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The officers shall speak further to the people, and say, “What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, lest the heart of his brethren faint like his heart.” (Deuteronomy 20:8)

In this and the previous verses, certain allowances are made for those who can’t or shouldn’t fight in battle. The one who built a new house but hadn’t lived in it was exempted lest he be killed in battle. The same was true for the one who had planted a vineyard but had not eaten its fruit. The man who was newly betrothed but not yet married was exempted from battle lest he die and another marry his fiancee. The last exemption listed would surely have given American general, George Patton, severe  heartburn — in ancient Israel an exemption was given to those who were “fearful and faint-hearted.”

Perhaps their fears could be summed up in all of the other exemptions — fear of not being able to return to their home and family, which is quite understandable. However, every soldier in every war has shared those concerns so why did Moses give allowance to the men of Israel who were faint of heart? It seems likely that if these men went into battle and gave into those fears, the fear would spread to others. In the end, the people would end up fearing the enemy more than God. In short, there would be a repeat of the sin of the 10 spies and the subsequent aftermath. Just as Israel lamented over the evil report, the army of Israel would be infected with the other’s fear. Therefore, if Israel were to walk upright, observe justice and accomplish God’s Will for them, fear could not be their friend; it had to be isolated if not eradicated.

The ideal warrior is epitomized by the young shepherd, David, who boldly went out into the field to face Goliath. It’s not so much that he was fearless as much as he was confident in the God of Israel. He knew God had been with him before when he faced the lion and bear. Likewise, he knew that God would be with him as he stood before the “uncircumcised Philistine.” So the point today is not to provoke bravado or a cavalier attitude when it comes to battle. Rather, our point is to promote confidence in the One who calls us into the battle, knowing that He goes before us and is our rearguard. Therefore, let us not stand before our enemy filled with fear but with steadfast reliance in the God of Israel and LORD of Hosts.

Blessings and Shalom,  




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