Sunday, 24 April 2016
The Bride At War
You will find this post lengthier than the usual Bread for the Bride post. It is the result of several months of waiting before the Lord and I believe is a timely word for the Bride of Christ. I would request you not to just skim this one, but to take time to read thoroughly and consider it carefully and with an open heart. This is not something I normally do, but I am also requesting you pass this along to any leaders, prayer groups, intercessors and anyone involved in spiritual warfare you may have contact with, for their prayerful consideration. The season we are now entering is both sobering and unprecedented. The best of times, the worst of times as they say. "Be strong and of good courage, do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." (Josh. 1:9) As always, your comments and discussion are welcome.
Step back in time for a moment and imagine being tasked with conquering a new land, a land promised as your inheritance, in which the enemy lurks menacingly behind fortified strongholds surrounded by towering walls several feet thick. Having just emerged from forty years of wilderness living you are familiar with desert warfare and its weapons such as spears, bows and arrows, and swords. Battering rams and moveable towers for scaling walls and breaking gates are not your style.
Your previous battles have been fought on the plains as kings came out from their fortified cities to halt your advance through their territory. Those former battles were fought from a ‘passing through’ mentality as you advanced towards your final goal. Now things have shifted dramatically and it is you and your people who are on the offensive with ultimate victory in sight. A new and final stage of warfare lies before you. This is no longer a time of passage, it is now a time of possessing, demanding a totally new mindset.
Your new leader, Joshua, is one of only two Israelites remaining from the original generation who began this long and arduous journey. All the old warriors who might have trained you have died. You and every other member of your company have been ‘born in the wilderness’ (Josh. 5:5). The wilderness-dwelling years have now come to an end and you find yourself on the plains of Jericho facing a massive walled stronghold that is ‘securely shut” against you (Josh. 6:1).
Now, fast forward to the twenty first century:
So much has been taught, written, conferenced, sung and preached about spiritual warfare over recent years it’s hard to imagine there could be anything new to add.
But I am convinced in my spirit we have yet to arrive at God’s best for us in our understanding of effective spiritual warfare. I believe the methods many believers have been utilising in spiritual warfare, (some of which have been highly questionable), are quickly becoming obsolete and will not be adequate for the level of warfare now upon us.
The Bride of Christ is emerging from her wilderness experience appearing ‘fearsome as an army with banners’ to every spiritual enemy who opposes her. Her eyes do not wander, her heart is undivided. Her life is hid in her Beloved and she is barely recognizable as the one who was led down into the wilderness to meet her God (SOS 8:5). And that’s just the point. During her wilderness journey the old ways of carnal religion, and of compromise with the world, have been stripped from her and are becoming nothing more than a memory. This emerging Bride has been ‘born (spiritually birthed and prepared) in the wilderness’.
Most of us have read the book and know that Israel had an amazing victory at Jericho. Under God’s specific direction and Joshua’s leadership Israel marched around the city for seven days, on the final day releasing a great shout, at which the great walls collapsed and the city was taken.
The story of Israel’s victory at Jericho provides a prophetic parallel for the Bride of Christ that, if understood and received, will help us wage effective spiritual warfare in the season now before us. Consider the following:
A New Kind of Warrior, Born in the Wilderness
It was a new generation of warriors who took Jericho, a generation of those who knew nothing of Egypt except the shared memories they had heard from the older ones while growing up in the wilderness. Unlike the previous generation, Egypt was simply not in them.
It has often been said that when the Israelites left Egypt, they went out of Egypt but Egypt did not go out of them. This generation, born in the wilderness, didn’t wrestle with the desire for Egypt’s worldly goods as the previous generation had done. Neither did they carry with them any slave mentality. Their experience of God was of One who was able to provide their most basic needs through daily manna and water from the rock. To them He was continually manifest as a cloud to follow in the day and a fire in the sky to reassure them in the night. Consequently they lived under the constant Presence of God. The supernatural was not supernatural to them. It was a lifestyle and an expectation. In the wilderness they had been taught by God Himself that He was their total sufficiency. They had been trained to know nothing but Him.
Application for the Bride: Please understand this is not about physical, natural generations, defined by either age or youth. Age becomes irrelevant because the Bride is comprised of a spiritual generation defined by heart attitude. The multi-generational, overcoming Bride now emerging from the wilderness has abandoned the world (Egypt) behind her. The world system has no claim on her heart. She has proven God’s ability to keep her and His supernatural activities are not strange and unfamiliar to her but essential to her knowledge of Him. Above all, she seeks to live constantly in His Presence. Those of the old unbelieving slave mentality who continue their compromise with the world will end their days in the wilderness and not possess the Promised Land.
Unconventional Warfare and A New Kind of Leader
God’s battle plan against Jericho was entirely unconventional. Israel had never known anything like it; nor had Jericho. Even Joshua, an experienced general, had never experienced this type of warfare. It was new, it was radical. When Joshua fought and defeated the Amalekites Moses had interceded and Joshua had used his considerable military skills (Ex. 17:8-13). At Jericho, however, Joshua’s former battle experience became redundant. Prior to the battle he had experienced a dramatic personal encounter with the Commander of the Lord’s army¹ that had left him profoundly changed (Joshua 5:13-15).
Joshua’s leadership, however, remained critical for Israel. His path to leadership had been very different to that of his great predecessor, Moses. Moses was revered by the people as one who had been sent by God, but was not really like them. He had spent his youth separated from Israel among the royalty of Egypt. Joshua on the other hand had been born and raised up from among the common people. He knew what it was like to be enslaved by a foreign power and, as one of only two left who had been born in Egypt, he knew what it was like to wander in the wilderness for forty years and still remain faithful to God. He had learned much from Moses, but his style was not Moses’ style.
Application for the Bride: The warfare methods many believers have become used to in the season passing away have an element of religious work in them. They mix faith with something we must do: shout, march, fast, challenge, tear down, intercede, travail, praise etc. The new warfare will reveal not what we can do, but who we are. The old warfare has been largely self-focused. The new is entirely Christ focused.
God is raising up leaders in this warfare, but they will not be elevated charismatic personalities drawing their own band of followers. Instead they will be true apostolic/servant leaders, who have been trained in relative obscurity and humbled as Joshua was humbled (Joshua 5:14). These are mostly unknown leaders who have had their own encounter with the Commander of the Lord’s Army¹ and who have willingly laid down their leadership callings on the alter that He may increase and they might decrease. They have walked with God through their own costly wilderness time and allowed Him to crucify their flesh. They will lead by the Spirit, from a place of deep humility and love for the Lord and His Bride.
New Priorities: Rest and Kingdom
The battle for Jericho was waged from a place of rest in God. There was nothing of man’s prideful flesh in it. As they circled the city on foot, the Israelite warriors did not speak or make any sound. Only the marching of their feet could be heard. Imagine, no boasting, no shouts of bravado, no blood curdling threats, nothing! This could only be undertaken by a disciplined people who had learned to live waiting on God. They believed God’s promise that He Himself would go before and ‘drive out’ their enemies (Josh 3:10).
Notice Israel also fought as one nation, not as twelve tribes. They marched as one, they remained silent as one, and finally they shouted as one. They carried out their instructions not as Israelites, but as Israel. And when the inhabitants of Jericho finally heard that formidable shout they didn’t say “there are all those noisy tribes of Israel”; they said “Run for cover, it’s Israel!”
Application for the Bride: The emerging Bride comes up from the wilderness having entered the rest of God (Heb. 4:10). She has found rest from the law-focused, flesh-centred religion that so often goes under the guise of Christianity. She comes up from the wilderness different to when she went down, leaning entirely on her Beloved and His ability to sustain her. There is no compulsion within her to act of her own volition. She has no desire to prove herself. She does only what she sees her Lord doing and until she sees it she waits in restfulness beside Him. She has learned it is the Commander of the Lord’s army, Christ Himself, who chooses the time and manner of battle. She does not react to the enemy, rather she responds to the Commander.
Furthermore this warfaring corporate Bride functions in Kingdom mode. Self-focus has been crucified. Her primary sense of identity lies no longer with the clans and tribes of denominationalism but has transferred to Christ and His Kingdom.
Prior to the battle some important events took place. Firstly, at God’s command Joshua had all the males born in the wilderness circumcised (Joshua 5:2). These had never undergone circumcision as their fathers had, but now God required them to be circumcised before allowing them into battle. Circumcision was both a sign of God’s covenant with Israel and an outward manifestation of their separation to God. In the wilderness years Israel had been physically separated from the heathen nations who had their own gods and unholy practices. Now Israel would be invading and conquering idolatrous strongholds, their circumcision would serve as a reminder to themselves and their natural enemies of who they belonged to.
Secondly, God directed that they should celebrate Passover for only the third time in their history. After leaving Egypt, Israel had marked Passover only once during the wilderness years (Num. 9:5). Before the battle for Jericho, however, the Blood of an unblemished lamb must be shed as a sign to both Israel and their spiritual enemies that they, unlike the other nations, were God’s own called out, covenant people.
Application for the Bride: No human military leader would incapacitate His armed forces immediately prior to a battle, but once again God proves His ways are not ours. If those warriors had gone into battle without the legal sign of their covenant with Yahweh upon their bodies I believe they would have failed. Covenant is higher in God’s priority than warfare is. Holiness, being set apart to Him, is more important than winning battles. The warrior Bride has submitted her heart willingly for circumcision, and bears the seal of Christ (Col. 2:11, 2 Cor. 1:22).
The Bride is Blood bought. Interestingly, Islam recognises Muslims, Jews and Christians as ‘people of the Book” but we who belong to Christ are more than that, we are “people of the Blood”. The emerging Bride drinks from the same cup as the Bridegroom. She is no stranger to the Cross and the fellowship of His sufferings. She deeply values her Blood-bought communion with Him above life itself. Her priority is always her relationship with Christ her Bridegroom and warfare, like other ministry, rightfully takes a secondary place.
A New Revelation of Warfare
When Jericho’s walls came down each one ‘went up into the city, every man straight before him” (Josh. 6:20). Each knew what to do and how to do it. There was no jockeying for position. Each one had their portion of the victory and advanced to take the enemy ground right before him.
Application for the Bride: Hierarchy has no place in the new spiritual warfare. The battle is the responsibility of each one, not just a few. In the same way the victory also belongs to each one, not just a few.
The Bride’s authority and influence will be defined atmospherically, not geographically. In recent years the intercessory and spiritual warfare movements have largely focused on groups of believers gathering at specific geographical locations to engage and pull down local and regional demonic principalities. A shift is coming towards a more mature understanding of spiritual warfare wherein Bridal warfare will be initiated, led and maintained entirely in and by the Spirit of God. Any man-directed requirement for assembling at a geographically specified battlefield to deal with territorial entities will become irrelevant. The battle is now Kingdom to kingdom, it is global, and it is coming to us.
God is leading the Bride into a new style of warfare. The warfare that the previous generation has waged has had limited success at best. It has been a learning curve, but now comes the real thing. This warfare can only be waged successfully by a Bride who has entered into the rest of God. The Bride wars from this spiritual base, and does not leave it.
Be still. The Lord is about to do something new and utterly beyond our experience.
¹ I believe the Commander of the Lord’s army who met Joshua outside the walls of Jericho was the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. Others believe this may have been a high ranking angel. However, the fact that Joshua’s worship was accepted suggests strongly this was the Lord Himself. This article is therefore written from that viewpoint.
Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2013 —