War. It’s been going on for centuries. Just like in the days of the Old Testament, countries today still invade and take over other countries. It’s the same purpose, just a different century.
The first recorded war was in Genesis 14. And not surprisingly, it was over money. It was customary in those days that a city that was conquered paid money, called a tribute, to the king that overthrew that city. In the first recorded war five cities, including Sodom and Gomorrah paid tribute to King Chedorlaomer for twelve years. However, those five cities decided they would withhold Chedorlaomer’s tribute money. “In the thirteenth year they rebelled” (Gen. 14:4). They joined forces and rebelled against King Chedorlaomer. This kind of rebellion didn’t sit well with Chedorlaomer so he retaliated. He joined forces with four other eastern kings. What fueled his anger? By refusing to pay the tribute, the king realized this would have a devastating effect to the territory known as the “way of the kings” which was the corridor of commerce between Egypt and the four eastern kingdoms.1 Whoever controlled this land bridge maintained a monopoly on international trade.2 In retaliation, King Chedorlaomer overtook the city of Sodom, carrying away its people and their possessions.
But who doesn’t love the underdog! Who doesn’t love the one who comes in and saves the day–turning the tide of the outcome. That person was Abram, later called Abraham. Abram was actually a warrior. In fact, Abram, wouldn’t of even been involved in this first war if it wasn’t for his nephew Lot. Lot was living in Sodom when King Chedorlaomer conquered it. Like the others, Lot and his family, along with all their possessions were carried off as captives. Abram took 318 fighting men and charged after Chedorlaomer solely with the purpose of retrieving his nephew and his family. So what does the Bible say about war and the military?
God and His Military
We see God directly involved in establishing a military in the book of Numbers 1:2-3. “The Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai,… ‘Take a census of the whole congregation of Israelites, in their clans, by ancestral houses, according to the number of names, every male individually; from twenty years old and upward, everyone in Israel able to go to war…”’ From this census, we can assume that God revers organization and considers the cost of any military endeavor a wise course of action. Moses counted the Israelites twice.1 The first census organized the people into marching units to better defend themselves. It was important to know how many fighting men Israel had so they could determine their overall military strength.
On a side note, the organized census also provided genealogical records. As it turned out, the first census had a total of 603,550,000 fighting men all from the twelve tribes of Israel.2 The second census takes place in 2 Samuel 24: 1:2 and it prepared the Israelite army to conquer the promise land.3 It’s easy to see that God not only instituted a strong military, but His military agendas played an important role in carrying out His will. God used war and the Israelite army throughout the course of Israel’s history. God’s warriors, men like Moses, Joshua, and David were His instruments, to carry out His plans. And He gave them His blessing. For King David, God gave him victory in every battle.4 “He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze” (Psalm 18:34). David had victories over the Jebusites, the Philistines, Hadadezer of Zobah, the Syrians, the Edomites, and the Ammonites–all from the book of 2 Samuel.5
In Acts 10 is the story of Cornelius, a Roman soldier, who was the first Gentile convert as a soldier.6 Being a Christ-follower, combined with military service, is highly regarded in the Bible.7 If this were not so, how could we explain the portrayal of David, also a soldier, as “having a heart after God”?8 We know that God highly esteemed David, a brilliant warrior, and blessed his military efforts. And in Matthew 8:5-13 when Cornelius approached Jesus and asked Him to make his servant well, Jesus wasn’t disheartened or try to discourage Cornelius from having a military career. God is Sovereign and this means He doesn’t play favorites. Cornelius imparted personal integrity into his everyday duties as a high-ranking soldier.9 Even the Jews, who despised the Romans, respected this godly Gentile warrior who honored God and in return God honored him.
God is still involved in the military affairs of countries today. Nothing escapes His attention. And like He uses other aspects of events on earth to carry out His will, He also uses the world’s military campaigns of today to bring about His purposes. No country, even America, can thwart His will and plan. The Bible, even though it is predominately God’s love story to you and me, is also a military book.10 If God felt it was necessary to institute an organized military in the fourth book of the Bible, then a strong American military, in which its service is conducted with biblical character, integrity, and honor is a blessed occupation. And like the Jews who respected Cornelius, we, too, ought to show our respect for those who humbly serve under the supreme commander-in-chief. And like Cornelius, God will honor our military members today for their honorable service.
1 Bible Note for Numbers 1:2-3, Life Application Bible (Iowa Falls, IA: World Bible
Publishers, Inc., 1989).
2 Bible Note for Numbers 1:20-46, Life Application Bible
3 Bible Note for 2 Samuel 24:1-3, Life Application Bible
4 Bible Note for Psalm 18:34, Life Application Bible
6 Ron Knott, “God and the Military,” www.ronknott.net/id29.html (accessed 6/10/14).
7 Lisa Nixon Phillips, Faith Steps for Military Families, (New York, NY: Morgan James
Publishing, 2014), 144.
10 Ron Knott, “God and the Military