, immediately she cautioned him that perhaps the tables were turning... perhaps his days were numbered! Haman was beginning to lose his armor. If the hearts of God's people have been prepared, when they come into open confrontation with the enemy they are going to discover that he begins to weaken even before the battle begins. When His people begin to walk with Him, God simply takes the wise in their own craftiness, and the pit that they have dug for the child of God... they fall into it themselves.
Still, it was a very dark hour for the people of God. The unalterable edict of Haman hang heavily over the heads of every Jew in the 127 provinces of Persia. But God had chosen Esther to be another key in this whole situation, though she did not realize it when she was appointed to be the queen. She was Mordecai's cousin and Mordecai had raised her like his own daughter. Esther had been chosen by the king from among many contestants, to replace the former queen who had been dismissed from royalty for insubordination. Mordecai reminded her that perhaps she had come into a place of royal favour just for this very critical occasion.
Mordecai, concerned about the fate of his people, sat mourning at the king's gate clothed in sackcloth. All Jewry was in a state of mourning, and prayer, and fasting. There seemed to be no way out. But God ordained it this way, so He could make a way where there was no way, and thereby bring greater glory to Himself. God ordains the dead-ends in our walk with God, and brings us to places of great crisis, that when we get there we might find God. God wants us to understand this, because we may be assured that the "god of this world" is determined to wipe God's people off the face of the earth. And the time may well come, in the not-too-distant future, when this will appear to be a very imminent possibility. God wants us to know in that hour that He is still the God of Israel, the God of Esther, and the God of Mordecai.
Esther was persuaded by her cousin to take the bold, yet very timid step into the king's presence to intercede for her people. Neither the king nor Haman knew that she was a Jewess, for Mordecai had warned her to keep this a secret. Esther knew that if the king did not extend the royal sceptre to her when she walked into his presence, it meant sudden execution for her. This law applied to everyone who was not specifically called to come in, whether it was the queen, or the caretaker. But God had heard the cries of His people; and as she stepped into the presence of the king, immediately he held forth the golden sceptre of acceptance. She then requested the king's presence at a banquet that she would prepare. During this first banquet, she requested that both the king and Haman would accept an invitation to another banquet on the next day. Of course Haman was delighted to have been so highly honored by the queen, and told his wife when he got home how well everything was going.
But it was a different story when the banquet got underway. Esther openly condemned Haman as the wicked prince who had devised the whole plot to destroy her people. The king was furious. Haman was petrified. And as the king paced back and forth in a rage, wondering what to do with Haman... one of his servants reminded him that Haman's gallows were still standing in Haman's back-yard, still unused, still operational. The king commanded, "Hang Haman on his own gallows."
Little did Haman realize, when he built the gallows, that one day he himself would hang from the top of it. Little did Satan realize, when he finally got Jesus on the Cross, that he (Satan himself) would hang from that Cross in total destruction, along with all his principalities and powers; and that it was there that the Son of God had triumphed over him. (See Col. 2:14, 15; Heb. 2:14, 15) God wants us to know that any device of Satan to harm that one who is walking in the obedience of the Cross, God will turn it into his own destruction.
If ever there was a book that might be called the Book of Irony, it is the Book of Esther. Haman was hanged on the gallows which he had erected for Mordecai, and Mordecai was given the princely office left vacant by Haman's destruction. Be assured of this, beloved, when "the accuser of the brethren" loses his foothold in heavenly places, there is an overcoming manchild, a royal priesthood, to take his place. And the authority that the Enemy uses to harass and torment the people of God becomes the authority of God's chosen priesthood to bring healing and deliverance and peace to God's people.
But how would Mordecai go about the royal task of saving the people from the Edict of Haman? He could not cancel the law outright, because the laws of the Medes and Persians were unalterable; and everybody knew that not even the king dared to tamper with that cornerstone of the judicial system.
But another decree was issued, which gave authority to every Jew in the 127 provinces of Persia (an empire that reached all the way down to India) to stand for his life, and to destroy his would-be destroyer, on the very same day that Haman had decreed to bring about their total annihilation. Then when that fearful day approached, God Himself came on the scene and began to put confusion into the ranks of the enemy. If God's people understood the Day of the LORD, they would cease dreading that day and would stop looking for a way out of it. It is the day when all the forces of Evil are assembled at God's appointment to battle with the forces of God and Righteousness. And God's people are arrayed with the Armor of Light to bring them to nought.
God put such a fear and trembling into the hearts of their enemies that many of these Gentiles became Jews, and allied themselves with the people of God. Every time God's enemies bring forth some evil decree or device against the people of God, God simply turns it to their own destruction, as His people learn to walk in the pathway of obedience and in the wisdom of the Cross. Suddenly the Day of Doom was transformed into what the Bible describes as a Day of Joy! "The Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day" (Esth. 8:17).
Chapter 5 - Discerning Good and Evil
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