Rules for War

By: Gena Anderson

Pandemic. World health crisis. National outbreak. Economic shutdown. These are the words of our headlines and the reality of our lived experience as a people right now. What covid-19 has brought to each individual differs greatly. Some are losing routines and lifestyle, others income and resources, and devastatingly some will have their earthly life come to an end at the hand of this thing. 

It all begs the question: with so much loss, what will be gained?

Deuteronomy 20 outlines God’s rules for war, how he expects his people to conduct themselves when fighting for him. If this covid-19 experience isn’t comparable to war, I don’t know what is. The war that is referenced in the passage is the one in which God’s people would overtake the inhabitants of the land God had promised to them. Our battle is different, but I believe the application of Biblical truths is possible and the very reason God gives us his Word. There are several of these rules for war that stuck out to me.

Do not be afraid.

If you’ve read your Bible at all, or even heard others talk about the Bible, you’ve probably heard this before. It’s reported to be said over 300 times in God’s Word. I haven’t counted, I’ll just take Google’s word for it, and say I can attest it’s in there a lot. What’s more important for us to remember, especially now, is why we shouldn’t be afraid. It’s easy to look at our enemies and see how powerful they appear, to focus on the threat that is so swiftly coming. God says we should focus on him, what he’s done for us in the past, and what he will do for us now and always. “For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory” (Deuteronomy 20:4, CSB). God is fighting for us, he will win, and we have nothing to fear. 

We all have an assignment.

This chapter makes it clear that we are all a part of the battle, and how we participate will differ. Some are needed at home. They are not missing out on the world around them, they are where they are needed most, in the presence of their families and growing what they’ve planted at home. Others will be actively engaged in the battle, some on the front lines. These are the ones who are prepared and able. Their need to serve is greater than their need to shelter. The benefits outweigh the risks, and the goal is to protect God’s people by all means necessary. Finally, some will be called to lead, seeing the bigger picture and commanding those they are charged with leading. These have been appointed to direct those fighting, inspire courage, squash fear, and they need our support and prayer.

God is number one. 

God told his people to go into the land and first offer peace, giving their enemies the opportunity to submit to God and be among his people. If that failed, plan B was to attack and destroy. Why? God’s people were to destroy anything that would tempt them to sin and put other things before God. God wanted their focus on him, and not the world around them. He wanted to eliminate anything that threatened his very first commandment to have no other gods before him. Isn’t it interesting that the most powerful tool we have to fight against this virulent attack is social distancing? We suddenly find ourselves with limited ability to do the things that draw our attention away from God, and distance between us and idols. The thing is, God doesn’t call for distance, he calls for destruction. I don’t believe in today’s world we are called to destroy people, but the heart of God is after our whole heart, and it seems we have been handed the perfect opportunity for purification. We should be asking ourselves what idols we need to destroy and remove from our lives.

Enjoy the spoil. 

God told his people to take and enjoy the possessions they acquire during war. In particular, he said not to destroy trees that would produce fruit. God is always for us, and what he takes us through is for our good. Sometimes it’s a choice to see that good, and allow the painful endurance of battle to produce fruit in our lives. Eventually, if we look for it, we will begin to see how God is in this, always has been. We should use what God’s given us in the process of war to prosper in the future. If you’ve been blessed in this season, and can see the good God is already doing, share your story to encourage others. If you feel anything but spoiled, lean on him and go back to the first rule of war: do not be afraid. None of us have been forgotten, and we will all enjoy the gift of God’s presence and power in our lives, even if we aren’t seeing it today.

I am encouraged. God’s left us instructions for such a time as this. Don’t be afraid, accept and walk in our assignment, make him first, and be ready for the spoil that is surely coming. My heart breaks for the suffering of humanity, and it is soothed by knowing that God’s heart breaks too, and he is in control. 

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