Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
1 Chronicles 5 devotes a relatively large amount of space to an incident that happened during King Saul’s reign. It involved the sons of Reuben, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh waging war with a people identified as “the Hagrites, Jehur, Naphish, and Nodab” (18-19). The contested area of land was east of the Jordan River in the territory allotted to the Israelites mentioned in verse 18. At least some of the people they fought seem descended from Hagar and Ishmael. The focus was on the large land grab made by these Israelites in battle. They won this war in terms of spoil (21) and casualties (21-22).
Today, we wage war of a very different type. New Testament writers describe it. It is not according to the flesh, but is intense nonetheless (2 Cor. 10:3-5). It is a fight of faith (1 Tim. 1:18). It is against world and spiritual forces necessitating our adorning spiritual armor of God (Eph. 6:10ff). We can feel overmatched and overwhelmed by this enemy. What can help us stay in the fight? There are four statements back in 1 Chronicles 5:18-22 that we can legitimately apply to our spiritual warfare today. Will you remember these?
You Will Be Helped (20).
The chronicler says this of the Israelites. “They were helped against them,” and it is implied in this verse that their help came from above. There is no way we could overcome the world (1 John 4:4; 5:4) without Divine help. God gives His help generously, gently, and graciously (Jas. 1:5). He tells us that all we need to do is ask (cf. Mat. 7:7). God’s help is THE difference-maker!
Cry Out To God In The Battle (20).
If we are striving to be faithful, we will be in a battle. What can be done? These Israelites were helped because they cried out to God in the midst of the strife. I love how Paul says it to the Philippians: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:6-7). Don’t neglect prayer in the thick of the fight. Paul follows up his description of our spiritual armor, urging “all prayer and petition…at all times” (Eph. 6:18).
God Answers Those Who Trust In Him (20).
To me, nothing is more beautiful to consider than an army bowed in prayer to God to help them. As a citizen of this nation, it is wonderful to consider our military filled with men and women doing that. But, the most beautiful picture of all has to be of God’s Holy Nation (1 Pet. 2:9) filled with spiritual warriors who so put their trust in God that they are constantly before His throne in prayerful petition. Revelation 8 describes in beautiful imagery how carefully and preciously He handles the prayers of the saints brought unto His throne. It is likened to sweet-smelling incense. God is a loving Father who is pleased when His children demonstrate trust in His leadership and guidance. The promise of Scripture is that those who trust in Him are delivered and are not disappointed (Ps. 22:4-5).
Understand The War Is Of God (22).
We often sing, “The battle belongs to the Lord.” This passage tells us why the enemy was slain. “The war was of God.” The result was that they settled in their place until the exile, which was over 300 years later. As great as that was, we stand to experience a far greater victory. God disapproves of unworthy battles–“foolish and ignorant speculations, knowing that they produce quarrels” (2 Tim. 2:23), “foolish controversies” that “are unprofitable and worthless” (Tit. 3:9), or quarrels and conflicts that are fueled by our giving into the sins of our flesh (Js. 4:1ff). Be careful not to be a foot soldier carrying out the agenda of the foe. But if we are on the Lord’s side, we can be assured that He will gain the victory and we’ll be fighting on the winning side.
Maybe we wonder why God recorded events like this in Scripture. It certainly shows His mind, nature, and power. But it also helps us understand His point of view and His desire in our lives today. The church has “Hagrites” to face. You and I have our own “Hagrites” to battle. How they won is how we’ll win. May the song on our hearts and lips ever be, “Faith is the victory that overcomes the world!”