Deuteronomy 20:1-4

Sunday Morning Bible Study

September 16, 2001


Yesterday morning, in his weekly radio address to the nation, President Bush said,

"This weekend I am engaged in extensive sessions with members of my National Security Council as we plan a comprehensive assault on terrorism. This will be a different kind of conflict against a different kind of enemy. This is a conflict without battlefields or beachheads, a conflict with opponents who believe they are invisible. Yet they are mistaken. They will be exposed, and they will discover what others in the past have learned: Those who make war against the United States have chosen their own destruction. Victory against terrorism will not take place in a single battle but in a series of decisive actions against terrorist organizations and those who harbor and support them. We are planning a broad and sustained campaign to secure our country and eradicate the evil of terrorism, and we are determined to see this conflict through.”

We are at war.  I find it quite appropriate that on our trip through the Scriptures, we land in Deuteronomy 20 this week.

:1  When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

God is telling the nation of Israel that they don’t need to be afraid because He is with them.  That causes me to ask a question,

Is God with us?

We need to be careful that we don’t presume that God is “with us” just because we’re the United States of America.

There is no other nation on the earth that God loves more than the nation of Israel.

God promised His amazing protection over Israel, but it was on the condition that they walk in obedience to God’s ways.
(Lev 26:3-8 KJV)  If ye walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments, and do them; {4} Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. {5} And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely. {6} And I will give peace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land. {7} And ye shall chase your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. {8} And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.
God also warned Israel that if they would not follow in His ways, He would remove His protection from them.
(Lev 26:14-17 KJV)  But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments; {15} And if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant: {16} I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. {17} And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you.
In the days of Jeremiah, God’s patience had finally run out with the nation of Judah.
(Jer 32:26-30 KJV)  Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying, {27} Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh: is there any thing too hard for me? {28} Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the Chaldeans, and into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and he shall take it: {29} And the Chaldeans, that fight against this city, shall come and set fire on this city, and burn it with the houses, upon whose roofs they have offered incense unto Baal, and poured out drink offerings unto other gods, to provoke me to anger. {30} For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: for the children of Israel have only provoked me to anger with the work of their hands, saith the LORD.

At the time, there were prophets in Jerusalem saying that everything would be okay, but God kept telling Jeremiah that it wouldn’t be.  Why wouldn’t it be okay?  Because the nation had turned it’s back on the Lord.

We are in a dangerous place.

As much as I want to stand up and be a cheerleader for America, as much as I want to tell you that it’s all going to be okay and send you out with warm fuzzy feelings, we need to stop a minute and take a look at reality.
Even though there is much good in our nation, and I love America and think it’s the best place to live on earth, we are also living in a society that has allowed an incredible increase of evil things to be taking place.
Abortion, pornography, outlawing prayer in school, violence in our society (in schools, mass spree murders), the content on our television sets and movie theaters.
I believe the President’s call for prayer has been a wonderful step in the right direction, but I’m concerned that our nation doesn’t quite understand the moral hole it’s dug for itself.

Even in the news media, you will on one hand hear commentators quoting Scripture, yet on the other hand, I couldn’t find one major news website that gave the text of Billy Graham’s comments during the service at the National Cathedral on Friday.  I could find quotes from the Rabbi, the Immam, the President, and others, but not Billy Graham’s.


Don’t be afraid of difficult questions in hard times.

Sometimes we need to ask ourselves the difficult questions.  Sometimes we need to ask ourselves, “Have I done something to bring this about?”
A couple of years ago we had a putrid smell in the sanctuary.  It started off by just being a slightly bad odor.  But it got worse.  Each day it got more and more putrid.  It was hard to walk into the sanctuary unless the doors had been open and the fans had been running for an hour or so.  We thought it might be a dead animal.  We thought that maybe a sewer line had broke.  We looked everywhere.  We got down on our hands and knees and sniffed every inch of the carpet.  Finally we got to one spot near the ramp and WHEW!  We found the spot.  We tore apart the side of the ramp and drilled a hole in the supports and suddenly the odor got huge.  We poked a flashlight inside and found a pretty good size rat’s nest, with a fairly large dead rat.  The only way to get rid of the odor was to get the rat out.  Even after we extricated the rat from the nest, we had to clean out the nest and air it out for a couple of months.
We could have ignored the problem.  We could have just aired out the sanctuary a lot, sprayed a lot of deodorizers or perfume.  But that wouldn’t have covered the odor.  We had to get rid of the cause of the odor.
My point is this; sometimes God allows difficult times to show us that we have some serious house cleaning to do.
Please hear me here:  Not every difficulty comes because we have sin in our lives.  I am in no way saying that the people in the World Trade Center had sin in their lives.  The people with sin in their lives were the ones hijacking the planes.  Sometimes we are in the path of people who have sin in their lives, and we end up as victims.
But sometimes we need to be willing to face the question and ask ourselves, “Is there something I need to change?”  Sometimes God allows things to come into my life as a wakeup call to make me realize I’m going in the wrong direction.
What I wonder is, could there be a sense in which a measure of God’s protection has been removed from us as a nation because of our sin?
Wrong Way!
As a senior citizen was driving down the freeway, his car phone rang. Answering, he heard his wife’s voice urgently warning him, “Herman, I just heard on the news that there’s a car going the wrong way on the 280. Please be careful!”  Herman said, “It’s not just one car, honey, it’s hundreds of them!”
I don’t really have the desire to be known as some crazy, wild-eyed fanatic that is standing on a street corner yelling at people to “repent”.  But I think that we as individuals and we as a nation ought to take a hard look at some of the things that we’ve allowed into our nation and turn from these things.


The way out

Is there a way out of this?
When Solomon dedicated the temple, God told Solomon that there would be times when the people would fall away and encounter disaster.  God said that at those times,
(2 Chr 7:14 KJV)  If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
my people – that would speak to us as Christians.  The change in our nation needs to start with us.
humblekana‘– be brought down, be low, be brought into subjection
One of the chief things that keep us from being restored to God is our own pride.  It’s hard to admit we need help.  It’s hard to admit it to ourselves, it’s hard to admit it to God, and it’s hard to admit it to others.  In AA, they teach every person who wants help that they must stand up and admit to the group that they’re an alcoholic.  That’s humility.
praypalal – to intervene, to intercede
God’s desire is for us to learn to pray for others, to pray for our nation.  The idea of “interceding” for another person is “speaking on behalf of another”.  There are many people around us, many people in our nation, that need God’s help, and we can speak to God for them.
seek my facebaqash – to seek, require, desire
The idea behind “praying” is that of presenting requests before God.  The idea here is that of seeking God Himself.  God doesn’t just want us to think of Him as some big “customer service” desk.  He Himself is the goal. He’s the One whose presence we need in our lives.
turn from their wicked ways
Get the rat out of the building.  Turn the car around and head in the right direction.
This is aimed at God’s people, us.  We can’t force our nation to turn around, but we as individuals, as Christians, can take the lead and make sure that we are aimed at the right direction.

I’ve heard that some of the statistics of those who say they are Christians and go to church and yet have abortions, participate in pornography, cheat on their marriage, etc, are at times just about the same as those who don’t go to church.  It ought not to be.  We ought to be different.  We ought to be in the lead of those running towards God.

I understand that some of you are here today for this very reason.  I commend you for it.  You are taking a step in the right direction.

:2 And it shall be, when ye are come nigh unto the battle, that the priest shall approach and speak unto the people,

In the New Testament, we are ALL called priests.  In a sense, this is something that we all, as Christians, ought to be doing for our nation.  These are the kinds of words we need to be speaking to our nation, to our friends.

:3 And shall say unto them, Hear, O Israel, ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies: let not your hearts faint, fear not, and do not tremble, neither be ye terrified because of them;

Just like Israel of old (and now), we are in a battle.

faintrakak – be soft, be weak

tremblechaphaz – to hurry, flee, fear, be terrified

terrified ‘arats – to tremble, dread, fear, be terrified

This is exactly what the terrorists want, for us to be afraid.

This is how Satan operates –

(1 Pet 5:8 KJV)  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Why does a lion roar?  He roars to paralyze his victims with fear.  Tuesday morning, the lion roared.


Fear is dangerous

I recall a story about a man who had to cross a wide river on the ice.  He was afraid it might be too thin, so he began to crawl on his hand and knees in great terror.  He thought he might fall through at any moment.  Just as he neared the opposite shore, all exhausted, another man glided past him nonchalantly sitting on a sled loaded with pig iron. 
Sometimes we can become so overwhelmed in our fears that we paralyze ourselves and only make our lives more miserable than ever.
Carl Wallenda was one of the greatest tightrope aerialists who ever lived. He once wrote, “For me, to live is being on a tightrope. All the rest is waiting.” In 1968, he commented that the most important thing about walking a tightrope is to be confident you can do it and never to think about failure.
In 1978, Wallenda fell to his death from a tightrope that was seventy-five feet up in the air above the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. His wife, who is also an aerialist, reported that, for three months prior to attempting the most dangerous feat he’d ever tried, all he talked about was falling. She said that never before in all their career together had Carl ever given a thought to falling. She noted further that he spent all of his time prior to that fatal walk putting up the wire (which he had never bothered with before). He worried about the guidewires and spent endless hours calculating the wind, which he had also never done before. After his death, she said, “I believe the reason Carl fell was because he spent all of his time preparing not to fall, instead of spending time preparing to walk the rope.”

-- H. Edwin Young, "Building Blocks," Southern Baptist Preaching Today, ed. Allen and Gregory, p. 457.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be careful people.  I’m not saying that we should all go tightrope walking.  But fear can paralyze you and fear can kill you.

:4 For the LORD your God is he that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.


The answer to fear is found in God’s presence

Several years ago there was a well-known television circus show that developed a Bengal tiger act. Like the rest of the show, it was done “live” before a large audience. One evening, the tiger trainer went into the cage with several tigers to do a routine performance. The door was locked behind him. The spotlights highlighted the cage, the television cameras moved in close, and the audience watched in suspense as the trainer skillfully put the tigers through their paces. In the middle of the performance, the worst possible fate befell the act: the lights went out! For twenty or thirty long, dark seconds the trainer was locked in with the tigers. In the darkness they could see him, but he could not see them. A whip and a small kitchen chair seemed meager protection under the circumstances, but he survived, and when the lights came on, he calmly finished the performance. In an interview afterward, he was asked how he felt knowing that the tigers could see him but that he could not see them. He first admitted the chilling fear of the situation, but pointed out that the tigers did not know that he could not see them. He said, “I just kept cracking my whip and talking to them until the lights came on. And they never knew I could not see them as well as they could see me.”
Sometimes it seems like life’s lights have gone out and we’re faced with a cage full of tigers in the dark.  But though we can’t always see Him, we’re not alone in our cage with the tigers.  God is with us.  He is there to fight for us and protect us.  Even when the lights are out.

(Psa 23 KJV)  The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. {2} He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. {3} He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. {4} Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. {5} Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. {6} Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

When I know that God is with me, I am no longer afraid of what evil will do to me.


Bring them into God’s presence

We like the priests of old, need to remind those around us that if they want to find deliverance from their fears, they will find it in the Lord’s presence.
How do I come to experience God’s presence?
It starts in a heart when a person comes to the point where they realize they need help.

We have cut ourselves off from God’s presence by our own sin.  Our own disregard for God’s ways have put up a wall between us and God.

God’s presence comes to a person who discovers that God has a remedy for our sin.  God sent His only Son, Jesus, to die on a cross, in order to pay the price of removing our sins.  Jesus died in our place.
God’s presence comes to the person who opens their heart to Jesus.  Jesus said,

(Rev 3:20 KJV)  Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.