|“The men of Ephraim, though armed with |
bows, turned back on the day of battle.”
The reference for this particular account seems to have become lost. Some think it refers to a battle with the Philistines. But, the Psalm does indicate that the mighty, and once largest, of the twelve tribes had turned their backs on God and become so weakened that they no longer had the courage to fight.
I, too, have found myself in a position of weakness and distrust in the strength and goodness of God toward me. Maybe you have, too. God has well-equipped us. But, we fail in light of the evidence. He has allowed us to see our very real vulnerabilities in the face of our enemy.
What lies at the root of cowardice? For Ephraim, it seems that they had forgotten the covenant with their God and relied upon their own reputation as warriors. They exhibited a shameful ingratitude to God and, over time, this resulted in unbelief, disobedience, and a rebellious spirit.
According to Matthew Henry, the well-known 18th century theologian:
Weapons of war stand men in little stead without a martial spirit, and that is gone if God be gone. Sin dispirits men and takes away the heart. 1
So, how should we live in face of battles that we know we cannot fight?
Firstly, we must remember that we are equipped. We have the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18). Secondly, we must agree with God about His will and His Word, obeying them in every way, as people who live in covenant with Him.
Thirdly, and this is the most difficult for me, we must believe that God stands with us in the battle. When we trust Him, He in turn gives us courage. He wants to shine through the darkest moments with His light. Acts 4:13 reminds us:
When they [the rulers and elders] saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
What battles do you face? Do you wobble in the face of chronic illness? Financial need? Relationships gone sour? Loneliness? Fear of any kind?
The Israelites, though they were a multitude led by Moses, had to go on after he died. They quivered. Moses spoke to them, recorded in Deuteronomy 31:7-8:
Then Moses summoned Joshua and said to him in the presence of all Israel, “Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their forefathers to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
So to you, and to me, I say, “Up! Take courage! Stand strong! Prove the weapons you have been given, and reflect the power of your Champion!”
|1 Henry, Matthew. Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible. McLean, VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, 1983. Volume 3, p.533.|