God is love

The LORD’s relationship with the children of Israel is made clear in the book of Deuteronomy where the terms of the covenant that God made with his chosen people is spelled out in great detail. Deuteronomy 7:6-8 states:

“For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”

One of the key characteristics of the LORD’s relationship with the Israelites was that God chose them and considered them to be his treasured possession. The Hebrew word bachar (baw-kharˊ) is “a verb whose meaning is to take a keen look at, to prove, to choose. It denotes a choice, which is based on a thorough examination of the situation and not an arbitrary whim” (H977).

The Hebrew word that is translated treasured possession in Deuteronomy 7:6, sᵉgullah (seg-ool-lawˊ) is “a feminine noun meaning a personal possession, a special possession, property. This noun is used only six times, but it gives one of the most memorable depictions of the Lord’s relationship to His people and the place established for them. The primary meaning of the word theologically is its designation ‘unique possession.’ God has made Israel His own unique possession (Exodus 19:5). Israel holds a special position among the nations of the world, although all nations belong to the Lord. Israel’s position, function, character, responsibility, and calling create its uniqueness (Deuteronomy 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; Psalm 135:4)” (H5459).

Deuteronomy 7:8 indicates that it is because the LORD loves his chosen people that he brought them out of Egypt and redeemed them from the house of slavery. God’s love caused him to do something for the Israelites that he hadn’t done before, redeem people from the consequences of their sins. The concept of redemption is centered on the payment of a debt. Leviticus 25:47-55 explains the concept of redemption in the context of a poor man that sells himself into slavery. It states:

“If a stranger or sojourner with you becomes rich, and your brother beside him becomes poor and sells himself to the stranger or sojourner with you or to a member of the stranger’s clan, then after he is sold he may be redeemed. One of his brothers may redeem him, or his uncle or his cousin may redeem him, or a close relative from his clan may redeem him. Or if he grows rich he may redeem himself. He shall calculate with his buyer from the year when he sold himself to him until the year of jubilee, and the price of his sale shall vary with the number of years. The time he was with his owner shall be rated as the time of a hired worker. If there are still many years left, he shall pay proportionately for his redemption some of his sale price. If there remain but a few years until the year of jubilee, he shall calculate and pay for his redemption in proportion to his years of service. He shall treat him as a worker hired year by year. He shall not rule ruthlessly over him in your sight. And if he is not redeemed by these means, then he and his children with him shall be released in the year of jubilee. For it is to me that the people of Israel are servants. They are my servants whom I brought out of the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

The Year of Jubilee occurred once every fifty years and began on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 25:8-9). Leviticus 25:9-10 states, “On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.”

A key prophecy of the prophet Isaiah had to do with the Year of Jubilee. Isaiah 61:1-2 states, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LROD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn.” Jesus paraphrased this passage of scripture when he spoke in the synagogue at Nazareth where he grew up. Afterward, Luke’s gospels states, “And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke 4:20-21). Jesus connected the proclamation of the Year of Jubilee with the preaching of the gospel in order to show that the liberty that was intended for God’s chosen people was the freedom from spiritual death. Jesus told a man named Nicodemus:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

The kind of love that motivated God to give his only Son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world is known as agapao (ag-ap-ahˊ-o). This word is broader in its meaning than phileo (fil-ehˊ-o), the kind of love that is expressed through sentiment or feeling (G5368). Agapao embraces “the judgment and the deliberate assent of the will as a matter of principle, duty and propriety.” Phileo implies an instinctive, affectionate attachment; but agapao of a sentiment based on judgment and adulation, which selects its object for a reason (G26).

The Apostle John used the word agapao in his statement, “Beloved, let us love one another; for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:7). John indicated that love is a part of God’s essential nature and therefore, it should be present in all those who have been born into his spiritual family. The Greek word that John used in his declaration, “God is love,” is agape (ag-ahˊ-pay). Agape is sometimes referred to as Christian love. “Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered…it expresses the deep and constant love and interest of a perfect Being towards entirely unworthy objects, producing and fostering a reverential love in them towards the Giver, a practical love towards those who are partakers of the same, and a desire to help others to seek the Giver” (G26).

John expounded on Jesus’ statement that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16) by explaining the reason for God’s sacrifice. John said, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). The Greek word that is translated propitiation, hilasmos (hil-as-mosˊ) means “atonement” and signifies “an expiation, a means whereby sin is covered and remitted…Provision is made for the whole world, so that no one is, by divine predetermination, excluded from the scope of God’s mercy; the efficacy of the ‘propitiation,’ however is made actual for those who believe” (G2434). The Day of Atonement, which is described in detail in Leviticus chapter 16, was an annual event that involved the sacrifice of animals and sprinkling of blood on the mercy seat above the ark of the testimony in order to expiate the sins of the Israelites. On this day, the priest confessed all the sins of the people and put them on the head of a goat that was sent away into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:21-22), depicting the process whereby a Savior would one day take away the guilt and punishment of all sin completely by bearing it upon himself.

John concluded, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:11-12). The Greek word that John used that is translated perfected, teleioo (tel-i-oˊ-o) means “to complete, make perfect by reaching the intended goal” (G5048). John made it clear that God’s sacrifice of his only Son was intended to produce a chain reaction that would result in love being expressed around the world. When Jesus instructed his disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19), he was essentially telling them that they needed to replicate the process of propitiation everywhere so that God’s love could reach all the people it was intended for. 

God promised the Israelites that he would reward them for their obedience. God told them, “I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be slaves. And I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect” (Leviticus 26:11-13). God indicated that he had broken the bars of the Israelites’ yoke and made them walk erect. This seems to be a reference to God changing their destiny. The Hebrew word that is translated erect, qowmᵉmiyuwth (ko-mem-ee-yoothˊ) is derived from the word quwm (koom). “Sometimes quwm is used in an intensive mood to signify empowering or strengthening…It is also used to denote the inevitable occurrence of something predicted or prearranged” (H6965). An example of this is found in Genesis 28:11 where it says that Jacob “came to a certain place.”  After Jacob placed his head on a stone and fell asleep, it says in Genesis 28:12-13:

And he dreamed and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold the LORD stood above it and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and your offspring.”

Jacob’s encounter with God was a part of his plan to fulfill his promise to Abraham. Jacob was unaware of God’s presence in the land of Canaan until he came to a certain place. The place where Jacob spent the night was not only a geographic location, but a spiritual condition that made him open to God’s intervention in his life. Even though Jacob wanted God to take care of him, he was reluctant to make a commitment to the LORD at that point in time (Genesis 28:20-22).

During his ministry on earth, most of the people that Jesus encountered were unaware that he was God’s only son that had come to save the world, but the numerous miracles that he performed eventually made it clear to everyone that Jesus was Israel’s Messiah. In spite of this, Jesus was crucified and was even abandoned by his own disciples. John explained that Jesus’ ministry was being opposed by Satan’s demonic forces. John said:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4:1-4)

John used the term antichrist to describe the spiritual opponent that was trying to keep people from being saved. The Greek word antichristos (an-teeˊ-khris-tos) refers to “an imposter for the Messiah. Antichristos can mean either ‘against Christ’ or ‘instead of Christ,’ or perhaps, combining the two, ‘one who assuming the guise of Christ, opposes Christ and takes His place” (G500). John encouraged believers by stating, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

John addressed the issue of having assurance of salvation when he made it clear that anyone that has confessed Jesus as his or her Savior has been saved. John said, “By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him” (1 John 4:13-16). The Greek word that John used that is translated confesses, homologeo (hom-ol-og-ehˊ-o) was also used in 1 John 1:9 where it says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (emphasis mine). The base word of homologeo, homou (hom-ooˊ) means “at the same place or time” (G3674). In one sense, when we confess our sins, you might say that we are having a personal encounter with God. It is as if we are talking to Him directly and God acknowledges our communication by regenerating us from within.

John’s repetition of the statement, “God is love” (1 John 4:16) was probably meant to emphasize the fact that knowing God is all about being loved by him. John said, “By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:17-18). John described God’s love as perfect love. What that means is that God’s love is able to do exactly what it is intended to. God’s love is able to save us from our sins and to keep us from being condemned on the day when Jesus judges everyone based on his book of life (Revelation 20:12). The result of God’s love is that fear is cast out or you might say ejected from our bodies like an unwelcome guest. We have nothing to worry about because Jesus has once and for all reconciled us to God for all of eternity (Revelation 5:9-10).

Enemies

The enemies of the Israelites were primarily neighbors that lived in close proximity to the Promised Land. Initially, when the Israelites entered the Promised Land, they were instructed to drive out the inhabitants of the land that had no right to possess territory God had given to Abraham and his descendants. Due to disobedience and a lack of faith, the area where the Israelites dwelt was cohabitated by other relatives of Abraham, specifically, Lot’s sons Ammon and Moab and the descendants of Jacob’s brother Esau. Over time, wars between Israel and the surrounding nations became an ongoing pattern. Eventually, the Israelites stopped trying to separate themselves from the people that hated them.

Ezekiel received four prophetic messages concerning enemies of Israel that God intended to deal with in his judgment of the land. His first message was directed at Ammon to whom God said, “Because thou sadist, Aha, against my sanctuary, when it was profaned; and against the land of Israel, when it was desolate; and against the house of Judah, when they went into captivity…Behold therefore, I will stretch out mine hand upon thee, and will deliver thee for a spoil to the heathen; and I will cut thee off from the people, and I will cause thee to perish out of the countries: I will destroy thee; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD” (Ezekiel 25:3,7). The term “aha” can express surprise or grief, but in this instance, it most likely was meant as an expression of delight that the Israelites had gotten what they deserved.

Among Israel’s enemies was a group of people known as the Philistines. The Philistines occupied territory on the western coast of Israel and were notorious for allowing other conquering nations to access Jerusalem and Judah through their strongholds in the mountains. In particular, when the Assyrians came against Jerusalem, they came through the Philistine cities of Ashdod and Gath, straight toward the capital of Judah (Sennacherib’s Campaign Against Judah, 701 B.C.). In his prophecy against Philistia, Ezekiel foretold, “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Because the Philistines have dealt by revenge, and have taken vengeance with a despiteful heart, to destroy it for the old hatred;  therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will stretch out mine hand upon the Philistines, and I will cut off the Cherethims, and destroy the remnant of the sea coast” (Ezekiel 25:15-16).

As Judah’s destruction approached, it was evident that God intended to wipe out not only the areas of the nation that were occupied by his people, but also all the territory that had originally been given them as an inheritance. In the prophet Micah’s counsel of despair, the people were told the situation was hopeless. He said, “The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among man…Trust ye not a friend, put ye not confidence in a guide: keep the doors of thy mouth from her that lieth in thy bosom. For son dishonoureth the father, the daughter riseth up against her mother, the daughter in law against her mother in law: a man’s enemies are the men of his own house” (Micah 7:2, 5-6).

God keeps his promises

One of the characteristics of God’s perfection is his reputation. God is not the same as man in that he was not created. He is self-existent, he is entirely self-sufficient and not dependent or contingent upon anything else. Basically, what that means is that he does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and for the rest of eternity. Therefore, his character or attributes are constant and can be relied upon to be the same in every situation.

I believe the reason God took the time to develop a relationship with Abraham was so that he could establish his reputation in dealing with sinful man. Psalm 106 is a confession of Israel’s long history of rebellion and a prayer for God to once again save his people. It says in Psalm 106:8, “Nevertheless, he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known.”

God’s ability to do miraculous things is what sets him apart from every other being. That in and of itself is enough to qualify  him to be God, but it is not that he can do a miracle, God can do anything. His power is unlimited. Most people, even those that know God and have a personal relationship with him, are not aware of what God is capable of. God wanted Abraham and the rest of the world to know that he could do the impossible and when he made a promise, it was certain to be kept.

God promised Abraham that his descendants would dwell in the land known as Canaan. He even told Abraham ahead of time that his children would end up in slavery and God would deliver them. He even told Abraham the length of time they would be held in bondage (Genesis 15:13). In spite of the Israelites rebellion and lack of faith, God kept his promise and he will keep his promise to you too.

I’ve got to stop this

When the Israelites reached the Promised Land after wandering in the desert for 40 years, an alliance was formed between the tribes of Rueben and Gad and half of the descendants of Joseph that were born to his oldest son Manasseh. Each of these men, Rueben, Gad, and Manasseh, were first born children that had lost or not received the blessing that typically went to the first male child in a family. These tribes did not dwell in the Promised Land, but chose to occupy territory outside the borders on the other side of the Jordan River.

Even though they did not cross over the Jordan River with their brethren to occupy the land that they had inherited, they overcame the inhabitants of the territory they requested from Moses and were able to control the land until they were taken int captivity by the Assyrians. The difference between the tribes of Rueben, Gad, and Manasseh and the rest of the Israelites is that they did not return to their homes after their captivity.

The Israelites were taken into captivity because they did not observe the Sabbath as God had commanded them to. The law about the Sabbath recorded in Exodus 23:10-11 said, “And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and shalt gather in the fruits thereof: But the seventh year thou shalt let is rest and be still.” Although God is perfect, he is not a perfectionist. When he created our world, he limited himself to six days of word, then he ceased from his activity. God commanded man to follow his example because he knew that we would not want to stop producing of our own free will.

Man by nature is greedy and selfish. His drive to accomplish things and be successful makes it very difficult to stop working once he gets started. The main reason God stopped working after he created the world was so that he could do something else, go on the next thing so to speak. God is not sitting idle in heaven. He is working, a different kind of work than creating the universe.

The Sabbath was designed to be a transition point, a continual shifting of gears so that progress could be made. Instead of doing the same thing over and over, a person could stop one activity and start another. The Sabbath was intended to be like a period at the end of a sentence. Without the period, the sentence keeps going and eventually becomes confusing and illogical. Many people reach the end of their work life and wonder about their careers, why did I do that for so long; why didn’t I stop 20 years ago?

The captivity of Israel was a forced rest in which the people had to leave their homes and possessions and live in the territory of their captors. The purpose of their captivity was to refocus the Israelites attention on what really mattered, their relationship with God. During their captivity, the Israelites were no longer free to worship God and could not make sacrifices to him as they had in the Promised Land. They witnessed pagan rituals and were restricted from warfare.

It is not known why no organized return took place from the Assyrian captivity, but it may have been because the tribes of Rueben, Gad, and Manasseh never regained their focus. Without God’s blessing, these people lacked purpose and had no vision for their future. It is possible that once their work was interrupted by captivity, they could not start over and did not know how to do anything other than what they were told to in Assyria.

Although the Ruebenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh never returned, their land was repopulated by a mixed race of people that became known as the Samaritans. The Samaritans were despised by the Israelites and travel through their land was avoided at all costs, but during one of his trips to Galilee, Jesus passed through the land and stopped to talk to a woman that had come to draw water from Jacob’s well. During their conversation, “Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life: (John 4:13-14).

The Samaritan woman Jesus spoke to was stuck in the past. Jacob’s well had existed for hundreds of years and was a symbol of the prosperity he and his family enjoyed before the famine that drove them into Egypt for survival. Since then, Moses had delivered the Israelites from bondage and brought them to the Promised Land, and yet, the woman was still living a meager existence, struggling to survive. Jesus later revealed himself as the Messiah and let the woman know that her focus on the past had caused her to miss the most important event on God’s calendar.

Paul talks about entering into a permanent rest in Hebrews Chapter 4. “For we which have believed do enter into rest” (Hebrews 4:3). The rest that Paul is speaking of is not a result of our own effort, but Christ’s completed work on the cross. “God’s rest is entered when the believer is confidently assured within and outwardly lives peaceably in the assurance of God’s daily provision” (2663). This rest is prompted by a realization that we cannot reach perfection, that our own works will fall short and the only way to heaven is through Jesus Christ. “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his” (Hebrews 4:9-10).

Two sides to the story

As they say, there are always two sides to every story. In order for there to be a winner, there must be a loser. Even God has chosen a side. “As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:13). The enemies of Israel were not faceless, unknown people. They were the people that had been cursed by God. Beginning with Cain and Abel, there was an intentional effort to separate good from evil and in the end, there could be only one winner.

The struggle between good and evil started in the garden of Eden, but it was really the sons of Noah that determined the boundary lines. Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth were given the opportunity to start over after the flood. With a clean slate, they could have established a society where morality was the norm, but shortly after leaving the ark, sin began to creep in again.

“And Noah began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drunk of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without” (Gen 9:20-22). As a result of this incident, Noah cursed Canaan and said, “A servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren” (Gen 9:25).

“The sons of Ham; Cush, and Mizraim, Put, and Canaan” (1 Chronicles 1:8) populated the area known as the Promised Land, but it was primarily Canaan that was targeted when the descendants of Jacob came to take possession of the land.

Hundreds of years passed between the time when Ham uncovered his father’s nakedness and the Israelites moved into the Promised Land. It doesn’t seem fair that a curse should affect people so many generations later. Of course, the other side of the story is that Shem was blessed because he covered his father’s nakedness and Abraham happened to be his descendant, the one on whom the blessing eventually fell.

Sometimes I’ve wondered to myself, why was I born into a family that is so messed up? Why did my dad become an alcoholic? Why was I raped? Sometimes it seems like I must have been cursed. Then I think about being saved and all the wonderful things that have happened to me since I accepted Jesus as my savior and I realize how blessed I now am. I’ve lived both sides of the story. The good news is, thanks to Jesus, we get to choose which side we want to be on.

Don’t be a fool

God exists outside of time, therefore, the past, present, and future are all the same to him. He does not see things as a stream of events that occurs from one day to the next, but sees the entire picture of life as a whole, nothing is missing from his viewpoint.

David summarizes God’s viewpoint in Psalm 14. It begins with a description of man’s fallen condition:

The fool has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: There is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Psalm 14:1-3)

Some people may think that the Israelites were God’s chosen people because they were better than everyone else or that as a result of God choosing them they would become better than everyone else, but the truth is that they were just as corrupt as the rest of the world. There was no way for them to be different until Jesus came.

The course of the Israelites’ history is similar to every person’s that comes to know God in that the pathway from corruption to everlasting life always includes repentance. David ends Psalm 14 with the return to prosperity:

O that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! When the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad. (Psalm 14:7)

David says “when” the LORD bringeth back the captivity because it had not yet happened. David is not referring to the Israelites exodus from Egypt, but a future event that was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit. Psalm 14 presents God viewpoint from an Old Testament perspective. If all you had was Psalm 14, you would think that a return to prosperity was all there was to life. Just as death is not the end of life, a return from captivity is not all there is to God’s big picture of life.

The difference between God’s viewpoint and ours is that his extends into eternity. The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to see things from beginning to end so that life makes sense, but sometimes we are allowed to see beyond the end, or what appears to be the end, of life into eternity. David was given a glimpse into life beyond death and provides us with a snapshot of heaven in Psalm 16:

Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth, my flesh also shall rest in hope: For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path to life: In thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore. (Psalm 16:9-11)

God’s big picture viewpoint makes it possible for him to guide us through the obstacles of life and reach our final destination without having missed any of the milestones that are required for eternal existence. Since we know very little about eternity, there is no way we can prepare ourselves for it without God. That’s why it is only the fool who says in his heart, “There is no God” (Psalm 14:1).

The path of self destruction

When Saul took his sword and fell upon it (1 Samuel 31:4), it was the culmination of a long process of self destruction. It is hard to understand how a man anointed by God to be king of Israel could come to such an end, but it makes sense given that Saul was determined to keep David from inheriting the throne.

Saul made himself an enemy of God. In much the same way that Satan rebelled against God’s authority, Saul would not submit himself to God’s will and was a bad influence on everyone around him.

When Saul and his three sons were killed in battle, it says in 1 Samuel 31:7, “the men that were on the other side of the valley, and they that were on the other side Jordan, saw that the men of Israel fled, and that Saul and his sons were dead, they forsook the cities and fled; and the Philistines came and dwelt in them.” The word dwelt means that they took up residence there, the land became the Philistines possession.

As a result of their conquest, the Philistines became arrogant and gave tribute to their gods for the victory. This worst case scenario outcome probably caused more spiritual damage than anything else and was a turning point for the nation of Israel. King Saul’s reign proved to the people that no man was qualified to be their savior. It was God and God alone that could deliver them from the hands of their enemies and he was not going to until they acknowledged his kingship and rule over the nation.

God is faithful

The story of David and Goliath is one of the most well known of the Bible probably because it is taught in every Sunday school classroom and used as the primary example of courage in the Old Testament. David’s battle with Goliath was really not so much about courage as it was about faith. David believed that God would protect him if he went up against a giant because he had already been delivered from a lion’s mouth and had rescued a lamb from a bear that was about to eat it.

David’s explanation for defeating Goliath was that he had defied the armies of the living God. “David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of the Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the LORD be with you” (1Samuel 17:37). The reason David was able to defeat Goliath was that the LORD was with him, but what is more important is that the LORD was with him because David was carrying out God’s will which was for the Israelites to drive out their enemies from the Promised Land.

The Philistines were hard core warriors and Goliath was not the only giant among them. When the Promised Land was spied out while the Israelites were still living in the desert, the giants in the land had caused the spies to give a bad report and basically caused the Israelites to have to spend 40 years wandering in the desert because of their lack of faith in God. Fear was the main thing that kept the Israelites from taking on the Philistines and Saul was just as reluctant as the rest of the people to face Goliath in a one on one encounter.

David’s defeat of Goliath not only made him famous, it made him courageous. After defeating Goliath with a sling and a stone, all the Philistines fled from David. The table had been turned and David was the one instilling fear in his enemies. The word defy or châraph (khaw – raf´) in Hebrew means to pull off and by implication to expose or defame (2778). When Goliath defied the armies of the living God, he exposed their fear, but he also exposed their lack of faith. David was the only Israelite who truly believed God was greater than any man that would stand against him. He not only was willing to put his life on the line, but David testified to God’s faithfulness before he took on Goliath so “that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel” (1 Samuel 17:45).

Children of a king

Even though we may know most of what happened in our parents’ lives, we usually know less about our grandparents’ lives and very little about our great grandparents because they were not around to tell us about it. Imagine if you knew the details of your ancestors lives that lived hundreds of years ago. The Old Testament of the Bible contains the history of what happened in the lives of the Israelites thousands of years ago. There are detailed accounts of how they came to live in the land we know as Israel and the names of their family members have become well known to millions of people around the world.

More people know the names Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob than probably any other names of individuals that have ever lived because the details of their lives are recorded in the Bible. One of the advantages of knowing the history of your ancestors is being able to know where you fit into their story and how your life will be impacting the lives of relatives that are yet to be born. Some of the things you do may not seem important now, but they could literally be changing the course of history for many years to come.

A key event in the life of Jacob was when he wrestled with God at Penuel the night before he was reunited with his brother Esau. It was at Penuel that Jacob’s name was changed to Israel and he received a special blessing; “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed” (Gen 32:28).

I’m pretty sure Gideon knew the significance of Penuel and chose to beat down the tower there to honor his great, great, great…grandfather Jacob. The interesting thing about Gideon’s stand at Penuel is that the victory he won after his arrival there seemed to be a turning point for him. His behavior was much more bold and courageous, perhaps as a tribute to or maybe even a result of Jacob’s blessing. In all, Gideon’s 300 soldiers defeated 135,000 Midianites. There is no way to account for the result except for divine intervention. The battle cry that was shouted as they entered the Midianite camp was “The sword of the LORD, and of Gideon” (Judges 7:18).

When Gideon’s conquest was completed, he confronted two kings of Midian named Zebah and Zalmunna. These two kings were directly responsible for the death of Gideon’s brothers who had probably fought against the Midianites in a previous war. The description of the men reveals that Gideon’s appearance had been transformed by his acts of courage. He was no longer the man who threshed wheat by the wine press to hide from the Midianites, but a leader, someone they respected. “Then said he unto Zebah and Zalmunna, What manner of men were they whom ye slew at Tabor? And they answered, as thou art, so were they; each one resembled the children of a king” (Judges 8:18).

The Battle Belongs to the Lord

Because we don’t see the spiritual warfare going on around us, we may forget or don’t realize that it is going on. Satan is described in the Bible as the ruler of this world. Everyone is under the power of Satan until and unless they confess Jesus as Lord and Savior. Spiritual warfare is the battle that is constantly being fought over the hearts and minds of those who live on Earth. It is unfortunate that most people are unaware of it and especially tragic that the unsaved have no idea that Satan is in control of their lives.

Victory is difficult to celebrate in spiritual warfare because you can’t always tell the extent to which the enemy has been defeated. It says in Luke 15:10 about salvation that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” And in1 Peter 3:23 speaking of Jesus it says, “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” Before Jesus came into the world, there was no victory over sin and Satan reigned over the whole Earth, except in the Promised Land. Israel was God’s country and his dominion over the land was exempt from Satan’s sovereignty. So why was there and is there still constant warfare in the land of Israel?

When the Israelites settled in Canaan, they disobeyed God by not driving out al the inhabitants of the land. If they had, the Promised Land would have become a no man’s land to Satan because he was not allowed to touch God’s people. It was the influence of the Canaanites and the worship of their gods that caused the Israelites to betray God and act like they had when they lived in Egypt.

The battle with the Canaanites by the waters of Megiddo when God subdued Jabin the king of Canaan (Judges 4:23) was a sort of preview of coming attractions. In Revelation 16:16 it refers to a place called Armegeddon (mount Megiddo) where the final battle between God and Satan will be fought. Judges 6:20-24 give us insight into the way the battle lines will be drawn. All the heavenly host will be drawn together to take their final stand and on Earth there will be a call to fight, but not everyone will answer.

Curse ye Meroz, said the angel of the LORD, curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof; because they came not to the help of the LORD against the mighty. Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent. (Judges 5:23-24)