“The Lord your God is with you,
the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
but will rejoice over you with singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17, NIV
OUR GOD IS A WARRIOR GOD. If perhaps our first thought of God is to think that he is nice, we would do well to learn of him as he has revealed himself throughout scripture. Jehovah is not the God portrayed in Hallmark cards and Christmas carols. He is a loving God, but he is also mighty. Dust off your Old Testaments and you will find a God who engages in warfare to defend righteousness, to carry out his purpose in the face of fierce adversaries, and ultimately to preserve the beauty of Heaven. For in Heaven, God and his hosts enjoy harmony, peace, and love. God is willing to go to great lengths, not merely to dictate that righteousness shall prevail, but to demonstrate the superiority of love in an epic story that is, in part, our story on this small planet amidst a vast universe beneath the throne room of Heaven. In the end, God will have won decisive victory, not by force, but by love; and his glory will be all the greater.
The battle in the throne room
We do not know exactly how or why Satan came to be an enemy of God, or why God chose to engage with Satan in extended warfare in the universe that is the temporary dwelling place of man (see Isaiah 14 for possible enlightenment). Perhaps Satan was envious of God’s preeminence, or even of man. Observation of the Devil and some of the world’s most infamous villains reveals one trait in common–the desire to be worshiped (Matthew 4:9). There is only one God worthy of worship, and so the epic began. But why did not God instantly, utterly, and decisively destroy the defiling angels?
The battle at creation
When rebellion broke out in Heaven, God had a choice: he could have ended it abruptly, or he could create anew and woo his new creation to love him. He might allow Satan to attempt to seduce the heart of man as well. It was a gamble of sorts between two powerful spirits to ultimately proclaim the preeminence of the Most High. Man would choose. God knew in is infinite foreknowledge that many men would be corrupted and lost, but many legions would be saved. Why would God risk such awful loss, or even allow Satan to challenge him in such a gruesome duel?
The battle in Eden
The very first man and woman were made in God’s image with free will to choose to love God, to partake in the very nature of God, to enjoy eternal life and perfect harmony with the Father. But Satan deceived them–they chose to sin–and the world was never the same. Disease, decay, and death entered the universe. The world faltered at the choice of one woman and one man. Why would God allow Satan to corrupt the crown jewel of creation? Why not destroy the serpent in a sudden blaze of glory?
The battle and the people of God
God separated from Adam and Eve (Genesis 3). He gave a curse and a prophecy of blessing. God the Creator became the Redeemer and extended mercy. Through generations, men chose either to worship the Lord or to serve Satan, and God allowed it. The Father providentially and mercifully preserved a remnant people who would be his own covenant people. Yet, time and again, even among these there was grievous sin. The patriarchs, the prophets, and the kings failed. The people often strayed. Enemies attacked and seduced them incessantly. But through a covenant of grace and a plan of redemption, God pursued those who loved him and strove to obey him, however feebly. Why would God allow the forces of evil to lurk among his people wreaking such havoc and sorrow for millennia?
The battle at the incarnation
God had an eternal plan to fully redeem his people through sending his own Son, Jesus, to be Savior and King. When Jesus was born into the world, it was hardly a silent night. No, Jesus was born into a battlefield! The journey to Bethlehem was grueling for the pregnant Mary. The birth in the stable was unbefitting for civilized people, much less a King; and the enemies of God did not hesitate to attack the young Jesus, seeking to destroy the one who was rumored to be heir to the throne of David. Then there was the wilderness. Forty days without food, in the desert–alone. Satan seized the moment and offered Jesus an alternative to the cross, if he would just bow down and worship him. Why did Jesus enter the world so humbly and vulnerably as a human?
The battle at the cross
The hideousness of the hosts of Hell was never so vile, never so cruel, as in the crucifixion. An innocent Man who only loved and served others, only spoke truth, and only did good, was hated, falsely accused, reviled, mocked, spat upon, scourged, beaten, and ultimately nailed to the cruelest contraption of the first century–the cross. There he hung, bearing the sin of the world. The King was defeated. Hell and earth held its breath in anticipation: was it over? Some have written that he could have called 10,000 angels. Why, oh why did he not? Why did the hands that formed the world just hang there until they could support his frail frame no longer? Why did he cry “It is finished!” and yield his Spirit?
The victory at the resurrection
“The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Corinthians 1:25). For three days, Jesus was dead. What darkness he endured on the cross and during that time, we do not know. What we do know is he bore our sins there and suffered the penalty we deserved. “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).
Then, something incredible happened: Jesus was raised! 1 Corinthians 15:1-10 tells us that Jesus appeared to his closest followers and hundreds of others alive! The implications of the resurrection of Jesus were immensely profound. In my mind, I imagine all of the spirit realm shuddering and bowing in awe of the King of Glory (Psalm 24). Because of Jesus, believers would now be able to be saved by his spotless sacrifice, die to sin, and be raised to walk in new life (Romans 6:4). The Devil could not outwit the sage warrior, nor discern his holy scheme.
The battle in the church
And so the Kingdom of Heaven was manifested on earth in a redeemed people called to be the People of God in local assemblies of believers who follow Jesus, revere his word, and trust in the hope of his resurrection. Have you been to church lately? Have you seen the kind of people that go to church? Even there, sin, carnality, strife, and works of the flesh manifest themselves. Culture creeps in, deception and division. The church is at war. God’s people are under attack. Why would God establish his Kingdom only to see it corrupted?
The battle and its epic conclusion
Jehovah is a mighty God, but he is also a meek God. He transcends time, possessing an utter patience finite man cannot fathom as he works out an eternal purpose. At any one of history’s greatest spiritual battle scenes, he could have crushed all evil and won decisive victory–and it would have been brilliantly glorious! But it would not have been beautiful. It would not have been love. It would not have been consistent with all whom God is. God is a warrior, but he is also a lover. How much more glorious is the story of the creation, the fall, the patriarchs, the prophets, the kings, the people of God throughout all ages, the incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection, the church, the return of Christ, and finally the recreation? Hallelujah!
It is the greatest story ever told. It is the story that melts hearts and woos men to a God so mighty, and yet so gracious. In the end of this epic tale that is as real as life and death, God demonstrates the preeminence of his nature by loving. All of creation will bow in awe before the beauty of it. All will tremble in his presence. Even the very hosts of Hell will admire from afar the wonder of the thing–Jehovah God reconciling a redeemed people to himself to glory in the new Heavens and new earth for endless ages, where songs shall never cease. And at long last, the fury of his wrath will be poured out on wicked men and angels without measure. Blessed be the Lord!
God of our fathers, whose almighty hand
Leads forth in beauty all the starry band
Of shining worlds in splendor through the skies,
Our grateful songs before Thy throne arise.
DANIEL C. ROBERTS, 1876