Allen Jackson - Peace And Conflict - Part 2
It's an honor to be with you again. We're continuing our series on "Spiritual Warfare". We're gonna talk about peace and conflict, and we're gonna begin with this notion that God is a warrior, that he's the God of the angel armies. You know, I've studied in some remarkable places in the world, but I've been in some seminary settings where they are infuriated with any language around our faith that leads towards conflict language like "God is a warrior". They won't even sing hymns that have that kind of language in it. Well, it's unfortunate. Hiding from the truth doesn't diminish it. The reality is our God is a valiant warrior. He's a triumphant King and we need to know him in that way because we wanna live in his victory. Grab your Bible and get a notepad but, most importantly, open your heart.
We are engaged in a struggle. It's the essence of the story. A picture is portrayed of Christians involved in a struggle, not against physical persons but with spiritual beings. Not limited to the earth, but including the heavenlies. It's what he said. "Against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms". How much do we know about that? How much have we cared about that? How much time do we spend on a regular basis, engaging in conflict with principalities and powers, spiritual forces, not just on earth but in the heavenly realms? "Well, you know, really, Pastor, I just wanna go to heaven".
As if that was one of the boxes you could check. Do you think that God asked his Son to come to the earth, to humble himself to the incarnation, to be obedient all the way to the point of a crucifixion, so that you and I could benefit from that and then turn around and say to our Lord Jesus, "Listen, I have no interest in representing the brand. I really have no passion whatsoever for being, like, out front on your behalf. I would like that ticket to the kingdom of wherever that was. I would like one of those. And I'm okay if you chose to bless me and, like, help me have disproportionate outcomes for the effort that I invest. But I don't wanna be one of those over-the-top fanatical, you know, I just wanna be able to blend in".
May I humbly suggest that isn't an option that's presented. That I don't know exactly how we've cobbled that together, but it did not come from the Scripture. In fact, I can take this one step further. In Scripture, the Lord is presented, God is presented to us as a warrior. When he said, "David was a man after my own heart," I think there's many ways we can understand that. The simplest way, I believe, of understanding the necessity for this is that if our heavenly government is at war with the kingdom of Satan, and it is, then we are therefore required to take our places as soldiers in this conflict. Say, "I didn't choose that". No, you just chose the kingdom of God. In the same way, we didn't necessarily, as individuals, choose a conflict with the Taliban, but when our government engaged in that conflict, we were included. And our citizenship in the kingdom of God means we have inherited an adversary.
Now, the good news is God has provided armor and he's provided weapons, but he has not removed us from the arena of the conflict. Quite to the contrary, he has deployed us in this generation. And I think far too frequently our response is, "Well, I'd just rather not think about that. I choose not to believe in the devil". I assure you he believes in you. Now the concept is reinforced by the way Scripture talks about God as a military commander. And this annoys some segments of the church to no end. I don't mean our congregation; I mean the broader church. And it's not some minor reference or some obscure passage. It is a theme throughout Scripture. I brought you a sampling, and it is just a sampling.
Exodus 15 says: "The Lord is a warrior; the Lord is his name. Pharaoh's chariots and his army he has hurled into the sea. The best of Pharaoh's officers are drowned in the Red Sea". God is presented to us, not just as a deliverer, not as just as one who brings freedom. Not as one who makes the opportunity for liberty and personal expression. I assure you the Spirit of God was capable of all of those choices if that were the message. The message that was delivered is the Lord is a warrior. It isn't just a metaphor. It describes the actual events and the total defeat of God's adversaries. And if you'll think just a moment, it sounds a great deal like the language of the book of Revelation.
In Joshua chapter 5 there's an interesting interaction. Joshua is preparing. He's assumed the leadership role; Moses has gone. And they've crossed the Jordan River and now the first city that has to be overcome is Jericho, and it's a very heavily fortified place. And Joshua is doing a bit of reconnaissance. He's on his own, and he encounters an individual. It's what's recorded.
It's Joshua 5:13: "When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and he saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went up to him and asked, 'Are you for us or for our enemies?' And he replied, 'Neither, but as the commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.' And Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, 'What message does my Lord have for his servant?' And the commander of the Lord's army replied, 'Take off your sandals, the place where you're standing is holy.' And Joshua did".
Joshua is confronted by a divine person with a drawn sword. And the individual reveals himself as the commander of the army of the Lord. My opinion, you can disagree with me or you could save yourself some time and agree. But I understand the individual Joshua met to be the same person that we'll come to know later in Scripture as Jesus of Nazareth. He's one of those preincarnate appearances of our Lord. Look at Psalm 24 and verse 8: "Who is this King of glory? The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle". The Bible emphasizes continually that the Lord is a man of war. There are more than one hundred passages of Scripture where Jehovah is called the Lord of hosts or the God of hosts.
Now what's lost in that translation into English is that the word "host" in old English was the word for army. So the most literal translation would be, "He's the God of the armies, or the Lord of the armies". That's not just some linguistic trick. Look at Isaiah 13 and verse 4: "Listen, a noise on the mountains, like that of a great multitude! Listen, an uproar among the kingdoms, like nations massing together! The Lord Almighty is mustering an army for war". Isaiah in this passage is describing God's judgment on the city of Babylon. But he gives us a window into the character, the nature, of God. Because as we approach the end of the age, if we're going to live peaceful lives, secure lives, we need to know the nature of God.
The word that's translated "Almighty" in that passage is the modern Hebrew word for army. It's tsaba. It's the word they use in Israel today. God is described, literally, as the Lord of the army, mustering an army for war. And if you'll allow me, I would submit to you God is still the Lord of the armies, and he can and still does muster his forces for battle, because he understands we need his help. You see, when we reject this aspect of God's character, when we reject this portion of Scripture, we separate ourselves to a significant extent from God's provision for us. I assure you, God does not waste energy, effort, and resources. If he presents himself as the Lord of hosts, the Lord of the armies, mustering his forces on our behalf, we will need them to lead triumphant lives.
I wanna give you one more component. We'll look at it in some more detail in the next session or two, but I want to establish a picture that I think will be helpful as we walk through this topic: rebellion. Adam and his descendants are a race of rebels. When we meet Adam in the opening chapters of the Bible, he's a rebel. And one of the great challenges we have in the earth today is our rebellion. Our rebellion has made it to a point of such absurdity that we won't even accept the biological sex with which we're born. That's a pretty blatant expression of rebellion: "No one can tell me what to do, not even my genetics".
Now, we could extrapolate on that, the many expressions of rebellion around us, redefining marriage, all sorts of ways, but that, to me, at the moment, seems to be one of the more absurd: that I will rebel against even the condition and the circumstance of my birth. "Nobody can tell me what my sex is". Well, actually, God already has. Now I understand, but it's important to understand a little bit more about that. What is the root of that? How can that be so deeply seated? Well, in Scripture, rebellion didn't begin on earth. It began in heaven. And I'm not gonna walk you through all the passages. It's beyond the scope of this session, but rebellion didn't even begin with human beings, but rebellion in Scripture began with an archangel.
Now we know him today as Satan, but when we're introduced to him as the archangel, he was called Lucifer. And Lucifer influenced a group of the angels, a third of the angels, to follow his lead in rebelling against God long before he turned his attention to the human race. So rebellion didn't begin on earth, and it didn't begin with human beings. It started in the heavenlies. In Genesis 3, the first verses in that chapter reveal how Satan in the form of a serpent, you know this story very well, approached Adam and Eve and enticed them into rebellion. In response to that, God pronounced judgment upon Satan, the serpent, and upon Adam and Eve. But I wanna introduce the idea that there is a story in Scripture before we get to the narrative of Adam. There's a story in Scripture before we get to the narrative of Adam and recognizing that, and understanding what's presented to us, helps us understand the condition of Adam and his descendants.
Look in Genesis 3:14: "The Lord God said to the serpent, 'Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you'll eat dust all the days of your life. And I will put enmity,'" it's kind of a fancy word. "'I'll make an enemy between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers. The offspring of the woman will crush your head, but you will strike his heel.'" As far as I know, this is the first instance in Scripture of a direct, predictive prophecy of future events. God himself says it, in this form of judgment. He said, "Satan will strike the heel of a future descendant of Adam and Eve. But that future descendant will crush Satan's head".
When your head is crushed, you're out of the game. You see, the focus of our Bible is to reveal the story of God dealing with Adam and his descendants. The story of Scripture does not preclude, it doesn't eliminate the possibility even of other races. It's simply not the focus of Scripture. There are many points of confusion that can be avoided if we will just open our heart to that simple idea. The Bible is not a complete history book, it's not a complete story of the earth and everything that's happened here. It's not a full scientific presentation. And if you try to make it into those things, I believe you weaken your understanding of the Bible and you weaken your opportunity to follow the invitations that it extends to us.
One of the primary titles given to Jesus in the New Testament is the Son of Man. And that's a direct translation from the Hebrew phrase, "Ben Adom". Ben in Hebrew means the Son of, so Jesus Ben Adom, is Jesus the Son of Adam. Jesus himself used that title more than 80 times in the gospel. He's very deliberately declaring himself to be the Son of Adam. And we get to the New Testament, the idea is still there. In 1 Corinthians Paul refers to Jesus as the Last Adam. Look at 1 Corinthians 15, you've got it. He said, "It is written: 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit".
Now Jesus obviously was not the last person to be born from the lineage of Adam. However, Jesus exhausted the curse of Adam's rebellion, so he was the last in that sense that he finally ended the evil that had been brought upon his race. When Jesus identified with us in the incarnation and led a perfect, sinless, obedient life, and then was willing to take the punishment that was due our rebellion and our godlessness, he opened the door for a whole new form of existence for human beings. So how do we understand the Creation narrative of Scripture? I get letters about this on a regular basis, or communications or questions or emails or something. And I don't know of a way to give an exact or I prefer not to give an exact chronological explanation of the 6 days which culminated in the creation of Adam, because I don't believe the information that we have was complete or intended to fully present that.
Now I know not everybody holds that opinion. I'm okay. Archbishop Usher used the genealogies of the King James Bible to calculate Creation as 4004 B.C. I have some Bibles that have that printed in them. I'm okay with that. That was before my birthday, I'm good. But the Bible leaves open the possibility that the Creation described in Genesis 1:2 and following was preceded by really an indeterminate period of history. The Bible doesn't give us any sense of timing. It could have been thousands of years, it could have been millions of years. Personally, I'm okay, I'm content, to leave the issue to a point in our future when God chooses to fully reveal the story. But if you'll take a moment with me, and this really does relate to spiritual conflict in our lives.
We need to understand the nature of our adversary, why we're vulnerable, and why we need the power of God to help us. Why the beings in the heavenly places have an impact in our lives, that it's not just hocus pocus, it's not a fantasy. In Genesis 1:1, it says: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth". There are various passages of Scripture, and I'll limit, we're limited on time, that indicate God first created the heavens and creatures that are in them. Then he created the earth. The heavens and their inhabitants were already in place when he created the earth. In the book of Job, you're familiar, I think, with the general outline of the book of Job. There are many places where Job's complaining that God is not directing events in the manner which Job believes he should. We have all stood in Job's place. But suddenly, God steps into time, much to Job's surprise, and he begins to question Job.
I put a passage in your notes. It's Job 38. This is God speaking to Job: "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundations? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone, while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy"? God is describing bringing order or creation to the earth. And we see in the language in Job, very clearly, that when the Lord laid the earth's foundations, the angels were watching. Heaven and its host were already complete and given a front-row seat for the remarkable spectacle of the Lord bringing the earth into existence. No doubt someone will say, "Well, Pastor, I just thought that was metaphorical, poetic language".
Well, that's an interesting perspective but once you adopt that, how do you know when to apply it? Is sin metaphorical? Was the need for the redemptive work of Jesus just poetic language? Was the virgin birth poetic? To me, it seems very simple. The angels were in existence, the heavenly hosts were in place, when God created the earth. They stood in amazement at it. Look at 2 Chronicles 6:18: "Will God really dwell on earth with men? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built"! Solomon is describing a heaven beyond what we see. We'll look at another time at the word used for heaven in the Scripture. It's used most consistently in the plural, as if there's more than one.
In Nehemiah chapter 9 and verse 6, Nehemiah says: "You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that's in it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you". Nehemiah gives us a parallel passage to the one in 2 Chronicles that Solomon gave us. He's describing a heaven beyond what we see and it is filled with a multitude of beings. And we have been stubbornly indifferent through imagining that we have a role as intercessors, engaging the spiritual forces that impact the course of humanity. I don't believe we can understand human existence apart from the existence of evil and the grace and the mercy of God. And that our journey under the sun, our journey in time, it gives us the opportunity to take our place in the unfolding purposes of God, and that is more than being kind or doing good things.
We scarcely have a distinction any longer between the church of Jesus Christ, who believes in the unique things that describe that, and civic organizations that do good deeds. I'm very willing to be engaged in doing good deeds, but we cannot replace our assignment to put on the full armor of God and take our stand against all the schemes of the Evil One. And to prepare our minds for action. And we've become so sophisticated, we have become so worldly, that we will have a debate. So you know, "I'm just not sure I believe in that". And we'll go commit ourselves to another round of good deeds. I don't wanna diminish your compassion for people, but I do wanna submit to you that if there's not a distinction in the way you live and the way that someone who's just generally kind lives, your faith is in question.
Before we go today I wanna pray especially for those of you who have lost hope. It isn't even up to us to maintain that. We can trust God that he's watching over our futures. Let's pray:
Father, I thank you that you're a God who renews and refreshes and redeems, and I pray especially for those today who are weary, who have grown tired. Lord, refresh them, renew them, give them strength by your Spirit today in Jesus's name, amen.