It’s difficult for me to imagine what exactly a “spiritual battle” is. The Bible talks about the “spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12), and when I try to imagine this, I envision a scene out of a Harry Potter movie with wizards flying around on broomsticks and people in capes zapping each other with wands. While I am sure this is a completely ridiculous and utterly incorrect image, the Bible does speak about angels and demons and reminds us to “Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (Ephesians 6).
While we many not ever know (in our earthly life anyway) what goes on in the ‘heavenly realms’, the Bible does give us an interesting image of battle in the Old Testament. The Amalekites were a persistent enemy of Israel, and one day Moses told Joshua to choose men to fight the army of Amalek. The Israelites must have known that the odds were slim. The Amalekite enemies was well equipped, well trained and they far outnumbered the army of Israel. However, the two armies went into battle. The Bible recounts that Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of a hill to watch the battle in progress. In his hands, Moses held the staff of God. We are told that “as long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning” (Exodus 17:11). When Moses couldn’t hold his own hands up, his friends Aaron and Hur sat him on a rock and held his hand up, one on each side, “so that his hands remained steady till sunset”. With help to support his arms, Israel eventually won the battle.
At the end of the day, Moses built an alter and called it “The Lord is my Banner. For my hands were lifted up to the throne of the Lord”. In biblical times, a banner was a pole with a bright ornament which would shine in the sun. When it was raised, it became a call to the people to rally around God’s cause or battle. It was a sign of deliverance and of salvation. Even though we may not be able to envision spiritual battle, this small passage gives us a good idea of what we need to do when we face spiritual challenges in our lives. God’s presence is absolutely essential for victory. Just as the staff in Moses hand was a symbol of the mighty power of God, the cross of Christ is our banner of God’s redemptive power over the forces of evil. The book of Romans tells us that “in all things, we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” We just need to claim the victory.
Today…read Ephesians 6:10-18, and think on the concept of God as Jehovah-Nissi: ‘God is my Banner’.
Ever wonder why the church seems so dysfunctional? It’s full of liars, cheats, gossips, hypocrites and all other manner of behaviours. That’s the way it is suppose to be!
Jesus said: “It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous but sinners.” (Matt 9:12 – 13)
People who attend church are at various places in their spiritual journey, (some further along than others!)…but they are still regular people with all the same inherent flaws as everyone else. Followers of Jesus are ordinary people who are seeking Jesus help in overcoming their imperfections.
One of the names of Jesus is Jehovah-Rapha, which means Jesus heals. When Jesus was on the earth, he spent a great part of his ministry physically healing people. News about him spread all over when people brought to him were healed of seizures, paralysis, pain, demon possession, blindness and various other diseases. The bible tells us that “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” However, another aspect of Jesus healing ministry included fixing the brokenness of people’s relationship with God. Jesus was able to relieve people of their spiritual and emotional burdens and He told them “Your sins are forgiven”. He wanted people to experience wholeness, meaning, and purpose in life through Him.
A lot of people who love God are still working towards wholeness. That’s why the church is full of sinners, but it is also a wonderful place; because Jesus is there in the midst of the brokenness, loving people and helping them to overcome their failings. The book of Peter tells us that “He (Jesus) himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sin and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24)
Today…Reflect upon God’s healing work in your life: physically, emotionally or spiritually. Is there somewhere you need to experience healing now? Examine your relationship with God, with yourself, with others.
I don’t know about you, but I have a very difficult time relating to the passage in Genesis where Abraham is asked to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a burnt offering to God.
Try, for a minute, to imagine that you hear a voice speaking to you while you are in the shower, and the voice tells you to ask your only child to walk outside and lie underneath the wheels of your car and for you to run over that child. I’m not sure how you’d feel, but I would be pretty darn certain that I should find the nearest mental institution and commit myself immediately into the care of strangers. That is essentially what God asked Abraham to do.
The situation, as described above, seems ludicrous. And yet, as I ponder it, it makes me think that Abraham must have had a pretty close relationship with God to recognize that the voice asking him to obey was, in fact, the voice of God. It also forces me to recognize that Abraham must have trusted God implicitly to have actually followed through on this plan and walked up the mountain with a pile of wood for the fire. He must have been capable of throwing all his trust on God in those moments instead of running down the mountain.
It also makes me think that God sometimes asks us to be prepared to do some seemingly crazy things in obedience to Him.
Just as Isaac was about to be sacrificed, an angel of the Lord cried out to Abraham to stop. He says, “Do not lay a hand on the boy…Now I know you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son your only son’. Abraham looked up and there in the thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son”. So Abraham called that place Jehovah Jireh, ‘The Lord Will Provide’. (Genesis 22:11-14)
The story exemplifies what God did in reality…giving up His only son to provide atonement for our sins. Just as it would break Abraham’s heart to offer up his son, consider what it cost God to offer up His son, Jesus, for the sins of the world.
Today…think about one of the names of God: Jehovah Jirah ‘The Lord Will Provide’, and remember how God has provided for you. Ponder anew the grace of God in taking the sacrifice for sin upon himself.
Ever have one of those days where you wish you could just start over?
One of those days when you get annoyed and yell at the kids, or fight with your spouse over something totally insignificant, or fly into a rage when someone cuts you off in the car and then take your anger out on someone else? I am totally having one of those days today. I’m not sure why I am in such a state…maybe a bit of underlying stress that is eating away under the surface of my consciousness, compounded by a few small incidents with people, and voila…. my true self rears its ugly head! And now it’s evening, and as I reflect on the events of the day, I wish I could take back my reactions, and just start again.
And then I come to scripture and the passage I am reading is on thanksgiving, of all topics! Why not the earth opening and swallowing up the Israelites or something?
It is realistic, or even possible, to expect people to offer thanksgiving and praise to God regardless of the frustrations of each day?
There are a lot of scriptures that talk about giving thanks.
- “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing” (1 Thess. 2:13)
- “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. His love endures forever” (Ps. 136:1)
- “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because he counted me faithful…” (1 Tim. 2:12)
Giving thanks has many benefits including: readjusting our frame of mind; forcing us to look at the ‘bigger picture’; magnifying the Lord; and paving the way for prayer and the peace of God.
I’d like to think that I, through the power of the Holy Spirit, could go more than a few hours without anger and frustration, but some days, it just doesn’t happen! I suppose those are the times when I need the ‘enabling’ power of God that is mentioned in the verse in 1st Timothy, above. That’s where I am today, coming back to God each time I fail, and feeling thankful that through God’s grace, each time is a fresh start.