Spiritual warfare

Some principles of spiritual warfare, based on the book of Judges.

Billy Pinheiro

We have witnessed a lot of imbalance and a lot of deception by the forces of darkness in the midst of God's people in this matter of spiritual warfare. And, unfortunately, our enemy has taken advantage of this situation, keeping many children of God in a state of defeat.

In general, when one speaks about spiritual warfare, one thinks only of one aspect of the battle, or rather one of our enemies, the devil. But we know that there are three enemies that we face: the world, the flesh and the devil. And they must all be equally overcome in our lives by the work of the Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary. That is the basis of our victory!

Our position, as declared by the Scriptures, is one of victory, since God "has made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus" (Eph . 2: 6). Everything is in Him! All that we have been given by the Father has been given to us in Christ Jesus. Hallelujah!

Our desire is to share some reflections on our spiritual warfare, in light of the book of Judges,  and specifically through the events of Deborah and Barak (chapters 4 and 5). By meditating on that portion of the Old Testament Scriptures, we believe that what is recorded in Romans 15: 4 will be true for us: "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we may have hope."

I want to emphasize the expression: "that…we may have hope." And this is what I desire for all of us as we meditate on this portion of Scripture. May the living hope be renewed in our hearts. Hope for a victorious walk in this spiritual battle. Victory over the world, the flesh and the devil.

As I read the book of Judges, my heart is filled with hope for myself before the Lord, because it is a book that shows us that, despite the weakness of God's people and their captivity, there is also a wonderful way of liberation. It is a book that presents us with great failures of the people of God, but also the great mercy of the Lord.

Many times we see ourselves as the people of Israel, held captive by some enemy, without strength to free ourselves; but we cry unto the Lord, and from Him comes relief. There are many enemies in our life and in fact there is a battle that must be fought. Paul says: "I have fought the good fight" (2 Tim . 4: 7). But remember: "We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us" (Rom 8:37.).

We see in the book of Judges, repeatedly, the following sequence of events: spiritual fall, the discipline of God, captivity, repentance of the people, a cry to the Lord, the deliverance sent by God. Is not this sometimes our experience? How many times do we fall and repent, then fail again? Or, who knows, after defeating some spiritual enemy in our life, we later perceive that same enemy to come upon us even more strongly?

But let us be encouraged, for He who began in us the good work is able to perfect it. We do not know how long it will take, but the Lord will do it. We do not know how many failures we will have to experience, but one day that work will be perfected and we will please the heart of the Father, because He will see in us the image of his Son. That is a wonderful thing!

The resurgence of past defeated enemies

"After the death of Aod, the children of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD. And Jehovah sold them into the hand of Jabin king of Canaan, who reigned in Azor; and the captain of his army was called Sisera, who dwelt at Harosheth-goin. And the children of Israel cried to the Lord, for he had nine hundred iron chariots and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years "(4: 1-3).

This passage describes one of the most terrible periods of captivity experienced by the people of God during the time of the judges. The cause, as it had been in other cases, was "again they did evil in the sight of the Lord". Or as 1 Samuel 12 says: 9: "They forgot the Lord their God." They turned their backs on Him who had one day delivered them from slavery and given them the land of promise. The Lord's desire was that His people should always experience the victory and the fullness of His blessing on this earth. However, for that to be a reality, they needed to make the Most High their dwelling place (Psalm 91: 9).

What a contradiction! They were being enslaved again, and they were within the land of promise. Is this not the same thing that happens sometimes with the people of God today? God "has rescued us from the power of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of his beloved Son" (Col. 1:13). His Son came to give us life, and life in abundance (John 10:10). He is our good land, our heritage. We are more than conquerors through Him. However, often, even after being set free, we find ourselves under some yoke, living a defeated, barren life, without experiencing the reality of the riches that God gave us in Christ Jesus.

Who was this oppressor of God's people? What was his city? Who was his captain and where did he live? We will find that much light is given to us when we consider the answer to each of those questions. Many figures and examples were left to us by the Holy Spirit and recorded in the Scriptures (see 1 Corinthians 10:11).

In this passage of the book of Judges there appears the third oppressor of the people of God, King Jabin. We are surprised by the appearance of this king at this time in the history of Israel. More than a hundred years had passed since Israel, under the leadership of Joshua, had experienced a complete victory over him, and over all the inhabitants of the city of Hazor (Josh 11: 10-11). On top of that, the city had been burned to the ground. Full victory over the enemy!

Who could have imagined that the same enemy would rise again? However, that same king reappears. Even if it was not the same person - Jabin was a title, just like Pharaoh - the same figure arises. And he even appears with increased power. When Joshua defeated Jabin, he burned his chariots, which were probably made of wood. But Jabin now comes with many chariots, not of wood, but of iron (Josh 11: 9, Jdg 4: 3). The same enemy that had once been defeated emerges again and begins to harshly oppress those who had defeated it in the past.

The people who once sang the song of victory over him now shed tears because of the hard oppression under the yoke of the one who had been defeated. It was humiliating, but it was the reality of the people of God. All this is a solemn warning to us. The resurgence of that king reminds us of an important truth in our Christian life and one that we should never forget: overcoming some spiritual enemy in the past does not guarantee that he will never again disturb us.

Never think, for example, that because you have overcome a sin or some weakness in your life, it will never disturb you anymore. It would be a deception to think like that. Sadly, we, the children of God, having experienced full victory in our lives, become slaves again to those same sins. Some people, when they believed in the Lord they experienced a great liberation and lived in victory for many years, but then allowed themselves to be weakened and fall again under that same yoke.

Let us remember that goodness does not dwell in our flesh (Romans 7:18). If we do not abide in Christ, being strengthened by His power in our inner man, we will give occasion to the flesh and all its works may manifest themselves in our lives once again (Gal. 5:19-21).

This Jabin resurfaces in Hazor, a city in the territory of Naphtali (Josh. 19:36), and there he establishes his headquarters. The name Naphtali means 'to overcome' or 'to prevail in the struggle' (Gen. 30: 9). And it is precisely in that tribe that the enemy resurfaces. It was not enough to have merely the name of ‘overcomer’. It was necessary to have the reality of overcomer. In the same way with us: It is not enough just to say that we are more than conquerors: it is necessary to have that as a reality in our lives.

Paul prayed for the brethren at Ephesus that God might strengthen them with power in the inner man by his Spirit. We need that strengthening, we need to abide in Christ! Otherwise, when enemies arise, even if they have been defeated in the past, they will gain an advantage over us. The flesh never ages, never weakens. The world will seek to seduce us. And the devil never tires, but always walks around looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5: 8).

Jabin means 'wisdom or understanding' and Hazor means 'strength'. Both represent the wisdom of this world, which is earthly, human, demonic (James 3:15), and which can become a stronghold to imprison the people of God. But thank the Lord, "the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds ..." (1 Cor . 10: 4).

When Jabin was destroyed by Joshua, he was king of Hazor (Josh 11: 1). However, his kingdom was enlarged and he became king of Canaan. And Canaan means low land, or trade. This points towards earthly things, as opposed to heavenly things. It speaks of our concern for the things of this earth (Col. 3: 1-2).

This whole picture shows us the danger of falling into the snare of our flesh. Indeed, it is the base form of our flesh. How powerful and tyrannical our flesh is! More than a hundred years have passed, but it rises up even more strongly, with increased power, with its "nine hundred chariots"!

Oh, beloved, who can escape that captivity by his own strength? Impossible! Just as it was impossible for Israel to defeat Sisera, and his iron chariots, it is also impossible for the Christian, in himself, to escape that captivity. Only a heavenly intervention can free us from such a great oppressor.

The only thing we can do for ourselves is to fall into that captivity. How easy it is to be dominated again by all kinds of earthly, carnal things! It is enough that we turn away from the Lord and not make him our dwelling place. It is therefore necessary to have a holy vigilance and steadfastness in remaining in Christ, in trusting in the work of His cross. Our enemy's base of operations is our flesh. And once under its captivity, the enemy will be able to gain all kinds of advantage over us.

The fact that the fortress of Jabin was raised up in the territory of the tribe which had the name remembering the "overcomer" warns us that every Christian is subject to this condition. Anyone can be defeated if he does not watch. "He who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12). There is no strong man or brave man outside of Christ. Even if one is considered a spiritual, mature man, grown in the Lord, he will also be subject to failure if he does not watch and remain hidden in Christ!

But although we have fallen into the captivity of Jabin, earthly things, the wisdom of this world, the pursuit of our own interests, the interests of the flesh, there is hope of liberation. Just as the people of Israel experienced liberation from that terrible oppressor, so also every child of God who has fallen into captivity has liberation in the Lord. And in the example of Deborah and Barak we have an indication of how the Lord provides liberation.

The call to the battle against that oppressor will be made, and those who attend to that call will experience victory, for the one who obtains it is the Lord of glory, the Almighty, and it is He Himself who goes before at the head of his people. Glory to God! There will be no oppressor that can resist His power!

The first step on the road to victory

In order not to fall into captivity, and into the oppression of our spiritual enemies, there is a condition: to make the Most High our refuge (Psalm 91: 9). And to make the Lord our dwelling place implies, among other things, to maintain that holy vigilance, to strengthen ourselves in the Lord and in the power of His might; to put on the whole armor of God, that we may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6: 10-11). Although our position is one of rest in  Christ, in His work on the cross, that does not mean passivity, but on the contrary, it means appropriating ourselves by faith of all the provision that has been given us in Christ Jesus.

Pay attention to the propositions of Paul: " Be strong ... put on ." They refer to definite, concrete, real actions that you and I have to carry out. And of course, we can only move in that direction moved by the grace of God, with the help of the Holy Spirit.

The result of this positioning, this moving in the direction which the Word of God instructs, will make us "stand firm against the wiles of the devil." Take up " the whole armor of God" has a well - defined goal, which is "to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand" (Eph. 6:13).

Oh, how necessary it is, on the day of battle, to be clothed in the armor of God! Strengthened in the Lord, and in the power of his strength! Only then can we stand firm against all the snares and attacks of darkness. Otherwise, we fall and we are easy prey. Paul states in 2 Corinthians 2:11 that we are not ignorant of the machinations of Satan. He will use all circumstances, people, the world and our flesh in order to defeat us.

Let us not forget: There is sometimes a bad day in our walk, in which there seems to be a conspiracy declared against us, and we have the impression that there are powers of darkness setting up all kinds of traps against us. Sometimes we start the day and it seems like everything is wrong, nothing seems to be right. Whether at home, at work, everything is stormy, a myriad of things come out of nowhere.

But there are also those days when the temptations are set out before us, only this time in colorful, attractive tones, inciting our flesh in order to make us walk in all its lusts. How terrible such temptations are! There are all sorts of machinations of the enemy to try to make us walk in the flesh. He knows our weaknesses, and since he knows them, his ministers-the evil spirits-come with all their tempting suggestions so that we may fall.

But blessed be God, "because we have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). And the recommendation and the promise of God's word is: "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Hebrews 4:16).

Is there a more timely moment than this, when we are attacked in such a way in battle, to be succoured and receive mercy and grace? Oh, how much we need the help, mercy, and grace of our beloved High Priest! But the fact that is before us now is: what to do if we have fallen, if we are in that humiliating captivity? How do we return to that position of victory, how do we shake the yoke of the enemy from us?

The way back, the path of liberation starts here: "And the children of Israel cried unto the Lord" (Judges 4: 3). The deliverance came from the time when the children of Israel cried to the Lord. Because of that cry God sent the help. From there, several things happened until complete victory over the enemy came and the people could experience a time of peace again. Until then the people only experienced oppression, humiliation and the ridicule of the enemy and the fear spread by his army with nine hundred iron chariots.

Here is an example of heaven moving towards earth at the cry of the Lord’s people. It seems it has always been so. The Lord waits until the cry for help reaches Him then He intervenes. Thus it was that Israel experienced liberation from bondage in Egypt. "And the Lord said , I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows, and I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians ... " (Ex . 3: 7-8).

In this example there is no doubt: the Lord moved His arm only after His people had cried out. And if you examine the scriptures, you will see that there are many other examples confirming that the work of God among His people is always like this: first the cry and then God's intervention. But the cry of God's people is the consequence or the manifestation of some events that must happen.

First, the cry was the fruit of repentance and confession of sins. See how the same event from Judges is described in the book of 1 Samuel: "And they cried unto the LORD, and said, We have sinned, because we have forsaken the Lord ..." (12:10). The cry was the fruit of repentance. They acknowledged their wicked ways and that they had sinned against the Lord and therefore were subject to bondage. Genuine repentance comes from a godly sorrow (2 Cor. 7:10). We grieve for having offended the Lord, for having followed an evil path and we truly wish to turn to the Lord.

Second, that cry was a humbling of themselves before God. In 1 Peter 5: 6 it tells us: "Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may lift you up in due time" . The desperation of the people led him to humble themselves before God. Scripture reminds us that "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4: 6 ). While we are confident in the strength of our own flesh we will only experience defeat. BUT if we humble ourselves before the Lord we will receive grace!

Third, the cry was the recognition that only the Lord could deliver them. They came to the end of themselves. They recognized that in themselves there was no chance of defeating the enemy. In this process of liberation, so long as we hope in ourselves, we will not recognize that only in the Lord do we have the victory. Remember the blessed words of Jesus to His disciples: "Without me you can do nothing" (Jn . 15: 5).
This is the first step to liberation, to experiencing victory over the enemy: "cry out to the Lord"!

Excerpted by permission of http://esquinadecomunhao.blogspot.com.
Translated from Portuguese.

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