This is the time of the year when things start to get interesting as I leave the house for my morning walks with my dogs. The mornings are starting off a bit darker than before, so I find myself fumbling around to attach their leashes to their harnesses. As I walk by the arborvitaes bushes, I do the quite routine, yet not-so-normal to onlookers, flinging of my left hand in front of me to feel for webs so I don’t walk into a spider web and forever be itching for the rest of the day.
As I get myself ready in the morning, I am pretty good at feeling my way around. I am familiar with the same walk, the same location of items, the same surroundings. I know what is supposed to be there if the sun was lighting the path. But even so, even though I know what is supposed to be around me, I do not see everything. We do not see everything around us. There is a great battle happening. The angel armies of God are all around us, protecting us, shielding us, battling it out against the evil that lurks all about us.
There have been moments when I considered what is going on around me. I know my imagination is nothing close to reality. But I also know that we serve an awesome God, and He has already won the victory. I know as well that He promises that NOTHING can snatch us from His hand (John 10:28). Find rest in His refuge. Find confidence in His victory. Find strength in His power. Keep pressing onward. The battle is around us, but we will win this fight my friends! The God of Angel Armies is fighting for us each and every moment. You do not even know how great the fight is—but you know the Victor—and you know the length He will go for you.
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12 [NLT]
In 1 Samuel 29, we read of Achish telling David that he is “blameless in (his) sight as an angel of God.” Those are some kind words for David. Even so, the Philistines were going off to battle, but they didn’t want David to go with them. They were concerned that he would become an adversary if he accompanied them.
In verse 3, we read, “I have found no fault in (David) to this day” (ESV). Though “the lords do not approve” Achish recognized David as “honest” and “found nothing wrong” (v. 6 ESV). David was a man with a good reputation. He was trusted by those who knew him.
Today consider the words one would say about you. Would people say you are honest? Would people find any fault with you? Would they speak kind words? We are to please God rather than man (Acts 5:29). As we live a life pleasing to God – obeying His Word and following His will, we too will be on the receiving end of kind words. People will take notice as you rebel against the world, as you live differently than what the world says. Stand up for the truth and you will stand firm.
“And Achish answered David and said, ‘I know that you are as blameless in my sight as an angel of God. Nevertheless, the commanders of the Philistines have said, ‘He shall not go up with us to the battle.’” 1 Samuel 29:9 [ESV]
Did you ever fight tooth and nail for something? Perhaps there was some injustice in the world that caused you to stand up and boldly state your resistance. Maybe you had a circumstance arise that demanded you fight hard. Today’s passage speaks of a love for God’s law, a love that causes one to fight tooth and nail.
Fighting tooth and nail means fighting with every means available. You don’t hold back. You use everything you got in the fight. You put it all on the line because you care so much. Today’s passage says that if you love God’s law, you will fight just like that to defend it, to stand up for it, to uphold it.
Did you realize you were in a tough battle in this world? Not only is there a battle for your soul which Christ already sealed as a victory so long as you believe, but there is another battle all around this world. People are battling to knock God out of His creation. People are trying to take away public prayer. People are trying to ban people from practicing Christianity. People are stealing Bibles, twisting Scripture, and improperly representing Christ. If you love God’s law, if you love God, I pray you fight tooth and nail. He doesn’t need you to fight for Him—you need you to fight for Him. It’s about passion. It’s about love. It’s about being all in though many in the world are totally out. You can sit on the sidelines and desert God and His Word—“you’re free to embrace depravity,” or you can fight. You can stand firm. You can boldly declare the Name of Christ and embrace His will for your life.
“If you desert God’s law, you’re free to embrace depravity;
if you love God’s law, you fight for it tooth and nail.”
-Proverbs 28:4 [MSG]
King Aram told his commanders not to fight with anyone except Ahab king of Israel but King Ahab had a plan to foil any possible injury. He decided he would wear a disguise in battle. To throw the people off of him, he told Jehoshaphat to still wear his royal robes. Off they went into battle.
When first reading this one would bet that King Ahab would get away with this deception and King Jehoshaphat would meet his doom. It has the perfect storyline for a television or movie action sequence with the antagonist plot and this somewhat innocent ally. But God intervenes. The commanders see that they were chasing the wrong man. Even more, someone randomly, yes randomly, hit the king of Israel, right between the breastplate and his scale armor. That is not an easy shot.
What does this say to us? The prophet Micaiah spoke out against Ahab, prophesying doom when asked if the kings should go to war against Ramoth Gilead. The Word of God stands always. There is no hiding from the Truth. God will see His work to completion.
“When the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat, they said, ‘There he is! The king of Israel!’ and took after him. Jehoshaphat yelled out, and the chariot commanders realized they had the wrong man—it wasn’t the king of Israel after all. God intervened and they let him go.”
-2 Chronicles 18:31-32 [MSG]
Almost a year ago I sat down to write about Daniel 3:18. When I write, there are two different ways that I begin. First, there are moments when I am walking my dog Max and the Lord leads me to something. Second, there are moments when I am reading my Bible (many times during my lunch break), when He leads me to something and I will scrawl down some notes for later. Nonetheless, this week I was again reading Daniel 3:18 and was led to write about it. But it felt very familiar.
I considered that perhaps I had written about it before. After writing devotionals, other books, papers, sermons, lessons, etc., it was a possibility. I felt this overwhelming need to search, and then I found it, “But Even If.” Does someone need to hear it again? Yes, and God knew—it was me!
Life has been very difficult lately. Life in general is difficult, but lately I have been feeling exhausted. Not tired. Exhausted. Everything is a battle. I have followed the narrow path. But when we are on the journey God has placed before us, our expectations of the outcome might be very different from where God takes us. Hence the exhaustion. For some of us it’s frustration or even worse. But God reminds each of us that He is with us and He has a great plan for our lives. No matter where we are at on the journey, no matter what our expectations for a situation, our lips should say, “But even if he doesn’t” we will still press forward and live each day firmly rooted in Him. I’m pressing forward. He is my hope and my confidence.
“But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” – Daniel 3:18 [NLT]
“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” – Psalm 25:5 [NIV]
“Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord,” we read in 2 Chronicles 14, and we learn of his reforms. We also read of the battle against the Ethiopians. They came marching out with a vast army and Asa called out to the Lord for help. He said, “There is no one like you to help the powerless against the mighty” (v. 11 NLT). They received great victory, a victory that only could come from the Lord.
The Bible continues to say that “Asa’s heart was fully committed to the LORD all his life,” and yet something happened (2 Chronicles 15:17b NLT). Baasha king of Israel was on the attack. Now this time Asa didn’t approach the Lord as he did when the Ethiopians were before him. Instead he took silver and gold from the treasuries of the Lord’s temple and sent it to Ben-Hadad, the king of Aram. Asa’s trust went from the Lord to an army’s power—from the Lord to what money could buy him.
Hanani visited King Asa and informed him of the consequences of his actions. Not only did he miss the opportunity to destroy the army but he also would be at war for the rest of his life. No peace. He was once fully committed but he slipped. Our passage today says, “The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” Remember that. When you are facing something, He is ready to strengthen you. You are not alone and you do not need to devise some plan trusting in money and people—trust in Him. Through Christ you can do all things!
“At that time Hanani the seer came to King Asa and told him, ‘Because you have put your trust in the king of Aram instead of in the LORD your God, you missed your chance to destroy the army of the king of Aram. Don’t you remember what happened to the Ethiopians and Libyans and their vast army, with all of their chariots and charioteers? At that time you relied on the LORD, and he handed them over to you. The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. What a fool you have been! From now on you will be at war.” – 2 Chronicles 16:7-9 [NLT]
In 1 Samuel 4, the people were just defeated in battle. They retreated back to camp and could not understand why the Lord allowed their defeat. Since they did not get the result they desired, the elders of Israel suggested that the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord be carried into battle with the Israelites. The thought was with the Presence of God being with the Ark of the Covenant, they could not lose the battle. He would HAVE to save them then.
The elders of Israel would have done better to consider why the battle was lost instead of attempting to figure out a way to win. Why did the Lord let them lose? There had to be a reason. But instead of looking for a reason, instead of asking the Lord for guidance, the Israelites decided it would work best to use the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord to help them win the battle. They took something holy and attempted to control God. The Ark held the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod, and a jar of manna. The Ark was used to communicate with God. They used it as a lucky rabbit’s foot rather than treating it as holy. Their actions surely make it clear that their previous loss was likely justified. They wanted to win, no matter what. Their eyes were off of God.
The Ark of the Covenant would end up getting captured and causing some chaos to other people. Eli the priest, his sons, and his daughter-in-law all would die as well—each death connected to this unwise decision. Oh, and the battle was lost—the Israelites were taught a lesson first hand: you cannot control God.
“After the battle was over, the troops retreated to their camp, and the elders of Israel asked, ‘Why did the LORD allow us to be defeated by the Philistines?’ Then they said, ‘Let’s bring the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD from Shiloh. If we carry it into battle with us, it will save us from our enemies.’” – 1 Samuel 4:3 [NLT]