soldier answering the call to serve his country March 2 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Numbers 1–2, 9:15–10:36

Organizing a Defense

Before facing an enemy in war, a nation must organize a defense. If needed, men (and sometimes women) are drafted into their armed forces. After that, getting the troops organized, trained, and ready to obey orders is extremely important. When the commander issues the order to move, they must move in an orderly and efficient manner. When the commander says stay, they stay. Although he may be unseen, the commander is aware of where his troops are stationed, their condition, the situation, and their enemy. He makes the decisions and his troops must trust him. This was similar to the way it was for Israel in the days of Moses, only God was their commander.

Israel, as she was about to leave from the wilderness of Sinai, was spiritually prepared for battle. God delivered her from slavery in Egypt and protected and provided for her in the desert wilderness. He set up laws to govern her people, a tabernacle for sacrifice and worship, and he dedicated priests and Levites to help with the sacrifices and to care for the tabernacle. Then they celebrated the Passover in obedience to God. They drew courage from their relationship with him for the upcoming days of battle. Do we?

Two weeks after the Passover, the LORD tells Moses to conduct another census, this time for a military draft (Numbers 1:1-3). Before the congregation sets out to claim their inheritance in Canaan, they need to be physically prepared to engage the enemy; they need an army and they need to get organized. Male Israelites, twenty years of age and older, who are physically capable, serve in the military (except for the Levites; they are devoted to serving the LORD in the tabernacle). The number registered for the army is 603,550 (Numbers1:46). The Israelites are organized for military defense. Even soldiers can serve the LORD, although we cannot say that we are fighting Holy Wars as the Israelites will soon do.

Spiritually speaking, we as Christians must organize a defense—not for physical battles but for spiritual battles.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2Corinthians 10:4-5, NIV)

How do we organize a defense? The Apostle Paul gives us the instruction we need.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.

Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.
In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.(Ephesians 6:10-18, NIV).

After the census, the Israelite army is organized into divisions of three tribes each. Under their banners they camp around the tribes of the Levites and Priests (some distance from them). The Levites are camped around the tabernacle. The army protects the Levites and the ark, both in the camp and when they marched out by their divisions under the command of God (more...).

How are they to know when to move out and when to stay? How are they to know when to engage the enemy? There are two ways: the cloud and the trumpets. God's presence is shown to them as a cloud by day and fire by night (also known as the Shikinah glory). “Whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped” (Numbers 9:17, NIV). Sometimes the cloud settled for a long time and sometimes it settled for a short time.

Have we recognized the LORD's presence in our lives? Today his presence is not in the form of a cloud, but if we are true believers, his presence is the unseen Holy Spirit of God within us (Romans 8:6). Do we follow his directives? To do that, first, we must obey his Word, the Bible (2Timothy 3:16-17); it is our manual. Then, knowing how God works, we must watch for his activity and be sensitive to his leading. It is a spiritual leading, but God finds ways to show us his directives.

A second way the Israelites know when to move out by their divisions or when to go to war is by the sounding of silver trumpets (Numbers 10:1-9). The Israelites are to pay attention to the different trumpet calls which are signals for action (not all military actions, however: Numbers 10:10). This is much like army camps did in the days of the Civil War, and although we are technologically advanced, we still do this in some fashion in today's military. A military trumpet blast in the days of Moses and Joshua is not only a call to arms and action; the sound is to encourage them that the LORD their protector and provider is with them. Spiritually speaking, we may not hear a literal trumpet call, but sometimes there are clarion calls to help the needy, defend the defenseless, or to speak up for civil and religious rights. Will we answer the call?

The most important thing we can learn from today's Bible study is to march forth with God. We can do very little in our own strength. The Almighty is the one who gives the victories.

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen (1Peter 4:11, NIV).

Lessons to Live By

  • Are you in God's army? He offers you forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life. He promises to be your help and defense against the enemy (more...)
  • Spiritually speaking, we Christians must organize a defense—not for physical battles but for spiritual battles. We must be strong in the Lord, put our spiritual armor on, always pray, and be alert for our enemy the devil (Satan).
  • We must follow God's leading by obeying his Word, the Bible; this is our manual. Then, knowing how he works, we must watch for his activity and be ready to move or to stay.
  • We need to answer God's call in the defense of the needy and defenseless, or to speak up for civil and religious rights, but we need to do it as the LORD directs and with the strength which he provides so he gets all the glory.

Focus Verse

Psalm 115:11 (NIV) “You who fear him, trust in the LORD-- he is their help and shield.

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A Look Ahead: Because soldiers are prepared for battle does not mean everything will be easy. They and we need help to Endure Hardships. Find out how to do that in our Next Lesson.

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