2 Chronicles 12-13, Psalm 76
I think the “army of God” can be a cliche phrase we use when we’re overly excited about the conquering aspect of God, running over Satan in our day-to-day happenings and making us feel really good. It’s nice to know you have a posse of spiritual entities swirling around you in case any trouble starts brewing, isn’t it?
Indeed, there’s a real spiritual battle going on, but I think sometimes we can get the wrong idea about how the Lord operates.
It’s sort of the same notion that the disciples had about Jesus during His ministry, but more tangibly. He came to establish a mighty kingdom, as He said, and the disciples followed Jesus closely, jockeying for the top spot next to His throne when it was all done. But Jesus has a different perspective.
I used to (and occasionally still do) play a game called Ogre Battle. This mid-1990s strategy game involves organizing a rebellion against an evil empire, and your job is to carefully navigate several scenarios and fight off hordes of beasts, making your way up the evil mage and reestablishing the throne for good.
The challenging part isn’t the fighting itself, however, but how one goes about it. Your “hero,” as the leader of this army, is responsible for maintaining a righteous and ethical path while liberating the lands. If he and the army become too strong or coercive, whereas they’re capable of wiping out opponents in a single turn, your reputation begins to plummet, and the people of the land begin to compare the hero to the current evil entity on the throne. No one likes a bully.
In Matthew 26:53, the chief priests come to arraign Jesus, and as soon as they lay their hands on Him, an unnamed disciple loses it and hacks off one of the guy’s ears. Jesus turns around and tells him and the others that He can have His Father call forth twelve legions of angels.
But He doesn’t do it.
Jesus, the Son of God, Creator of the heavens and the earth, and the great Savior of mankind, has limitless power at His disposal. Yet He chooses to demonstrate restaint.
I believe God would like to have us know He is victorious in all situations. This understanding drives many of us out of bed to face the day. But I also believe God is more interested in empowering us as the underdog than charging in with overwhelming odds. It’s kind of like an action movie — the good guy is always outnumbered, but proves to be far more awesome. Awesomer. The awesomest. And we like this guy because he’s, again, not a bully.
If you take a look at the Scriptures (you did read them, didn’t you?), you’ll see the greatness of God’s righteous judgment displayed in history and poetry. His justice is final and decisive. And yes, in terms of numbers and strength, He’s the boss, especially in a pinch.
But this is His character: He insists on moderation, allows the unfair odds, and proves Himself stronger through these circumstances.
If you feel outnumbered, overwhelmed, and weak, you’re in a great spot. This is when God does His best work, and soon, He shall open your eyes to see that He has been victorious all along.