The Old Testament book of Judges tells us, “Now these are the nations that the LORD left, to test Israel by them, that is, all in Israel who had not experienced all the wars in Canaan. It was only in order that the generations of the people of Israel might know war, to teach war to those who had not known it before” (3:1-2).
We live in a time of war. For the last ten years the United States of American has been in Iraq, Afghanistan and now with the possibility of moving into Iran. We live in a fallen world, and as a result, war will be a part of our lives till Jesus comes back for us and He told us as much (Matthew 24:6). Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a utopian society on Earth and the sooner we realize it and pray through how to live a godly life in the midst of war we would be better off.
With millions of Americans in this generation having experienced war first hand it sometimes leaves us with the why questions. Why does God allow war? Why was I in this war? How do I process through the effects of this war?
This passage delivers a strange message to us: It tells us that God left enemy nations to test Israel so that everyone who hadn’t experienced war would know war. If, as some suggest, God is the God of peace and there is never a reason for Christians to take up arms and participate in Law Enforcement or War, why would the God of peace leave nations to specifically teach Israel about war?
Edmund Burke said, “He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.” If we approach conflict and combat with the understanding presented in this passage, we learn some valuable lessons. These lessons were so important that God wanted it to be taught in every generation and those lessons apply to our generation.
Some of the lessons that we learn from combat and conflict are difficult to replicate in other scenarios in our lives. The organized chaos of combat is a mixture of events, decisions, reactions, and consequences that happen at what seems to be the speed of light that we have little or no control over. As with many things in life, when we lose control it drives us crazy; but this is actually an opportunity for us to connect with God, who is always in control. It really puts us in a place where we must depend on God.
Whenever we come out on the other side of conflict and combat, regardless if it is spiritual, emotional, or physical conflict, we emerge with a greater confidence in our abilities. Training, as we all know, can only take us so far and ultimately the true proving ground for our skills is in the fire of combat. This applies to our character and our faith. Time and time again in the New Testament we are told that conflict tests our faith. This truth applies universally.
Finally, true combat should cause us to reflect on our own mortality and what is really important in our lives. When we come to the end of our strength and realize that this really could be the end, we begin to see God in a new way. Sometimes this is a car accident, drug overdose, mortar shell hitting your camp, an ambush that took the lives of friends, or the death of a loved one. Conflict is conflict. When we come to the place of vulnerability in our lives, it is there that God can move heaven and earth because we rely on His strength and see things for what they really are and their value or lack of value.