Enemies in the Land

 In Fred's Blog, Fred's Blog

Peace is good. War is bad. Right?  Not always. In fact, there are times even now when making peace is simply accommodation and the avoidance of a necessary war.

“So then, the Lord left some nations in the land to test the Israelites who had not been through the wars in Canaan. He did this only in order to teach each generation of Israelites about war, especially those who had never been in battle before…They were to be a test for Israel, to find out whether or not the Israelites would obey the commands that the Lord had given their ancestors through Moses…And so the people of Israel settled down…intermarried with them and worshiped their gods.”

I have come to believe God intends war to be a way of life for each generation. I would like to have God drive out completely the enemies and critics so I can settle in without the dissension or the ever-present prospect of conflict, but God understands there are reasons we need it. I want peace for me and my family. I want things to go smoothly and everyone to get along. I want to put the armor aside and dwell in harmony, but for some reason God wants me to live with a tension that is never resolved. Why do I need enemies?

First, I need enemies to keep me from being completely settled and at ease. Greece and Spain are dealing with the consequences of a State that promised a life free of risk and no enemies. Full employment. Full pensions. Early retirement. All the difficulties and stresses of life alleviated. It reminds me of the kiwi bird in New Zealand. It has very small wings, but they are useless. They do not fly. Why not? Because they have no natural predators. They will never fly because there are no enemies in their lives. Like them, we want comfort, prosperity, and security but God knows we need the imminent threat of an external enemy to keep us obedient. We need to stay just enough at risk to remain close to God. There is no criticism in that. He accepts it as a permanent condition.

Second, God desires our children to be taught about war as the way to obedience – not only by hearing our stories or reading about it as history. They are to be taught by practice and being in the war themselves. That goes against most everything we try to do as good parents today, but it makes sense when you look at what some well-intentioned parents are doing in the name of giving their kids good things. Children are being raised in bubble wrap by “snow plow” parents removing every possible obstacle in their path.

Psychologist S.S. Luther found that teenagers in affluent communities have significantly higher rates of depression, eating disorders, substance abuse, and addiction, anxiety disorders and other self-destructive behaviors than all other groups of teenagers. According to adolescent psychologist Madeline Levine, the root of these problems is that “affluent teens display a disturbing lack of an independent self and are therefore quite fragile in the face of relatively minor adversity.” They have been protected from their natural predators and from the normal hardships only to become “Kiwi kids” with small wings unable to fly.

God knows we want to provide for and protect them, but He also knows we are fully capable of corrupting them without any war in their lives.

Every generation should know what war is. God does not say the role of one generation is to shelter the next from threats. The purpose of enemies is not punishment but a deepening relationship with God. The Apostle Peter tells us not to be surprised at the painful tests as if something unusual were happening to us – but we are. We long for the  Promised Land we imagine.

We’ve not done anything bad to deserve these obstacles and enemies. We’re not being singled out. Quite the opposite. I might not do anything at all to grow toward God without them in my life. The purpose of the enemies is not to create fear or anxiety but obedience and maturity.

What happens when we try to resolve the tension and make peace with the enemies? The same as Israel. They were not violently overthrown or overwhelmed. They were just gradually and yet relentlessly absorbed into the ranks of the enemy. They could not live with the tension God put into their lives for their own good.

As counterintuitive as it might seem, we are to be grateful for the necessary enemies God has left in the land. War and the constant resistance to those enemies and obstacles is the only way for each generation to survive.


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    Jack Modesett

    Just working on a Sunday School lesson covering Revelation 13. Eugene Peterson says we live in a world of violence and ceaseless battle, and that leaders must fortify their people against an Enemy that is “fearsome but not indomitable.”

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    G Smith

    You have given me a helpful way to think about somethings I have been wrestling with. It is easy for me to get frustrated looking at what is going on in the world and our culture today, the sheer brokenness of our world. The division, even the non-military cultural warfare that is so prevalent at this time. There is a battle raging for this world. As I reflect I realize I need to be more intentional to train my kids for the battle that rages and will rage. Also to find a way to be thankful to God for what He intends that goes beyond my desire to avoid inconvenience, conflict, pain, and insecurity. Come quickly Lord Jesus, and in the mean time may we be faithful and choose joy!

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    As a (former) Marine, I can only say “amen” — On time and on target!

    Semper Fi.

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    I am reminded that our “enemies”, our struggle, “is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). I’m also reminded that we are call to be rescuers, to “save others by snatching them from the fire”. (Jude 1:23)

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    I just read these verses this morning — “And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, ‘Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you.’ And when it rested, he said, ‘Return, O LORD, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.’ ” Numbers 10:35, 36
    Nowhere, anywhere does God tell us we’ll be free of adversity, harm, threat, injury, hardship, war, pestilence… He does promise His presence, His protection, His provision, His power. If we live lives filled with rainbows and lollipops, why would we need Him? He has created us to be eagles, not kiwis. “When,” not “if” we pass through the fire… “when,” not “if” we pass through the water… When is Him telling me I will be tested by fire, by floods, by all kinds of frightening events, people, problems, and situations. I choose the battle, not the barcalounger.

    My friend Allen Levi, tells this great story, which leads to a song he wrote about being at the beach on family vacation. He sees a mother with her son, and she’s urges the little to leave the beach, the sand, the wind, the waves, the shells, the birds, and… go back with her to the pool. Allen’s story and song asks: why do we choose the pool when we have an ocean (http://allenlevi.com/who-wants-a-pool/)? The answer is: pools are safe, easy, accessible, confined, and private. A pool offers safety, serenity, security when compared to the waves, tides, and weather which affects the ocean. Oceans are filled with jelly-fish, sharks, barracudas, rip-tides. Pools are filled with floats, skimmers which clean the debris away, and toys.

    I choose the ocean. It requires me to depend on God, on His promises, on His presence, on His protection, on His provision, and on His power. Jill Briscoe says: “we’ve been invaded by deity… we’ve simply obtained deity.” If I spend only a half-a-second on that nugget of Truth, I become “more than a conqueror.” Oswald says: “we’re on the train of a Conquering King.” If I spend another half-a-second on that morsel of Truth, I realize He has made me a victorious warrior and member of His troop. I choose God’s Truths over the emptiness offered by the pool created by our over-simplified and empty American-christianity…. I choose the ocean, I choose deity, I choose the Conquering King. And yes, that means I’m now exposed to attacks, all-out war, unforeseen and unimagined hardships… I’ll have to trust Paul’s words to realize what it means to be “more than a conqueror,” and I’ll go in the unimaginable power of the Holy Spirit who “intercedes for me…. for m.e…!!!” The tomb is still empty. How’s that for a battle cry?

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    Drew Anderson

    Fred, I am strengthen by your insights. I especially found the Wendell Berry poem helpful. When I served in the Army in Korea in 1970 , I found comfort in singing ” A Mighty fortress is Our God.” The words rang true. A late friend who fought in Vietnam and rose to become the senior commander of the State of Washington National Guard advised me 20 years ago when I was full of challenges that he found solace in Psalm 91.
    Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
    I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.”

    Surely he will save you
    from the fowler’s snare
    and from the deadly pestilence.
    He will cover you with his feathers,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

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    Dallas Anthony

    I enjoyed this! Thank you for sharing!

    • Fred Smith
      Fred Smith

      Thank you, Dallas. That is part of a Sunday School lesson. If you want to see more of the same you can go to http://www.thesmithslant.com and there are quite a few collected there.

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