“To Teach Them War” (5): Knowing War’s Origin: In God

Previous article in this series: December 1, 2014, p. 114.

Jehovah is a Man of war (Ex. 15:3). His right hand dashes in pieces the enemy (Ex. 15:6).

Jehovah has sworn that He will have war with Amalek from generation to generation (Ex. 17:16).

Jehovah bends His bow like an enemy, and stands with His right hand as an adversary (Lam. 2:4).

Jehovah is mighty in battle (Ps. 24:8) and mustereth the host of the battle (Is. 13:4). Jehovah teaches our hands to war and our fingers to fight (Ps. 144:1).

Jehovah is “The Lord of hosts.” Hosts are armies that go forth to war.

Holy God

Every fire has something to ignite it. Every war on earth is ignited by any number of troublesome circumstances roiling about. What about our holy war as members of the church militant? What is its origin? What is responsible for bringing it into existence?

We begin with God. We began, last time, with God’s counsel. In His good, eternal, sovereign, determinate counsel God ordains war. We now consider His attribute of holiness. God’s holiness necessitates, gives rise to, and empowers the holy war of His church.

When Scripture speaks of God as a Warrior it reveals to us His attribute of holiness. In holiness the triune God—Father, Son and Holy Ghost—is eternally consecrated to Himself as the infinitely and supremely blessed one. God is God and, therefore, the fullness of goodness. All the creatures of the universe are obliged to join God and consecrate themselves to the praise and honor of His name, always and forever. “Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? For thou only art holy; for all nations shall come and worship before thee; for thy judgments are made manifest” (Rev. 15:4).

In holiness, God is rightly and intensely jealous of all adoration; therefore, He must destroy all opposition to Himself and His covenant. Because Jehovah is holy, Jehovah is a Man of war. If Jehovah would tolerate opposition to Himself, He would not be holy. If Jehovah would allow enemies to blaspheme His blessed name, assault His marvelous handiwork—the church, and take counsel together against Him and His anointed with impunity, He would not be holy. If righteous wrath were not kindled in Jehovah against the raging heathen who imagine vain things against Him, He would not be holy. If Jehovah would even allow the “mere” ignoring of His name, He would not be holy. God’s attribute of holiness demands that He have in derision, break with a rod of iron, and dash into pieces both those who are against Him and those who are not for Him. If feeble earthly monarchs, who sit on thrones of gold that perish, will destroy all those who pose a threat to their fleeting, vain glory, how much more will not Jehovah who sits enthroned on high set Himself against those who oppose His infinite glory. In holiness Jehovah is a Man of war against His enemies.

Inasmuch as He is eternally holy, God is eternally a Man of war. There was never a time when Jehovah became a Man of war. God did not change from an eternal Man of peace to a Man of war at the rebellion of Satan and mankind. Exodus 15:3 states, very literally, “Jehovah Man of war, Jehovah His name.” As eternally unchangeable as His name, Jehovah is His holiness, and thus His identity “Man of war.” However, prior to the rebellion of Satan and man in the creation Jehovah was not at war; therefore, His holiness did not come to expression as vengeance by a Man of war. When enemies vaunted themselves against God, His identity as a Man of war came to expression.

This God is our God. We must rightly know Him so that we can fear and reverence Him for who He is. Holy God! Jealous Jehovah! Protector of His covenant! Man of War!

Holy Jesus

To see God as the Man of war, we must see Jesus. God is not a man. Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity incarnate, is a man, the Man of war. Indeed, for Jesus is the holy child (Acts 4:27, 30), and therefore devoted to His Father’s glory (John 12:28).

Jesus is the better Canaanite-fighting, dagger-wielding, ox goad-swinging, jawbone-driving, trumpet-blasting Deliverer of Israel. Jesus is the better David, “a mighty valiant man, and a man of war,” (I Sam. 16:18). Jesus is the man from Bozrah clothed in blood-sprinkled garments as He tramples His enemies in His fury (Is. 63:1ff ). This is not mere Old Testament language, as some who hate the Savior’s holiness charge. The New Testament concludes by saying of Jesus, “And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations; and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God” (Rev. 19:14-15).

All men will see this exalted Man of war soon enough; but did they not see Him already when He marched through this earth in His state of humiliation? With the dagger of His word He assaulted the kingdom of Satan, saying to the evil spirit that had tormented a crying and cut-up man, “Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit!” and to a woman bowed together and bound by Satan eighteen years, “Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity!” Man of war! With the ox goad of His word, He swung, not recklessly but deftly, pronouncing effectual curses, “Woe unto thee Chorazin!” And again, “Woe unto thee Bethsaida!” And again, “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, ye hypocrites…ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” Man of war!

If He took the jawbone of His word—“Have ye not read…?”—to one proud enemy who was attempting to trip Him up in His words, He did it to a thousand. Into families He drove His sword, setting at variance God-loving, truth-confessing sons and daughters against their pleasure-loving, carnally minded fathers and mothers. Man of war! Never was such a mortal blow delivered to the kingdom of Satan as when Jesus willingly offered His flesh to the accursed tree, thereby breaking the serpent’s head and spoiling principalities and powers, making a show of them openly, triumphing over them. Man of war!

You will find this Jesus in Scripture, not in the modern pulpit. The Jesus of the modern pulpit is the man of pacifism. He loves all and wants to save all, if only some are willing. He smiles at His enemies, judging and condemning none. He says, “Doctrine divides. I don’t care about your doctrines (what you say about Me and My Father, or yourselves, or the creation, or the church, or My kingdom….), just love each other with a ‘Christian spirit.’” This Jesus does not think it strange should you make ungodly friends and run with them to the same excess of riot in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries (I Pet. 4:4). He is no man of war. He is not holy. Therefore, neither is His Father.

The Jesus of Scripture is most certainly loving and peaceful, yea, so tender He is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. God be thanked. But He is also holy. Do not forget that with regard to all wickedness and to the reprobate ungodly in the kingdom of man He is an awful avenger. God be thanked. We are at war. The devil does not want to injure you; he wants to kill you. The devil does not want to scare the covenant baby in the cradle; he wants to devour him. The devil’s intention is not to use the wicked world with its people and pleasures to play with you young people of the covenant but to strangle your souls in sin and sinful relationships. The old man of pride, jealousy, anger, and lust, fights every battle like it’s his last (how is it going for you today?).

If Jehovah, on behalf of His covenant, is not in Jesus Christ a Man of war, our souls will be swallowed up alive. Moses and Israel knew that. After their harrowing escape from Pharaoh, their singing on the other side of the Red Sea must have been thunderous, “…I will sing unto the Lord for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea… the Lord is a man of war, the Lord is his name!” (Ex. 15:1, 3). If you make it to your Bible and bed tonight still loving God, you can thank God that your Savior is a Man of war. If He were not, you would have been overcome, spiritually. I am glad Jesus is holy—a Man of war. Never will we be gladder than when He returns to His bloodied bride and starts treading the Antichrist in His fury, then commanding wars to cease.

Holy War

Whence comes my (our) holy war against sin and the kingdom of darkness? My holy war comes from Jehovah who is a Man of war. If God were not holy, there would be no war—for Him, for His Son, or for us His people. He is holy. He is a Man of war. There is war. We must trace the origin of our holy war back to God’s holy nature.

As we saw last time, God ordained enemies of His kingdom (counsel). Yet He hates and will destroy them (holiness). God ordained what He hates? Yes. God did not ordain enemies as an end in themselves, but only to serve His holy purposes. According to His counsel, and by means of His providence, God raises up the enemy Pharaoh. God hates Pharaoh. As a human being whose rational, moral nature is never violated by God’s sovereignty, Pharaoh willingly hates and opposes God—a sin for which he is eternally responsible as one outside of Jesus Christ. God raises up this seemingly invincible enemy, who willingly hates Him, for the good purpose of showing His almighty power in the destruction of that enemy, to the declaration of His name throughout all the earth (Rom. 9:17). There is no conflict between God’s decretive will and God’s holy nature.

Because God is holy, He declares war and musters the hosts of the battle. Because He is holy, He commands us to be holy (I Pet. 1:15) and engage in holy warfare against sin and Satan. Our holy war arises out of God’s holy Being and will. Holy Jehovah is the origin of our holy war.

This gives urgency and importance to our spiritual war. When our spirits flag, or when our hearts become weary in the battle against sin, or when we simply do not feel like fighting but participating in sin, we need to hear and sing the truth about our God, “Jehovah is a Man of war!” That stirs us to battle. As Thou art, O God, make me! Conform me to the image of Thy dear Son, the Man of war! Make me, each day anew, a man of war until I join the church triumphant.