“So it shall be, when you are on the verge of battle, that the priest shall approach and speak to the people. And he shall say to them, 'Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you'” (Deuteronomy 20:2-4).
Can you imagine what it would have been like to be an American soldier on June 6, 1944 landing on the first wave of attack on the beach code named Omaha? These soldiers faced a wall of lead fired from German machine guns and so many died that this beach became known as “Bloody Omaha”.
As any soldier knows, going into battle is understandably a grave and fearful matter. To be able to face such a challenge, it is important for a soldier to have good morale and the confidence and that the generals above him have put together a plan for him to be successful if he does his part. General Dwight David Eisenhower said, “Morale is the greatest single factor in successful wars”.
As Moses continues his farewell address to Israel shortly before they are going to cross the Jordan River, he gives instructions regarding conquering the various cities of the Promised Land. As the opening verses above indicate, because God understood the importance of the army of Israel having good morale, these instructions included allowing some to not fight in some of the upcoming battles.
Provisions were made to allow those who might weaken the morale of the army to be allowed to go home and not fight in the battle. Those who had recently built a house, but had not dedicated it or had recently planted a vineyard, but had not yet eaten of it were allowed to not have to participate in the fight (Deuteronomy 20:5-6). Those who had recently betrothed a wife but had not yet married her were allowed to go home (Deuteronomy 20:7). Even those who were simply fearful and fainthearted were dismissed from the battle (Deuteronomy 20:8).
The army that remained to fight against the cities they faced would not be full of cowards or those who were distracted by the cares of life. Instead, it would be an army of high morale that had confidence that they would be victorious against their enemies because they were not fighting their enemies by their own strength alone. As the opening verse above indicates, the priest reminded the soldiers that God Almighty Himself was leading them into battle!
As Christians we are engaged in a spiritual warfare (2 Corinthians 10:3-4). We face hardships as soldiers of Christ as we are persecuted for standing up for God and His Word (2 Timothy 2:3-4) and striving to remain faithful to God as we face many trials and temptations (Revelation 2:10).
While it is important for us to be properly equipped with the provisions God has given to us (Ephesians 6:10-18), it is also essential that we have outstanding morale in the army of God as we look to God as the One who leads us into battle and fights our battles with us and saves us. God doesn’t expect us to rely on our strength alone to fight such battles. Like the apostle Paul, we need to rely on God’s strength as we go into battle. Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Today, I will praise God and remember He leads me into battle!
“Blessed be the Lord my Rock, Who trains my hands for war, And my fingers for battle-- My lovingkindness and my fortress, My high tower and my deliverer, My shield and the One in whom I take refuge…” (Psalm 144:1-2).