The Nature of Spiritual Warfare
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood
but against the rulers, against the powers,
against the world forces of this darkness,
against the spiritual forces of wickedness
in heavenly places.”
Ephesians 6:12, NASB
God often leads spiritually mature people to conduct spiritual warfare. This does not mean that everyone who participates in such warfare must be spiritually mature, but it does mean that whoever leads people into battle must have some level of spiritual maturity. It is indispensable that such a leader have the ability to hear God’s voice without the interference of heart idols. Otherwise, there is a casualty rate that is simply unacceptable to God.
The story of the battle of Ai in Joshua 7 shows Israel losing that battle and suffering 38 casualties, on account of sin in the camp (Joshua 7:1). In this case, it was not Joshua’s fault, because one of the men of Judah had taken some silver, gold, and a garment in the previous battle of Jericho. Yet the inverse lesson to be learned is this: if a battle is fought by perfect obedience to divine revelation, there ought to be no casualties of war. This is true whether one is fighting a physical battle with armies or a spiritual battle against the spiritual forces of darkness.
For this reason, we ought to study the laws of war in Deut. 20, for this passage also lays down the basic principles of spiritual warfare. Yet before studying that chapter, we must stress up front that warfare is not God’s first option, nor is it His perfect will. He is a God of love, and the reasons He led Israel into battle in the Old Testament cannot be used to justify any of our modern wars.
God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites in the days of Joshua has been used (misused) to justify countless wars, including the Crusades in the Middle Ages. Likewise, it has been used to justify the Israeli mistreatment and oppression of the Palestinian people in the past 50 years. The Church has long thought of Christ’s first coming as a Prince of Peace and Love, but of His second coming as a Prince of War who will exterminate all of His enemies. In this way, the Church is in agreement with the Jews in regard to the character of the coming Messiah. Both believe that He will come with a different character than in His first appearance. In reality, He will come as a Lion who has the heart of a Lamb. The Lion-Lamb combination is the character of Christ. He is all powerful as a Lion, but He uses that power with the character of a Lamb.
Why Did Judah Reject Jesus as King?
The Jews were looking for a conquering Messiah on the order of Joshua, who had been instructed to conquer the land of Canaan and put its inhabitants to the sword. They wanted a Messiah who would overthrow the Romans by military force, accompanied by miracles. However, Jesus came as the Prince of Peace, rather than as the conquering warrior. Hence, they rejected Him as Messiah. In his History of the Jews, Vol. II, page 162, Prof. H. Graetz writes of this from the Jewish viewpoint,
“From Jesus the zealots could not look for deeds of heroism, for, instead of inspiring his followers with hatred of Rome, he advocated peace, and in his contempt for mammon admonished them to submit willingly to the Roman tax-gatherers. . . . These startling peculiarities, which seemed to contradict the preconceived idea of the Messianic character, caused the higher and the learned classes to be coldly indifferent to him, and it is certain that he met with no friendly reception in Jerusalem.”
The people were looking for another Joshua or David, a great military commander that would overthrow the iron kingdom of Rome. There was one overriding truth that the people did not understand about God. They did not realize that Joshua himself would NOT have been a military conqueror either, if the people had been obedient to God under Moses. God was not stern and bloodthirsty. He did not hate the Canaanites any more than Jesus hated Samaritans.
The only reason God gave Israel a physical sword to establish that first “Kingdom of God” was because the people had rejected the Sword of the Spirit at Mount Sinai. They had rejected the voice of God at Mount Sinai, when God spoke to the people verbally, and all of them heard His voice (Deut. 4:12). But they were afraid and hardened their hearts from hearing the voice of God (Ps. 95:7-11; Heb. 3:7-11). They all ran away and told Moses to go up the mount by himself and then return and tell them what God said (Ex. 20:19).
This great event, where everyone had the opportunity to hear the voice of God, was later celebrated as the “feast of weeks of the first-fruits of wheat harvest” (Ex. 34:22). Many years later, this was called in the Greek language, “Pentecost.”
The point is that the Israelites in Joshua’s day rejected Pentecost, and therefore, they refused the Sword of the Spirit by which they could have converted Canaan and the rest of the world. And so, that great sword was largely withheld from men until Acts 2, when Pentecost was finally fulfilled and the sword of their mouth was made manifest as all men heard the voice of God in their own language.
At the base of Mount Sinai, the people worshipped the golden calf, and as a result, the Levites used their physical swords to kill 3,000 men (Ex. 32:28). What would have happened, if those Levites had had the Sword of the Spirit at their disposal?? Look at Acts 2. The 120 disciples in the upper room were willing to hear the voice of God. God gave them the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word from the mouth that is like a sharp sword (Rev. 19:15). This is the Sword Paul mentioned in Eph. 6:17, saying,
17 And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
The disciples took their spiritual swords down from the upper room and used it on 3,000 men in the streets below them. Acts 2:41 tells us the result:
41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls.
This is what would have happened at the base of Mount Sinai, if the Levites had used better weapons. But their rejection of the voice of Jesus Christ speaking to them from the fire on Sinai deprived them of this better and more effective weapon. This is Jesus’ weapon as well, as we read in Rev. 19:15,
15 And from His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may smite the nations; and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty.
All of this shows us why Jesus did not come as a conquering warrior, but as a Prince of Peace. It explains why Jesus (Yashua, or Joshua) did not seem to fit the pattern of the Old Testament Joshua. The reason Joshua was given a physical sword was NOT because God loves bloodshed. It was NOT because God hated Canaanites. It was NOT even because the Canaanite religion was so wicked. It was Israel’s fault for refusing to hear the voice of God. Thus, they were left with a very dull weapon that could never divide soul from spirit or discern the thoughts and intents of the heart (Heb. 4:12).
The Jews of Jesus’ day could not understand this. So they were looking for another Joshua with a bloody sword with which to kill all their “enemies” and oppressors. They had heard it taught that one should love their neighbors and hate their enemies (Matt. 5:43). The gospel of hating Romans and Samaritans was accepted doctrine. Hating one’s enemies was a virtue by their standard, because they did not know the mind of God. They perceived God according to their IMAGE of Him, their carnal understanding of His character.
Even Jesus’ disciples had been caught up in that kind of thinking. In Luke 9, as they were traveling toward Jerusalem through Samaria, the Samaritans (their “enemies”) would not allow them to stay the night in a certain village. Verse 54 says,
54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?
This seemed like a logical solution to them for the sin of rejecting the Messiah. After all, if Elijah could do it, then it must be a moral and righteous solution to satisfy an indignant God whose honor had been insulted. But Jesus’ reaction was different. Verses 55 and 56:
55 But He turned and rebuked them and said, You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; 56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went on to another village.
In the Old Testament, Elijah had indeed called down fire from heaven, which had consumed three groups of 50 men, along with their captains. This was a total of 153 men. This did not mean it was appropriate to call down fire from heaven in the New Testament. Remember that since Israel had rejected the Sword of the Spirit at Sinai, they were left with only a physical sword to do battle on earth. But we have been given a better sword.
Thus, Jesus did not come to destroy men by fire, but to bring a fiery baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Old Testament fire had a new application in the New Testament. This type of fire destroys “the flesh,” but gives men life. What is death in the Old Testament is life in the New. The weapons in the Old Testament were carnal. Ours are spiritual. In 2 Cor. 10:4, 5 we read,
4 For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
The examples of the Old Testament ought to be viewed as biblical types and shadows, rather than as literal models for Christian behavior. The 153 men who died in the fire of Elijah represent the sons of God who were to be baptized by fire later. These are the same as the 153 mature fish that the disciples caught after Jesus’ resurrection (John 21:11). After fishing all night from the left side of the boat (that represents judgment), Jesus told them to try fishing from the right side (mercy). When they did so, they became fishers of men.
Hosea 1:10 speaks of the “sons of God.” The Hebrew term reads, beni h’ elohim. Since each Hebrew letter is also one of their numbers, one can add up the numbers of each letter in a word or phrase to get its numeric value. The numeric value of beni ha elohim is 153. This is what actually sets the spiritual meaning of the number 153. Thus, when Elijah’s fire burned up the 153 men, it was an Old Testament type of the baptism of fire coming upon the sons of God. It was not meant to be used literally as a model of Christian behavior. This is why Jesus rebuked His disciples for their carnal thinking.
Those who DID receive Jesus were given the Sword of the Word, and they went forth to conquer the world by the power of the divine fire that was poured out later on the day of Pentecost. Those who refused to accept Jesus Christ and His gift of Pentecost continued to think that the physical sword was an acceptable weapon to use on God’s “enemies.” They were absolutely wrong.
Those who believed Jesus’ words followed a new path. They preached the word. They “killed” people by baptism, and they called down a Pentecostal fire from heaven upon those converts. Unfortunately, over time, Pentecost was lost, and many reverted back to the physical sword in their carnal zeal to convert men by force.
What if Jesus Had Been Accepted as Messiah?
There is historical evidence that if Judah as a nation had accepted Jesus as Messiah, Rome would have given them their independence with no bloodshed at all. About the year 200 A.D. the Roman Christian lawyer, Tertullian, presented Christ to the “rulers of the Roman Empire” in a letter called Apology. (An “Apology,” by the way, is not a letter asking forgiveness for some wrong that was done. An “Apology” is a letter advocating a particular position or person. In this case, Tertullian was advocating that the Roman Caesar believe in Jesus Christ.) In chapter 21, he writes,
“All these things Pilate did to Christ; and now in fact a Christian in his own convictions, he sent word of Him to the reigning Caesar, who was at the time Tiberius. Yes, and the Caesars too would have believed on Christ, if either the Caesars had not been necessary for the world, or if Christians could have been Caesars.”
In other words, Tertullian tells us that Pontius Pilate was already a Christian by the time he informed Tiberius Caesar of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. In chapter five of his Apology, Tertullian continues,
“Tiberius accordingly, in whose days the Christian name made its entry into the world, having himself received intelligence from Palestine of events which had clearly shown the truth of Christ’s divinity, brought the matter before the Senate, with his own decision in favor of Christ. The Senate, because it had not given the approval itself, rejected the proposal. Caesar held to his opinion, threatening wrath against all accusers of the Christians.”
We see here that when Tiberius Caesar read Pilate’s letter telling him about Jesus, he became convinced that Jesus must be a god. It was common practice in those days for the Roman Empire to recognize various gods and their religious adherents. So Tiberius proposed that the Senate proclaim Jesus to be one of the gods of the Empire. However, Roman law said that only the Senate had the right to present a new god for official consideration. Since Tiberius himself had made this proposal, the Senate rejected it.
We know, of course, that this Roman rejection was part of the plan of God. But if Judah had accepted Jesus as the Messiah and King, it is certain that Pilate would have interviewed Jesus under very different circumstances. Pilate still would have become a Christian. He would have written to Tiberius Caesar, as it was his duty to keep the emperor informed of such events. The emperor no doubt would have wanted to interview Jesus in person, at the recommendation of Pilate. Jesus would have made the trip to Rome, addressed the Senate, and I believe they would have been very impressed with His wisdom, love, humility, and miraculous signs.
They would have realized very quickly that Jesus was not merely “one of the gods” that ought to be recognized officially. I believe that Rome would have been proclaimed as a Christian nation, and that the pagan people would have forsaken their false gods. I believe that Judah would have been set free, along with all other nations. Or rather, all the nations that Rome ruled would have been given to Jesus Christ, the King of Kings.
We know, of course, that none of this was actually in the plan of God. God had fore-ordained a Pentecostal Age that would serve as a transition between the Old Testament kingdom (the type) and the ultimate Kingdom of God (the antitype). Pentecost would fail to manifest the Kingdom in its fullness, because it was fore-ordained that the perfect Kingdom would be manifested by the feast of Tabernacles in the age to come.
It was also necessary that Jesus be betrayed and killed as the Sacrifice for sin. Hence, His first coming was not meant to bring us the full manifestation of the Kingdom, but rather to establish the transitional Age of Pentecost. This Age would serve to train God’s rulers to hear His voice and obey Him as good and faithful servants, so that they would become servant-kings, rather than tyrant-kings. They would also learn the mind of God by observing Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace and come to realize that even though He condoned bloodshed in the old order, this was not really the heart of God at all.
By looking at “what might have been,” both in Joshua’s day and in the days of Christ’s first coming, we can see how Jesus’ peaceful method of conquering the world could have worked very well, if it had been the right time. But it was only the start of a Pentecostal Age in those days. Even so, the principle is applicable today and shows us the manner in which God’s Kingdom will spread to all nations during the Tabernacles Age that lies ahead.
Bloodshed is not the ultimate weapon of the believer—certainly not for the overcomer. This is not how the overcomers will overcome the world in our day under the anointing of the Feast of Tabernacles. The manifested sons of God (Rom. 8:19) will reflect the will and character of Jesus Christ to the world. This will spark a world-wide “revival,” and it will not take long to bring the entire world under the feet of Jesus Christ. But it will be done by love, not by bloodshed, for we have a better sword.
There will be some bloodshed, of course, during this time, but it will be done by those who do not possess such a sword as ours. It is important to understand the mind of God in this matter, lest we engage in spiritual warfare under an Old Testament model and become bloodthirsty in the process.
How to Eat Clean Spiritual Food
To conduct proper spiritual warfare, which has the potential of altering world history as well as the lives of individual people, one must know how to “eat” and process the word that God gives us. In this matter, the food laws of Leviticus 11 are paramount.
There are four basic categories of food laws which teach us how to eat clean spiritual food. First the clean animals in Lev. 11:3,
3 Whatever divides a hoof, thus making split hoofs, and chews the cud, among the animals, that you may eat.
When you receive a word from God, it is not established as truth until it has received a double witness. All truth “stands” upon the earth on a double witness, as we read in Deut. 19:15,
15 A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.
Paul refers to this verse in 2 Cor. 13:1, saying,
1 This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
When one receives a word from the Lord, it is to be taken seriously, but it is not to be regarded as “established” until He has seen fit to give it a double witness. This is a divine law. God set it up this way in order that we might know the truth and so that we might know WHEN to act upon it.
In Gen. 41:32 we read the account of how Joseph interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams regarding the seven years of plenty that would be followed by the seven years of famine:
32 Now as for the repeating of the dream to Pharaoh twice, it means that the matter is determined [Heb. koon, “to be erect, set up, to be established”] by God, and God will quickly bring it about.
We see from this that the double witness to Pharaoh not only established the word as truth, but it also indicated timing—that God was now about to bring it to pass. The first witness alerts us to the truth, assuming it is a true word from God. The second witness tells us that the time is now for it to come to pass or to act upon it.
Like the clean animals that have cloven hoofs, the word stands upon a double witness. And those who are given a word from God through one of His servants ought also to act upon it through the mouth of the double witness. Any preacher that insists that their followers accept his word without a second witness (usually in the Bible itself) is dispensing an unclean word. And anyone who hears a word and does not pray to receive his own inner witness by the Spirit has turned that word into an unclean thing.
Secondly, the animal must “chew the cud.” Clean animals graze and then later chew their cud often in the shade of a tree. God created such animals in this way in order to illustrate for us the principle of meditation on the word. This is the meaning of Selah in the Psalms. Food and other things used to be weighed by suspending them on a scale (balances). Hence, Selah means “suspension, to hang up, to weigh.” It was a word that signaled a pause in the music of the Psalms, giving time for the people to weigh the meaning of the words.
To be a clean word from God, the giver of the word must allow the people time to weigh it and meditate upon it. One may go to a meeting and graze upon many new truths, but then each person ought to go home and “chew the cud.” This is what makes the word clean and lawful by the law of the double witness.
The next category of food in the food laws are the clean fish. We read in Lev. 11:9,
9 These you may eat, whatever is in the water: all that have fins and scales, those in the water, in the seas or in the rivers, you may eat.
Clams, oysters, shrimp, crab, and other shellfish are not included in the list of clean foods because they were created to be the water purifiers of the sea. They eat waste material and sewage in order to keep the seas clean. This is their natural, God-given function.
The fins on a clean fish are its guidance system. This teaches us that to eat clean spiritual food, one must have divine guidance. One must be led by the Holy Spirit. Without such guidance, the Bible is just a dead book. Without the Holy Spirit, men are left to their own conscience to determine the right course of action or belief. Yet the heart of man is incapable of coming up with truth, no matter how many facts they learn. Facts are just dead beasts, while Truth is a living Person.
Secondly, fish must have scales to be clean. Scales are the protection, the “armor” of a fish. This teaches us that we must put on the whole armor of God in order to ensure that we eat the clean word. Paul tells us in Eph. 6:10-17,
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. 14 Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Paul relates this armor specifically to spiritual warfare. In regard to this, let me point out that the purpose of this armor and this warfare is not to conduct conventional warfare against flesh and blood. The sword is not designed to kill men’s bodies but to kill “the flesh,” that is, the carnal attitudes and views which are not of God. The shoes are “the preparation of the gospel of PEACE,” not the gospel of war and bloodshed. Without a mature agape unconditional love, a person will engage in spiritual warfare for the purpose of destroying one’s perceived enemies, instead of with the attitude of Christ, who was willing to suffer injustice and even to die for those same enemies.
The third category of clean food is the fowl of the air. We read of these in Lev. 11:13-19. Examples are given, but no particular principle is expressed by which to distinguish clean and unclean birds. Hence, we must understand by the leading of the Spirit. In looking at these birds, we are struck by the fact that all of them are scavengers. They eat dead things on the road or in the woods, along with rodents and other small animals. In this capacity, God created them to prevent disease by keeping the land clean of rotting animals.
They are also meat eaters, and they do not drain the blood from their prey before eating them. In this capacity, the law teaches us not to be bloodthirsty—that is, to eat that which dies of itself without having the blood drained from it. Lev. 17:10-15 speaks of this, for the life (literally, the SOUL) is in the blood, and for this reason the blood was given for an atonement for our souls. It was to be poured out upon the ground, rather than consumed by man.
Ultimately, the blood of Jesus Christ was to be poured out upon the ground to atone for sin. Isaiah 53:12 says He poured out His soul unto death. The soul is put for His blood that was poured upon the ground, because the soul is in the blood.
In John 6:51-58 Jesus said that in order to have eternal life all men had to eat His flesh and drink His blood. The Jews were scandalized by this, of course, unable to see His meaning. He meant that men had to “eat” the words that He spoke and “drink” of His life—that is, they had believe in Him and follow His model.
In some cultures, men have consumed the blood of their enemies or of wild animals thinking to gain power or consume the souls of their enemies. This is unlawful, even by New Testament standards (Acts 15:29).
In Ezekiel 35:6 the people of Edom, or Idumea, were chastised for being bloodthirsty:
6 therefore, as I live, declares the Lord God, I will give you over to bloodshed, and bloodshed will pursue you; since you have not hated bloodshed, therefore bloodshed will pursue you.
Edom means “red,” and was the nickname of Esau (Gen. 36:8). His name is close to Adam, which means “ruddy.” The Hebrew root word is dam, which means “blood.” Hence, the “field of blood” where Judas was buried is called Aceldama (Acts 1:19). The mind of the flesh is from the old man, Adam. It is expressed by the actions of Edom. It will always betray you like Judas. Bury it where it belongs.
Spiritual warfare is for those who hate no one. It is for those who, like Jesus, can love even Judas and call him “friend” (Matt. 26:50). It is for the peacemakers (Matt. 5:9), not for those who want to take the kingdom by violence and by force. It is for those who wear the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace. Every law shouts this upon the housetops. Let us have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying.
The final category of clean food is found in Lev. 11:20-23, dealing with insects, such as locusts and grasshoppers:
20 All the winged insects that walk on all fours are detestable to you. 21 Yet these you may eat among all the winged insects which walk on all fours: those which have above their feet jointed legs with which to jump on the earth.
This speaks of immature believers, those who yet “walk on all fours.” Spiritual babies are those who still crawl close to the earth. While this condition is “detestable” in every case, yet they are clean food if they are able to jump, or leap higher.
Many Church organizations are designed to keep people from growing spiritually, because they have found that the more people grow, the more likely they are to begin arguing with their leaders about their creeds and doctrines. It is easier for a denomination to keep them immature and ignorant, and so most preaching is limited to the “milk” of the word—the salvation message. Thus, the choir gets evangelized every week, and people come to Church out of duty, rather than with an expectation of actually learning something. Many come only to partake of sacraments that are designed to maintain their current status as children of God, yet teach them nothing new year after year.
Even a bite-sized morsel that is no bigger than the meat on an insect can be a clean meat, if it actually contains some nourishment. It is clean when designed to cause men to leap higher. However, it can become an unclean food when it is designed to keep the people immature, crawling on all fours. But those who have the desire to leap heavenward are clean through His word (John 15:3).
This final category of clean food specifically relates to the level of spiritual maturity that is necessary in conducting spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare is not for those who desire to remain immature. If even an immature believer can turn his eyes heavenward and begin to leap off the earth, he is qualified to participate in spiritual warfare, though I would suggest that he follow the lead of another who is more mature and has such a calling.
Military Defense and God’s Protection
Let me say at the outset that it is NOT a sin to be a soldier in the military. It is not the ideal occupation, of course, but neither is it a sin. There are certain realities in the world, which make the military a necessity. It is necessary not only because there are evil men in the world, but also because the Christian believers do not have the level of spiritual maturity and faith to believe that God can actually protect their nation from their enemies without help from the military. And so, in a world where men’s faith is imperfect, men rely upon the military for their protection.
The fact is, even in the Old Testament times, God played down the importance of military might. God clearly taught the people to rely upon divine protection, rather than their military strategy. In Deut. 17:14-20 we find the divine instructions that the king of Israel was to follow. Few of their kings actually took heed to these things, and so it became more prophetic of how the King of Kings would rule Israel and the world. Jesus, being perfect, always follows His own law, for He was the Lawgiver who spoke to Moses. Deut. 17:16 gives us one of the divine instructions for kings:
16 Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to you, You shall never again return that way.
In ancient times, horses were used for the cavalry. Whoever had the most horses had a great advantage in warfare. Nowadays the cavalry rides in armored tanks. But God says that any king relying upon “horses” will inevitably bring the nation back to Egypt—that is, he will put the people back into bondage.
This is what will accompany an “arms race.” America has known such an arms race, and its arms buildup has been in direct proportion to our loss of individual freedoms. This condition has now come fully into fruition with the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City. In re-classifying American citizens who oppose the government as “enemy combatants,” instead of as criminals, they are able to justify holding citizens without trial or due process of law. If left unchecked, this innovation will only expand to include more and more American citizens as time passes.
Isaiah shows us that this same problem existed in his day. The prophet says in Isaiah 30, beginning in verse 1,
1 Woe to the rebellious children, declares the Lord, who execute a plan, but not Mine, and make an alliance, but not of My Spirit, in order to add sin to sin; 2 who proceed down to Egypt, without consulting Me, to take refuge in the safety of Pharaoh, and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt. 3 Therefore the safety of Pharaoh will be your shame.
The prophet was speaking of the natural tendency to seek safety in armaments, rather than by turning to God in repentance and in obedience. Isaiah said that reliance upon one’s weapons of war for one’s protection is to bring the people back into the bondage of “Egypt.” The people had rejected the divine law, and as a result, God’s judgment was coming upon the nation of Israel. But instead of repenting, they chose to arm themselves against divine judgment “to add sin to sin.” Again, in verses 12 and 13 we read,
12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, Since you have rejected this word and have put your trust in oppression and guile, and have relied on them, 13 Therefore this iniquity will be to you like a breach about to fall, a bulge in a high wall, whose collapse comes suddenly in an instant. . . .
16 And you said, “No, for we will flee on horses,” therefore you shall flee! “And we will ride on swift horses,” therefore those who pursue you shall be swift.
Here the prophet makes it clear that he is talking about depending upon horses purchased from Egypt, not Egypt itself. The people were not planning any trips to Egypt. Egypt was merely the symbol of oppression. When Israel depended upon horses for their protection, instead of repenting of their lawlessness, the people were placed into bondage.
It is the same today. America has much need of repentance, and the event of Sept. 11, 2001 was a very important sign that God’s hand of protection has been removed from our nation. Yet instead of repenting, our leaders decided to defend ourselves from the enemies that God raised up to judge us. As Isaiah said, we added sin to sin. We have decided to purchase more arms from the great “industrial-military complex” (as President Eisenhower once called it). God said that such thinking would bring us into bondage to “Egypt.”
And so, American citizens were rounded up and incarcerated without being charged with any crime. The government was given the right to tap the telephones and search houses or businesses without a warrant. The basic freedoms that the American Constitution gave us in the beginning have now been entirely lost.
And this was done by a Christian president, supported by Christian people! That is, he is one who represents the people and the Christians in particular. Christians have been lawless, and Christians have been at the forefront in calling for more bombs and vengeance against the “Arab terrorists.” In a strange twist of fate, the non-Christians seem to have more Christian character than the Christians!
This same passage, beginning with Isaiah 30:18, then prophesies the solution to the problem. It says the day will come when God will send His Holy Spirit as rain upon the earth. (This is the former and latter rain also mentioned in Joel 2:23, which is associated with the outpouring of the Spirit.) Isaiah 30:25 says,
25 And of every lofty mountain [nation] and on every high hill [small nation] there will be streams running with water on the day of the great slaughter, when the towers fall.
I believe this verse spoke of the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, for that event, as time will show, marked a turning point in world history. Though it was a terrible event, Isaiah makes it clear that it is also a sign that God is about to pour out the rain of the Holy Spirit. This is the good news, for God’s judgments are now coming upon America in order to turn the hearts of the people.
But apart from a genuine outpouring of the Spirit, their hearts cannot be turned, for only the Holy Spirit can show people the purpose of divine judgment. Only by seeing this can the people truly repent from their lawlessness and become obedient to God.
In Israel, there are two rainy seasons. The “former rain” comes at the time of the Feast of Tabernacles in October. The “latter rain” comes between Passover and Pentecost in April and May. These rainy seasons are prophetic of two historic times when the Holy Spirit was to be poured out upon the earth. In Acts 2, the Pentecostal outpouring of the Spirit was the latter rain. But today we look for the former rain of the Feast of Tabernacles.
The destruction of the Twin Towers was, I believe, the primary sign that we are now in the “day” when the Spirit will be poured out in a greater way upon all flesh. That is the good news of Isaiah. But meanwhile, there is also the bad news that the American government is leading us back to the bondage of “Egypt.” Isaiah 31 continues,
1 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, and trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong. But they do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the Lord. . . . 3 Now the Egyptians are men and not God, and their horses are flesh and not spirit.
The Hebrew word for horse is sus. It is spelled with two letters in Hebrew. Both are the same letter, samech. A samech literally means a prop or support. Thus, a horse is a double support in time of battle. The problem is that it is a fleshly support, for “their horses are flesh and not spirit.”
Jesus’ Hebrew name was Yah-shua, which means “salvation.” Yet there is also a very interesting origin of the Greek form of his name, which is Iesous, from which we derive the name Jesus. In Hebrew, YAH-SUS would mean Yahweh’s horse. This is the Hebrew name transliterated into Greek as Iesous. We translate this into English as JESUS. The name of Jesus is literally a Hebrew word and means God’s horse, the symbol of salvation (Yahshua). Let us, then, not put our trust in fleshly horses for our salvation, but rather in Jesus.