Your Battles Belong to the Lord
“Then all of this assembly shall know that the LORD does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s, and He will give you into our hands.” 1Sa 17:47
To The Pilgrims
To all who joined us on our recent tour, I trust that you are now safely home, enriched by many memories of sights, sounds, and experiences. Nan and I wish to express our thanks and appreciation to each of you for the pleasure of your company. Your presence and interaction along the way truly blessed us. We had some of the toughest seniors and most helpful and considerate young folks, along with one retired Marine general and two retired Marine colonels. One retired Marine colonel gave us a living example of tenacity in trial and so we nicknamed him “The Israeli Ironman.” All of you were a great witness to our Israeli friends of the grace and truth of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I am writing this post early on the morning of the 242nd birthday of the United States Marine Corps, which for over two centuries has proven to be one of the most ferocious fighting forces on earth.
The motto of the Corps—Semper Fidelis— means “Always Faithful,” and is true in its highest sense only of our Lord, who won history’s greatest battle against the prince of darkness in the loneliness of Gethsemane and the agonies of Calvary.
It has been said that there are no atheists in foxholes and, though not always the case, the statement reminds us that the horrors of war have one redeeming quality: In the “valley of the shadow of death” (Psa 23:4), men are humbled and cry out to their Creator and Redeemer.
It is in the fury and savagery of battle that men will either sink to their lowest nature—or rise to their greatest heights—reflecting the Savior who said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (Joh 15:13). It is in this light that today we honor the service and the sacrifice of our U.S. Marines, both living and dead, who have fought, bled, and died to uphold this highest ideal—Semper Fidelis!
The Valley of Elah
On a quiet evening, with the golden sun going down over wooded hills, we ended our “Lord of Battle” tour in the fertile fields of the Valley of Elah, the site of David’s victory over the giant Goliath.
In the course of ten days, we had visited many famous sites of battle—not only of a physical, but often of a spiritual, battlefield. Beginning at Caesarea, where the Apostle Peter preached the Gospel to the household of the Roman Centurion Cornelius (Acts 10), where the Apostle Paul landed from his missionary journeys (Act 18:22; Act 21:8) and was later imprisoned (Act 23:23–35). From Carmel to Capernaum, from Megiddo to Masada, from Ein Gedi to Gethsemane, these were sites of spiritual battles of great importance.
Without detailing every site, we visited a mixture of battlefields that remind us that, behind the scenes of this material world, there is a spiritual battle raging. We know from Scripture that angelic armies—of both Light and darkness—are clashing in supernatural battles beyond our comprehension (Dan 10:10–21; Rev 12:7–12).
All earthly battles, both personal and national, are an extension of these invisible fights and forces (Eph 6:10–12). To understand this truth is to enter into the mindset of David when he faced Goliath. The gallant shepherd-boy understood that every struggle has a spiritual component.
Every test, trial, or earthly struggle confronts us with the opportunity to demonstrate faith in the faithfulness of God. On that day, David’s courage came not from reliance on his own skills, but from his passionate love of God, and his refusal to stand idly by while Goliath slandered the “LORD of hosts” (1Sa 17:45), “the God of the armies.”
David knew that his victory that day was not won by him, but was a gift of God’s grace. Only faith could claim that gift, and it was faith of such a quality that even death in the defense of the God of Israel was preferable to the unbelief and cowardice of Saul and his forces. David stepped out in faith, committing the outcome to the Lord, and God gave the victory.
Facing Your Giants
Each of us, at various times, have our own giant to face. For some, it is debilitating health problems. For others, it may be the lurking demon of marital discord or hostility and alienation of family members. Another may be facing the crushing weight of financial crisis and seemingly endless debts. Others daily hear the taunting voice of the enemy through loneliness, depression, anxiety, or the nagging defeat of every hope and dream they cherish.
For me, the Valley of Elah was the perfect place to end our journey in Israel because the events, which occurred there, seem to summarize all of God’s dealings with His people. “‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.” (Zec 4:6).
We are not always destined to win a glorious victory, at least in the eyes of men. “The people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits,” yet many will fall, and receive but “a little help” (Dan 11:32–35).
We must understand that, in the wisdom of God, there are some “who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword … .became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens [enemies],” there are others still, no less victorious, to whom is given the “trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment … they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented” (Heb 11:33–37).
However, whether they rose up in victory or fell in seeming defeat, of both groups it is said, “out of weakness [they] were made strong … of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb 11:34, Heb 11:38).
Never forget that, in the eyes of the world, the cross of Christ was little more than the pathetic end of an idealistic reformer. And yet it is by such “foolishness” and “weakness” that God won history’s greatest victory. For, as Paul reminds us, “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1Co 1:25).
And so, in the spirit of our recent “Lord of Battle” tour and in the Spirit of Him who alone is the embodiment of Semper Fidelis, I encourage you to face your giants, and all giants of this age who are now emerging, in the simplicity of faith. Whether we stand or fall is not the criteria. Rather it is Who we trust, and what we stand for.
Longfellow said it as well as it can be stated:
“In the world’s broad field of battle, In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle! Be a hero in the strife!”