Monday, January 29, 2007

The case for war: Dt 2:24

“Arise, set out, and pass through the valley of Arnon. Look! I have given Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land into your hand; begin to take possession and contend with him in battle.” (Deuteronomy 2:24)

I have heard some argue that war is contrary to the nature and teachings of Christ. Even some “devout” Christians have adopted the belief that God would never use war to achieve His purposes. However, there are numerous examples in the scriptures where God did just that; use war for His own purposes and goals. In this scripture, God commands Moses and the nation of Israel to contend with King Sihon and the nation of Heshbon. While it is incontrovertible that war is never to be desired, and that its execution is full of horrors and death, there are times when war is just, right, and necessary.

One of the keys to understanding God’s view of war is to properly distinguish the differences between what the scripture has to say to the individual and what it has to say to nations. For example, the scripture clearly commands each person to forgive one another, “Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions.” (Mark 11:25) Even if someone were to sin greatly against us, we are to forgive them. However, this is not always the case for the state. For example, in the case of murder, the scriptures command us to forgive the murder, but it also commands the state to bring justice and to judge and punish the murder. We are called to forgive, but the state is called to punish. The same is true for war. The scriptures command us to love our enemies, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matt 5:43-44) But when God leads a nation into battle, He commands them to defeat their enemies. “The Lord our God delivered him over to us, and we defeated him with his sons and all his people.” (Deuteronomy 2:33) We are to love, but in war, a nation is to defeat.

War is the business of nations, not individuals, and its goal is victory, not appeasement. In the following verses, God outlines some of the factors that make the case for war.

“This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under the heavens, who, when they hear the report of you, will tremble and be in anguish because of you.” (Deuteronomy 2:25)

The former president Ronald Regan believed that it is not enough, as a nation, to have power but you must be willing to demonstrate your willingness to use that power. Growing up in the 60’s and 70’s there was a prevailing philosophy that peace was most likely to occur when a balance of power existed between two advisories. However we have only look to the ongoing conflict in the Middle East to see that this belief is flawed. Peace in the middle east will never be achieve by simply achieving a balance of power, but peace will only come when one side is victorious over the other. Only when one side can show its demonstrable supremacy of power over the other will there ever be peace. Sometimes God brings about wars for the demonstrating of one nation’s power over another and for the establishment of a peaceful coexistence between nations.

“But Sihon king of Heshbon was not willing for us to pass through his land; for the Lord your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, in order to deliver him into your hand, as he is today.” (Deuteronomy 2:30)

It is an irrefutable truth that evil exists in the world. At times this evil is personified in a single person and/or a nation. For example, in Moses day evil was personified in Pharaoh. Among the many atrocities committed by Pharaoh was the ordering of the death of every male Hebrew child. “Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, ‘Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive.’” (Exodus 1:22) God sent Moses to Pharaoh to command him to let God’s people go, but God’s intent was not to spare Pharaoh but to destroy him. “For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.’ So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires… What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?” (Romans 9:17-18, 22) There are times when God hardens the heart of leaders for the purpose of drawing them out for destruction. This was the case with Pharaoh and with King Sihon. In our day, I would add to that list names like Adolph Hitler and Saddam Husain. There are times when diplomacy will not work; when God hardens the hearts of an evil person to the point where the only recourse is war. In such a case, a nation must not shrink back from conflict, for in such cases, it is the only option through which evil can be defeated.

“Then we turned and went up the road to Bashan, and Og, king of Bashan, with all his people came out to meet us in battle at Edrei. But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not fear him, for I have delivered him and all his people and his land into your hand; and you shall do to him just as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.’” (Deuteronomy 3:1-2)

Aggression must never be tolerated. When one nation challenges the sovereignty of another, it is the responsibility of the nation to defend itself. There are some things worth fighting for. When the people returned to rebuild Jerusalem, after their forty years of exile, Nehemiah encouraged them against their enemies. “When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people: ‘Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses.’” (Nehemiah 4:14) When challenged, a nation must defend itself and must prove itself victorious. Nothing short of victory will do. Anything less will only invite increasing challenges to its right of existence, the life of its people, and its way of life. When challenged a nation must respond, and in responding, a nation must be victorious.

David Robison


  1. Dave Robison Jr9:55 PM

    Dad great post. what u say is true biblically as well as historically. You mentioned Hitler; Chamberlin tried diplomacy, giving Hitler the realistate he wanted, in hopes that Hitler would stop his advance across Europe. The same goes for the Japs, while their peace talkers were in our own country they attacked pearl harbor. As you stated war should never be our first option but at times it is unavoidable but when we are called to war we need to go in with force and accomplish the mission. again great post

  2. I was so excited to see your post. We are currently studying the beatitudes and we are at the point of discussing the true meaning of peacemakers and what peace is and how the Lord views war. What an excellent tool this has been for me to study. Thank you for being open to the Lord in doing this little mini teaching. I am actually looking forward to spending more time at this site.

    God Bless you richly in the ministry He has given you.

  3. daniel8:53 PM

    Good post, insightful.

    Thanks Uncle D.