Principles of Spiritual Warfare
Nov 09, 2009
In the first chapter of Numbers, we read that the twelve tribes of Israel were numbered. A census was taken of all the men of military age (20-50), "whoever is able to go out to war." The word for "war" is tsaba, the Hebrew word translated throughout this chapter as "war." Verse 49 exempts the Levites, saying,
"Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, nor shall you take their census among the sons of Israel."
Then in Numbers 3 and 4 attention is focused upon the tribe of Levi and its families.
(2) Take a census of the descendants of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, by their families, by their fathers' households, (3) from thirty years and upward, even to fifty years old, all who enter the service [tsaba, "war"] to do the work in the tent of meeting.
In other words, the Levites who "enter the war" were numbered in a separate census. Their job was "to do the work in the tent of meeting." The Levites were exempt from the military census when the other tribes were numbered. Yet they had a census of their own involving spiritual warfare that was to be conducted in the course of their work in the tabernacle. Hence also, we read in Num. 4:22, 23 in regard to another family of Levites,
(22) Take a census of the sons of Gershon also, by their fathers' households by their families; (23) from thirty years and upward to fifty years old, you shall number them, all who enter to perform the service to do the work in the tent of meeting.
"Perform" is tsaba, "war."
"Service" is abodah, "work."
In other words, the job description of these Levites was to do WAR WORK in the tabernacle. They were "servicemen," serving in God's military, skilled in the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). When the Bible speaks of people being killed "by the edge of the sword" (example: Deut. 20:13), the Hebrew word translated "edge" is peh.
Peh is the 17th letter of the Hebrew alphabet. It literally means "mouth." Hence, the edge of a sword was a "mouth" that spoke when the sword was used. This Hebrew idiom was the basis of Paul's teaching about the Sword of the Spirit. The spoken Word is the divine Sword. In Heb. 4:12 we find that this Sword of the Spirit is sharper than any physical sword. Instead of separating one's head from his body, this Sword can judge (discern, separate) the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Therein lies the Victory, because the number 17 is the biblical number associated with Victory.
When the prophets spoke the Word, it was seen as a Sword with a sharp "mouth." When the Levites used a sword (blade of any kind) to cut up the sacrifices in the tabernacle or temple, they were symbolically engaging in spiritual warfare with the Sword of the Spirit. When they cut open the joints and bones to expose the marrow, it prophesied of a greater Sword that would judge the thoughts and intents of the heart.
All the Levitical work that was done in the tabernacle was considered to be "war work." Though it was earthly, using a physical knife, nonetheless, it was spiritual warfare, because it had an effect upon the conditions in the heavens. Why? Simply because the earthly work was empowered by the word/commandment of God.
Hence, Dr. Bullinger's notes on Lev. 4:23 says that "perform the service" means "war the warfare." It was not a war on sacrifices. It was a war on crime (biblical "sin"). Sin empowered the law to bring a curse upon the men and even upon the land itself. The Levitical work was designed to make war on that curse and bring justification, acquittal in the Divine Court.
And this brings us to the next major point. The Israelite soldiers fought pitched battles on a battlefield, but the Levites fought legal battles in the Divine Court. When I first began learning about spiritual warfare in the early 1980's, it was always pictured in terms of a battlefield. Later, I came to see it as a Court Battle.
In the laws of war found in Deuteronomy 20, we find that the Levites acted as Chaplains.
(2) Now it shall come about that when you are approaching the battle, the priest shall come near and speak to the people. (3) And he shall say to them, "Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today. Do not be faint-hearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them, (4) for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you."
In other words, it is assumed beforehand that the Levites and priests had already won the battle in the Divine Court before the physical battle had even begun. Thus, the chaplains of the army were able to tell the Israelites with confidence (faith) the outcome of the battle that lay ahead. If they had not already won the battle in the spirit, they would not really know the outcome of the physical battle.
To win the battle in the Divine Court requires being on the right side of the law (the Word of God). In disputes among nations, it was important that the Israelites not be the ones who had done injustice to the other side. When Israel was on the wrong side of the law, they discovered that God became their enemy. That is, God would rule against them. Their genealogy from Abraham could not save them from the curse of the law, because God is ever and always the impartial Judge.
For example, in the days of Eli, the people went into battle against the Philistines and brought the Ark with them. As they lifted up the Ark, they sang (Num. 10:35),
"Rise up, O Lord! And let Thine enemies be scattered, and let those who hate Thee flee before Thee."
Sure enough, their prayer was answered, for we read in 1 Sam. 4:10,
"So the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent."
Why did the Israelites lose? Why did Israel flee? The answer is given in Isaiah 63:10,
"But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; therefore, He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them [Israel]."
Battles on earth are won or lost, depending on how the case is adjudicated in the Divine Court. When Israel rebels and rejects God and violates His Law, God will not rule in their favor. Everyone and every nation is given equal justice in the Divine Court. Being Israelites in the days of Eli did not help them in the Divine Court. In fact, it worked against them, because Israel was more liable than the Philistines for being in violation of the law. The Philistines were largely ignorant of the true God, and this reduced their liability.
Today, we are engaged in spiritual warfare on behalf of our own nations. For me, it is America. As a biblical lawyer, I find it difficult to represent my American client in the Divine Court, because I know that America has rebelled against God, overthrown the organic Republic "under God," and legislated its own humanistic laws. Under these conditions, we can intercede for mercy and for more time, but we cannot stop the judgment of God until there is some form of national repentance.
On Sept. 11, 2001 the Divine Court handed down the ruling, and God removed fully His hand of protection over America. That is the point where America entered into judgment, and this has continued to the present time. It will continue until we repent, and no amount of crying will stop it. Prosperity teaching will not prevent economic disaster from coming. But God has separated His people so that the judgment does not fall upon them.
This is the first part of a series titled "Principles of Spiritual Warfare." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones