When the Israelites clamored for a king to fight their battles—rejecting God as their king—Saul was selected (1 Samuel 8:7, 19-20; 10:18-24; 12:12-13). After reigning on the throne for two years, Saul had an army of 3,000 men, 1,000 of whom were under the command of his son Jonathan (1 Samuel 13:1-2). The Philistines readied a daunting military force of 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen, and people as numerous as the sand on the seashore to meet the Israelites in battle (1 Samuel 13:5). Saul’s army was so frightened that they ran and hid themselves (1 Samuel 13:6). After Saul had sinned in attempting to present unauthorized offerings to the Lord, Samuel rebuked Saul and the situation grew even dimmer (1 Samuel 13:8-14); only 600 men were present with Saul (1 Samuel 13:16). Moreover, their lack of weaponry is described in 1 Samuel 13:19-22:
Now there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel: for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears: But all the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock. Yet they had a file for the mattocks, and for the coulters, and for the forks, and for the axes, and to sharpen the goads. So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and with Jonathan his son was there found.
Thus, only two swords, one for Saul and one for Jonathan, could be found among the entire Israelite army.
Israel was unarmed to meet the foe and frightened before an enemy that vastly outnumbered them. The Lord’s church is described in the New Testament as the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). Though our warfare is not carnal (2 Corinthians 10:4), the need for God’s people to be armed against Satan’s assaults could not be more pressing. Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:10-13:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
God’s word is sharp as a sword (Hebrews 4:12). We are to take, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). Trials, temptations, skepticism, fraudulent religions and false doctrines surround you. But God is with you and He is greater than the world (1 John 4:4). God delivered Israel through Jonathan (1 Samuel 14); there is no telling how much God can do through one person armed with His word today. Do not be left unarmed to meet the foe. Spend enough time with God’s word that you make it a part of you. With the word of God you can “war a good warfare” (1 Timothy 1:18), you can “fight the good fight of faith,” and “lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:12).
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. – Hebrews 10:25
Jesus told us to pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44). We are to bless them instead of cursing them (Romans 12:14). However, there are some passages in the Bible where God’s people call for the wicked to be punished. David, in some of the Psalms, appeals to God regarding His enemies. He prays, “destroy thou them, O God” (Psalm 5:10), and “break their teeth, O God, in their mouth” (Psalm 58:6). David even goes so far as to say, “The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked” (Psalm 58:10). How do these reconcile with Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:44 to love our enemies and pray for them? Should we take these as just David venting his anger and as soon as it was released he would not truly desire his enemies to see such a grim end? Were these appropriate for only the Old Testament in keeping with the principle of divine justice that God would curse those who cursed the nation from Abraham (Genesis 12:3) as well those who disobey God who are among His people, as Moses describes in Deuteronomy 32?
No, there are New Testament verses that call for divine vengeance on the wicked in certain circumstances. Romans 13:1-4 argues that Christians should submit to governmental authorities because they function as God’s minister to execute wrath on evildoers. It is important to note that David’s “imprecatory” psalms (where he is calling for his enemies to be punished) are not intentions of personal vengeance, but rather an appeal to God to exact vengeance. One of the ways God does this is through judicial proceedings. The “eye for an eye” of the Old Testament is not a barbaric code for personal vengeance but rather an instruction to deter crime by prescribing the judges to levy punishment in proportion to the crime committed (Deuteronomy 19:16-21). Justice from the authorities rather than personal vengeance is what is called for.
The call for a curse on evildoers is also on the condition that they are impenitent. We are to desire that men come to repentance like God does (2 Peter 3:9). Peter pronounced a curse on Simon the sorcerer for his wicked request to buy the power to give the Holy Spirit, saying “thy money perish with thee” (Acts 8:19-20). But Peter also appealed to Simon the sorcerer to repent (Acts 8:22). Simon was receptive and asked for prayers (Acts 8:24). Did Peter still desire the sorcerer’s death after this penitent request? Certainly not. Those who follow the course of Simon’s temptation, but are so hard-hearted that they refuse to repent, promulgating a false gospel in order to use their followers, are not pleasing to God. Paul called for such people to be accursed (Galatians 1:6-9).
There are those extreme cases where after repeated attempts to get the wicked to turn from their ways, they show that they are dead set on assaulting God and His people. In such situations, it is proper to request divine justice. God’s justice is represented by those souls who had been slain for the word of God crying out, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9-10). In a nation, as ours, where Christians are not having their blood shed for following God’s word it is easy for us to say that we should never call for God to punish the wicked. But to Christians who are experiencing extreme persecution by wicked men who have continually spurned all appeals to cease from their violence there is solace found in these passages that call for God to punish the wicked. In such extreme cases, as Paul did, we can ask the Lord to repay evildoers according to their works (2 Timothy 4:14).
“I Peter 1:5-9 – Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” – Ephesians 4:11-12
- Apostles, Prophets, Corner Stone
- Elder, Overseer, Shepherd, Steward
- Body Builders
I was recently perusing a book in my library, “The Essence of Guy N. Woods” edited by Johnie Scaggs, Jr. Many may recognize brother Woods name from our Book Reading Challenge list. The book is a collection of articles written by brother Woods, one of which I submit for your reading. (By the way…we have this book in our church library.)
“Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13).
It is inconceivable that one who loves God will not also be greatly interested in His word and equally determined to learn as much of it as possible. One may indeed read the Bible and not heed its precepts, but it is incontrovertible that one who neither reads nor heeds its teaching can please Him who is its author. Every child of God should read regularly the sacred writings, since such effort, when pursued in the right spirit and prompted by proper motives, will immeasurably increase one’s spiritual stature, and secure the greater favor of God.
In recent years, booklets designed for daily devotions have proliferated, and they possibly serve some useful purpose in focusing attention on religious themes, but their thrust is generally away from the scriptures rather than toward them, since they consist, in large measure, of material matters involving the observations and experiences of those who write them, rather than detailed studies of the text itself. It is far better to quench spiritual thirst at the source of all wisdom, assured that the divine fountain, from which one drinks, is pure and unpolluted. Every child of God ought daily to read the divine writings diligently, prayerfully, and with open mind and pen in hand to jot down for further meditation and possible memorization, those precious gems of truth one regularly unearths in such effort.
It is far more than mere coincidence that through the ages the successful pursuit of liberty and happiness has been in those nations and among those peoples where the scriptures are read and reverenced and religion is honored and respected. Conversely, it is also an established fact of history that there is an eclipse of spiritual life, and an inevitable loss of liberty of mind and body where the holy volume is ignored or unknown.
Green, in his “Short History of the English People,” quite correctly observed that “no greater moral change ever passed over a nation than passed over England in the latter part of the reign of Queen Elizabeth. England became the people of a Book, and that book was the Bible. It was read by every class of people. And the effect was amazing. The whole moral tone of the nation was changed.”
It is doubly tragic that the one book, capable of directing us all into the way of greatest and enduring happiness here and hereafter, is so widely ignored today. There is little danger, in our land at least, that through legislative edict and the exercise of tyrannical powers of government, the Bible will be taken from us. The grave and ever present danger is that we will allow it to remain a closed volume on our study tables and in our book shelves!
Wonderful indeed it would be if our own beloved land, conceived by the Founding Fathers as “one nation under God,” could be influenced to turn from its materialistic and secular ways, and its peoples led to respect the Book and its Author as in former days. Were this done, from Maine’s rockbound coasts to the placid and peaceful waters of the Pacific, and from the great lakes to the southern shores of the Gulf, happiness, peace and prosperity would be ours, and the blessings of the great God and our Saviour would descend on us like the gentle dew from heaven. Let us all pray and labor to the end that this worthy goal may be fully and speedily realized.
-Guy N. Woods