Marching Orders for a Militant Church

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Good morning. Welcome to Dishman Baptist Church. I pray that your weekend has been one full of peace and enjoyment, time spent with loved ones celebrating the birth of our Savior - Jesus Christ. Thank you for taking the time to join us this morning as we seek to magnify and glorify our Lord together. Please take your Bibles and open them with me to Psalm 20, Psalm 20.
One of my favorite periods of history are the years that encompass World War 2. One of my favorite stories from that time period is the story of Easy Company of the 506th regiment of the 101st Airborne Division - the men chronicled in the book and then the television series A Band of Brothers. I have always admired their courage in the face of adverse conditions that would make many people quake in fear.
The date was 16 December, 1944. In a desperate attempt to curb the Allied advance Hitler launched his remaining divisions in a counterattack around the Belgian town of Bastogne. The result is a time period known to the history books as the Battle of the Bulge. As the Allied forces reeled from the punch, the men of the 101st Airborne were thrown into the fight around Bastogne. Undersupplied - some went into the fight with only 100 rounds on their person - they walked fearlessly into the teeth of the German assault. I love one line from the series. A young lieutenant has just arrived with a jeep full of ammunition and promises to bring more. As he is about to pull away he informs Capt. Winters, Easy’s Commanding Officer, that the Germans are about to cut the roads to the south and that soon the men would be surrounded. Capt. Winter’s reply is “We’re paratroopers, lieutenant, we’re supposed to be surrounded.”
Now some of you are probably wondering why I’m bringing this up and what that has to do with our worship of God as we finish 2021 and look ahead to 2022. In many ways we have much in common with the men of Easy Company as they walked slowly down the road toward the small town of Bastogne. As we look out at the landscape of our society we can recognize that the enemy is advancing on many fronts. Whether it is the sexual revolution and the accompanying holocaust of millions of unborn babies or the ethnic divide that is daily in the news the assaults on our worldview are consistent and unrelenting. As we look around at our own ranks we see many churches that have abandoned the fight - who have abandoned the preaching and teaching of the Word of God in favor of embracing whatever whim strikes them, embracing the social ideas of the day or simply whatever has struck the speakers fancy for that week.
As we prepare to enter into the year 2022 we must recognize that we are in a war - and that right now strong Biblical churches are becoming harder to find and, much like the men of Easy Company in 1944, we are surrounded by a hostile enemy that seeks our elimination. And let me be clear - I am not speaking of our government or any human agency but rather of those powers and principalities that are behind the workings of those entities. As we enter in to 2022 I want to take a moment to look at a Psalm that was written on the eve of some great military campaign to remind and to challenge us as we seek to serve Christ in the coming year as individuals and as a corporate body.
Psalm 20 CSB
For the choir director. A psalm of David. May the Lord answer you in a day of trouble; may the name of Jacob’s God protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and sustain you from Zion. May he remember all your offerings and accept your burnt offering. Selah May he give you what your heart desires and fulfill your whole purpose. Let us shout for joy at your victory and lift the banner in the name of our God. May the Lord fulfill all your requests. Now I know that the Lord gives victory to his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with mighty victories from his right hand. Some take pride in chariots, and others in horses, but we take pride in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand firm. Lord, give victory to the king! May he answer us on the day that we call.
The specific occasion of this Psalm is lost to history but it most likely came to be sung on the eve of some great military campaign or battle that the king was set to embark on with the armies of Israel. Now we are not about to follow suit in military conquest but the principles that we can learn from this Psalm and the progression of the Psalm can prepare us as we seek to serve Christ in the coming year here at Dishman. The Psalm comes to us in three movements - the people’s intercession, the king’s confidence and the final statement.

The People’s Intercession

The Psalm opens with 6 requests on behalf of the king that are lifted by the people of Israel. These phrases make for an interesting example of intercessory prayer because rather than lifting their words to God Himself, the people are speaking directly to the king telling him exactly what they are praying for on his behalf. And what a comforting prayer it is as it bathes the king in the Lord’s protection, provision and favor as the king seeks to move out and to prosecute the coming campaign on behalf of Israel.
The importance of intercessory prayer cannot be overstated. I covet the prayers that many of you offer on a daily or regular basis on my behalf. We should all be interceding for one another as a body of Christ. The wall of our office is covered with your pictures as a reminder of those we should be praying for. Even the content of this prayer that the people offer is instructive for us.
May the Lord answer you in a day of trouble. There are many times during any campaign or battle where victory seems about to be swallowed in the jaws of defeat. David had known great adversity during his lifetime and he knew what it was to be living in a day of trouble. The request of the people on his behalf here is for peace and confidence in the Lord when the condition of the day was bleakest. When all seemed to be lost, when circumstances were dire the people prayed that the Lord would answer him.
If you were here on Friday night we looked at Psalm 22 and all that it means in light of the cradle of Christ being consistently at the foot of the cross. Many of us are very familiar with the beginning portions of that great prophetic Psalm with all of the allusions to the crucifixion. But what I love is the change in the tone of the Psalm that begins around verse 21 as the writer writes “You answered me.” Despite all that had transpired the faith of the speaker was rewarded when God answers him and the entire tone of the Psalm changes from one of abject defeat to one of victory.
The Lord will answer in the day of trouble and the protection and power that is found to sustain the king during that time is the very name of God. Three times in this Psalm the author will refer to the name of God - the name of Jacob’s God protect you, lift banners in the name of our God, we take pride in the name of the Lord our God. The progression and the importance of the changes will be become clear as we progress through the Psalm but look at this first statement. The name of Jacob’s God protect you. This is a reference to the historical action and volition of God as He chose for Himself a people, made them His own and fulfilled His promises not only to Jacob but to Isaac and Abraham before him. God has acted faithfully on behalf of His people and will continue to do so today. The reference to God being the God of Jacob is a shorter version of God being the God of all of the patriarchs - Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - and brings to recollection the acts of God in the past, specifically in the greatest moment in Israel’s past, the Exodus.
Exodus 3:6 CSB
Then he continued, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God.
Several other times in the Psalter the name of God is referred to in this way as the protector of Israel
Psalm 46:7 CSB
The Lord of Armies is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah
Psalm 81:1 CSB
Sing for joy to God our strength; shout in triumph to the God of Jacob.
The king’s protection is found within the very name of God not in the preponderance or the skill of his army. This is brought into clearer view in the next phrase that is offered on his behalf - may He send you help from the sanctuary, and sustain you from Zion. No matter how large an army - no matter how well trained they are. And David’s were well trained. Depending on when this Psalm was written David would have had any number of great warriors to take into battle with him. 2 Samuel 23 recounts the various exploits of David’s warriors - they were formidable in battle. Surely David’s help and security could be found in those he surrounded himself with. Yet the people’s prayer here is that the help would come from the sanctuary and from Zion itself.
There is a great recognitions here. That is that no matter how much talent is involved, no matter how much planning and skill are on hand unless the Lord is involved in the plans and is the ultimate source of power for any undertaking then it will fail. Any time the Israelites moved militarily without the blessing of the Lord they lost miserably. But when their guidance and help came from the sanctuary they were victorious.
Oftentimes in our lives we move without seeking the right kind of help. We find ourselves in a day of trouble - or we simply seek to do something positive for the kingdom of God but rather than seeking His guidance and help we move within our own power, charisma and ability. And more often than not when we do that we fail.
We should learn from this Psalm how to pray for our church, how to pray for one another. There will be days of trouble, there will be days in the coming year that seem so dark and our prayer for one another this year is that we would find our answer on that day in the Lord. That we would seek His will, His protection for the glory of His name and that we would be so connected to His sanctuary that we will move only in the power and guidance that He provides. The sanctuary of the Israelites was the temple and the ark of the covenant. The sanctuary that we are to be connected to is His church and His Word.
Now mind you - while I earnestly desire you to be in church - I am not elevating the church to the point of being some mystical authority in your daily lives. But I will say this - you need to be in a church and you need to be in a church that is teaching the Word of God. Alistair Begg said this “It is the Word of God that makes men and women of God.” We cannot expect any help from God, we cannot expect any help from His sanctuary if we are not intimately connected to the Word of God.
It is when we are fully reliant upon God that our sacrifices and offerings on His behalf are acceptable to Him. The people of Israel would well remember the fraudulent sacrifices offered by Saul and his subsequent removal as king.
1 Samuel 13:8–12 CSB
He waited seven days for the appointed time that Samuel had set, but Samuel didn’t come to Gilgal, and the troops were deserting him. So Saul said, “Bring me the burnt offering and the fellowship offerings.” Then he offered the burnt offering. Just as he finished offering the burnt offering, Samuel arrived. So Saul went out to greet him, and Samuel asked, “What have you done?” Saul answered, “When I saw that the troops were deserting me and you didn’t come within the appointed days and the Philistines were gathering at Michmash, I thought, ‘The Philistines will now descend on me at Gilgal, and I haven’t sought the Lord’s favor.’ So I forced myself to offer the burnt offering.”
Their prayer is that David’s offering would be acceptable to God and that he would be remembered by God. The result of these acceptable offerings is that the king’s requests would be heard and fulfilled by God. While David’s purpose would immediately be the protection of Israel and the conquering of an enemy, the ultimate purpose and goal of any action should have been to glorify God. When we are fully submitted to God and to His purposes then our desires and purposes begin to mirror His.
Psalm 145:19 CSB
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry for help and saves them.
This is God moving through His people to accomplish what He has already ordained should happen. And it is a cause of joy for the people.
Let us shout for joy at your victory and lift the banner in the name of our God. They already anticipate a victory because they know in whom they have placed their faith. Not in David. Not in his army’s skill. In the name of God who has proven faithful in the past and will prove Himself faithful again as He provides the victory. Notice the shift here in relation to the name of God. He has gone from being the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors, to our God. He is a personal God to the nation of Israel and they trust and have faith in Him that He will act on their behalf just as He had acted on behalf of those generations who had gone before them.
We call Him our God, but do we have the same faith today. That God has worked in the past and that He is still working today. That He will fulfill our desires if we trust in His name and in His help?
Our challenge in this beginning section of the Psalm is multi-faceted. The first is to recognize the aspects and power of intercessory prayer on behalf of those around us. We can do all kinds of service around the church - but if we are shirking our duty to pray for the church those efforts will have little effect in the battles that will surely come our way in the coming days.
300 Quotations for Preachers (What the Church Needs Is Prayer)
What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men—men of prayer.E. M. BOUNDS
The second is this - these intercessions are offered before the king ever leaves for battle. Are we prepared spiritually through prayer to enter into the spiritual battlefield that will be presented to us in the coming days? Now I’m not trying to be mystical or weird here - we are in a spiritual battle whether we like it or not. The church is weakened and we are surrounded but we mustn’t give up the fight. But first we must be prepared to fight. My challenge to each of you is to spend the next several weeks - all of January in concerted, concentrated prayer for the church, for our church and for each individual here that we would be prepared to step in confidence this year, to face the challenges that come our way and to be confident in the victory that the Lord will provide.

The King’s Confidence

Having heard the prayers of the people and having offered his sacrifices the king now speaks - Now I know that the Lord gives victory to His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with mighty victories from His right hand. Our English translations do us a disservice here as they translate the Hebrew verbs in the future tense when the verbs are presented in the original text in the perfect tense. What I mean is that our text seems to promise victory whereas the fact is that the victory is already assured as having taken place. In Hebrew there aren’t tenses such as in Greek or English. The connotation of this verb means that the action is already completed. Meaning that what David says here is that I know that the Lord has given victory to His anointed even though the battle still remains to be fought.
The Lord delights to move and work on behalf of His people whether it is the king of Israel or any of us today. He has already gone ahead of us into the coming days and has provided victories for us based on His faithful love and desire for His glory and our good. We can rest assured that, just as David has confidence going in to the battles that will be fought, we can have confidence that our help will come from His holy Heaven, that our advocate is there even now interceding on our behalf and that, as long as the challenges we face are in accordance with God’s purpose, we already have the victory and that His purposes are fulfilled.
The question is often posed what would you do if you knew there was no way you could fail? What would you aspire to accomplish if you knew there was no question of your success? Would you cure cancer? Lead a team to the super bowl or the championship of whatever sport is your favorite? Would you start your own business or travel around the world? What about spiritually? What would you attempt if you knew that there was no way you could fail? This Psalm promises us that if we have done the ground work of prayer and sought God’s help and His will, that we have allowed our desires to be conformed to His that we already have the victory in whatever we seek to accomplish.
Our challenge is to actually live in this reality. David had to not only acknowledge that he had the victory, that the Lord would give him the victory, he had to go fight the battle. We know intuitively that God has given us the victory and that His purpose will be accomplished - but we often fall short of the follow through. What could you accomplish this year? One simple challenge - share His truth and grow disciples. We have been talking about “Who’s Your Two” for over two years now - but in many ways we’ve failed to put legs to it. Who’s your two. Who are you seeking to share the Gospel with outside the church and who are you seeking to grow into spiritual maturity inside the church. But I challenge you to take it a step further - my challenge to myself and to each of you is to begin praying for the Lord to bring five people into your life this year that you can share the Gospel with. Five entirely new people that you don’t even know yet. Imagine the impact we could have if we shared the Gospel with just five people.
Charles Spurgeon challenges us this way
300 Quotations for Preachers from the Modern Church (The Duty of the Saved)
Men of God, if you are indeed the Lord’s, and feel that you are his, begin now to intercede for all who belong to you. Never be satisfied unless they are saved too.CHARLES SPURGEON
Recognize that God has given you the mission to share His Gospel and that He brings people into your lives with which to share - for the express purpose of sharing. And it is all for the glory of God that we seek to do this.

The Final Statement

The King has made his declaration and is now riding out of the city at the head of his army. As if there is a need for further reminders this one last statement is made - some take pride in chariots, and others in horses but we take pride in the name of the Lord our God.
Chariots and horses were the F35 fighter of the ancient world. They were the trident nuclear submarines. They were the most advanced, most powerful military component there was. But the kings of Israel were expressly forbidden to put their faith in these elements of modern warfare, instead they were to take pride in, to find their confidence in the name of the Lord.
We may be tempted in the coming year to place our trust in other things. We may be tempted to place our trust in mid-term elections and political machinations. We may be tempted to place our trust in the workings of the Supreme Court as they deliver the findings and interpretation of the abortion case that is now in their hands. But we must not lose sight of where our true faith, our true power lies - in the very name of the Lord.
All other things will rise and fall. As the Psalmist writes here - They collapse and fall. All ideologies, all other programs, views, religions and anything that is contrary to the name of Christ will fall. But we will rise and we will stand firm. Because our faith is not in anything else other than the blessed name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
I love how the NASB translates the final verse of this Psalm. This last verse is the impetus for the famous sayings - God save the king or God save the queen of our cousins across the oceans. But look at how the NASB renders the verse
Psalm 20:9 NASB95PARA
Save, O Lord; May the King answer us in the day we call.
Oh what a difference - may the King, may Christ answer us in the day we call. It is in His name that we can have confidence this year. He will answer our call and we can have confidence in the battle because we know that no matter how dark it may be, no matter how much the enemy may be closing in around us and the situation may seem dire. But we know that He has already conquered all and that He will give us the victory in the end.
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