Why is it so hard these days to liberate people from their bondage to sin? Why do we see so few turning from darkness to light, and from the authority of Satan unto God? Is it just a matter of their own stubbornness, or is there more to it?
It’s very enlightening to discover time and again in the Old Testament that whichever side won the battle also took the spoils. If Israel’s enemies won a battle, they spoiled the Israelites. If Israel won, they spoiled, plundered, their enemies, taking into their own possession what had been their enemies’.
The plunder was often brought into the treasuries of the house of the LORD, an open acknowledgement that since the battle was the LORD’s, the plunder was His. Whether they knew it or not, those who were at war with Israel were at war with the LORD. And so when He defeated His enemies, the spoils of battle belonged to Him. The victors plundered whatever they wanted from the slain on the battlefield, or from their towns and lands. It might be armour, or garments, or gold and silver and precious stones, or livestock, or slaves. Some of the spoil the warriors kept for themselves or distributed among those who had not been able to fight; much of it became the resources of the house of God.
Here are a few illustrations from Scripture.
While David was at Ziklag he sent to the elders of Judah “a present for you of the spoil of the enemies of the LORD” (1 Sam. 30:26).
David also regularly dedicated the spoils of battle to the treasuries of the house of the Lord.
Out of the spoils won in battles did they [David’s captains] dedicate to maintain [that is, strengthen] the house of the LORD (1 Chr. 26:27).
On one occasion three of David’s mighty men defied the whole Philistine army. One of the three, Eleazar the son of Dodo “arose and smote the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clave unto the sword: and the LORD wrought a great victory that day” (2 Sam. 23:10). For some reason, the men of Israel were not around for this battle. We are not told why, but when everybody came back the battle was all over. Eleazar had defeated the whole Philistine army single handed. “And the people returned after him only to spoil.” That was easy, eh?
Here’s a story from the days of Asa, king of Judah. Zerah the Ethiopian had come against Judah with “a host of a thousand thousand.”
And Asa cried unto the LORD his God, and said, LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O LORD, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee.
Note those words: “Let not man prevail against Thee.”
So the LORD smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled. And Asa and the people that were with him pursued them unto Gerar: and the Ethiopians were overthrown, that they could not recover themselves; for they were destroyed before the LORD, and before his host; and they carried away very much spoil. And they smote all the cities round about Gerar; for the fear of the LORD came upon them: and they spoiled all the cities; for there was exceeding much spoil in them. They smote also the tents of cattle [the livestock enclosures] and carried away sheep and camels in abundance, and returned to Jerusalem (2Ch 14:11-15).
Notice again the true perspective of this victory. “They were destroyed before the LORD, and before His host.” Zerah and his host had come against Judah, but it was actually God against whom they were fighting. God answered Asa’s prayer and did not let man prevail against Him. Therefore the spoils of battle were His.
So they gathered themselves together at Jerusalem in the third month, in the fifteenth year of the reign of Asa. And they offered unto the LORD the same time, of the spoil which they had brought, seven hundred oxen and seven thousand sheep (2 Chr. 15:10,11).
Surely this speaks prophetically to us in a day when our Adversary the Devil has flocks and herds of men in countless numbers in his fold. How long do you think God is going to put up with that? God means them to become an offering to Him. Are we not then jealous for what belongs to God? Why do we put up with it?
And do we not see a pattern in these Old Testament stories? A victory accomplished means easy spoils for the taking.
This is just what Jesus Himself said—that while the strong man keeps his palace [his courtyard] his goods are secure. But when the stronger than he comes upon him and overcomes him, he strips him of the armour he trusted in, and divides the spoils (Lk 11:21,22).
This happened at Calvary. It was there and then that Christ the stronger-than-he overcame His (and our) adversary the Devil, the strongman.
And having spoiled [stripped] principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it [that is, in His cross] (Col 2:15).
We note two things about the Luke passage. The Stronger-than-he comes upon the strongman. The cross was an offensive action. The initiative was God’s. And it was utterly deadly and totally devastating.
Secondly, once the strong man has been dealt with, spoiling what was in his possession became the easy thing; the victor, Christ, was free to take for Himself the slaves that the strong man earlier held with careless ease. We don’t have to read too far into the Book of Acts to verify this. Peter’s Spirit-breathed words in the power of the ascended Christ gathered in the spoil of 3,000 souls in one day. And that was only the beginning.
But, someone asks, where is that now? If at Calvary the Stronger-than-the-strongman came upon the strongman and overcame him, why in our day does the Devil still hold his captives so securely in his armour of darkness? Why are we not free to take the spoils? Where is the victory of Calvary?
Let me answer that question with another question. Where is the Cross in our lives, fellow Christian? It is the victory of Christ on Calvary’s cross that defeated the strongman, the Prince of darkness. And so the spoils are His; only the One who gained the victory can spoil the strongman’s palace.
Oh, how critical, then, that we His soldiers learn to fight His battle with His strategy, learn to take our orders from Him, learn His strategy, His secret weapon—learn to engage the battle and victory of the Cross.
Taking the spoil is then the easy part—which belongs to the One who won the battle.
Allan, this is a thought provoking post! I recently read that the way God “blessed” His people in the Old Testament is different from the way He blesses us now. If Israel was faithful to Him, they would experience His physical care of them (prosperity, good crops, victory over their enemies, etc) but this is not what He promises since Pentecost (the beginning of the Church). Sharing in the sufferings of Christ, sharing in His rejection, “if they persecuted me they will persecute you” . . . this is what the faithful can expect today. I think we are seeing the strong man defeated in the Middle East and Asia among the persecuted Church — but victory surely has a different look! People coming to Christ knowing that they will probably go to prison, be tortured and be killed. The strong-man doesn’t seem to get it: Persecution is like adding gasoline to the fire — the Church (true Church) is growing like a wildfire!!
Here we are in the land of prosperity and the church is like a wet noodle — living in the shadow of the blessing of years gone by; happy to have God’s blessings but not wanting Him. I’ve been reminded (i.e. “convicted) that perseverance in prayer and living in God’s presence is our calling. Our brothers and sisters in Christ overseas seem far away, but they are dependent upon our prayers and help. God has been nudging me about my recent slackness — and today I read an article about Epaphras and his persevering prayer for the saints. Paul said that he “labored earnestly” for them, and had “deep concern” for them. He agonized over them so that they would stand strong for Christ. The article said that we need to “cultivate the hidden life” remembering that we are included in Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension. It’s easy to feel that prayer has no effect when I see how those people are suffering and being slaughtered — but they are asking us to pray on their behalf so that they will stand strong for Jesus and the glory of God. The spoiling of the strongman has a different look now. The victory of the cross is looking more and more like it did on the day Jesus died. The victory for those of us who are not called to suffer such persecution (yet) is to welcome the work of the cross in subduing our self nature, to respond to the Lord as He calls us to persevere in prayer, and to live close to Him (cultivating the hidden life with Him). I’ve been duly reminded and challenged!
Lori, that is truly a thought-provoking comment! It is so true that the captives of the strongman held secure in his armour of darkness live their lives content with earthly things; the darkness has blinded their eyes to the reality that is in Christ. But when the strongman is stripped of his armour, those captives are “spoiled,” and now have the opportunity to put on the armour of light and take up the cross and share in the sufferings of Christ. It is, indeed, a strange-looking victory!
I have been dwelling much these days about what you said you read in a certain article– that “we need to ‘cultivate the hidden life’ remembering that we are included in Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension.” This is a powerful truth that takes place in the moment of baptism into Christ (baptism in the Spirit),and it is the “ground” upon which we stand and war effectual warfare in heavenly places against the forces of darkness. This brings to bear the victory of Calvary upon them, which they have no power or resources to resist.
I am interested in the article you read. Is it available online?
Yes Allan, you can find it here http://www.stempublishing.com/authors/mackintosh/Bk6/EPAPHRAS.html
This is one of my favorite authors. All of his writings can be found on this site. His commentary on the Pentateuch is AWESOME!
Thanks, Lori, I will check that out!
Allan, I was reading your post again; this time these words caught my attention:
“. . . the “ground” upon which we stand and war effectual warfare in heavenly places against the forces of darkness. This brings to bear the victory of Calvary upon them, which they have no power or resources to resist.”
Brings to bear the victory of Calvary . . . no power or resources to resist.
I love this — I hadn’t thought about the “victory of Calvary” in this way before. This is so powerful and dovetails into something similar that I was meditating on this morning. Also helps me think more Biblically as I pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters (and try to understand how prayer works on their behalf). The Spirit of the Living God does know how to draw our hearts and minds to the things He wants us to know!!
Lori, I believe this– the victory of Calvary– is what Paul has in mind when he calls us to “put on the panoply of God” so that we are equipped to withstand principalities and powers in the heavenlies. They have no resources against the saint who is doing battle on the basis of what God wrought in Christ at Calvary.
I heard someone say that the “full armor of God” is Christ Himself. Put on Christ! This I believe; and what you say puts it in the light of His victory via the Cross. This gives me a strong sense of the victory (and of how serious is the battle!).
That’s right, Lori. “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ…” The important thing to remember is that the armour is provided for us. It is something we “put on,” not manufacture ourselves. At the same time, it is we who must put it on.
Great word Allan and so true. Thanks very much for sharing it.
Thanks, Robert. I anticipate we will yet see the spoil of Calvary divided with the strong– that is, with the lame– those who have been crippled with the crippling of the Cross (Isa. 53:12, 33:23).