Deuteronomy 20:1-9         

Trinity II   

June 25, 2017

St. Paul’s Anglican Church


“God’s Laws for Warfare”


“Stand your ground. Don’t fire unless fired upon, but if they mean to have a war let it begin here.”


These words were spoken by John Parker to his Minute Men at Lexington, Massachusetts, on April 19, 1775 – as they prepared to defend the American Colonies from the invasion of British troops.


Perhaps no one word evokes such vivid noble images, as does the word warfare… Perhaps no one word evokes such vivid images of destruction, as does the word warfare


It was General William Sherman (of Civil War fame) who defined war as “hell.” It is not a pleasant subject. It is grim.  It is ugly. 


The Greek historian, Herodotus (from the 5th century B.C.) famously noted:  “In peace, children inter their parents; war violates the order of nature and causes parents to inter their children.


Many have such horrid memories of war that they refuse to talk about them.  War, however, is not a subject which the Almighty has avoided. He has addressed it and He has delivered His word regarding the same – a word for good and not for evil


Let us consider four principles given to us by God in our text this morning — to guide us and shape our thinking regarding war.




Verse 1: When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies…


The LORD furnishes His people with directions regarding war. It is seen not only as a possibility, not only as a probability, but as a fact of life.


John Adams (America’s second President) recorded for you and me the following words in a letter to his wife, Abigail:


I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.  My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.


Our other founding fathers followed the same approach, and therefore Congress is given power under the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8) to “declare war.”


If a nation does not want war, then they ought always to be prepared for it.


Our First President, the stalwart Christian, George Washington, in his First Annual Address to both Houses of Congress left for us these astounding words: “To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.” 




Again, verse 1:             


When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou…


When Israel moved into the Promised Land, they were to carry out God’s sentence of death on the Canaanites. Virtually every type of perversion was observed by the Canaanites as a religious practice


After that, warfare was to be essentially defensive. As such, the rules of war were akin to the rules of defense of one’s life and property.


The mention of horses and chariots indicates we are dealing with the attack of an imperial army. Horses were the offensive weapons of ancient warfare. Israel therefore would have been under attack, and on the defensive, in such a case.


You see, God specifically prohibited His people from multiplying such offensive weapons — horses.  They were forbidden (Deuteronomy 17:16).


The purpose of warfare is to be defensive, not offensive. It is to protect one’s borders, not to expand one’s borders.


It is most revealing that in our own Constitution, hidden in Article 1, Section 8, are the following words: “The Congress shall have power to… raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years.”  Note the limitation.


When a nation dons the imperial cloak, it does so to its own destruction.  And why? Because it violates God’s purposes.  Rome was once a great world power that chose to don the imperial cloak, and where is Rome today?  Nowhere to be found. Listen to the words of one of her own — the statesman, orator, and author, Cicero: “Endless money forms the sinews of war.”


France was also once the leader of the world, but lost its rank and privilege through foolish military endeavors that wiped out her men-folk, from which she is still recovering two centuries later.


Let us remember Christ’s words of warning to St. Peter when the drums of war are sounding in the air:


…all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.




We observe in the text that God severely restricts military activities!  A new house, a new vineyard, a new bride are sufficient grounds for exemption. As important as defense is, the continuity and development of godly life ARE AND ALWAYS WILL BE MORE IMPORTANT.


There is nothing in this text to indicate that such exemptions are shameful. To the contrary, they are the command of the Ancient of Days.


We need to remember that the future of the family is the basic defense of a land. This bears repeating: THE FAMILY HAS PRIORITY OVER WARFARE.


Once a nation transgresses this boundary, there is no limit to the grim results.


Consider the sorry development last century brought about by the rise of “TOTAL WAR” – war against not only the enemy, but also against one’s own citizens.


Through legislation such as the WAR POWERS ACT, controls as wartime measures are imposed upon a population, and then all too often retained – even with the coming of peace.


Modern warfare has thus become a means for bringing about social change (and loss of freedom) – change which would otherwise be impossible in most cases.


This has made the prospects of war more welcome than ever to many social engineers.   AND THIS IS EVIL.  I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who once quipped that those who sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither!




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

It was Benjamin Franklin (often labeled by his critics a deist – one who believed in the transcendence of God but not in His immanence) who at the Constitutional Convention in June of 1787 (as the senior statesman) counseled, “… In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. – Our prayers… were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor… And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance. I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth – that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured… in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel … I therefore beg leave to move – that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that service.

Let God be God!  One of the great lessons of history is that societies which reject God and His role as Governor of the universe, take His attributes upon themselves… to their own destruction.


This is certainly a great concern today!  Is God all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere present?  Or is the nation and its leaders… all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere present??


Citizens and leaders which take it upon themselves to be all-powerful, all-knowing through “data collection” (and now meta-data interpretation), and all-present through unending surveillance by drones and miniature cameras and microphones are inviting disaster through a myriad of unintended consequences.  Man is not God and Man (even with a capital M) does not have the wisdom to assume such attributes!


Let God be God!  Let us serve Him!  Let us pray to Him!  Let us turn from our sins!  Let us depend upon His loving care and His guidance and protection.


A wise, old saying which summarizes many lessons of history still stands — Those who will not serve the LORD, we will end up serving despots.


Let us therefore quietly and carefully – and peacefully –work toward the day described by God Himself when…


 The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.


When wars no longer stalk this earth…  World without end. Amen.

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