In Deuteronomy 20 Moses tells the Israelite people how God wants them to conquer the promised land. He provides the principles of War.
In short they are:
1. Don’t be afraid (vs. 1)
2. Be courageous and dependent on God (vs. 2-4)
3. Offer peace (to those outside the promised land) (vs. 10-15)
4. Search and Destroy everything in the promised land (16-18)
5. Don’t destroy trees bearing nuts or plants bearing fruit (19-20)
Paul tells us that today we fight a war too. Ephesians 6:10-12
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms
We’ll take a short look at each one
1. Don’t be afraid
This phrase appears over a 100 times in the Bible.
Read Deuteronomy 20:1
“When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you.”
Fear can make people do very desperate things. When the terrorists struck the twin tower buildings on September 11, 2001; trapped and frightened people leapt from windows above where the planes had hit. Fear is a powerful motivator and is related to a number of negative human emotions like; worry, anxiety, terror, panic, persecution complex, and even outright paranoia. I believe fear is the number one reason many Christians don’t share their faith. Fear of persecution, fear of intolerance, fear of losing a relationship, fear of losing a debate or an argument.
A story is told of a family awakened by their smoke detector in the middle of the night to discover that their house was on fire. The father ran into the upstairs bedroom of his children and carried his 18 month old baby in his arms while dragging his 4 year old son by the hand.
They were halfway down the stairs when the little boy remembered that he had left his teddy bear in the bedroom, so he broke free from his father’s hand and ran back to the bedroom to retrieve it. In the confusion, the father didn’t notice that his son wasn’t with him until he got outside. By now the little boy was trapped by the flames and smoke in his second story bedroom. Smoke swirled around him and he coughed and cried out from the upstairs window, “Daddy, Daddy! Help me!”
His father yelled from below, “Jump out of the window, Andy! I’ll catch you!”
In the darkness and smoke, the little boy yelled back, “But, Daddy! I can’t see you!”
Daddy shouted back, “That’s OK, son. I can see you! Jump!”
In the darkness and confusion of your life, sometimes it’s very difficult to see God, but, God sees you. And if there is any element of fear in your life for any reason this morning God seeks to remove it.
Psalm 23:4 - Even when I walk through the darkest valley,[a] I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
Isaiah 41:10 – Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand
Romans 8:38 – And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.
2 Timothy 1:7 – For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
1 John 4:18 - Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.
2. Be courageous and dependent on God
When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. He shall say: "Hear, O Israel, today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be faint hearted or afraid; do not be terrified or give way to panic before them. For the LORD your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.
One of the serious problems of human nature is our natural tendency to be distrusting and suspicious. Barbara Misztal, in her book, Trust in Modern Societies: The Search for the Bases of Social Order, she mentions three things that trust does in the life of a person. It makes social life predictable, because you tend to hang around people you trust; it creates a sense of community, because you the more you trust the more you share, with those you trust, and trust makes it easier for people to work together, because you eliminate the possibility of backstabbing. Even though Misztal’s book is a work of a secular nature she brings up three very Spiritual truths. We need to trust in God. Because the more we trust Him, the more we’ll hang out with Him. The more we trust God the more we’ll share in His work, and the more we trust God, the easier it will be to work with Him AND His Church to accomplish the Kingdom purpose He expects of us. It’s logical then, to suggest that the less we trust God the less we spend time with Him, the less we share with Him, and the less we do with His Church.
There’s no doubt that to some sense or another all of us have been hurt or damaged. And trust in each other and trust in God is the unfortunate casualty. If you’ve been hurt and are having issues with trust this morning, listen to these Scriptures:
Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God
Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense ; he has become my salvation.”
I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.
For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.
3. Live in Peace
“As you approach a town to attack it, you must first offer its people terms for peace.
The attitude of peace is vital to a maturing life in Christ. For example there is a peace in knowing about your eternal destiny
1 John 5:13
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
We grow in peace as we become more mature in our relationship with Christ. Dictionary defines peace as a state of mutual harmony. Peace with God is living in harmony with Jesus and His Word.
1 Corinthians 6:18
18 Run from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.
1 Timothy 6:9-12
But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. But you, Timothy, are a man of God; so run from all these evil things. Pursue righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight for the true faith. Hold tightly to the eternal life to which God has called you
2 Timothy 2:22
Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.
So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
4. Search and Destroy everything
Read Deuteronomy 20:10-18
in the towns you will enter in the land of promise destroy every living thing. You must completely destroy every living person just as the Lord your God has commanded you. This will prevent the people of the land from teaching you to imitate their detestable customs in the worship of their gods, which would cause you to sin deeply against the Lord your God.
Jesus taught in Matthew chapter five that we should be in the habit of “cutting off” those things that keep us from purity. The apostle James says we should, “resist the devil, so that he will flee from us”. Peter claims he is like a lion seeking prey, and guess who he is hunting for. This is why in the scripture we just read, God tells his ancient people to completely eradicate the sinful people who inhabited the land of promise. Yes, God told his people to commit genocide; a complete eradication of entire civilizations. Why? Because God said these sinful people would lead his children to do the same things; to worship other Gods and engage in their detestable customs.
So God said, eradicate them from the face of the earth. This may seem harsh to us, but, God told Abraham in Genesis 15 that one day a land that was, at that time, inhabited by other people, would be given to his descendants. We know that between this promise and the invasion of the Israelites led by Joshua was over 400 years.
The Scripture also teaches us that God wants everyone to repent. He wants everyone saved, which is why he sends those to warn people of impending punishment if they continue in their sin. God warned Egypt with plagues, he warned Ninevah through Jonah, He warned King Ahab through Elijah, He warned us all through Jesus Christ, so we know that at some time during those 400 years our God gave these people opportunities to change and repent. But they didn’t.
Instead they became more vile, more vicious and more evil with every passing generation.
By the time Joshua and the army of God came on the scene the people in the land of promise were sacrificing their children to a God called Molech.
Brian Jones says in his book “Hell is Real but I hate to Admit it” I quote, “Outspoken atheist Richard Dawkins wrote: The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, pestilential, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
Dawkins is dead wrong, not because he paints God with too cruel a brushstroke, but because he’s too flattering. The God of the Bible is much more vengeful than Dawkins could ever dream. The real God, the Deity we only catch a quick glimpse of in the pages of Scripture is infinitely more bloodthirsty, vindictive, genocidal, pestilential, sadomasochistic and capriciously malevolent than any human language could begin to express.” End quote.
God is merciful, He showed us that by providing Jesus Christ as the ultimate sacrifice for our sinful nature, but, He is the same God of the Old Testament. Sin angers Him. Our sinful nature, our rebellion against His Word rubs His Righteousness the wrong way. The truth is you don’t want to be on the wrong side of His Wrath and the only way to get on the right side is through a relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ.
You must not worship any of the gods of neighboring nations, 15 for the LORD your God, who lives among you, is a jealous God. His anger will flare up against you, and he will wipe you from the face of the earth. 16 You must not test the LORD your God as you did when you complained at Massah. 17 You must diligently obey the commands of the LORD your God—all the laws and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the LORD’s sight, so all will go well with you.
If you break the covenant of the LORD your God by worshiping and serving other gods, his angerwill burn against you, and you will quickly vanish from the good land he has given you.”
For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.
For see, the day of the LORD is coming— the terrible day of his fury and fierce anger. The land will be made desolate, and all the sinners destroyed with it.
I have heard all about you, LORD. I am filled with awe by your amazing works. In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. And in your anger, remember your mercy.
[ God’s Anger at Sin ] But God shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people who suppress the truth by their wickedness.
In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction.
All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
5. Don’t destroy what bears fruit
“When you are attacking a town and the war drags on, you must not cut down the trees with your axes. You may eat the fruit, but do not cut down the trees. Are the trees your enemies, that you should attack them? 20 You may only cut down trees that you know are not valuable for food. Use them to make the equipment you need to attack the enemy town until it falls.
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
I’m reminded of a story about a little five year old girl waiting at a checkout stand with her mommy at the grocery store. The little girl saw a circle of glistening white pearls in a pink foil box sandwiched between bubble gum and baseball cards. “Mommy, can I have those, please mommy?” she asked pointing to the pearls. Her mom checked the back of the little foil box and said, “These pearls cost $2.95, if you really want them you’ll have to do your chores at home and earn your allowance for the week. We’ll come back and you can buy them when you have your own money.”
The little girl worked hard all week, and when her mom took her back to the store she proudly handed over her money to the cashier and received her hard earned pearls.
This little girl loved her pearls. They made her feel pretty and grown up. She wore them everywhere – Sunday School, kindergarten, even to bed. The only time she took them off was when she went swimming or took a bubble bath. Her mom had said that if they got wet, they might turn her neck green, so she was real careful about that. This little girl also had a loving daddy.
Every night when she was ready for bed, her daddy would stop whatever he was doing to read her a story. One night when he finished the story, he said to his little girl, “I love you, sweetheart. Do you love me?” “Yes, daddy, I love you.” The girl replied. “Then give me your pearls,” her father said.
The little girl was confused. “No, daddy.” She said. “You can’t have my pearls.” “Oh, but, you can have Princess, the white horse. Remember, Daddy? You gave me Princess. She’s my favorite, but, you can have her.”
“That’s OK, honey” said her dad. “Daddy loves you. Good night.” And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.
About a week later, after story time, daddy said once again, “I love you very much, sweetheart. Do you love me?” “Yes, daddy, I love you.” “Then give me your pearls.” The little girl was just as confused as before.
“No, daddy.” She said. “You can’t have my pearls.” “But, you can have my baby dolly. You gave me baby dolly for my birthday, and you can have my blankie, too” “That’s OK,” her daddy said. “Daddy loves you. Good night sweetheart.” And as always he gave her a gentle kiss.
A few nights later when daddy came in to the bedroom he noticed his little girl sitting on her bed with her legs crossed. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek.
“What is it honey? What’s the matter?” The little girl didn’t say a word, but, lifted her little hand up to her daddy. And when she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a quiver in her little voice she finally said, “Here, daddy, it’s for you.”
With tears gathering in his own eyes, this little girls daddy reached out with one hand to take the little cheap fake pearl necklace. With the other hand he reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue velvet case and gave it to his daughter. When she opened it, she found a beautiful strand of real and expensive pearls.
What are you hanging on to? What kind of cheap, dime –store jewelry is preventing you from receiving the blessings that your heavenly Father wants to pour out on you?