Fighting for Freedom

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February 2, 2013 by Drew

battle-of-jericho1America loves to fight for freedom. We love to shout, “Freedom!” with Mel Gibson in Braveheart and at least half of the other movies that he made.

We protect the right to bear arms so that if it is ever necessary, we can use said arms to make freedom.

And while I must say that Jesus never particularly endorses this model, I cannot say it is foreign to the Bible.

The best example of one called to fight for freedom is Joshua, whose charge was to take the promised land.

The first city he took was Jericho.  How did he take it?

Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in.  Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men.

Lesson one:  If you are going to fight for freedom, it better be because God told you.

Theres an old joke about a Priest, a Rabbi, and a Pastor:

A priest, a rabbi and a pastor are trying to decide the best way to divide money with God.

The priest says “lets draw a circle on the ground, throw the money into the air and whatever lands inside the circle, we give to God.”

The rabbi  says “how bout whatever lands outside the circle we give to God?”

The pastor says “lets throw the money into the air and God can keep what he wants.”

When if comes to the three ways that Jesus makes Freedom: Fight, Flight, or death.  Please realize that this method we explore today–while Biblical–is the rarest, and only to be used when–like it was with Joshua–crystal clear.

God doesn’t call us to make decisions by throwing money in the air, but if we are going to use such a weighted decision making process, may I suggest a coin-flip.

Heads, you find freedom by fleeing.  Tails, you find freedom by dieing.  You can fight for your freedom every time the coin stays on its side.

Back to the story.   God told Joshua,

“March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days.  Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

What does this do?

As military strategy, marching in a circle for seven days stinks.

It shows the enemy all of your forces and weapons.  It ruins the element of surprise.  It tires out your soldiers, and it doesn’t accomplish anything.  It’s the opposite of shock and awe.  Its like the Israelites were trying to bore Jericho to death.  Can you imagine the guards on the wall?

“Hey look–they’re marching again.  Get ready!  And . . . they kept walking.  Ooh look!  Here they come again!”

But this is how God told them to fight.  Why?

Because God does not want you to do battle with somebody or something without giving them the chance to repent.  If you think God is calling you to fight for your freedom, it’s ok to take a week before you start the fight.  Stop.  Think.  Pray.

And then, if you do fight, fight in such a way that makes it clear that it is God who gives victory, not you.

For Joshua, this meant using parades, shouts, and trumpets, weapons of worship, rather than war.  For David this meant using a sling and some stones against a mighty warrior.

For Gideon, this meant reducing his army from 32 thousand men to 300.  A 1000% troop reduction!

Psalm 20 says:

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

If the big guy beats the little guy, it doesn’t give glory to God,  its just a bully being a bully. If God is calling you to fight, fight in such a way that makes it clear that God gives the victory.

Strategically expose your weaknesses.  Lay down some of your arms.  Resolve to fight by praising God with shouts and trumpets.

For seven days, Joshua did what God told him to do.

On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times.  The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the Lord has given you the city!  The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the Lord. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them. Otherwise you will make the camp of Israel liable to destruction and bring trouble on it. All the silver and gold and the articles of bronze and iron are sacred to the Lord and must go into his treasury.”

When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.

So, we’re happy that the walls fell without them firing a shot, but then God calls them to kill every living thing?  What’s the deal with that?

First of all, I don’t think God is EVER going to tell you to commit genocide, and I do not think that God delights in the death of these people.  But there is still a principle that we can learn from this.

Total destruction like this was not a common practice in ancient warfare.

The Rape of The Levite's Concubine (Judges 19) by Nicolas Fontaine. Source: Emory University Image ArchiveIn fact, total destruction was counter-productive.

Ordinarily, you kill the soldiers, but you the women and the children, the livestock and the money all get divided up by the victors.  Generals have found that men fight better if they get to take a concubine home as part of their pay.

But that wasn’t an option, according to God’s command here.

Again, this was a very different time.  We imagine that if these soldiers disobeyed the command to destroy everything it was because they had mercy.  What we see is that when soldiers DID disobey this command, it was because of greed, not mercy.

So what does this teach us about fighting for freedom.

If you fight for freedom, make sure you are fighting for freedom and just freedom.  It’s so easy to get selfish.  It’s so easy to let a righteous fight for freedom become a power grab.  God wants you to be free, but before you fight ask yourself:  would you still fight if you got freedom and only freedom and not anything else?

Sometimes, we have to fight to get free, to stay free, or for other’s freedom.

I don’t have to do it all that much, thank God, but occasionally, Lafayette Church needs a “Papa Bear.”  If I think a person here is hurting others, I will confront them.  I have had to raise my voice before, I’ve had to call the police before, and thank God, We’ve never had to do more than that.  But I need to check myself if I start defining the problem as a person instead of that person’s behavior.

While it’s sometimes necessary to fight for freedom, we need to be careful not to become fighters.  This is the most dangerous way to make freedom, because fighting to make freedom can very easily become fighting to take freedom.

We’re not done. We’ve only discussed how to fight for freedom, Next up? Starting on Monday–Fleeing to Freedom.

But for now, it might be helpful for you to identify the bondage that you see, both the bondage that you might be stuck in, and what you might be called to free others from.

Is it sickness?  Addiction? Poverty?  Is there a sin in your life that you just can’t beat? (or maybe that you don’t even want to beat?)

Jesus said:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Identify the thing that Jesus is calling you to be free from.  If you are called to fight that thing, wait a week or two, just to be sure, and then fight according to the methods I outlined above.

And if you are called to fight, know you will be fighting against one already defeated.  The battle belongs to the Lord.   You won’t need chariots or swords or wisdom or power or guns or armor or anything else, because the Lord of the angelic host will fight for you.  And he has already won.

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