Understanding the Battlefield Landscape
In my last reflection about spiritual warfare, I shared about the impact the revelation of God’s personhood qualities have on the battlefield landscape. The Christian Church must know how God’s character shapes the believers’ worldview as we prepare to resist the devil, as well as how it influences the enemy’s ability to fight. In addition to the revelation of God’s character, human history is also the context in which God has revealed the human condition. What do I mean with the concept the human condition? Simply stated, the human condition is a description of the spiritual corruption to which the human soul has descended to, as a result of its separation from God. Without God, the human soul is in a constant and persistent state of moral decay. That is, humanity’s fallen nature cannot function according to God’s design, and the failure to fulfill this purpose turns humanity into a cesspool of corruption and depravity. Without God, man is waste land of decay.
Since we already know God’s moral standard based on his design for humanity, we have the necessary information to determine when we are functioning outside God’s parameters for acceptable conduct. For the purpose of this reflection I will use only one example that will clearly illustrate the level of corruption to which lost humanity has sunk. Even though this story took place in ancient Israel, more than 2,500 years ago, its relevance for today cannot be underestimated.
There was a man named Naboth during the reign of king Ahab of Judah, who had inherited his father’s vineyard (1 Kings 21:1-16). Naboth was a simple farmer who had done an excellent job with his vineyard and had created a beautiful farm in the village of Jezreel, that was in close proximity to king Ahab’s palace. Apparently, Ahab had been coveting Naboth vineyard for some time and one day he offered to purchase the vineyard from the farmer. Since his vineyard was his inheritance in the land of Israel, Naboth refused to sell the vineyard to the king who, incidentally, could have purchase land almost anywhere else in his kingdom. But Ahab did not want any other farm in Israel. He coveted Naboth vineyard.
The king became depressed, and his wife, the infamous Jezebel, entered into action. Jezebel sent a letter to Naboth’s neighbor in the village of Jezreel and told them to falsely accuse Naboth of blaspheming God and the king. She also instructed the elders of the city to find two scoundrels who would testify falsely against Naboth so that he could be sentenced to death. Naboth was brought before the elders and the two scoundrels provided the false testimony that formed the basis for their decision. Everybody knew Naboth was innocent. Everyone knew the witnesses were two lying low lives paid off by Jezebel. And everybody knew the elders, who were responsible for administering impartial justice, were corrupt. The shameful trial found Naboth guilty and the people who were Naboth neighbors and friends stoned him to death.
This story captured almost every corrupt attitude that the depraved human soul can possibly conceive. We find in this story the king’s envy, Jezebel’s ruthless conspiracy, the cowardness of Naboth’s neighbors, the corruption of the elders in the city, the bribery paid for a guilty verdict, the false witnesses testifying, and the murder of an innocent man. This event violated almost every moral imperative in the land of Israel, from the rights to own our property to the right to an impartial trial to the right to life. Mind you, this was not a private matter. No. This was a public execution to satisfy Ahab’s envy and greed. It also revealed the blood thirsty nature of idolaters like Jezebel. In other words, this event describes every possible injustice that could have been committed against an innocent individual. Naboth’s story is in the Bible to arouse righteous anger on anyone who reads the story. Even the worst of sinners would read this story and agree that this trial and execution is the epitome of injustice.
As we continue evaluating the landscape of our spiritual battlefield, we cannot ignore the injustices and the violence the devil is willing to unleash upon those whom he finds objectionable. Unfortunately, every human being is fair game for the enemy of our souls. Do not make the mistake of believing that the serpent of old, who is a murderer from the beginning, had any remorse in inciting the people of Jezreel to assassinate Naboth. On the contrary. The serpent was laughing all the way to Ahab’s palace as they celebrated their victory.
The human condition is sinful, depraved, and dark. When fallen human beings are left to behave according to their sinful instincts nothing but death and destruction will follow. The serpent is inciting men and women to kill each other as he incited Adam and Eve to commit spiritual suicide. Today, in the United States, we are watching a similar movement toward injustice and callous disregard for God’s demands of impartiality. Our government is conspiring with the media, the courts, and businesses, to label American citizens as terrorists, simply because they hold a different political ideology. In a free country, people do not have to hold the same views, or belong to the same political party, but when those who hold the keys of power wield that power to stifle dissent, we are no longer free, and they are coming for the Church next.
The Bible has defined the battlefield from a historical perspective. While we cannot see the war raging all around us in the spiritual world, it would be naïve for us to be unaware of the war being fought in our cities, neighborhoods, and even in our churches. But we don’t have to see the spiritual war in order to recognize the physical battle we are facing. As a matter of fact, the physical battle is the one we must confront, because it is this battle that reveals the spiritual destruction taking place all around us.
We can see the landscape: drug addiction, alcoholism, prostitution, child abuse, human trafficking, theft, corruption in politics and business, unjust application of the laws, murders, riots, and hatred everywhere. This is the landscape of the battlefield, and every aspect of the spiritual war being fought against the principalities and powers of the air is felt all around us. The greatest danger to the Church is not the war itself, as dangerous as that is. The greatest danger to the Church is when Christian leaders cannot discern how the serpent of old is deceiving them into compliance. When Christian leaders cannot see the devil's schemes, they become an asset for the enemy's strategy, even if they are unaware of it. If we don’t wake up, we will be led like sheep to the slaughter, and we will not have anyone to blame but ourselves.
The first element of the battlefield landscape is history. In history we see the revelation of God’s invisible attributes and the revelation of the human condition. As we prepare our strategic battle plans, we need to become proficient in knowing the historical context in which we are fighting our spiritual war. (NEXT: the philosophical battlefield landscape).