If we were to closely observe the Old Testament, we will find that a sizable portion talks about the different battles Israel fought, and how they won. I suppose there is a purpose behind why those battles are recorded in such great lengths.
For some of the battles, God gave very specific directions on how to wage that particular war. For instance, for the battle of Jericho, the Lord told Joshua exactly what he needed to do, to bring the walls of Jericho down. They were to go around the city for six days, the priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark (Joshua 6:4). On the seventh day, they were to go around the city seven times, the priests blowing their trumpets. When the priests made a long blasting with the ram’s horn, they had to shout with a great shout and the Lord told him that when they shout, the walls will fall flat before them.
Similarly if we take a look at the battle with the Midianites led by Gideon, we see a parallel. God reduced the size of the army to just 300 men, to fight against an army that was spread across the wilderness like the locusts. But when Gideon carefully followed the commands of God, he routed them with ease.
What do these battles signify for the New Testament believer? Do they have any significance at all? Undoubtedly, as you may concur with me, these battles have a significant depth of meaning.
One of the common threads that I see running across in almost all battles is that God stands with His people like a mighty warrior to give His people the victory. Whether it was a fearless warrior like David who faced off Goliath single handedly, or a trembling man like Gideon who routed the Midianites as one man, or Elisha who struck the Syrian army with blindness and led them straight to the king of Israel (2 Kings 6:8-22), God always fought on behalf of His people.
“All these kings and their land Joshua took at one time, because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel” (Joshua 10:42).
He still does the same for us today. He stands with us in our battles to teach us strategies to utterly defeat our enemies and gives us great victories by His might.
“Blessed be the LORD my rock who trains my hands for war and fingers for battle” (Psalm 144:1)
In the Old Testament, Israel primarily fought battles to take possession of the geographical land which was promised to Abraham. Therefore the descendants of Abraham/Nation of Israel, fought to occupy and take possession of their rightful inheritance. While, in the New Testament, the command we received from our Lord is to “Go into all the World and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Our inheritance is the nations, for God’s Kingdom.
The warriors in the Old Testament fought physical armies and routed them through the power of God. While we, the church, do not wrestle against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers, which are primarily spirit beings. The nature of the battles we fight may be different in the sense that we don’t use swords, clubs and shields to guard ourselves, but we use spiritual weapons such as prayer and proclamation of the gospel, in our warfare.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” 2 Corinthians 10:4-5
The church is fighting not to take possession of any physical land, but engaged in spiritual warfare, to subdue powers of darkness which keep lands and nations from knowing Christ.
Just as the walls of Jericho fell flat at the blowing of the trumpets and the voices of the Children of Israel shouting a great shout, even so, we see that the chains that held Paul and Silas were broken and prison doors opened, as they sang hymns in the midnight hour with a heart of thanksgiving unto God. If we look at what the turn-out of that event was, we see that people were saved and stepped into the glorious liberty of Christ.
Giving seemingly impossible victories to the children of Israel in the Old Testament, is a reminder to us that it does not take thousands of people to battle against evil powers of the air, but rather even when two or three can agree together in Christ’s name, they can be utterly defeated by the power of prayer.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” Matthew 18:18,19.
In closing, the prince of the power of the air always resists with all his might to keep lands and nations in darkness, but we are called to march forward with courage and take possession of what is rightfully ours, conquering regions and lands for His Name.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus
ye soldiers of the cross;
lift high his royal banner,
it must not suffer loss:
from vict’ry unto vict’ry
his army he shall lead,
’til ev’ry foe is vanquished,
and Christ is Lord indeed.
- George Duffield (1858).