“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.”
Alone on a battlefield…
Far from home, we feel separated from the surroundings in which we’ve grown so comfortable. Fighting a war, we understand that we’re facing death. How many young men have been there before? How many are there now? And how many of us feel like we’re there?
If there’s one thing history has in abundance, it’s war; wars about territory, wars about money, wars about religion and honor and justice. These are wars which cause young men and women to leave homes–leaving their families, their mothers, their fathers, and their brothers and sisters. These are wars which cause young men and women to leave their spouses and their children, leaving all that is dear to them to fight a war in a far-away place.
They join with others who have also left house and home, coming together to form a military force which, God willing, will be enough to win the war. People from all walks of life have been there. They’re there right now. And though their numbers are many, they still feel, each one of them, very much alone.
As they march through the terrain of a distant land, they keep watch for the invisible enemy who may be waiting to ambush, always aware that at any moment, they could be staring into the eyes of death. Far from home on the battlefield…
The Beginning of the War
Throughout history, people have exchanged plowshares for swords, hammers for guns, and computer keyboards for jet fighters. And then, there was the Man who exchanged a throne for a cross.
He too left His home to fight a war–the longest war in human history. It began in a place called Eden when two people, a man and a woman, met the enemy for the first time, and failed to recognize him.
The enemy came without sword and without dagger. He came under the false pretense that he could make things better than they were; better than God made them. But behind the facade the enemy put forward, he hated the children of God, and his sole purpose for meeting them in the garden that day was to destroy them.
And for a moment, it looked as though he had succeeded. Armed only with a few sweet-sounding but fatally deceptive words, the enemy caused the first two human beings on the earth to tear themselves and all their descendants away from the One who gave them life. And in the worst twist of all, it happened by their own choosing.
All of humanity died that day. This was the day upon which every war that has ever been fought truly began. The battle was between good and evil, and the earth became its battlefield.
Where was God when all of this was happening? Couldn’t He have prevented this war in the first place? Of course He could have. He could have made us drones; creatures with no ability to choose freely. He could have made us like the beasts of the earth, whose only concern is staying alive, regardless of what it takes to do so.
But He uniquely created us to love Him, and love requires a choice; a choice to love, even though we have the option not to. If we were to love God, He had to give us the option to not love Him. And sadly, we chose not to.
The enemy came and lured us into the one act of disobedience that was available at Eden; to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The first battle had concluded. Evil-1, Good-0.
An Early Defeat?
Or so it seemed… Where was God? He was putting everything into place for His answer to Satan’s attack. It was an ingenious battle plan which would allow humanity, by His grace, to rise from the ashes of apparent defeat. It was a costly plan that would bring about the complete defeat of evil, once and for all.
Significantly, the center of this war would be fought in a battlefield which was very close to home. It would be fought in your very own heart.
Choosing your side…
As the war continued to unfold, God would allow time for each generation to fight their battles. Each individual throughout history, throughout the present, and throughout the future, would have to fight their battles and make their decisions. Would they choose evil in spite of God, or would they choose God in spite of evil? No one could remain neutral in this war. Each one must choose their side.
This point was eloquently made by Moses, who, under the inspiration of God, laid it all out on the line shortly before he died. After years of leading Israel, Moses, under the instruction of God, drew the battle lines before a nation:
“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life, and He will give you many years in the land He swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
In the two prior chapters, Moses had instructed Israel on the consequences of their choice, whether they chose to love God or to love evil.
And in the center of the war, there came the Warrior who would bring the final victory for God and for all those who loved Him. He left His home–His throne, His glory, and His Father to come to a lonely battlefield. And like any soldier, He felt loneliness, sadness, and fatigue, longing for home, but determined to carry out His mission in spite of it all.
The line in the sand
Jesus came and drew His line in the sand. He made His stand without compromises or negotiations. The only way to rise from the ashes of humanity’s defeat was to choose to love His Father by loving Him. Jesus would fight all of the necessary battles on our behalf to gain us victory, and He was willing to give His life for it.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
But loving Him meant obeying Him. The two could not be separated.
“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.”
The battle lines were unmistakable–and still are today. We can join the army of the Lord, or we can continue to fight against Him as His enemies. There is no middle ground.
The Pivotal Battle
As the great war raged on, the pivotal victory truly came in a lonely garden called Gethsemane. There, our Warrior spoke to His Father and committed Himself to the completion of the battle at the greatest of costs. It was then when Jesus Himself was faced with a choice.
It wasn’t too late to turn back. Jesus could return home if He wanted to, escaping the battle at hand without a scratch. Justice would be served whether humanity received a second chance or not. This wasn’t His mess to clean up, was it?
Truly, Jesus didn’t want to endure the exquisite suffering that awaited Him. Who would? Indeed, He pleaded for a way to escape it:
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me…”
But as He prayed, He knew that you and I and all of humanity would face certain doom unless He pressed on. And He knew that His Father did not want His children to be forever separated from Himself. It’s why Jesus had been sent away from His heavenly home in the first place, away to a fallen, vulgar battlefield where He Himself would fight battles that He hadn’t caused. It had pained His Father greatly to send Him there; the Son whom He loved more than we can imagine.
And yet, the love of God was so great that He did indeed offer up His beloved Son to save our souls from everlasting torment.
Jesus knew what He had to do. He loved His Father and wanted to obey Him. And He loved the children of his Father too much to allow Satan’s victory over them to stand.
And at that moment, the Savior made His choice.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.“
It was the last stand. It was where the war was decided. Jesus would obey His Father and complete the battle He had been sent from His home to fight. It was a battle which would bring upon Himself the complete wrath of His Father, bearing it in the place of humanity, and ending in His death.
Dying for the enemy…
Jesus died utterly alone on that battlefield, even separated from His dear Father, with whom He had enjoyed sweet fellowship from eternity past. What profound loneliness He must have felt as He endured insults from they very people He had come to save! He had fought for a people who had previously been defeated by evil, and they (and we) showed Him no gratitude.
The Glorious Victory
But then, in the glorious manifestation of His victory, the Warrior Himself rose from the ashes of apparent defeat–alive! The war had been decided. Satan’s defeat of humanity had been overturned, and he had been robbed of victory, now facing his own doom instead. The date for Satan’s demise had been set, known only to God, when a concluding battle would be fought and easily won by God and His children.
[The enemies of God] marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. 10 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.
The Final Skirmishes
The only victories Satan can ever hope to acquire are those which we willingly surrender to him.
Now, the only battles that remain are the ones being fought by you and I. The enemy is a defeated foe with a “scorched earth” policy. He seeks to cause as much murderous havoc as he can before his inevitable doom. Yet, the only victories Satan can ever hope to acquire are those which we willingly surrender to him. And though the enemy will surely win a number of skirmishes in this way, victory surely awaits us if we put on the armor of God.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.
The final boundaries
The battles now are for establishing the final boundary lines, and which territory belongs to which kingdom. Our marching orders now are to claim as much territory for the victorious Kingdom of God as possible, continuing to fight in the strength given to us by our Commander in Chief.
Be merciful to those who doubt; 23 snatch others from the fire and save them.
Every remaining soul will either join the army of the Lord, or will be subjugated by the oppressive regime of the Dominion of Darkness. For each of those souls, the stakes are eternal. And so, the good fight will go on until we are decommissioned.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
2 Timothy 4:7-8
Alone on a Battlefield?
So the next time you find yourself on a battlefield, feeling alone and far from home; the next time you feel the weight of possible defeat bearing down on you, call for reinforcements. God has been fighting on your behalf since the dawn of creation, and He’ll never stop fighting for you until He gets you home.
It’s war out there.
The first battle was fought in a garden called Eden.
The deciding battle was fought in a garden called Gethsemane.
And victory was declared just outside of a garden tomb in Jerusalem.
Now, the only battle left to fight is in the garden at home. The one inside your own heart. Life or death have been set before you. Choose your side. Love God or love evil. For you, the concluding battle is yet to be fought, and it will be fought at home, every day, in your own heart.