Deuteronomy 20 begins, “When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots, an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” (v.1)
And then two leaders step up to address the people: first the priest, and then the military officials. The priest stands up to rally the people by reiterating the posture of faith, “Hear, O Israel! Today you are drawing near to do battle against your enemies. Do not lose heart, or be afraid, or panic, or be in dread of them; for it is the Lord your God who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to give you victory.” (vv.3-4)
After the spiritual encouragement, the military officials step up to address those with lingering doubt. Those with worries in their hearts due to the matters of life (new homes, new vineyards, marriage in the works), he tells them to step away and return home. They are not fit for the battle ahead. “Is anyone afraid or disheartened? He should go back to his house, or he might cause the heart of his comrades to melt like his own.” (v.8b)
And with those who are left, God will lead them onto certain victory.
It is a fascinating scene. There are two parts to this. First, there is Truth. No matter what is in front of us, no matter how large the opposition or task, our God is greater and more powerful, and this God is on our side, and he will fight for us unto victory. And secondly, there is Faith. Do we really believe the Truth? We can’t see God nor touch him. But we can see clearly what we are up against. And by our calculations, the task is too difficult or nearly impossible. How can the little shepherd boy David fight against the battle tested giant? Do we have the faith to believe God will lead the fight?
But our faith is complicated by the question, “but, is it God’s battle?” And that’s because we know from Scriptures that God will not lead us into ALL battles (i.e., Num 14.39f).
Too many times, we hear church leaders proclaim that a certain project, or a direction for the church is God’s will. Well, is it? I admit that I have used the phrase, “this is God’s will” and then had to step back and apologize to God and to the congregation. This is a great sin for us church leaders. We must not create a project or form a direction for the church, and then ask God to bless it. People expect us pastors and elders to go to God first and then to act upon God’s instructions. And we must not assume something is of God even if the task seems godly. This is the foundation of this passage. The task, the project, the fight, the mission. It must be a directive from God.
And this can be applied to our home situation, or to our school/work situation as well. That’s because our God cares about those things and wants to be Lord over all matters of life. Where is God leading me? What does he want with my skills and talents? Once we understand God’s will and direction, it requires our faith to trust God because our God will fight for us and will give us victory.