The Battle Belongs
There are a lot of people walking around with a sort of PTSD from battles of the mind, body, and spirit. I am not at all minimizing the kind of PTSD that people get from armed combat or severe trauma or abuse, but there are also people all around us who have faced battles of the kind of unrelenting suffering of mind, body, or spirit that have left them exhausted, drained, and too weary to raise their heads, afraid of what devastation might be flying at them next. They have tried to be strong for so long. They’ve tried to buck up like they think a good Christian should do, but not only is the trial unrelenting, so is the brow-beating they are taking from the enemy of their souls who just loves to pile on when they are already down, sowing those seeds of doubt and despair that leave them with little hope, a lot of guilt, and a sense of alienation from God and His people.
When we are in the midst of such an intense battle it can take all of our strength just to endure through the next moment. What we need is some ray of hope, some voice calling out encouragement and truth to us, someone with a godly perspective that takes us far above the hand to hand combat with life with which we are endlessly engaged to see the battlefront from the God’s-eye-view. This Scripture-rich song can encourage us with such a perspective.
The song starts out just where the conflict is the thickest—where all we see is battle, and mountains, shadows and fear—and reminds us that from God’s point of view there is victory, there are mountains being moved, His encompassing love is surrounding us, and we have full safety in Him. The lyrics move on to show the warrior fighting on their knees, of course referring to prayer, for it is there we can come to the God’s-eye-view perspective that the battle belongs to the Lord. It is when we understand and cling to what is true about who He is that we can rise above the clamor of the battle and see beyond what relentlessly harries our soul.
The concept of the battle belonging to the Lord is from 1 Samuel 17:47, where David told the Philistines, “All those gathered will know that it isn’t by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give all of you into our hands”, and from 2 Chronicles 20, where Jehoshaphat was facing an overwhelming alliance of enemies. As often happens to us, Jehoshaphat found himself at his lowest point, facing an overwhelming enemy on multiple fronts. Perhaps our illness has let to strained relationships and financial hardship, alienation from friends, or spiritual distance from God. Each of these individual circumstances is a battle, waged simultaneously with the others, which all take their toll on our strength. As Jehoshaphat looked out on this powerful alliance of enemy forces, it would have been easy to despair, but he looked to the Lord, pointed his people to the Lord, and prayed. A prophet came to Jehoshaphat and told him, “You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you…Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out and face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”
God was going to fight for them. He has done that many times for His people. In Exodus Moses tells the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the Lord’s salvation which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again” (14:3). Later he told them, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemies before you, saying, ‘Destroy them!’” God wanted His people to be confident that no matter what they were facing, He was their source of victory.
But notice that in no case were they just to passively go home and let God handle it. Even when they didn’t have to fight the battle (in at least this case), they did have to show up, take up their positions, and stand firm. They had to determine to have courage and not fear or be discouraged. Even when the battle is the Lord’s it doesn’t mean it isn’t intimidating, or daily, or painful. It does mean that “the Lord will be with you” through every agonizing moment. And there are indeed times when God does call us to fight, even when the battle is His. God “gave” Israel the Promised Land, but they had to go in and take it. In fact, the first time He sent them in they got scared and balked, and ended up wandering in the wilderness for 40 years as a consequence of their lack of faith in Him. He “gave” them the land, because the battle was His, and He would enable them, but they still had to show up. They still had to fight. They still had to overcome their fears, have courage, not become discouraged when the enemy was entrenched, and they needed to obey by giving themselves fully to the task at hand. The battle was His because He assured their victory, but in most cases (with the exception of Jehoshaphat and a couple of others) the people of God still had a lot of skin in the game, because they had to fight in faith.
This is because their crossing over the Jordon onto the battlefields in the Promised Land and showing up to fight demonstrated their faith that the battle was God’s and He would give them victory. Overcoming fear through trusting Him showed their faith that the battle was the Lord’s, and He would give them victory. Keeping on when the fighting was fierce and the discouragement mounted demonstrated their faith that the battle was the Lord’s and He would give victory. Wise Solomon reminds us, “Victory rests with the Lord” (Prov. 21:31b), and Paul tells us, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work.”
Yes, He gives the victory, but we must stand firm, and let nothing move us. The battle is the Lord’s, but we must always give ourselves fully to the work, and maintaining our faith in the face of the battle can definitely be work. Armed with the truth of who our mighty God is, as laid out in the Scripture and in songs like this one, we can strengthen our weakened knees, and feeble hearts when the battles rage so fiercely and endlessly. He had promised us victory, and He always keeps His word! The battle belongs to the Lord!