Sunday, July 24, 2011

Preparing for Battle With A Shared Enemy

A child of the Cold War era, I watched many a movie where the bad guys were either Soviet spies or German Nazis. My childhood was pasted with images of my father turning the dial on the television to the nightly news programs, loud male voices speaking of the nuclear buildup threat in Communist Soviet Union. Back then, the word "Communist" incited fear, much like the word "terrorist" does today. There were Communists hiding under every stone--maybe your neighbors, maybe your family, maybe even you.

Growing up around my father's stories and pictures from his tour in Vietnam, I knew the fear, but I didn't fully understand the concept of a "cold" war until the temperature had already started to rise between our two countries. All I knew of Russia were images from my history books of drab, poor-looking people in Eskimo hats and fur-lined, ankle-length coats along with a brochure-style image of the Kremlin with its ice cream-swirled turrets that appeared to have been taken straight out of the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie.

I remember taking the globe in my hands, staring at a wide, shapeless chunk with the letters U.S.S.R. evenly spaced across it. I could imagine only emptiness in such a large country, endless, barren plains of snow and ice, all completely on the other side of the globe I spun in circles.

Then suddenly, this faceless war had a face in a balding, middle-aged Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev. All four television channels showed the same things--images of President Reagan shaking this Communist's hands, images of him smiling at the enemy, and then the oft repeated soundbite, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

With the signing of a treaty, a covenant, victory and peace were achieved. Russia's enemies became our enemies. And the wall did come down.

In this space, we've been discussing covenant--how God views covenants made in His name and memorial signs that serve as reminders of covenant.

One such covenant was between King Saul's son Jonathan and David. Scripture says, "the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt" (1 Sam. 18:1b, 3-4).

Each of these five gifts symbolically foreshadows its ultimate fulfillment in the new covenant made through Christ Jesus. Last week, we looked into the significance of the robe. The remaining four gifts--armor, sword, bow, and belt--all fall into one category...making David battle-ready.

When the two men entered into covenant, Jonathan's enemies became David's enemies, and David's enemies became Jonathan's. Each was to protect his covenant partner from his enemies, something that would prove difficult for Jonathan a short while later when his father, Saul, determined to kill David (but that's a story for next week).

As descendants of Abraham, though, both men had a common enemy--the Philistines. Jonathan's gifts served to equip David for the battles that would surely come.

Consider this armor in light of the New Testament, the new covenant in Christ Jesus.

Initially, we are God's enemy. Satan is described as the "ruler of the kingdom of the air"(Eph 2:2). 1 John says, "the whole world is under the control of the evil one" (5:19). Thus, "anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God" (Jas. 4:4).

However, if a person is redeemed through the blood of the Lamb, that person enters into covenant with God. Christ's robes of righteousness cover him. Then, his enemies become Christ's enemies and Christ's enemies become his.

Much like David and Jonathan shared an enemy, Jesus Christ and all Christians have a common enemy--Satan. Peter minces no words when describing this shared enemy: "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour" (1 Pet. 5:8).

Additionally, our covenant partner, Jesus Christ, makes us Christians battle-ready just as did Jonathan with David. Paul tells Christians to "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil...take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything to stand firm" (Eph. 6:11,13).

Here, the "full armor" is explicitly given to us as covenant partners for one purpose--our battle against Satan and his "spiritual forces of wickedness" (v. 12). Christ is literally equipping us for the battle at hand.

Paul then proceeds to describe what this armor entails: "Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:14-16).

Christ gives us a belt--truth. He gives us a sword, and not a dull one either: "the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart" (Heb. 4:12).

But what about the bow? Flaming arrows are mentioned here, but they're being shot at Christians by the evil one; yes, we are given a "shield of faith" to stop those arrows, but no bow of our own to retaliate.

Unlike Jonathan who gave David two offensive weapons, Christ gives us Christians only one--the Word of God. The reason cannot be unintentional. I believe Scripture is saying God's Word is all-sufficient, the only offensive weapon we need in our battle against Satan.

The order of the gifts cannot be unintentional either. Such battle-readiness only occurs after we are robed in His righteousness. One cannot be empowered and battle-ready without first "putting on" Christ (the robe).

Know that if you have put on Christ, you have also been made ready for the battle before you. But access to the armor, the belt of truth, the sword of God's word doesn't mean use.

If we only had eyes to see, we'd be shocked at the invisible battle being waged all around us every second of every day. Standing firm in the midst requires us to wear all our armor, not leave one piece gathering dust in the back of a closet.

Photo: Husband in front of piece of Berlin Wall located at the Montreal World Trade Center.

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