God a Man of War

“The Lord is a man of war,” Exodus 15:3
“The God of the armies of Israel,“ 1 Samuel 17:45
“The Lord of Hosts,” Isaiah 47:4

Observation, God is compared to a warrior.

To illustrate this similitude, we shall show,

  1. What wars the Almighty God emerges himself in.
  2. What manner of Warrior he is.
  3. In what respect he is parallel with earthly Warriors.
  4. The disparity betwixt them.
  5. Draw some inferences or corollaries from the whole.
  1. The Lord is engaged in a spiritual war against the ungodly that remain obstinate and rebellious against him. “He judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.” Psalm 7:11-13. “If I whet my glittering sword, and my hand take hold on judgment; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me. I will make mine arrows drunk with blood, and my sword shall devour flesh; and that with the blood of the slain and of the captives,” Deuteronomy 32:41-42, Jeremiah 9:16, 12:12Leviticus 26:25, 33.
  2. The Lord is concerned, and oftentimes engages himself in temporal or national wars and battles: it was he that led Joshua forth as an armed man, against the Canaanites, Joshua 1:9. Hence he is called “the God of the armies of Israel,” 1Samuel 17:45. I know not (saith an eminent writer) any one thing, where the providence of God is more fully set out in Scripture, than in the workings of it about wars. It was the Lord that brought up Nebuchadnezzar against the cities of Judah, and stirred up the Medes to destroy the Babylonians Isaiah 13:4, 17, 19.

But what manner of Warrior is God?

1.  He is a righteous and just warrior. The proud haughty princes and potentates of the earth, many times take up arms upon unjust grounds, and pick quarrels for vain-glorious and ambitious ends: if they see their neighbor thrive, as it were an eclipse to their glory, they invade him, and imbrue their cruel swords in blood and slaughter, sacrificing the lives of many thousand innocents, to gratify their avaricious and damnable lusts: whereas God never proclaims war, nor draws the spiritual sword against any soul, people, or nation, but when there is just cause, and no other means will do: “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?”  Genesis 18:25.

2.  The Lord is a skilful and expert Warrior, he knows how to marshal his host, and set his battle in array. There is no policy in war, nor stratagem in the military art, but he understands it.

3.  He is a mighty and terrible Warrior. He can shake the heavens by his voice, and make the mountains quake before him, Psalm 24:8; he is the Lord mighty in battle, he makes the earth to fear, and the inhabitants thereof to melt, so that the men of might shall not find their hands. He can make emperors as stubble to his bow, and mighty kings as chaff before the whirlwind. He makes Beelzebub, with all his guards, to tremble, and fly into darkness itself, to hide themselves. He cuts off the spirits of princes, and is triumphant over the greatest and proudest monarchs, Daniel 5:5. Alexander, Pompey, Caesar, and Tamerlane, have all yielded to this invincible Conqueror. If he shows a finger on the wall, he makes proud Belshazzar quake; and can employ inanimate creatures, to terrify and destroy Pharaoh and his host.

4.  The Lord is a victorious and prevailing Warrior; when he rises up, he devours at once. He bears long, before he stirs up himself like a Man of War; he is not quickly provoked. “The Lord shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies. I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once.” Isaiah 42:13-14

He is a Kingly Warrior, or General of a mighty host: all the inhabitants of heaven and earth are at his command.

METAPHOR PARALLEL
A great and principal Warrior is dignified with a title suitable to his office, as Lord General, or His Excellency. God has a title that expresses his transcendent excellency and grandeur, he is called “the Lord of hosts,” Isaiah 47:4, because all creatures in heaven and earth are of his army.
He trains up and disciplines his army in the military art, instructing them how to behave themselves in all martial engagements, discovering the enemies’ stratagems to them. God teaches his people how to behave themselves in spiritual conflicts, and to fight under his banner, when he calls them forth, Psalm 18:34: he warns them of the dangers of enemies, and discovers the subtleties and devices of their soul-adversaries.
A General or Warrior takes counsel and advice before he makes war, Proverbs 20:18, and 24:6. God doth nothing rashly; for in all wars he engages in, or desolations that he brings, he consults his own wisdom, and doth all by the counsel of his own will.
A royal Warrior (when engaged in war) sends forth commissions, and levies an army or armies, (as the kings of Israel did, who were great Warriors) and his orders are obeyed. God is invested with power and supreme authority, to raise armies at his pleasure; if he gives but the word, they immediately rally together. “And he will lift up an ensign to the nations from far, and will hiss unto them from the end of the earth: and, behold, they shall come with speed swiftly.” Isaiah 5:26. “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. And they shall come,” Isaiah 7:18-19. All are ready, when he gives the summons: angels, men, dragons, beasts, the great deeps, fire, hail, snow, wind, frogs, flies, locusts, caterpillars; let him but hiss (as it were) and they come to execute his commands. It is said of Pompey, that when one of his officers complained of the want of men, he should reply, let me but stamp with my foot upon the ground of Italy, and I shall have men enough; which was a note of confident pride in him, for he was wholly defeated afterwards by Caesar; yet it is always true of the Lord of hosts; for if he holds up his finger, all the celestial and terrestrial hosts are ready to fight his battles.
A great Warrior opens his armoury, and distributes weapons, and martial habiliments to his soldiers. The Lord brings forth his weapons out of his armoury. He opened his armoury, and hath brought forth the weapons of his indignation; for this is the work of the Lord. “Put on the whole armour of God,” Ephesians 6:11.
A Warrior sets up his martial standard, or chief ensign of war. So does the Lord: “And he will lift up and ensign to the nations from far,” Isaiah 5:26, “When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.” Isaiah 59:19.
A Warrior causes his trumpets to sound, to make ready for battle. God commands the trumpets to be blown, that all might be prepared for the day of his dreadful controversy. “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble:” Joel 2:1. “And the Lord shall be seen over them, and his arrow shall go forth as the lightning: and the Lord God shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds of the south.” Zechariah 9:14.
A Warrior, when he musters his army, sets them in array, assigning their proper work and stations, for the respective squadrons or divisions. The Lord musters his armies: “The noise of a multitude in the mountains, like as of a great people; a tumultuous noise of the kingdoms of nations gathered together: the Lord of hosts mustereth the host of the battle.” Isaiah 13:4. In the wars of his people Israel, he gave directions for their battle-array, and when to give the assault.
A just and generous Warrior sets forth his declarations of the equity of his cause, and the end of his quarrel. God hath published in his word the reasons why he prepares for a war against a people or nation: “They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell…I will heap mischiefs upon them; I will spend mine arrows upon them.” Deuteronomy 32:21-23. It is because men turn not from their sins: “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him,” Titus 1:16. “For the iniquity of his covetousness was I wroth,” Isaiah 57:17. Men slight the offers and tenders of the Gospel, and though they add drunkenness to thirst, they think they shall have peace; and for that reason God proclaims war, and saith, he hath whet his sword. Wherefore was it that God brought his sword upon Jerusalem, and gave it into the hands of the Babylonians? Was it not for rejecting his word, and despising his messengers? Hence his wrath came upon them, till there was no remedy; hence Jerusalem was given up again to be trode down by the Romans. Because they rejected Christ and the Gospel.
A great Warrior gives his soldiers banners to be displayed. “Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah.” Psalm 60:4; Isaiah 11:12, 49:22 and 62:10, here, to David, and his victory.
A Warrior, before he fights, animates and encourages his soldiers, and provokes them to valorous and undaunted actions. God animates and encourages his people, as did Joshua. “There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong and of a good courage…Only be thou strong and very courageous…for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.” Joshua 1:5-8.
The General, or chief Warrior, marches in the head of his army, and leads them on in person to battle. God himself comes into the field with his people. How often doth he tell them, that he is with them? The Lord your God is he that goeth with you to fight. He assists them, directs them, relieves them. None can march under a better  Commander, and he is the best Helper. “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? The lord taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me.” Psalm 118:6-7. “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Isaiah 41:10. “and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20.
A prudent Warrior takes care not only of his front, but of the rear of his army; he manages their retreat, as well as the onset. As the Lord goes before, so he is the rereward of his people, “For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward.” Isaiah 52:12. He is in the front, in the rear, in the middle, and the flanks; therefore all is safe, because he is invincible.
A royal Warrior is careful in providing pay for his soldiers at his own charge. God is a liberal Rewarder of his people, (though his royal munificence is purely an act of grace, not debt or obligation, because we are his, and when we have done all, we are unprofitable servants. “He that overcometh shall inherit all things;” Revelation 21:7.
METAPHOR DISPARITY
The most renowned conqueror or the most successful captain on earth, is vulnerable and mortal. Alexander would be thought the son of Jupiter, but death soon convinced him otherwise. God, the spiritual Warrior, is the eternal Jehovah, who formed man, and all things else: “Of old hast thou laid the foundations of the earth: and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture thou shalt change them, and they shall be changed: But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.” Psalm 102: 25-27.
Earthly Warriors are under certain limitations; for they cannot war as they please, their bounds being set by the Almighty. God has an absolute power and sovereignty over heaven and earth; whom he will he sets up, and pulls down at his pleasure; whom he will he kills, and whom he will he saves alive. He doth whatsoever he pleaseth; and who can say unto God, what doest thou?
There is no earthly Warrior, though never so formidable, but may be matched and conquered too. But there is no match for God in the world: “Fury is not in me: who would set the briers and thorns against me in battle? I would go through them, I would burn them together.” Isaiah 27:4. He is called a consuming fire, and the greatest of his enemies are but as “stubble fully dry,” Nahum 1:10. It was a saying of Caesar; and may be truly said of God, for he never comes off with loss.
Earthly Warriors know not the success of their arms beforehand, nor can foretell events; they may be baffled in their hopes, and made ashamed of their confidence. The omniscient God, that knows all things, cannot be baffled nor disappointed; he knows who of either side shall fall, and who shall be slain, and who wounded, before the battle begins.
Some Warriors invade their enemies with sudden eruptions, not giving them warning, nor time of preparation. The Lord of hosts, before he takes up arms, or intends to destroy a single or combined enemy, gives them timely warning and notice of it, so that  sinners may be ready, and prepare themselves. This appears in respect of the old world, those vile enemies of God, the Lord gave them warning one hundred and twenty years, of his breaking in upon them, before it came to pass. So he likewise gave warning to Jerusalem by the prophets, before he brought the Babylonians in upon them: and what warning did the Lord give to the people of the Jews, before the destruction came upon them by the Romans? God shoots off his warning-piece, before he discharges his murdering-piece.
Worldly Men of War know not sometimes how to put a period to a war, when it is begun, nor can tell when it will end. God can in a moment stop any judgment, he can stay the sword from devouring, and the fire from consuming. He knows when the controversy he hath with any nation or people shall cease.
Though earthly warriors can kill, yet they cannot make alive. The Lord of hosts can kill and make alive, and many times by killing brings to life, 2 Kings 5:7.
Such cannot kill the soul. But God is, “able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28.
A Warrior may waste his treasure, and empty his exchequer, by long and chargeable wars. But God’s treasury can never be wasted, nor his store consumed.

COROLLARIES

  1. From the foregoing particulars we may infer, that such as fight against God’s people, fight against God himself, he being their Head and General, that bears the charge of the war, and will certainly vindicate this people.
  2. From hence all good men may derive encouragement, because they are under the conduct of so incomparable a Warrior, that can in a moment destroy all their enemies.
  3. We may infer, that in a martial employment is a very honourable and useful employ, when the cause is good, when it is for God’s glory, and for the honor and safety of king and people. God is called, “The Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel,” which puts a lustre and dignity upon this title.
  4. If God’s people be worsted by an enemy, we may infer, that it is suffered by the Almighty, as a scourge and punishment for their sins: this was Israel’s case very often, Joshua 7:8,11.
  5. Let God’s people, when they go out against their soul-enemies, go in the name of the Lord of hosts; for it is dangerous to face an enemy, unless God go with us: “in the name of our God we will set up banners:” Psalm 20:5.
  6. We may infer the desperate case of such as fight against God: “who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?” Job 9:4. For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head. They have taken crafty counsel against thy people,” Psalm 83:2-5. “as the stubble before the wind.” Psalm 83:13. The most steely and flinty in the world can no more stand before God, than briars and thorns before a flaming fire, Caryl on Job 9 page 167. Whoever commences war with him, does it to his own ruin and destruction.
  7. Hence let all the enemies of God consider, that it is their wisest and safest course to lay down their arms, and make their peace with God.
  • Because he is a God of might and power.
  • Of terror and majesty.
  • Of influence and authority; he commands all.
That he is a God of might and power, terror and majesty, hath been shown already, therefore we shall proceed to the third particular.
He is a God of influence and authority, he commands all. Nothing can stand when he commands a march. The frogs invade Pharaoh, the stars fight against Sisera, an angel fights the whole host of Assyria; the watchers turn Nebuchadnezzar to grass, toss Belshazzar from the throne, and open the gates of Babylon for Darius: he brings forth his angels by troops, and shows them in the air, to strengthen or amaze, all mounted on chariots or horses: sends the winds out of his chambers, to make confusion both by sea and land, which rolls up the great waves, and hurls the ships against rocks; that overturns houses, pulls up trees by the roots, enters into small crannies, and shakes the foundation of the earth, shakes the walls of Jericho, makes the ground open to swallow men alive. Whoever he sets himself against, they are undone; for neither riches nor strength will save them: riches profit not in the day of his wrath; money cannot bribe him, and by strength can no flesh prevail: for he can smite blind and lame in a moment, put in fear, smite hip and thigh, that they cannot move to run away from him; break their cheek-bone, that they shall not bite, nor ask for mercy. Many have been overcome by him, but never any prospered against him: so successful hath he been in battle, that the victory goes on his side: wherever he undertakes the war, he makes one chase a thousand and two put ten thousand to flight. As is his power, so is he. His wisdom and counsel is such, that by one act he knows the strength of all his enemies, and the counsel they take in their bed-chamber, the thoughts they have on their couches: he always catches the wise in their own craftiness, and brings their devices to naught: He scatters them with the indignation of their own heart, and then laughs them to scorn: He knows the right season to fall upon them, and makes them like dust before the whirlwind; and in all things wherein they deal proudly, shows himself still above them: “Has subdued mighty and great kings, for his mercy endureth forever.” Challenges the force of all his foes, “Can thine heart endure, or can thine hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with thee?” Requires Babylon itself, that mighty queen of nations, to stand with her enchantments, astrologers, and magicians, and monthly prognosticators. He is clothed with such armour, that none can hurt him; He is mounted on such a steed, that none by flight can escape him; for, “ he rides upon the wings of the wind:” he makes his angels swift to pursue, and his ministers flames of fire. He sends forth his arrows in the dark, that none can escape them, nor yet discern them.
  • Of invincible resolution and constancy.
For his resolution, it is invincible. He is of one mind, and none can turn him; he will have his own counsel stand, and the thoughts of his heart performed to all generations. There is no putting of him in fear, and so force him into a compliance. He always keeps his ground, till he hath done his work, and never yields or gives way in battle. He concludes before hand, that his foes must fly; so that victory is more than half-gained before he begins to fight. Send to Beelzebub, and he will tell you, that legions of angels are to him, as the lesser flies are unto armed men; that he doth scorn at swords, and laugh at the shaking of the spears against him. Let Beelzebub himself come forth, and call all his sons to his assistance, muster up both Pope and Turk, in the fulness of their strength and power, send to China, Tartary, Japan, to fight this Man of War, the Lord of hosts; and he will throw them, as through the thicket of a forest, esteem all their strength like tow, and rotten wood, burn them together, speak in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure; thunder out of heaven upon them, and break them all to pieces. He can gather heaven up in folds, as a curtain, and roll it together as a scroll parchment. Break up the fountains of the deep. Open the windows of heaven, drown them by a deluge, affright them by rattling peals of thunder, rain down hail and thunderbolts, fire and brimstone, to disperse and consume them. So that the best way is for kings and princes to be wise, judges and counsellors to be instructed, to treat with him about terms of peace, to lay down their arms, to set aside all open defiance, to bow to his sceptre, to submit to mercy within the compass of the time set them; and they shall find this Man of War, this Lord of Hosts, this mighty God of Jacob, as merciful and generous, as ever they found him strong and resolved. Though they could not out him in fear by their force, they may win him to favour by entreaties, and make honourable terms with him.
  • Of so great valour and generosity, that as there is no fighting with him, so honourable terms may be made with him upon submission.
First, to have all their by-past treasons, rebellions, and hostilities against him remitted, and by an act of oblivion so razed off the file, and obliterated, as never to be produced against them any more. He will forgive offences, not remember iniquities, be liberal in favor; will not condemn to slavery, to make hewers of wood, and drawers of water; but will promote to dignity, take into his army, put amongst his children, adopt to be his sons, his heirs, advance them to a kingdom, reward them with a crown, invest them with the raiment of princes, clothe them in robes, place them upon thrones, that in grandeur of kings they may live and reign with him forever. “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32. “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” 2 Timothy 4:8 white robes are given them. They shall sit with him upon his throne. But if they come not, he hath whet his sword, he hath bent his bow, he hath prepared his arrows against the persecutors. When his hand takes hold on judgment, he will render his anger with fury, and rebukes with flames of fire. By fire and sword will he plead with all his enemies, to bind their kings in chains, and their nobles in fetters of iron. He will bring those that would not that he should rule over them, and destroy them utterly. Cut them asunder, and appoint them their portion with unbelievers and reprobates, with the devil and his angels, Beelzebub, and his army. And thus shall it fare with the enemies of the Lord of hosts.
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Benjamin Keech

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 24:10

If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small.