The war really is bigger than us. . . . The passage quoted in the above picture is taken from the words of the apostle Paul found in Ephesians 6:10-20 which states the following:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.
To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:10-20, ESV).
It reminds me of something I read in Sun Tzu‘s treatise titled, “The Art of War,” in a section titled “Maneuvering.” Sun Tzu opened that section with the following statement: “In war, the general receives his commands from the sovereign” (quote source here). Sun Tzu (544-496 BC) “was a Chinese general, military strategist, and philosopher who lived in ancient China. Sun Tzu is traditionally credited as the author of The Art of War, a widely influential work of military strategy that has affected both Western and Eastern philosophy” (quote source here). The entire text of “The Art of War” can be read online at this link.
While there is nothing that indicates Sun Tzu believed in the God of the Bible (and indeed, he lived centuries before the Bible was in print), his statement, “In war, the general receives his commands from the sovereign,” is quite an apted one. There is an Old Testament figure, King David, who was born in Bethlehem and died in 962 BC (four centuries before the arrival of Sun Tzu in ancient China) who also lived centuries before the entire Bible was in print (including most of the Old Testament and all of the New Testament), and he was known as a man after God’s own heart (see I Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22–David was installed as King after God rejected Israel’s first king, King Saul).
As stated in an article titled, “King David–A Man After God’s Own Heart,” on Christianity.about.com, the life of King David is a study in contrasts, yet God always viewed David as a man after his own heart because of his single minded commitment and devotion to God. The article opens with the following statement:
David lived a frustrating life, first in the shadow of his brothers, then constantly on the run from vengeful King Saul. Even after he became king of Israel, David was engaged in almost constant warfare to defend the kingdom. King David was a great military conqueror, but he could not conquer himself. He allowed one night of lust with Bathsheba, and it had disastrous consequences in his life.
Although King David fathered Solomon, one of Israel’s greatest kings, he was also the father of Absalom, whose rebellion brought bloodshed and grief.
King David’s life was a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows. He left us an example of passionate love of God and dozens of psalms, some of the most touching, beautiful poetry ever written. (Quote source here.)
While that description tends to focus on the negative side of David’s life, the much larger picture is his great devotion to God in spite of his shortcomings that indicates a trust and devotion that went to the very core of his being and stayed with him throughout his lifetime. Many of the psalms written by King David (before and after he became king) echo down through the centuries of his great devotion and total dependence on God and God’s protection over his life (and yes, he had to live through the consequences of his sins, such as the death of his first child with Bathsheba; and yet their next child, Solomon, became one of Israel’s greatest kings). One of David’s psalms, found in Psalm 59, shows his great devotion to God at a time of his greatest need for protection from King Saul, who was trying to kill him. Here is Psalm 59 (NIV):
When Saul had sent men to watch David’s house in order to kill him.
1 Deliver me from my enemies, O God;
be my fortress against those who are attacking me.
2 Deliver me from evildoers
and save me from those who are after my blood.
3 See how they lie in wait for me!
Fierce men conspire against me
for no offense or sin of mine, Lord.
4 I have done no wrong, yet they are ready to attack me.
Arise to help me; look on my plight!
5 You, Lord God Almighty,
you who are the God of Israel,
rouse yourself to punish all the nations;
show no mercy to wicked traitors.
6 They return at evening,
snarling like dogs,
and prowl about the city.
7 See what they spew from their mouths—
the words from their lips are sharp as swords,
and they think, “Who can hear us?”
8 But you laugh at them, Lord;
you scoff at all those nations.
9 You are my strength, I watch for you;
you, God, are my fortress,
10 my God on whom I can rely.
God will go before me
and will let me gloat over those who slander me.
11 But do not kill them, Lord our shield,
or my people will forget.
In your might uproot them
and bring them down.
12 For the sins of their mouths,
for the words of their lips,
let them be caught in their pride.
For the curses and lies they utter,
13 consume them in your wrath,
consume them till they are no more.
Then it will be known to the ends of the earth
that God rules over Jacob.
14 They return at evening,
snarling like dogs,
and prowl about the city.
15 They wander about for food
and howl if not satisfied.
16 But I will sing of your strength,
in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
my refuge in times of trouble.
17 You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
you, God, are my fortress,
my God on whom I can rely.
As we see from the psalm quoted above, David trusted in God totally to protect him from his enemies, and he did this throughout his life and not just at the time King Saul was pursuing him with the intent to kill him (which had to be terrifying in and of itself). David knew that God was his refuge in all times of trouble. This psalm is also quoted in the book, “A Heart Like His” (1999, 2003, 2012) by Beth Moore, an author, speaker, Bible teacher, and founder of Living Proof Ministries, in the opening to Part II titled, “A Friendship Made in Heaven,” (see pp. 57-58). A brief description of the book on LifeWay.com states the following:
We all go through times when we feel insignificant or times when we feel certain that we have experienced a degree of failure from which there is no return. This is not a reality we experience alone, but is one that a man after God’s heart experienced as well. From shepherd, to refugee, to king of Israel, David exhibited the purest virtues and the most heinous sinfulness, but through it all his relationship with the Lord continued to grow.
“A Heart Like His” looks at this bond of mutual love and admiration between a man who was not unlike any of us and the one true God who is all good and all powerful. Beth Moore walks us through an exploration of David’s incredible life, drawing spiritual insights from a man who boldly fulfilled his divine destiny not merely by what he did, but who he loved and served. Bringing lessons from David’s life to bear on your own, this picture of a man who loved and followed God will help you to serve with a heart focused on Him no matter the circumstance (quote source here).
“A Heart Like His” is an in-depth Bible study on the life of David. In the introduction to the book, Beth Moore states:
All you need to relate to David is a membership to the human race. No matter how familiar you are with the biblical account of his life, I believe you’ll be stirred, shocked, amazed, and forced to think a few hard thoughts all over again. His story is proof once again that truth is far more intriguing than fiction.
Why study David? I believe he is extremely important for several reasons.
First, he was a man with a tremendous relationship with God–called a man after God’s own heart. His songs and poetry inspire us to worship. Since we believe that an intimate love relationship with God is the highest blessing possible in this life or the next, David is a worthy subject for our study.
Second, David simply merits our attention. He was a wondrously complex man. A musician and a warrior. He was capable of both the highest loyalty and the most base sin. In David we see the very best and the very worst in the human species. Getting to know David allows us to get to know ourselves.
A third reason to study David involves his relationship to Jesus Christ, the Messiah. In many ways, David prefigures Christ. As we study David, we will come both to understand to to appreciate our Savior in new ways.
I believe strongly in a fourth reason to study David. Simply stated, he’s in the Bible. You see, Bible study saved my life. I believe studying God’s Word has enormous life-enhancing value. In many different ways I have benefitted from spending time in God’s Word. As you read, “A Heart Like His,” you will accomplish a detailed study of the books of 1 and 2 Samuel. You will also read portions of Psalms, 1 and 2 Chronicles, and many verses from other Old and New Testament books. I have written this book so that you can read it by itself, but I would encourage you to read the Scripture passages from your own Bible. The Scripture references for reading appear at the beginning of each chapter. (Quote source: Introduction, pp. 2-3). The book is available at this link (Lifeway.com–$5.00 for a limited time only).
Since I love reading books on the life of David, I couldn’t resist buying “A Heart Like His,” which is on sale for $5.00 right now at Lifeway Bookstores, and I’m looking forward to reading this one with much anticipation.
Perhaps the greatest message to be found in the life of David is his singular devotion to God even in the midst of his worst sins that had some pretty devastating consequences in his life; consequences allowed by God to bring him to utter dependence on God. God is always very aware of our weaknesses and our sin, but it is in our weaknesses and sin that God can use, if we do not turn away from him in the midst of the very difficult times, to conform us to become men and women after his own heart. And it is our own reaction to those consequences that speaks volumes about who we really trust and believe in . . . whether it is in God, or whether is it in ourselves or in anyone or anything else. In the case of David, sometimes it took a long time before he realized his grave error (as with his affair with Bathsheba, or his failure to discipline his own children), but always he repented and came back to God.
In the article mentioned at the beginning of this blog post titled, “King David–A Man After God’s Own Heart,” on Christianity.about.com, here’s a quick rundown on David’s accomplishments, weaknesses, and strengths, and their life lessons for us today:
King David’s Accomplishments:
David killed Goliath, champion of the Philistines, when David was only a youth and Goliath a giant and veteran warrior.
David was victorious because he trusted in God for the victory, not himself.
He killed many of Israel’s enemies in battle.
Despite several opportunities, David refused to kill King Saul, God’s first anointed king, who was pursuing David out of mad jealousy.
He became friends, like brothers, with Saul’s son Jonathan, setting a model of friendship that everyone can learn from.
God called David a man after his own heart.
King David’s Strengths:
David was courageous and strong in battle, trusting in God for protection.
He was loyal to Saul, despite Saul’s crazed pursuit of him.
David loved God deeply throughout his entire life.
King David’s Weaknesses:
King David committed adultery with Bathsheba. He then tried to cover up her pregnancy, and when he failed with that, he had her husband Uriah the Hittite killed.
He took a census of the people, willfully violating God’s command not to do that.
King David was sometimes lax, or absent as a father, not disciplining his children when they needed it.
Honest self-examination is necessary to recognize our own sin, then we must repent of it. We may try to fool ourselves or others, but we cannot hide our sin from God.
God always offers forgiveness for our sins, but we cannot escape the consequences.
Perhaps one of the most difficult lessons we can learn is concerning our sin that is most hidden. In fact, it is often so well hidden that we don’t even recognize it for what it is–like envy, jealousy, being judgmental, showing a lack of love for others, loving money and possessions, thoughts that go nowhere good; and even in the midst of doing something we think is the right thing to do but we actually have no business doing it. And, and it can be hard to tell if it is something we shouldn’t doing it, like differentiating between seeking justice in the form of revenge instead of showing mercy. And sometimes it is hard to differentiate between seeking justice or wanting revenge. The best thing we can do in times like that is to completely trust God for justice in any situation, and to always show mercy (which is definitely our part in the equation). We must never confuse our own seeking after justice with God’s justice. God said vengeance is his and he means it, too (see Romans 12:19). The apostle Paul stated in that verse, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
Most battles that come our way are far bigger than we can handle on our own, even when we try to take matters into our own hands and think by doing so we are helping God out. Often, we are only harming ourselves. It goes back to the verses in Ephesians stated at the beginning of this post found in Ephesians 6:10-20. Standing firm in peace, truth, faith, God’s righteousness, salvation, prayer, the Word of God–those are our weapons. Anything else does not come from God . . . .
A few years back Phillips Craig and Dean sang a song titled, “Mercy Came Running” (YouTube Video below). I’d like to end this post with a few words from their song as a great reminder to us that it is mercy that should always prevail:
Looking down with longing eyes
Mercy must have realized
That once His blood was sacrificed
Freedom would prevail
And as the sky grew dark
And the earth began to shake
With justice no longer in the way
Mercy came running
Like a prisoner set free
Past all my failures
To the point of my need
When the sin that I carried
Was all I could see
And when I could not reach mercy
Mercy came running to me
Mercy came running like a prisoner set free . . .
When I could not reach mercy . . .
Mercy came running to me . . . .
YouTube Video: “Mercy Came Running,” by Phillips Craig and Dean: