THE BATTLE BELONGS TO THE LORD
1. What’s the circumstance in your life where you feel most like the underdog? In which area do the odds against you seem so overwhelming that they are insurmountable?
a. I would be surprised if there’s not some situation like that – either physical or social or financial or domestic or spiritual – in each of our lives.
b. When you think of what it is for you, imagine approaching it with the spirit of these words:
“In heavenly armor we’ll enter the land,
The battle belongs to the Lord.
No weapon that’s fashioned against us will stand,
The battle belongs to the Lord.”
2. The willingness to face life with that spirit is an important part of what it means to be the Lord’s people.
a. That the battle is the Lord’s is a very meaningful Bible theme, and action in keeping with this conviction is called “faith.”
b. But this is also a theme which needs to be understood biblically and applied properly. Let’s think through it together.
1. The Scriptures certainly teach that the battle belongs to the Lord.
a. The truth is specifically stated in two striking episodes from the days of the kings.
i. One is from the best known event of David’s life.
(1) The imposing, intimidating Philistine champion Goliath had been confronting Saul and the ranks of Israel day after day, mockingly defying them to send some representative out to fight him.
(2) When the young man David arrived and saw the armies of the living God cowering in dismay before their pagan opposition, he volunteered to go out in Israel’s behalf, taking only his staff, his sling, and five smooth stones in his shepherd’s pouch.
(3) The huge, heavily-armed Philistine came to meet him with disdain, cursing David by his gods and promising to deliver his body over to the vultures there in the field.
(4) David’s dramatic response is recorded in 1 Samuel 17:45-47....And the Philistine champion was delivered into the hand of the youth who believed the battle belongs to the Lord!
ii. The other comes a little more than a hundred years later when Jehoshaphat was king of Judah.
(1) A huge multitude from Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir came up against him for battle.
(2) Jehoshaphat was afraid, but he did what he was in the habit of doing: he set his face to seek the face of the Lord.
(3) He had all of Judah assemble to seek help from the Lord, in whose hand are power and might so that none are able to withstand him, and he prayed, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”
(4) The Lord’s dramatic response is offered in 2 Chronicles 20:15-17....And the battle was the Lord’s! He set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, and they all helped to destroy one another!
b. The idea appears in several other passages, even if the phrase is not used.
i. Hannah prayed, “He will guard the feet of his faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail” (2 Samuel 2:9).
ii. Elisha, surrounded by horses and chariots and a great army of Syrians, said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (2 Kings 6:16).
iii. Zechariah said, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).
iv. All the way through, the Bible teaches that the battle belongs to the Lord!
2. We must observe what this does – and does not – mean.
a. It does not mean that the Lord would have us go out to engage in a violent physical action in behalf of his cause.
i. He has not called us to engage in any holy wars and he has not promised us any triumphs over political foes.
ii. The Lord’s kingdom is spiritual; it exists in any nation in the world where people obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
iii. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
b. It does mean that when we are willing to follow him and uphold his cause and wait for him, he will be with us – with the power and wisdom to overcome the strongest enemies by the weakest means.
i. David courageously went out to meet Goliath; Jehoshaphat and the people had to stand firm and hold their position and see the salvation of the Lord in their behalf; but the battle was the Lord’s.
ii. Psalm 33:16-19
iii. The ultimate demonstration of this fact is what God has done to sin and death by means of the word of the cross. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men...God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God” (1 Cor. 1:25, 27-29).
c. “When the power of darkness comes in like flood, the battle belongs to the Lord.
He’s raised up a standard, the power of His blood. The battle belongs to the Lord.
3. There are valuable applications of this precious truth. All Christians do face battles of one kind or another. One writer, for example, observed that they come “if not outwardly, then inwardly, through the long, slow battle with temptation or sickness, the agonizing anxieties of Christian responsibilities for a family or a church..., the constant doubts and uncertainties which accompany the obedience of faith, and ‘the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to’, taken up as they are within the call to follow Christ” (N.T. Wright, Colossians, p. 90). How does the fact that “the battle belongs to the Lord” apply in such cases?
a. Temptation should be met with the belief that the battle belongs to the Lord.
i. All of us face it; even our Lord did. Temptation is not in and of itself a sin, but it will lead to sin if we are overcome by it.
ii. The Lord, however, knows how to deliver the godly from temptations (2 Pet. 2:9).
iii. 1 Corinthians 10:13 – “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”
b. Sickness has to be faced with the conviction that the battle belongs to the Lord.
i. Sickness is part of life, even for faithful servants of the Lord. (Cf. Phil. 2:25-27)
ii. By the nature of it, there’s not a time when the limits of our ability are more obvious than when we’re in the grip of illness or disease.
iii. We’re to do what we can to take care of ourselves and we’re to accept the care of others, but we are especially to pray to the Lord who can raise us up from it, and who will remain with us through it. Some things are in his hands, not ours. (Cf. James 5:14-15; Phil. 2:27)
c. Responsibilities for a family or a church become bearable when we know that the battle belongs to the Lord.
i. There is no anxiety like what you have when you have to watch for the best interest of individuals who have a will of their own – and over whom, therefore, you have no real control.
ii. It’s what parents feel when their kids are two, or teens making choices, or adults off on their own; and it’s what elders feel when they’re trying to shepherd the household of God.
iii. Any relationship work like this can only be done by people who realize that they are not God, but believe that he is.
d. The doubts and uncertainties which accompany the obedience of faith also require us to remember that the battle belongs to the Lord.
i. The obedience of faith doesn’t take away everything we wonder about or everything we’re not sure about.
ii. As with Jehoshaphat, there will be times when “we do not know what to do,” and those will need to be especially the moments when we say “but our eyes are on you” (2 Chron. 20:12).
iii. In the midst of the worst uncertainty, Jesus “continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet. 2:23). So must we.
e. Any of ‘the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to’ can be coped with if the battle belongs to the Lord.
i. None of us know what a day will bring (cf. James 4:14). Any number of unanticipated things can – and do – happen.
ii. But that doesn’t mean we have to be easy victims of whatever surprise comes along next; there are some things we know, no matter what (cf. I John 5:18-20; Rom. 8:28).
iii. Philippians 4:13 – “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
1. Now think again of those places where you feel like the underdog. The song advises:
“When your enemy presses in hard, do not fear, The battle belongs to the Lord.
Take courage, my friend, your redemption is near, The battle belongs to the Lord.”
2. The question isn’t whether he is up to the battle; it’s whether I’m in his army.
a. The question is whether I have the heavenly armor on and whether I’m standing for the right (cf. Eph. 6:10f).
b. Any one of us can answer that question affirmatively by choosing to be baptized into Christ and by living in keeping with that commitment.
c. What’s your answer today?