Summary: In 732 AD, Charles Martel, AKA "The Hammer", stopped the Islamic invasion of Europe and preserved the future of Christianity for a thousand years. Was Charles choosen by God?

The date was October 11, 732 A.D. The place was southern France in the modern day province of Poitou-Charentes. On that date, two mighty armies met on a wide rolling plain between the ancient, walled cities of Tours and Poitiers. Their confrontation is known as the “Battle of Tours,” and it would determine the fate of Christianity in Europe for a thousand years.

Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, Western Europe was plunged into its Dark Ages when civilization and trade nearly collapsed. At the same time, however, another empire arose out of the East with astonishing speed. Its followers denied the truth of the Christian Gospel and sought its destruction. This was the Empire of Islam, and it was just entering its Golden Age.

The armies of Islam conquered much of Asia, all of North Africa and Spain and, in less than two hundred years, stood poised to invade France. Had they succeeded, all of Europe and Britain might well have succumbed to Islamic rule. They were finally stopped, however, between the French towns of Tours and Poitiers by a barbarian, Frankish king named Charles Martel.

For four days, wave after wave of Muslim warriors crashed against the wall of Frankish defenders, and each time they were beaten back. Charles gave his army this command, “to stand firm, to hold their ground, to die if necessary, to do anything but break lines.”

Finally, on the fifth day, the battered barbarian lines did break, and the armies of Islam poured into the gap, but it was actually a trap. Once inside the gap, the invaders found themselves surrounded and were decisively defeated. From that time forward, Charles was known as “Charles the Hammer.” Since that time, historians have considered The Battle of Tours as one of the most critical moments in World History. Was it an accident of fate that the Christian forces were led by Charles Martel, or was he called by God for that purpose?

When I read the history of Charles’ rise to power, I couldn’t help noticing some similarities between Charles and the story of David. For one, Charles was an unlikely successor to the Frankish throne. Like David, he endured persecution by the ruling king, and he spent many years as an outlaw evading capture. Yet, even as he evaded capture, he still led an army against the enemies of his native people, the Franks.

Charles won many victories but also knew at least one large defeat. Nevertheless, he persisted and secured allegiances among many of those he fought. Finally in the Spring of 717 A.D., Charles returned to Neustria with an army and confirmed his supremacy with a victory at Vincy. He took the city and dispersed the opposing armies. Then he did something extraordinary. He allowed both of his rivals to live, and treated them with kindness. This was almost unheard of in Europe’s Dark Ages, when mercy to an enemy often meant facing the same enemy again later. But Charles had a greater vision and a deeper insight into the nature of his conflicts. He understood that the obvious solution isn’t always the best.

As Christians, there are many aspects to the war we’re engaged in here on earth. Sometimes the battle is obvious, but often it’s deceitfully subtle. To oppose evil requires wisdom and faith.

• Evil takes many forms and most often dwells in the shadows. Have you ever wondered why he likes the shadows so much? It’s because he doesn’t want to be recognized. When he can hide behind such labels as “manic depressive” or “schizophrenic” then he’s confident that we won’t recognize the true enemy. If we recognize the true enemy, then we’d be compelled to invoke the true power of God to dispel him. Choice of armor and selection of weapons is an important part of opposing evil. Consequently, it’s vital that we know God’s arsenal and obey God’s leading.

• In this world, we live in a constant state of war. It’s both physical and spiritual. In his less conspicuous form, we call the enemy’s attack “temptation.” In his more obvious form, we call his actions atrocities. We can choose to pretend the war isn’t happening, or we can arm ourselves for the conflict. Yet, even if we choose to arm ourselves, it still may take discernment to know what armor we need and even where the real battle is happening.

Our enemy the devil delights in having us fill our days fighting inconsequential battles over earthly gains so that all our resources are exhausted when the most important battle appears.

Romans 12:11-12 admonishes us, “Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” No matter what our present circumstances may be, we can and should rejoice in our hope—the coming of our Savior, the redemption of our bodies, and God’s eternal glory. We’re told to be patient in tribulation—that is, to bear up bravely under it. Such faithful endurance is the one thing which can turn suffering into glory. We should continue steadfastly in prayer. It’s in prayer that the work is done and victories are won. Prayer brings power in our lives and peace to our hearts. When we pray in the Name of our Lord Jesus, we come the closest to omnipotence that it is possible for mortal man to come. Therefore we do ourselves a great disservice when we neglect to pray.

Moffatt’s colorful translation of verse 11 reads: “Never let your zeal flag, maintain the spiritual glow, serve the Lord.” Here we are reminded of the words of Jeremiah 48:10: “A curse on him who is slack in doing the LORD’S work!” Horatius Bonar’s poem says it well:

’Tis not for man to trifle; life is brief

And sin is here.

Our age is but the falling of a leaf,

A dropping tear.

We have not time to sport away the hours;

All must be earnest in a world like ours.

In Psalm 18:2, 3 David wrote, “The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.” David uses the language of war because he recognizes the true nature of the conflict.

At one point in his many military campaigns, Charles Martel broke off his pursuit of his Saxon enemies in order to prepare for what he thought was a greater threat. Instead of concentrating on conquest to his east, he prepared for the storm gathering in the west even though that threat was still but a rumor . . . the rumor of an approaching Umayyad Muslim army.

In 721 A.D., a Muslim army had been defeated soundly at the Battle of Toulouse, but then they returned even stronger. Since the Muslims had been defeated once before, Charles might have considered them less dangerous than the Saxons. If Charles had underestimated this threat, however, if he had been too confident or preoccupied with defeating the Saxons, he might have won a battle only to loose his kingdom.

• This is what I mean when I say, “Know our enemy!” So long as we dwell in this world, our enemy, Satan, will keep coming back, and whenever possible, he’ll come after us from our blind side . . . from the direction we least expect. His threat is never to be underestimated. But neither are we to underestimate the authority of our Advocate, our Helper. Our dependency on the Holy Spirit’s guidance must be firm.

In Acts 5:29, Peter and the apostles proclaimed, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” In this way also, we must obey the leading of the Holy Spirit.

I’m not presenting Charles Martel as a saint. Rather, I present him to you as a man destined by God to lead an army at a special time which would have huge consequences in the future of Christianity. You may not have such a grandiose calling from God, but your calling is no less important to God.

1 Peter 2:9,10 says, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people (His possession) in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

• When we accept Jesus Christ, we become citizens of God’s holy nation. That nation is continually under attack. This is no less true today than it was in Charles Martel’s day. Jesus knows our battles are coming before we do; just as he knew that Western Civilization would need a determined and resourceful leader at that 8th Century crossroads in history. He also knows we can’t fight the enemy alone. That’s why He said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.”

The word translated “pray” that is used here is not the same word used to describe an inferior praying to a superior, but of one making request of his equal. The Lord would “pray the Father” to send “another Helper.” The word “Helper” (Paraclete in the Greek) means one called to the side of another to help. It’s also translated as Advocate in 1 Jn. 2:1. Jesus is our Advocate or Helper, and the Holy Spirit is “another Helper”—not another of a different kind, but another of similar nature. The Holy Spirit would “abide” with believers “forever.” In the OT, the Holy Spirit came to men at various times, but often left them. Now He would come to remain forever.

• The Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of truth” because His teaching is true and He glorifies Christ who is the truth. “The world cannot receive” the Holy Spirit because it can’t see Him. Those who are preoccupied with worldly pursuits lack the ability to see beyond the superficial. They insist that what they can see and touch is all there is. In short, they want to see before they’ll believe. Ironically, however, they believe in wind and electricity, and yet they can’t see them either.

• The unsaved don’t know or understand the Holy Spirit. The “unbeliever” may know instinctively that certain things are wrong or evil. Yet, they don’t recognize that it’s the Holy Spirit that’s convicting them. The disciples knew the Holy Spirit. They had known Him to work in their own lives and had seen Him working through Jesus. And that’s how most believers recognize the Holy Spirit is by the evidence. It’s like standing on the sea shore and seeing great waves come rolling in. You know there’s been a mighty storm at sea; you may not see the storm, but you recognize the effects.

It’s a wonder to me how we, as a culture, glorify the wealthy and famous among us. We envy them and often credit them with having “a real grasp of reality.” True reality, however, sees all the “stuff” of this world as merely tinsel on the tree. The truth is underneath and vastly more substantial.

Those who accept Jesus Christ are immediately folded into the great tapestry that is God’s great design. Whether you believe in Free-Will or Predestination is not the most important issue.

• What matters is that you know God has a divine purpose for you.

Charles Martel was a professed Christian, and the empire he established, the Carolingian Empire, was a professed Christian Empire. Charles’ grandson, Charlemagne, became the first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

The lives of Charles Martel and Charlemagne made it possible for Christianity to advance openly in the West. Yet, there was a time that Charles languished in a dungeon no doubt wondering if his earthly place in God’s plan was finished. Confronted by his own frailty, Paul was told by God that, “In your weakness, my strength is made perfect.” It’s in those times when we can do the least that we depend the most on Christ.

Psalm 32:8 says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”

• The question of your future rests in your relationship with God. Whatever your current circumstances might be, if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord, then your future is never without hope. In the words of Charles Martel, “Stand firm, hold your ground, do not the break lines.” God is the author and finisher of all things and His mercy is without end toward those who have received the power of the Holy Spirit.


Heavenly Father, you have summoned us to a calling higher than this world, yet, we daily face the darkness within this world. Grant us the eyes to see and the ears to hear the leading of Your Holy Spirit so that we may overcome the darkness around us. We pray that You will make us ever vigilant and courageous. We confess Your Son, Jesus Christ, as our Lord and our protection. By our faith in Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, grant us the ultimate victory of Your peace and salvation now and forever. In Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.