Now these are the nations that the LORD left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before. (Judges 3.1-2)
What sort of wars were these? Were these wars primarily physical battles or spiritual encounters? Why would we even care today? Sure, they are important historical truths encapsulated in that precious book we call the Holy Bible, but really what do those fights have to do with us?
We are not Israel, it is said. We are not living in Canaan, it is thought. Would it surprise you to realize that the fights that we witness in the past through these biblical accounts were not physical battles fought over the promise land. Nor were these skirmishes limited to the spiritual conquest of one people’s God over all others gods and goddesses. The fact remains that the fighting we witness in Canaan was both a physical and spiritual war.
An unfortunate reality has settled on the hearts/minds of the modern Church today. There is presented to members of the faith a false dichotomy of the spiritual versus physical realms. Tell me, how did the Lord God create us? Are we not both at the same time spiritual and physical beings. Persons that have flesh and bone, and yet at the same time a spiritual nature living within us.
Of course, such thinking has become taboo to some extent in what many like to identify as a scientific age. Cut us open and what do you see? To the psychologist or sociologist all that we are as human beings is seated in that three-pound mass within our skulls called a brain. No evidence of a spirit, therefore a spirit we do not have. Then again a spirit by its very nature lacks physical properties (cf. John 4.24; 2Cor 3.17). Our consciences, our rational thoughts, our emotions, etc. are not material things. We see and feel the actions of such things, but no one has ever looked at them or dissected them in the lab. Human beings for all that we are, we are not limited to matter in motion.
In the beginning God created us as both creatures of the physical realm with a spiritual essence, and He did so in order that we might represent His glory throughout the world. Therefore, every act, every thought, every word is intended to reflect the invisible Creator God; all of life is both physical and spiritual. “Okay,” you ask, “why the text above?” I’m glad you asked.
In the coming weeks, I will be discussing the Flood recorded in the book of Genesis. This will be in response to a few skeptical remarks I have heard by professing believers and skeptics alike. One such individual made the offhanded remark that God must have failed in His purpose for sending it, for it was not too long after Noah and his wife, and his sons and their wives got off the boat that they began sinning again. The assumption is that God was starting over to rid the world of evil, but He evidently failed in His goal.
God didn’t fail. That’s a fact, but we do fail in seeing the big picture. There are several deep truths revealed in the deluge of that period in human history. The one that I want to fix your attention on today is inheritance. The Lord gave a very clear example of what He expects of His creatures, and the dire consequences of sin. He also demonstrated who He intends to inherit this earth…His people. “The meek shall inherit the earth” (Matt 5.5).
Think about this for a moment, who did God create this world for? His people.
This is first demonstrated in the garden with our foreparents, and it is lastly promised in Revelation where we are told “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Rev 21.3). Throughout Scripture God demonstrates time and time again that He is longsuffering with sin and evil for His people (cf. 2Pet 3.9). He also explains that our purpose for being is to exercise dominion over the earth (Gen 1.26, 28), for this is how we glorify Him in word, thought and deed.
The Purpose of the Canaanite Conquest
When Israel entered into Canaan they were exercising godly dominion. Pagan’s were in the land, they had been there for generations but their time was up. Just as the Flood came in judgment against sinful people, so too was judgment coming against those who purposefully and willfully rebelled against the God who had given them life. This promise delivered to Abram (Abraham) was fulfilled in the generation of Joshua:
- Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. (Josh 21.43-45; italics added).
And yet, we read the passage at the head of this post that God left pagans in the land to test His people who were not trained in war. They were to physically drive out that which was considered abominations before the Lord. Things that we rightly identify as spiritual issues, but the physical actions are which are known as sins. The Israelites as God’s representatives were sent in as cultural marauders; minus the negative connotation we often associate with that word.
Failure to Follow Through
One of the glaring sins present in the book of Judges however was that rather than humbly submitting to the Lord as King they lived as if they had no king over them: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judg 17.6; 21.25). Rather than confront the sinful culture before them, they married themselves to it. Thus, they were rightfully seen as adulterers before the Lord; unfaithful servants of the One True King.
The reward for their unfaithfulness to God was enslavement to a pagan culture. Eventually, overtime they began to cry out for aid. A generation would rise up that would identify their sin and beg for mercy from their God. In response, God would deliver them by raising up a judge (equivalent of a civil magistrate) who would lead them in the fight against the enslaving culture and God’s people would once again inherit the land for a season. Of course, if you’ve read the book of judges you will know that this cycle repeated itself over and over again until the time of Samuel who helped usher in the age of kings in Israel. Even then, if we read our biblical history we see that physical/spiritual battle ensued over and over again.
Our Current Dilemma: Whats this have to do with Us?
“Yes, Kris…that is all well and good, and probably true, but what does that have to do with us?” Uhm…EVERYTHING!
- Question: Do we have a King? As Christians do we have a King over us? Or are we justified in doing what is right in our own eyes? (Yes, yes, I realize that is more than one question).
- Answer: Yes, absolutely! Do we not say “Jesus is my Lord and Savior?” Do we not call Jesus, the Christ? Are you unaware that the name Christ (Messiah, the Hebrew equivalent) means the “anointed one of God…the King?”
“Yes, but Kris we are not called to exercise godly dominion, the dominion mandate was done away with at the fall.” Really? Can you turn me to the text(s) that state this is so, or is this merely an opinion that you possess either from tradition or desire? If the Bible has not nullified this command given at our beginning, then why would we be so foolish to assume that it no longer applies to us.
“Yes, but we are not Israel.” Oh…so God expected them to act one way, but He expects us to act another. Where is that taught to us in God’s Word? If the Bible has not taught us this, then why would we be so foolish to adopt this mindset.
Here are the facts as I see them, and I welcome any arguments to the contrary.
- Jesus is rightfully called the Christian’s Lord and Savior, and as such He is our King. To Him we do owe our fealty.
- The world is God’s creation and He intends to give it to His people who are faithful to Him and reflect His glory throughout. Like Israel we are faced with living in a culture that is naturally hostile to our Lord, our God.
- And, like Israel we are faced with the same choice: Live for God and confront the culture with the truth, or embrace what we know to be false and therefore in opposition against our Lord.
Either way a difficult way is before us. We may not have chosen our current situation, nonetheless it is upon us whether we will it or not. We continue to live like Lot with our heads in the sand, hoping someone rescues us all the while experience the judgment of our refusal to enter the fray. Or we can stand for the Lord and be hated by the world. Our generation may not see the full fruit of faithful labor, but perhaps our children or their children will. Either way we are left with this charge:
- “And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’” (Matt 28.18-20; italics added).
Those are our Christian marching orders, but here is how they are played out practically in confronting the culture:
- “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” (2Cor 10.3-5; emphasis added).
Notice that he does not say we do not wage war, but that our weapons of warfare are not physical. Yet, we fight every argument, every lofty opinion of men according to their traditions/philosophies, attacking their strongholds in order to bring them to obedience to Jesus Christ. Though our warfare is not fought with physical weapons it does have physical ramifications. Just as our failure to obey our King has physical ramifications today (e.g. unjust taxes, improperly defined marital unions and gender confusion, an influx of false religions, insurmountable debt, educational tyranny, etc.).
In short, if you understand the analogy we have Canaanites in the land that because of our refusal to fight as faithful soldiers for Christ (as a holy priesthood should) who have a cultural stranglehold on us. Not only do we defame Christ’s Name by refusing to enter the public sphere, but we enslave our children to tyranny.
For this reason I am thankful for faithful men and women of God who risk all (carrying their cross) for Jesus Christ; such as Justin Hoke from Weed, California who as a faithful minister of the gospel has endured great persecution from the very flock that he was trying to faithfully lead.
Praise God that He still has such servants in this nation; in this world. May we likewise continue the good fight, contending for the faith which has been entrusted to us (Jude 1.3; cf. Tit 1.9). May the Lord grant His children the courage and boldness to speak on every issue and to be silent on none (cf. Josh 1.6-9; Acts 4.29).
 This type of dominion is to be expressed in the three covenantal branches that God has established: family, Church and state. The representative heads (father, elder and magistrate) in all three institutions are intended to exercise godly dominion in all that they do.
 In case someone would like to claim that this was unfair to the inhabitants of the land that Israel somehow stole it from them, know this all the earth is the Triune Creator God’s and He has the sovereign right to give it to whom He pleases. Those that rebel against the Lord do so on borrowed time because He allows it, but at the same time He promises that such individuals will not inherit the good that God has promised. This is true temporally and eternally. Turn to Leviticus 18, 20 and Deuteronomy 18:9-14 to see many of the sins that were condemned by God, and were justifications for Him vomiting them out of the land giving the inheritance of the land (earth) to those who were zealous for God’s holiness.
 “And they [your seed] shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.” When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.’” (Gen 15.16-21)
 I realize that if you have a different eschatological bent than I do, you may think that this is the terminal generation, but I’m not convinced. Either way, we are called to live for the Lord which means to be a faithful spur in the side of a culture that promotes hateful rhetoric and sanctions against our God and His people.
 Or to use another analogy from Scripture: our swords have been beaten into plowshares and our spears into pruning hooks (cf. Isa 2.4). No longer does God send His people out into the world to fight physical battles, for we have become seed sowers—spiritual farmers if you will (cf. Mark 4.3-20)—and yet our onward progress of cultural destruction towards cultural enlightenment is consistent with one who breaks up fallow ground removing the debris in order to get to the good soil of life (cf. Jer 4.3; Hos 10.12)