/ MULYALE MUTISYA
When battle rages, it is hard to keep still. The battle fronts are action-packed, and being still makes one a liable target- or so we think. However, when one stands grounded, when one is still, it is difficult to be pushed and shoved compared to when one is in motion. When ‘the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord’ (Exodus 14:10). They also complained to Moses saying, ‘It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in this desert!’ (v12). When facing battle, some get disheartened, but when God calls one to a battle, there is no retreat nor surrender. There is not even looking back because God says woe to those ‘who go down to Egypt without consulting me’ (Isaiah 30:2). Moses, knowing too well that the guiding hand of the Lord was upon them in their journey urges the Israelites;
‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you only need to be still’ ~ Exodus 14:13-14
What followed was that ‘during the last watch of the night the Lord looked down from the pillar of fire and cloud at the Egyptian army and threw it into confusion. He made the wheels of their chariots come off so that they had difficulty driving’ (v24-25). The Egyptians, with their horses and six hundred best chariots quickly realized they were not fighting man. They said, ‘Let’s get away from the Israelites! The Lord is fighting for them’ (v25). But it was too late. ‘The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen- the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived’ (v28). This is because, when the battle is the Lord’s, He can be the only winner, for He always wins. Victory belongs to Him. ‘The Lord is a warrior’ (15:v3) and so in battle, ‘he pursues them and moves on unscathed’ (Isaiah 41:3). God says, ‘No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?’ (43:v13).
When two armies of the Maobites and Ammonites came to make war with Jehoshaphat King of Judah, he enquired of the Lord asking for the next step saying, ‘For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you’ (2 Chronicles 20:12). Again, God spoke through Jahaziel the prophet saying, ‘Do not be discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God’s . . . You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance of the Lord will give you’ (v15,17).
They indeed saw the deliverance of the Lord, for the next day, ‘Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendour of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army’ (v21). While they were singing and praising God, the Lord, the Man of War Himself took over. ‘The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped destroy one another’ (v23). When the men of Judah reached the battle front, ‘they saw only dead bodies lying on the ground; no one had escaped’ (v24). On that day, the men of Judah realized that ‘power and might are in your (God’s) hand, and no one can withstand you’ (v6).
The Christian life is packed with battles. It is a watchful life. Battles threaten to erupt from all sides. And so sometimes it is hard to keep still. Even in the small battles, God commands us to be still to a point that, ‘If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also’ (Matthew 5:39). In essence, one is to keep still and not engage in human warfare, and in the human way. When the time came and Jesus was arrested, He did not resist. Judas the Betrayer came with ‘a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people’ (26:v47).
When Judas signalled the men to arrest the man he would kiss, and finally kissed the Messiah, Jesus tells him, ‘Friend, do what you came for’ (v50). One of Jesus’s companions however did not know that the battle belonged to God and so, ‘reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear’ (v51). When Jesus saw that, he admonished him, ‘Put your sword back in its place, for all who live by the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?’ (v52-53).
In this survival-for-the-fittest world we live in, some Christians forget that the battle is the Lord’s. That’s why they wage war the way the world wages war. They get ‘involved in foolish and ignorant arguments that only start fights’ (2 Timothy 2:3). Paul writes to Titus urging him to ‘avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because they are unprofitable and useless’ (Titus 3:9-10). Those who forget that the battle is the Lord’s are easily beguiled in taking up a worldly view and approach to things, yet God says, ‘Do not call conspiracy everything they call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread’ (Isaiah 8: 12-13).
When it comes to spiritual matters, many people forget that the battle is the Lord’s, that ‘salvation belongs to our God’ (Revelation 7:10). So they try to strive and make their way to God by human efforts, not knowing that God says, ‘I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies’ (Amos 5:21). Again He says, ‘Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your incense is detestable to me . . . I cannot bear your evil assemblies . . . They have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them’ (Isaiah 1:13,14). The more we try to merit salvation by our deeds and not by grace through faith in Christ Jesus, God says; ‘Has not the Lord Almighty determined that the people’s labour is only fuel to the fire, that nations exhaust themselves for nothing?’ (Habakkuk 2:13).
God intends that, ‘in repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength’ (Isaiah 30:15). Like to Martha, Jesus asks us to be still and stand our ground, by allowing Him to take on our battles as we linger and praise in His presence. ‘Martha, Martha,’ the Lord answered, ‘you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’ (Luke 10:41-42).
Christians ought to shift their focus from the battle to the God who saves. So Paul writes, ‘Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the power of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after having done all, stand’ (Ephesians 6:11-13).
‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit says the Lord of hosts’ ~ Zechariah 4:6
‘Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth’ ~ Psalms 46:10
‘Jesus said, Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ ~ John 11:40