Pastor John Onelum brought a multi-faceted message on the theme of spiritual warfare this week. He used 2 Samuel 5:22-25 as his central text and used it as a parallel to the approaches we can use in our fighting of “the good fight.”
The text reads in the NIV as follows:
Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the Lord, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” So David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.
Brother Onelum made the prefacing comment on the nature of spiritual warfare. We fight on several fronts and against several foes. He categorised these as 1) the enemy within [our own sins and fallen nature], 2) the enemy without [spiritual forces of temptation and evil], and 3) institutional enemies [the spirit of this age, things such as atheism, secularism, and self-serving government].
With regards to the “within” of our own sin, this is not a “done and dusted” situation. If we have once had a weakness towards a particular sin (lying, cheating, stealing, whatever), we are prone to be drawn to it again. We need a diligence ad an understanding of ourselves to be able to be prepared to face these “fiery darts.”
The enemy “without” is indeed the evil and spiritual forces set in array against us. These are sometimes “familiar spirits” as they know our past failings and weakness, and will strive to exploit them. Jesus warned of this when He spoke of an unclean spirit wandering in desert places awaiting a return to its previous abode within us, and if we are unready it may well bring companion evils with it. This onslaught needs to be resisted. Jesus even experienced the Devil’s attempt to play on perceived weakness when in the wilderness. Satan three times tempted Christ with human need and pride. Jesus gave us a marvelous example by overcoming these assaults through the application of godly nature and the use of scripture.
David’s example in the 2 Samuel text shows us some key approaches to help us mirror his and Jesus’ success in the face of the enemies.
The first of these brother John noted is that “Discipleship Matters” – Getting advice from God. Notice when faced with an enemy, David did not just rush in, but “David inquired of the Lord.” We too, can seek advice. We are not forces of our own, sources of all knowledge, we are the people of God, and we have the scriptures, and the people of God to turn to in our battles for both advice and support.
The second key point is that “Detail Matters.” In the same way that we fall into easily anticipated patterns so does evil. It was an interesting aside in the text that the context (shown in some translations) is that the Philistines entered the Valley of Rephaim in the same manner they had previously. They like “a dog to its vomit” made the same mistakes. But rather than responding to it in the same way as previously, God instructs David to go around behind them. The detail is important, as the Philistines would anticipate the Israelites to act in a certain way. God gives a clear, detailed approach: “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees.” We need to look at the details of our conduct. Are our ways God’s ways? Are we people of the Word, and look to keep its details in our lives?
Finally Brother John challenged us to remember that “Distance Matters.” Once we achieve a victory we need to push them back further. “So David did as the Lord commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.” David not only drove the Philistines from Rephaim but then pushed them six and then twelve miles further. He put a space between himself and his enemy. We too need to do so. We need to make those “familiars” less so. We need to remove the temptations, sins, and other obstacles to righteousness from us.
God has equipped us, and God stands with us just as he did with David. We (and He) are “in it to win it.”