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.