Deuteronomy 20 (No. 201)
(Edition 1.0 19970511-19970511)
Today the world judges by numbers of people and battalions and God is left out of the fight. This text shows the underlying thinking behind the employment of troops in battle. The message here is for the church of today.
Christian Churches of God
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(Copyright ã 1997 Wade Cox)
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The text on Deuteronomy 20 is the regulation concerning who must be allowed into battle for Israel as the army of God.
Deuteronomy 20:1-41 "When you go forth to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. 2 And when you draw near to the battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the people, 3 and shall say to them, `Hear, O Israel, you draw near this day to battle against your enemies: let not your heart faint; do not fear, or tremble, or be in dread of them; 4 for the LORD your God is he that goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.' (RSV)
The text to verse 4 shows the responsibility of the priest in developing the nation for war in relationship to their God. The primary preparation is one of spiritual development and readiness to undertake battle for the God, Eloah of Israel.
Once the troops have been assembled, then a selective process is undertaken so that the troops are weeded out. There are a number of categories left out of battle.
This process is the essential process that Gideon undertook in weeding out those unfit for battle in that restoration of Israel.
He did it on the way that people drank from the brook. This was essentially symbolic of the way that people partook of the Holy Spirit. This was explained in detail in the paper Gideon's Force and the Last Days (No. 22).
The declaration of a body of troops as being fit for battle is the duty of the officers under the law. Here the weeding out process is done to ensure that only those of the right frame of mind are allowed to take part in the battle.
Deuteronomy 20:55 Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying, `What man is there that has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it. (RSV)
Essentially, any person who has built his house and not occupied it must do so. The construction of a house is spiritually symbolic of the work of God. The son of man has nowhere to lay his head (Mat. 8:20). Christ had many who followed him.
Matthew 8:19-2219 And a scribe came up and said to him, "Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go." 20 And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head." 21 Another of the disciples said to him, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." 22 But Jesus said to him, "Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead." (RSV)
This text seems to be in contradiction to the orders for battle of Israel. However, what Christ was doing here was saying that if one wished to follow him they must be as the nation. He weeded his followers out in accordance with the instructions he had given to Moses.
This process is now under way in the twentieth century. The concept of the vineyard and the fruit is directly related to the Covenants of God as the vineyard of the Lord.
Deuteronomy 20:66 And what man is there that has planted a vineyard and has not enjoyed its fruit? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man enjoy its fruit. (RSV)
The statement regarding the betrothal is that one must be single minded about the task at hand. Also the nation must have progeny left to it. The question of the inheritance of the tribes is also at stake. God was to ensure that His promises to Abraham and the patriarchs were to be fulfilled.
Deuteronomy 20:77 And what man is there that has betrothed a wife and has not taken her? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man take her.' (RSV)
The final weeding out process is for the faint-hearted. If we have not got the stomach for the fight, do not take part. This is the entire sense of counting the cost. A frightened or faint-hearted or half-hearted person cannot be relied upon to stand in battle.
The entire structure of this text was found in Jeremiah. People ask what good is it to follow the way of the Lord. He does not reward good or punish evil.
Jeremiah 12:1-171 Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I complain to thee; yet I would plead my case before thee. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive? 2 Thou plantest them, and they take root; they grow and bring forth fruit; thou art near in their mouth and far from their heart. 3 But thou, O LORD, knowest me; thou seest me, and triest my mind toward thee. Pull them out like sheep for the slaughter, and set them apart for the day of slaughter. 4 How long will the land mourn, and the grass of every field wither? For the wickedness of those who dwell in it the beasts and the birds are swept away, because men said, "He will not see our latter end." 5 "If you have raced with men on foot, and they have wearied you, how will you compete with horses? And if in a safe land you fall down, how will you do in the jungle of the Jordan? 6 For even your brothers and the house of your father, even they have dealt treacherously with you; they are in full cry after you; believe them not, though they speak fair words to you." 7 "I have forsaken my house, I have abandoned my heritage; I have given the beloved of my soul into the hands of her enemies. 8 My heritage has become to me like a lion in the forest, she has lifted up her voice against me; therefore I hate her. 9 Is my heritage to me like a speckled bird of prey? Are the birds of prey against her round about? Go, assemble all the wild beasts; bring them to devour. 10 Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard, they have trampled down my portion, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness. 11 They have made it a desolation; desolate, it mourns to me. The whole land is made desolate, but no man lays it to heart. 12 Upon all the bare heights in the desert destroyers have come; for the sword of the LORD devours from one end of the land to the other; no flesh has peace. 13 They have sown wheat and have reaped thorns, they have tired themselves out but profit nothing. They shall be ashamed of their harvests because of the fierce anger of the LORD." 14 Thus says the LORD concerning all my evil neighbors who touch the heritage which I have given my people Israel to inherit: "Behold, I will pluck them up from their land, and I will pluck up the house of Judah from among them. 15 And after I have plucked them up, I will again have compassion on them, and I will bring them again each to his heritage and each to his land. 16 And it shall come to pass, if they will diligently learn the ways of my people, to swear by my name, `As the LORD lives,' even as they taught my people to swear by Ba'al, then they shall be built up in the midst of my people. 17 But if any nation will not listen, then I will utterly pluck it up and destroy it, says the LORD." (RSV)
Deuteronomy 20:8-208 And the officers shall speak further to the people, and say, 'What man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go back to his house, lest the heart of his fellows melt as his heart.' 9 And when the officers have made an end of speaking to the people, then commanders shall be appointed at the head of the people. 10 "When you draw near to a city to fight against it, offer terms of peace to it. 11 And if its answer to you is peace and it opens to you, then all the people who are found in it shall do forced labor for you and shall serve you. 12 But if it makes no peace with you, but makes war against you, then you shall besiege it; 13 and when the LORD your God gives it into your hand you shall put all its males to the sword, 14 but the women and the little ones, the cattle, and everything else in the city, all its spoil, you shall take as booty for yourselves; and you shall enjoy the spoil of your enemies, which the LORD your God has given you. 15 Thus you shall do to all the cities which are very far from you, which are not cities of the nations here. 16 But in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God gives you for an inheritance, you shall save alive nothing that breathes, 17 but you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Per'izzites, the Hivites and the Jeb'usites, as the LORD your God has commanded; 18 that they may not teach you to do according to all their abominable practices which they have done in the service of their gods, and so to sin against the LORD your God. 19 "When you besiege a city for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you shall not destroy its trees by wielding an axe against them; for you may eat of them, but you shall not cut them down. Are the trees in the field men that they should be besieged by you? 20 Only the trees which you know are not trees for food you may destroy and cut down that you may build siegeworks against the city that makes war with you, until it falls. (RSV)
If we have run with men on foot and they have wearied us, how can we contend with horses? If we became weary in the land of peace doing the work of God, how will we contend in times of war – in other words, when the Jordan is in flood? If our footing is not sure now, how can it be when it is under duress?
The pastors wearied the vineyard of Yahovah which is the whole house of Israel (Isa. 5:7). Because they failed, the people became weary and they did not stand in times of peace. These same people cannot now stand, and desire to pull down the army of God as an edifice. They are sent home because, in the end, they will destroy the will of the people to do the work of God.
This is the real intent of the story of Gideon. The people who are unclear on the requirements of the orders and system of God are sent home. It is required of the officers of the army of Yahovah to send home any who are faint-hearted or who do not understand what is required of them.
God is not slow to act as some would account it slow, but He is merciful. At present, the curses are coming upon the land and there will be no peace until the power of the holy people is finally broken. Then the end shall come (Dan. 12:7).
Daniel 12:1-131 "At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time; but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book. 2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. 3 And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. 4 But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, until the time of the end. Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase." 5 Then I Daniel looked, and behold, two others stood, one on this bank of the stream and one on that bank of the stream. 6 And I said to the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream, "How long shall it be till the end of these wonders?" 7 The man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the stream, raised his right hand and his left hand toward heaven; and I heard him swear by him who lives for ever that it would be for a time, two times, and half a time; and that when the shattering of the power of the holy people comes to an end all these things would be accomplished. 8 I heard, but I did not understand. Then I said, "O my lord, what shall be the issue of these things?" 9 He said, "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end. 10 Many shall purify themselves, and make themselves white, and be refined; but the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand; but those who are wise shall understand. 11 And from the time that the continual burnt offering is taken away, and the abomination that makes desolate is set up, there shall be a thousand two hundred and ninety days. 12 Blessed is he who waits and comes to the thousand three hundred and thirty-five days. 13 But go your way till the end; and you shall rest, and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days." (RSV)
This battle of the last days is put into place and the nations are broken as we see from Daniel 2:40-45.
Daniel 2:40-4540 And there shall be a fourth kingdom, strong as iron, because iron breaks to pieces and shatters all things; and like iron which crushes, it shall break and crush all these. 41 And as you saw the feet and toes partly of potter's clay and partly of iron, it shall be a divided kingdom; but some of the firmness of iron shall be in it, just as you saw iron mixed with the miry clay. 42 And as the toes of the feet were partly iron and partly clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong and partly brittle. 43 As you saw the iron mixed with miry clay, so they will mix with one another in marriage, but they will not hold together, just as iron does not mix with clay. 44 And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people. It shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and bring them to an end, and it shall stand for ever; 45 just as you saw that a stone was cut from a mountain by no human hand, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold. A great God has made known to the king what shall be hereafter. The dream is certain, and its interpretation sure." (RSV)
This being will destroy the entire system. Prior to that time the people of God have a series of commissions to accomplish.
Gideon was told to filter all those who were sent to him and send home all who did not fulfil the specifications given.
Judges 7:7-97 And the LORD said to Gideon, "With the three hundred men that lapped I will deliver you, and give the Mid'ianites into your hand; and let all the others go every man to his home." 8 So he took the jars of the people from their hands, and their trumpets; and he sent all the rest of Israel every man to his tent, but retained the three hundred men; and the camp of Mid'ian was below him in the valley. 9 That same night the LORD said to him, "Arise, go down against the camp; for I have given it into your hand. (RSV)
Yahovah had given Gideon the understanding to do what he had to do. He did it also by dream, even using the mouths of the enemies of Israel (Judges 7:14).
Judges 7:19-2519 So Gideon and the hundred men who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. 20 And the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars, holding in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow; and they cried, "A sword for the LORD and for Gideon!" 21 They stood every man in his place round about the camp, and all the army ran; they cried out and fled. 22 When they blew the three hundred trumpets, the LORD set every man's sword against his fellow and against all the army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shit'tah toward Zer'erah, as far as the border of A'bel-meho'lah, by Tabbath. 23 And the men of Israel were called out from Naph'tali and from Asher and from all Manas'seh, and they pursued after Mid'ian. 24 And Gideon sent messengers throughout all the hill country of E'phraim, saying, "Come down against the Mid'ianites and seize the waters against them, as far as Beth-bar'ah, and also the Jordan." So all the men of E'phraim were called out, and they seized the waters as far as Beth-bar'ah, and also the Jordan. 25 And they took the two princes of Mid'ian, Oreb and Zeeb; they killed Oreb at the rock of Oreb, and Zeeb they killed at the wine press of Zeeb, as they pursued Mid'ian; and they brought the heads of Oreb and Zeeb to Gideon beyond the Jordan. (RSV)
From this time, the men of Ephraim were called to the battle, and were not happy that the three hundred of Manasseh were used in such a way (Judges 8:1-3). His answer to them turned away their wrath and they had done a mighty work.
When Gideon and the three hundred (which were divided into three companies) continued on after Midian and the host, they experienced another type of person. Because they were only three hundred and had not yet subdued the host nor shown themselves in power, the men of Succoth would not assist them. They would not even give them bread. Likewise the men of Penuel would not assist them.
These people wanted signs of power and numbers. They would not assist in the work of the army of God – even to the point of not providing sustenance. Their punishment was pronounced by Gideon as he pursued the host. These people of the Booths or Succoth wanted to see the fruits of the victory before they took part in the battle. Their punishment was sure.
Judges 8:77 And Gideon said, "Well then, when the LORD has given Zebah and Zalmun'na into my hand, I will flail your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness and with briers." (RSV)
Similarly, the people of Penuel who relied on their tower for strength had the tower broken down.
Judges 8:99 And he said to the men of Penu'el, "When I come again in peace, I will break down this tower." (RSV)
This position refers to the last days as we have seen from the paper Gideon's Force and the Last Days (No. 22).
God does not expect people to fight who are faint-hearted and He sent home the major force first marshalled under Gideon. This has happened in the twentieth century. However, God will not tolerate interference and a failure to perform required duty.
The last section of the text then requires the eradication of the contrary systems from Israel.
The nations are to be offered peace, and they are to be made part of Israel and serve Israel and the one true God.
If they will not make peace, then the males are to be destroyed and the families and stock absorbed into Israel.
There was a specific order given in this text regarding a particular group of nations that had to be entirely destroyed, or they would become a thorn in the side of Israel because of their practices and their systems of worship. Those nations were destroyed except for some remnants of which we will deal later.
In besieging the cities of the nations there is to be no undue destruction of flora used for food. The trees of the land may be used for the subjugation of the people, and they are to be used for the destruction of the nation until it is subdued.
These orders are not unnecessary. They govern the conduct of the nation of Israel in its system of operations against the nations. It is not a question of expedience nor is it one of choice. Israel is to continue in the work of God until the end comes. That work has not been done, nor has the gospel been preached throughout the world (Mat. 24:14).
Matthew 24:7-147 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places: 8 all this is but the beginning of the birth-pangs. 9 "Then they will deliver you up to tribulation, and put you to death; and you will be hated by all nations for my name's sake. 10 And then many will fall away, and betray one another, and hate one another. 11 And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. 12 And because wickedness is multiplied, most men's love will grow cold. 13 But he who endures to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come. (RSV)
The falling away and the hatred are quite astounding in the last days. But this falling away is allowed by the Holy Spirit because the system of the last days is unable to stand alone and to participate in the Kingdom of God. It is the weeding out process that is found here in the battle orders of Israel. Many people in the last days are unable to stand in the army of Israel, and many simply do not have the self-discipline to fight as a close-knit orderly body.
The three hundred of Gideon were able to achieve what they did because of the power of the Holy Spirit, and the faith they possessed in the power of God to work the promises and visions He had given Gideon.
The symbolism is as we have discussed previously. The lights or torches were the fires of knowledge of the spirit and of the gospel of the Kingdom of God. This was the sword of the Lord and of Gideon. The lights were exposed at the same time from a small hand-picked force. Those who were not up to scratch were removed. Most of that force did not even understand why they were removed. The ones who were not called for the first force were upset at the fact, and had to be reassured that their job was just as important as the first group. There are, however, two groups and a mighty job to be done in the last days and it will be done by a hand-picked force preaching the truth of God without adulteration as a disciplined organised body.
The reason the Laodicean church was spewed out was that they were neither hot nor cold. That description fits the church in the twentieth century.
Revelation 3:14-2214 "And to the angel of the church in La-odice'a write: `The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation. 15 "`I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.'" (RSV)
The Laodiceans are spewed out and those left are dealt with by Christ in order to overcome. Only the few who do overcome and begin to learn as they should have done from the beginning, are accounted worthy to sit with Christ on his throne as he sits with God on His throne.
This church is dealt with before the end and the church is refined in fire.
One particularly dishonest approach to the matter of the working body of the church is that of the tithe. The argument goes along these lines. The Temple is destroyed and the Levitical priesthood is no longer functional. Therefore, there is no longer any need to tithe. This is espoused by the anti-organisation groups so that they then do not have to identify or support any organised body.
The breakdown of the organised structure of the churches is part of the judgment of the church in the last days (see the paper Measuring the Temple (No. 137)). This measuring of the people that are sent home and not used in the Gideon and Ephraim forces are judged against one another in accordance with texts in Ezekiel 34. These are sheep against sheep. They are removed from pastors in organised bodies so that they are measured as to how they work with and treat one another. No baptised person in the Church of God can avoid this process. They are either working as part of the organised force of the last days or they are under judgment as sheep against sheep, and are held accountable for what they do or do not do with their talent.
Their obligation cannot be removed or denied by resort to anti-organisational arguments. God does not change and He directly links His unchanging nature with the requirement to repent. The sign of the repentance and return to God is through the tithe and functional body of Christ.
Malachi 3:7-127 From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, `How shall we return?' 8 Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, `How are we robbing thee?' In your tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me; the whole nation of you. 10 Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing. 11 I will rebuke the devourer for you, so that it will not destroy the fruits of your soil; and your vine in the field shall not fail to bear, says the LORD of hosts. 12 Then all nations will call you blessed, for you will be a land of delight, says the LORD of hosts. (RSV)
Only when the power of the holy people is finally broken will the end come. Then when we see the abomination of desolation stand in the Holy Place let him who is in Judea flee to the mountains (Mat. 24:15-22). Then and only then can we finish our task.
Matthew 24:15-2715 "So when you see the desolating sacrilege spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains; 17 let him who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house; 18 and let him who is in the field not turn back to take his mantle. 19 And alas for those who are with child and for those who give suck in those days! 20 Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. 22 And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 Then if any one says to you, `Lo, here is the Christ!' or `There he is!' do not believe it. 24 For false Christs and false prophets will arise and show great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. 25 Lo, I have told you beforehand. 26 So, if they say to you, `Lo, he is in the wilderness,' do not go out; if they say, `Lo, he is in the inner rooms,' do not believe it. 27 For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of man. (RSV)
When the wars of the end start, then we can finish the job and hand over to the witnesses. Until that time we have work to do and it is as an organised body.
While we can still work we have an obligation to put aside our petty differences, and work together for the common good and the propagation of the faith as an organised body of troops prepared for battle.