Before and Behind

Though it’s not politically correct to use military language in religious talk, I’m going to do it today. If a Muslim is reading, here’s my disclaimer: I don’t want to kill any single human being; I want to overcome Satan’s influence in my life and show everyone how to do the same.
Israel was God’s physical people in the Old Testament, and as such were blessed physically by the Lord and were given instructions to overcome the other peoples nearby. We don’t do that today, for our arms are not carnal, but spiritual and rational (2 Cor. 10:4-5). But the physical battle suggests lessons for the spiritual.
In a physical battle, one man knew how to proceed:
“When Joab saw that the battle line was against him before and behind, he chose some of Israel’s best and put them in battle array against the people of Ammon” (1 Chron. 19:10, NKJV).
Joab’s battlefield actions are suggestive for Christians today.
1. Know the field. Joab “saw” where the battle line was and could take appropriate action. We need to know where, as a church, the main problems are and deal with them. The battle line can and does move. New issues and challenges arise, overshadowing what were issues 30 years ago. As an individual, my problems and difficulties today may not be the same ones as last year or last decade.
2. The battle is all around us, before and behind. The devil circles us constantly looking for a weak point at which to enter (1 Pet. 5:8). Attentiveness is the watchword.
3. Put the best in the most critical points. This can apply in the body of Christ, where we should put our most qualified people in the mission fields, in the pulpits, in the schools, and in the streets. Personally, it means I should shore up my efforts where I am most vulnerable. The “best” may be hard to measure in a spiritual sense, but we may apply it in the sense of our best efforts and our most effective workers.
Joab was an excellent strategist as commander of David’s armies. Jesus wants astute disciples following him as well. It was when he sent out the Twelve to preach that he said, “Behold, I send you out in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16).
I’m thankful for those lessons.

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A. A. Neale

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