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Facing Giants by Fixing Gaze

Eyes on the Covenantal King Rather Than Self as the Means to Victory in Terrifying Circumstance

What does the Bible teach about fear?

Oct 23, 2019

Everybody fears.1While it is admitted that many subscribe to John Flavel’s three categories of fear, namely natural, sinful, and religious, arguments can be made that at the end of the day there are really only two: self-preserving and God-exalting, Triumphing over Sinful Fear (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2011). This discussion would require another lengthy paper of its own, but a few comments are warranted.  Every human that has ever lived has experienced fear.2Some might even include Jesus in this. Whether Jesus experienced fear, in the same way that we do, is a necessary discussion for another day. A few comments must be said, though, even here. There is a tendency to project upon Jesus our thoughts, feelings, and experiences. He is the perfect human, not us. He defines humanity. Second, that Jesus roundly condemns fear in us demands an absence of the same in Him. Third, the texts often used to “prove” that Jesus was afraid can be interpreted in other ways. To be troubled or even agitated does not equal afraid in a self-preserving manner. Fourth, Jesus died to deliver us from a lifelong slavery to the fear of death (Heb 2:15). How can He deliver us from that which He has not Himself conquered?  Many have felt fear to such a degree that they were frozen—unable to think clearly or respond effectively. Must this be the response? Are we doomed to debilitating fear, anxiety, worry, and depression?3The world often expresses the options as “fight, flight, or freeze.” Surely Christians have a fourth option, namely faith. Attempts at integrating this idea into Christian experience have come via Ps 139:14, “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” The Combat Trauma Healing Manual, CTHM, (Newport News, VA: Campus Crusade, 2008) does just this. In a section entitled “The Physiology, Psychology and Theology of PTSD” (25-26) Psalm 139:14 is the only verse offered in support of the idea of fight, flight, or freeze. Are soldiers especially susceptible to uncontrollable fear as described by Ed Welch? 

For two years I worked in a veteran’s hospital. During that time, I heard stories of many war veterans and saw the consequences of war. Men would wake up from nightmares triggered by events that occurred forty years earlier. Some used drugs to quiet their fears and dull their mental pictures. Others isolated themselves as a way to protect themselves. Some of them seemed to be constantly vigilant, as if they never left the battle. Some used hair-trigger anger as their way to keep others at bay. If you had heard their combat stories, you probably would have thought that their threat-fear was natural. I would say it was almost natural. King David was often threatened by enemies, and when he was threatened he too was afraid.4Psalm 56, written by David has these words, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Ps 56:3-4). It appears, then, that when David’s soul reported a threat it signaled him to turn to God. Then in seeing The King, David’s soul was quieted. Surely this is no ivory tower fable. May we all have the faith of David.  But this was not exactly the fear of man, and it didn’t provoke the fear of man. The fear of man is the sinful exaggeration of a normal experience. 

Let me explain. We should be afraid when physically threatened.5Welch seems to be distinguishing between a “natural,” or “normal,” fear over against “fear run amok” (akin to Flavel’s natural versus sinful fear) Welch answers the question, “when does a ‘natural’ fear of being ‘vulnerable’ become ‘fear run amok’?” with three conditions: (1) lack of faith, (2) forgetfulness of God, and (3) consumed with itself (presumably the person doing the fearing). These markers are very helpful. The third condition could imply intensity. Fear becomes sinful when too intense. Biblically, what makes a desire sinful is the object upon which the desire terminates. James 4:3 states that a desire is wrong, not because of intensity, but terminus. The sinful desire terminates upon self rather than God. Fears that terminate upon self will soon become consuming—by necessity.  It is certainly not sinful for your adrenaline to be flowing when you are being fired upon. But fear of man is fear run amok. It might start with the very natural fear associated with being vulnerable and threatened. At times, however, this alarm is not regulated by faith. It becomes fear that is consumed with itself and for a time forgets God. It becomes a fear that, when activated, rules your life. In such a state, we trust for salvation in others.6Ed Welch, When People are Big and God Is Small (Phillipsburg: P&R, 1997), 59-60 (italics added). 

Is it even possible to imagine soldiers, not merely surviving, but thriving in a terrifying situation?7Thriving for humanity is found in magnifying the worth of God. Consider Jesus’ response to trouble, “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. ‘Father, glorify your name.’” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again” (John 12:27-28). When Jesus “saw” His impending crucifixion, He asked that God be glorified in His death. To which the Father responds that He indeed will fetch His glory in the death of His Son. Surely, into this image we must be conformed (cf. Rom 8:28-29).  Is there hope? Can one, first-hand and up close, see the horrors of war (or car accidents, or disease, or any number of horrific events?) and live well? These are serious questions—life altering and eternity affecting. We are not ready to just accept the answer that one is doomed to do Post Traumatic Stress, though. We do have hope. The Bible does hold forth the hope that we can glorify God in great suffering. Jesus did; Paul did; Peter did.8One is directed to Peter’s first Epistle—written in much hardship. Nero tortured and killed Christians in horrendous ways to divert attention from the accusation that he set fire to a sizable portion of Rome. Nowhere in Peter’s Epistle is fear commended or even accepted as natural or normal. Instead, Peter calls Christians to rejoice in their sufferings—provided they were for the sake of Christ (1 Pet 4:12). Indeed, he explicitly writes, “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed [at the judgment]. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts [this last clause has been altered from the ESV due to insightful comments from Thomas Schreiner, 1, 2 Peter, Jude, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 2003), 173], always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (vss. 3:14-15). How can we accept fear of death as normal when we are commanded to NOT fear that possibility—twice in one verse. Perhaps we fear death precisely because we do not fear Christ—setting Him as Lord in our soul. 

Moses will be our commander and counselor.9The reasons I chose Deuteronomy in order to speak to PTSD are numerous. (1) Any discussion of PTSD must be a conversation about fear, (2) the nation in Deuteronomy is a nation at war. If PTSD is about fear and trauma… and especially trauma in combat, then God’s words of counsel to Israel would apply to others in extreme trial, (3) Deuteronomy is not only about combat, it is about combat with a superior foe. The nation of Israel would have to face giants (various called “Ghosts of the dead,” “Giants,” “Terror,” “Threatening Sound”) and so the counsel offered is done so in the worst of trials, (4) Deuteronomy addresses Israel in post-trauma, pre-trauma, and vicarious trauma, (5) Moses wrote Deuteronomy. Moses faced Pharaoh. Moses feared Pharaoh. God counseled Moses. Moses knows the sinfulness of sin. He knows that sin is worse than suffering. A lack of faith barred him from Canaan (32:50-51), and (6) the words of Deuteronomy are near (Deut 30:14) and life. The commands to not fear are life. The Law is for their good (6:24). Moses’ sermons in the book of Deuteronomy will be our field manual. The Amorites are before us. Combat awaits. Though our hearts may race, Moses calls us time and again not to fear. To be sure, others teach both natural and sinful fear (see John Flavel especially). Moses, in these sermons however, repeatedly and exclusively calls us away from every fear. All fear is to be countered. Yes, Moses repudiates all fear. Every instance of fear encountered is condemned.10The book of Deuteronomy uses at least fourteen different words to describe the experience of fear. All fourteen are seen as sinful. Rather than “flattening” fear, Moses robustly understands at least fourteen nuanced experiences of fear. Moreover, Moses commands the nation, at least seventeen times, to not fear—ever.  All man-sized fear, woman-sized fear, and child-sized fear must be put off. Praise God that Moses tells us more than merely what to do, namely put off all fear. He tells us how. It is the how that will be the focus of this paper. 

Before we explore the possibility of victory, we must understand the enemy. The Mayo Clinic defines PTSD as follows:11For the purposes of this paper the author will adopt the common terminology of the culture. It must be noted, however, that the author does not think PTSD is a communicable disease. Indeed, the author holds to the understanding of David Powlison. Powlison contends that one does not “have” PTSD. One “does” PTSD. PTSD is a label that describes behaviors, not a diagnosis of any disease. Powlison writes, “A broken bone, pancreatic cancer, or viral pneumonia are things people can ‘have.’ But people don’t ‘have’ oppositional disorder, borderline personality, adolescent adjustment disorder, or post-traumatic stress syndrome. They ‘do’ such things. These categories simply describe a few typical patterns of behavior, emotion, attitude, thinking that are particularly unhappy and disruptive for everyone involved. They say nothing about causality. They are simply ‘syndromes,’ a group of things that often occur together,” David Powlison, Speaking Truth in Love (Greensboro, NC: New Growth, 2005), 197, note 1. 

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event— either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. 

Of the most common events thought to lead to PTSD, the Mayo clinic lists “combat exposure” first. 

Under the section titled “Causes,” the Mayo clinic writes the following:Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).12” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, July 6, 2018 causes/syc-20355967 

You can develop post-traumatic stress disorder when you go through, see or learn about an event involving actual or threatened death, serious injury or sexual violation. Doctors aren’t sure why some people get PTSD. As with most mental health problems, PTSD is probably caused by a complex mix of: 

    • Stressful experiences, including the amount and severity of trauma you’ve gone through in your life 
    • Inherited mental health risks, such as a family history of anxiety and depression 
    • Inherited features of your personality—often called your temperament 
    • The way your brain regulates the chemicals and hormones your body releases in response to stress 

Again, although this article is much less about the causes than the cures, it is interesting to note the honest admission that “Doctors aren’t sure why some people get PTSD.13”The importance of correctly identifying the problem cannot be overstated. If one incorrectly understands the problem, or “cause” of the trouble in the soul, wrong solutions will invariably ensue. It would take another full paper, or more, to adequately explore the causes of the symptoms experienced by those in traumatic situations. That said, one possible explanation will be offered. Perhaps the very dread that spills out of the soul (Deut 1:29), “Then I said to you, ‘Do not be in dread [arats] or afraid [yare] of them” is more a product of a prior worship disorder rather than the very real and immediately present danger. God vows to put dread, pachad, in the heart of those who do not treasure Him, indeed those who do not serve Him with joyfulness and gladness of heart (28:48). In fact, the curse in verses 65 through 67 “look” a lot like the symptoms experienced by those labeled with PTSD: 65…the LORD will give you there a trembling [raggaz] heart and failing eyes and a languishing soul. 66 Your life shall hang in doubt before you. Night and day you shall be in dread [pachad] and have no assurance of your life. 67 In the morning you shall say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and at evening you shall say, ‘If only it were morning!’ because of the dread [pachad] that your heart shall feel, and the sights that your eyes shall see (Deut 28:66-67). What if the dread that is squeezed out by the frightening circumstance is merely the exposure of the dread God placed in the soul in response to unbelief and idolatry?  In a vacuum of certainty, it would be reckless to ignore the possibility that terrifying events reveal roots rather than implant seeds. The pressure that is affliction squeezes out more so than pours in.14The Greek word, thilpsis, often translated “affliction” conveys the idea of “pressure,” see Colin Brown, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 807-09. Suffering exerts pressure on one’s soul. What is in the soul (desires, fears, thoughts, etc.) is squeezed out when under pressure. 1 Peter 4:12 captures this very idea, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.” The “testing” of which Peter speaks conveys the idea of revealing what was there, not adding something new. Much like a mathematics “test” reveals the students’ understanding rather than adding new knowledge. Sufferings’ purpose is to refine any dross revealed, as Peter teaches in 1:6-7 (See Schreiner, 1 Peter, 220).  

If indeed the afflictions of life heat up the soul and thereby agitate to liberation the thoughts and intentions of the heart, any solution must engage the soul.15Cf. Hebrews 4:13. Out of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45; cf. Matt 15:18-19 and Mark 7:21). Cf. Hebrews 4:13. Out of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45; cf. Matt 15:18-19 and Mark 7:21).  The most robust intervention must reach the real problem. Ultimate problems are always in the soul. Thus, the treatment offered within the Mayo clinic article (below) is surprisingly unsophisticated precisely because it does not, nor cannot, address the human heart.16This fact is noted not to besmirch the importance of thinking correctly. Indeed, the biblical solution is chalk full of admonitions to correct thinking. What is striking is that the Bible is often forsaken (by Christians no less!) for the supposed enlightening insights of secular therapy. The treatments proposed by the touted Mayo Clinic are not that other-worldly. In fact, if “talk therapy” is a mainstay in the treatment of PTSD, the Bible must be rejected by the world, not because of methodology (new thinking), but theology (the content of the conversation).

Post-traumatic stress disorder treatment can help you regain a sense of control over your life. The primary treatment is psychotherapy, but can also include medication. Combining these treatments can help improve your symptoms by:

    • Teaching you skills to address your symptoms
    • Helping you think better about yourself, others and the world
    • Learning ways to cope if any symptoms arise again
    • Treating other problems often related to traumatic experiences, such as depression, anxiety, or misuse of alcohol or drugs

Because the soul lives Coram Deo, before the face of God, godless psychotherapy is, by necessity, truncated.17Even the observations are necessarily truncated. The secular therapist can only see the two warring children in the room fighting over a toy. A biblical counselor believes there is a third Person in room, namely God. Moreover, the horizontal quarrel between two children (Jas 4:1-3) is first a vertical worship war with God (Jas 4:4- 5). So, at best the world offers truncated observational truths, horribly misguided interpretations of causes, and misguided interventions or solutions; see Heath Lambert, A Theology of Biblical Counseling (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), 51ff.  Even the medications option is no “real” solution. Medications can help with symptoms (as explicitly acknowledged by the Mayo clinic, above), but cannot penetrate the soul. The remainder of the help and hope is concentrated upon new thinking, albeit problematic thinking when considered biblically. 

Whereas the help offered by secular treatments place humanity at the center (e.g., “regain a sense of control,” and “think better about yourself”) the Bible would enthrone God.18This idea, namely thinking better about oneself, is ubiquitous. The idea has deeply infiltrated the church as well. Indeed, otherwise well-intentioned Christians, integrating ideas from the world, repackage the same themes. In The Combat Trauma Healing Manual, an entire chapter is devoted to one thinking better of oneself— and God is co-opted in the endeavor. Within the chapter (Step 7, 105), one is told that they are “lovable” and of “infinite worth.” It is even argued that because humanity is “infinitely lovable” (105), God sent His Son to die on the cross. While the desire to help is commended, the content of that help must be changed. The cross is NOT a testimony to humanity’s worth. The cross is a testimony first to God’s worth and then humanity’s wickedness. God explicitly declares that His intention to redeem Israel is anchored in the holiness of His name, not their worth. Ezekiel 36 expounds,  In the remainder of the article we will consider a major thread of help and hope to those in disturbing situations, especially combatants. Much more needs to be said. To that end this article is merely a start. This start, however, is not isolated. The trajectory set out by the Bible is clear and consistent. Though our principle investigation will be constrained to the book of Deuteronomy, the same tenor is struck by the Apostle Paul in his writings. The Bible is clear. Help and hope is found in fixing one’s soul upon the Sovereign King of the universe

The Disturbing Experience 

The circumstance confronting the nation of Israel had not changed much in nearly forty years. Indeed, the same enemy that confronted the first generation encamped at Kadesh Barnea (Deut 1), awaited the generation gathered on the Eastern shore of the Jordan (Deut 9). Though the entirety of the disobedient generation had died off, the challenge facing the people had not deviated from their forefathers. Israel must enter the Promised Land. Though the reward was unimaginable, the hurdles were impossible. Israel would have to conquer giants—invincible giants. 

The problem for Israel captured succinctly in chapter one is repeated in chapter nine. 

Chapter One: “The people are greater and taller than we. The cities are great and fortified up to heaven. And besides, we have seen the sons of the Anakim there” (Deut 1:28). Chapter Nine: “Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves, cities great and fortified up to heaven, 2 a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’” (Deut 9:1-2). 

The same foe that terrorized Israel under Moses’ leadership would later fall under Joshua’s. The reader can even detect a hint of sarcasm in God using the same exaggerated language of the deceased disobedient. God knows the cities are not literally “great and fortified up to heaven,” but that was the justification offered by Israel for their faithless fear. The same impenetrable enemy awaits the nation under Joshua’s leadership. 

The Anakim were apparently like (or possibly related to) the Rephaim (Deut 2:11)19 and possibly even the Nephilim—legendary giants from the antediluvian period. Og, King of Bashan, is listed as the last of the Rephaim and his stature was so immense that he needed a thirteen-and-a- half-foot long bed.19But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.  Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came.19It is far more valid to speak of circumstance revealing, rather than causing, the soul’s response. See note 13 above. The sons of Anak proved what was already in the souls of Israel. Moreover, one should not overlook the fact that the Israelites blamed the spies (and the sons of Anak), as an excuse, for their disobedience. Shifting blame is as old as the Garden (see Gen 3:12 and 13 where Adam blames Eve and Eve blames Satan for their sin).   And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. Four times God expressly states that He is acting on behalf of His name—and once, explicitly, not for the sake of the Israelites (an idea repeated in verse 32). Beloved, we want to help. We commend those who want to help. We would see God glorified and His people sanctified. As counterintuitive as it seems to [/mfn]the world, God offers greater hope in seeing His worth, rather than chasing the ghost of one’s own. Whatever the exact connections, it is safe to say that the sons of Anak were monstrous in size—intimidating beyond even their physical stature (none could stand up to them, vs. 9:2). Moreover, the generation poised to cross the Jordan in chapter nine had seen with their own eyes the size of Og as they fought against him (Deut 3). Their forefathers, who faltered in faith, had only heard of the size of the Anakim through the report of the spies (Deut 1:28). Those alive in chapter nine had seen one related to the monsters awaiting them in Canaan. Indeed, projecting Og’s size onto some in the land of the Amorites and Canaanites could have occasioned terror beyond measure—certainly beyond that experienced by the bygone generation.20A Pre-traumatic stress, if you will.

The Anakites were so large and imposing that the response of Israel in chapter one was acute and awful. Moses records, “Where are we going up? Our brothers have made our hearts melt.”

Courage is said to have been drained (see NET) out of their hearts. Israel experienced “trauma” even before the encounter. The Bible knows of heart responses to vicarious experience. The thought of hand-to-hand combat with giants “occasioned” troubling trauma in the souls of men.23 

What would come out of your soul? If you were commanded to conquer the impregnable— those whose cities were as “high as heaven” and whose inhabitants included the invincible? If you were given a direct order to engage an enemy, who was stronger, taller, and mightier than yourself—in hand-to-hand combat no less—what would come out of your soul? Surely this would be a traumatic experience. Indeed, if combat is one prime situation for the cluster of behaviors labeled PTSD to arise, surely this situation would qualify as one ripe for the fruit of a terrifying event. 

The Clarion Call 

The principle call of God to His people when confronted with terror is this: eyes on the King.21It is far more valid to speak of circumstance revealing, rather than causing, the soul’s response. See note 13 above. The sons of Anak proved what was already in the souls of Israel. Moreover, one should not overlook the fact that the Israelites blamed the spies (and the sons of Anak), as an excuse, for their disobedience. Shifting blame is as old as the Garden (see Gen 3:12 and 13 where Adam blames Eve and Eve blames Satan for their sin).  This narrowing of the eyes, this pinpointing of sight, must be focused upon the King Himself.22Could even these physical manifestations experienced in challenging circumstances be pointing the soul to do the same? In suffering one must narrow their gaze to God alone. If God alone is seen, the circumstance should not/will not overwhelm. That is a bold claim, indeed. How can Christians claim otherwise? Jesus, the true human, did not flinch when He stood before Pontius Pilate. He did not falter because He saw God the Father as primary, and not Pilate (John 19:11). If one would do well in suffering, a robust trust in God’s sovereignty is vital.  When the Psalmist looks for help, he raises his eyes heavenward and focuses on his God (Psalm 121), recounting multiple characteristics of God that steady his soul.23Whether the Psalmist is raising his eyes to Jerusalem as he ascends the road or merely is looking up for help, it is clear that his help is not from the hills themselves. The answer to his question in verse one is found in verse two. His help “comes from the Lord.” Indeed, when Moses is commanded to approach Pharaoh himself and demand that God’s people be set free, God directs Moses’ gaze away from thoughts about himself and unto God. 

When Moses asks, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex 3:11), God redirects his vision from himself to God: “He said, ‘But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain’” (Ex 3:12). When Moses offers his stammering tongue, God counters with His wise sovereignty (Ex 4:10-11). When Moses expects the people to desire to know who this God is (what is His name) that commands, God declares His self- existence and self-sufficiency (Ex 3:13-15). When Moses anticipates a negative response from the people, God graciously condescends with demonstrations of His power (Ex 4:1-9). God clearly wants His people to put their trust in Him—over against the power and might of a man, albeit Pharaoh or Moses. Finally, when Moses does not obey, when Moses will not lift his eyes off himself and unto God, God does not respond with props. God does not give to Moses boosts of self-esteem or even call Moses to remember his identity. No; God gives Moses neither of these. When Moses refuses to lift his eyes to God, God responds in wrath (Ex 4:13-14). God offers no less than ten truths of Himself to motivate Moses unto obedience when confronted by a superior foe—a paradigm from which God does not deviate when counseling the nation in Deuteronomy. 

Chapters one, seven, and nine (indeed, every chapter) all display the same clarion call by God to God’s people to have their gaze fixed firmly upon God. In chapter one, God responds to the nation’s unbelief and fear (“Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the LORD your God,” vs. 32), with calls to remember glorious truths about Himself. 

30The LORD your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the LORD your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.’ 32Yet in spite of this word you did not believe the LORD your God, 33who went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents, in fire by night and in the cloud by day, to show you by what way you should go (Deut 1:30-33). 

Multiple truths of God are held before the nation for consideration. God initiates and leads (vs. 30), God fights on behalf of His people (vs. 30), God tenderly cares for His people (vs. 31), God is wise and all-knowing (vs. 33; God “went before you in the way to seek you out a place to pitch your tents”), and God is powerful (vss. 30, 31 and 33; God fights for you, God “carried you…all the way,” and manifested Himself by fire and cloud). God is good, great, and wise. God is all- powerful, all-kind, and all-intelligent. God is omnipotent, omniscient, omni-beneficent, and omni-sapient. God offers Himself as reason for obedience. In the face of frightening circumstance, THE King calls His people to look to Himself.24Please see Appendix A for a table organizing these events. 

Similarly, in Deuteronomy 7:17-19 we read, 

17“If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ 18you shall not be afraid of them but [recalling; the infinite absolute of zakar appears before the finite; cf. NET] you shall remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, 19the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the LORD your God brought you out. So will the LORD your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid.” 

Surely, we who purport to worship, treasure, and obey the God of Scripture would be guilty of folly and pride to not heed these words in terrifying conditions. If any believer should find himself or herself in an asymmetrical relationship—especially one of power—must they not follow the explicit commands of God? If your heart is trembling when someone greater than you is threatening you, you must heed Moses’ counsel. That counsel is summarized as follows:25Surely “something greater than you” would also apply.

1) Do not be afraid (put off fear), but instead… 2) Carefully recall (put on faith/trust) what the Lord did to Pharaoh, and not just generally recall…but specifically…26The emphasis of the double use of zakar should not be missed. One must intentionally give their thoughts to God. Surely this is hard and requires much effort. Moreover, this counsel is directly opposed to the world’s pond sludge in which our souls have all swum for too long. 

  1. …remember the trials, signs, wonders… b. …remember God’s mighty hand and outstretched arm by which… c. …God brought you out…27It would be ridiculous for one to take this truth and spin it to teach others that they need to know their “brought-out-ness.” That one is brought out no one denies. That one should navel gaze we strenuously decry. That one is brought out is meant to direct the gaze Godward—toward the One who did the “bringing out.”

3) It is this God who will do [if He pleases] the same to those opposing you today.28That God delivered Israel is not a promise that He will deliver us. One must live as the young men in Daniel’s day, “If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up” (Dan 3:17-18). 

The same clarion call is seen time and again—eyes on the King, not the crisis, creature, or the creation. Deuteronomy, chapter nine, continues the same theme and adds another vital consideration. Not only must Israel think highly of God, but they must also put themselves in the category as their very enemy, namely that of rebel. 

First, we will see the same charge to know truths about God. 

Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the LORD your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the LORD has promised you (Deut 9:3). 

Moses emphasizes God’s attributes three times in the passage. He is a consuming fire. He will destroy them. He will subdue them.29Block, Deuteronomy, 244, draws attention to the three-fold repetition of “he” in his personal translation. Regrettably, the ESV obscures this fact by leaving out the third “he.” What must be known (and remembered) first and foremost are truths about God. Eyes must be upon the King as Daniel Block so aptly notes, “The key to the Israelites’ future is not to be found in their own strength but in the strength of their divine Commander-in-Chief.”30Ibid, 244. 

Notice though that sight of God is not an end itself. Seeing God empowers and requires strenuous effort by the people in response.31Cf. 2 Pet 1:5, “make every effort to supplement your faith with….” The effort is empowered by God. The effort is in response to God’s initiative. The effort is real…and active.  The people must “drive them out” and “make them perish quickly,” (v. 3) but they do so in response to God’s prior work.32Chapter 7:2 commands Israel to “defeat them,” again in response to God’s prior work. The imperative is grounded in the indicative.33The indicative is what God has done, NOT who they are.  What God has first done is the grounds of Israel’s effort.34Paul, the best interpreter of Deuteronomy, clearly learns this lesson. “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13). The command to work is grounded in God’s prior enabling.  So far, so good. Moses is consistent in training the eyes of Israel upon her Lord. What he does next is, well shocking to say the least—especially to those facing giants. 

4“Do not say in your heart, after the LORD your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you. 5Not because of your righteousness or the uprightness of your heart are you going in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations the LORD your God is driving them out from before you, and that he may confirm the word that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (Deut 9:4-5). 

Three truths are added here to the paradigm thus far: (1) the nation is not to look to their own righteousness as the reason of God’s help, (2) God opposes the people in the land because of their wickedness, and (3) God is working principally to confirm His own covenant-keeping character. What a counter-cultural thought indeed. Instead of starting from a position of deservedness, instead of starting with an attitude of arrogance, Israel must think more highly of God. Rare indeed is the one who enters a threatening situation with humility of self and hope in God.35Paul states that the very reason God brought them to a near-death experience was to cause them to not rely on self, but God (2 Cor 1:8-9). 

Could it be that some (if not all) of the fear that so easily spills out of the soul when confronted by a superior foe was there all along—a fear born out of the war with God?36Space will not allow a detailed treatment of James 4:1-10. Suffice to say, however, that the horizontal conflicts in relationships are also born out of a prior worship war with God. One is not surprised to find, then, that the solutions to live are two—love God and love neighbor (Matt 22:35-40). Perhaps our soul’s response to trouble says more about our soul than the event. God (through Moses) is not finished, though. God has even more to say to Israel—to His people in a terrifying condition. 

6“Know, therefore, that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stubborn people. 7Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD. 8Even at Horeb you provoked the LORD to wrath, and the LORD was so angry with you that he was ready to destroy you” (Deut 9:6-8). 

Wow! The reader is shocked—probably not half as much as Israel as they heard these words, but shocked nonetheless. To His people…and out of love for them, God reminds His people three times of their own rebellion. Israel is a stubborn people. They provoked God to wrath in the wilderness. They have consistently been rebellious ever since the gracious rescue out of Egypt…AND…and they provoked God to wrath when He graciously gave them His words of life at Horeb.37That the “ten words,” the Decalogue, lead to life is explicitly confirmed in Deuteronomy 6:20-25 and 32:47.  When confronted by an invincible enemy, God reminds Israel of her rebellion. Now this is counter-cultural counsel indeed. 

God helps His people with similar words in chapter seven. Moses tells Israel, 

7It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt (Deut 7:7-8). 

Again, it was not because the people of Israel were desirable that God saved them. God seems intent on directing their gaze away from themselves. People in traumatic situations are called to not think about their worth…but God’s free and sovereign mercy. Thinking better of God, not self, is the key to thriving in trauma.38It has already been noted, but worth repeating here that the CTHM inserts an entire chapter to do just the opposite of God. Eight descriptors are used to boost the esteem of combat veterans. Instead of directing the eyes of those in combat to the Divine Commander, the manual follows the world and calls veterans to vain looks in the mirror. These admonitions will likely strike a chord with modern sensibilities. For example, Chris Adsit suggests, 

The reader is directed to the solutions offered in secular interventions detailed earlier—two prime considerations being gaining a sense of control and thinking better about yourself. It appears that a more biblical model would teach that when one is voluntarily enslaved to idols, one has forgotten who they are not and who God is. It seems thoughts directed to the inflation of self are insufficient to help in times of trouble. Moreover, self-directed thoughts are prone to false elevation—prone to pride—and pride is the source of fear. Also, self-focused thoughts are often (always) debasing of Deity.

Not Who, but Whose You Are 

Perhaps here is where the biblical counsel is so radical. Not only does the Bible command one’s gaze to be upon God, but also away from self-aggrandizement. Hope is found not in knowing one is worthy, lovable, or even a child of the King. Hope is grounded in remembering one’s unworthiness. Hope, so vital to life lived well (cf. Prov 13:12), is found in remembering whose you are—not who you are. 

There are 14 commands in Deuteronomy to “remember”—none of which are directed at one’s identity in Christ.39The Hebrew word zakar, “to remember” appears fifteen total times in Deuteronomy (twice in verse 7:18 for emphasis; The NET notes thus: “recalling, you must recall,” and translates the phrase in English as “you must carefully recall”): 5:15; 7:18; 8:2, 18; 9:7, 27; 15:15; 16:3, 12; 24:9, 18, 22; 25:17; 32:7  The commands generally fall into two categories as seen below: (1) remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and (2) remember what God has done in rescuing you.

Remember your Hopelessness, Helplessness, and Rebelliousness  Remember God’s Faithfulness, Mercy, and Might 
You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore, the LORD your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day (Deut 5:15).  You shall not be afraid of them but [remembering] you shall remember what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt (Deut 7:18). 
Remember and do not forget how you provoked the LORD your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day you came out of the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the LORD (Deut 9:7).  And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not (Deut 8:2). 
You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today (Deut 15:15) You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day (Deut 8:18). 
You shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt; and you shall be careful to observe these statutes (Deut 16:12).  You shall eat no leavened bread with it. Seven days you shall eat it with unleavened bread, the bread of affliction- for you came out of the land of Egypt in haste- that all the days of your life you may remember the day when you came out of the land of Egypt (Deut 16:3). 
…but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this (Deut 24:18). You shall REMEMBER that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this (Deut 24:22).  Remember what the LORD your God did to Miriam on the way as you came out of Egypt (Deut 24:9). 
Remember what Amalek did to you on the way as you came out of Egypt (Deut 25:17).40What is remembered is how Amalek “attacked you” (vs. 18) and how “he did not fear God” (vs. 18). An implication is then drawn (“therefore”) in verse 19. In the end, the memory of Amalek is to be “blotted out” (vs. 19) with a solemn charge to “not forget.” The command, to “not forget,” is directed at the command to blot out Amalek’s memory. Ultimately what is to be remembered is the commanded obedience, not the injustice suffered. Beloved, God must be enthroned—not grief, not pain, not injustice.  Remember the days of old; consider the years of many generations; ask your father, and he will show you, your elders, and they will tell you [what God is like and what He had done] (Deut 32:7).

Table 1: The Commands to “Remember” 

Even when Moses is beseeching God’s mercy on Israel, he asks God to remember His covenant with the patriarchs and not the rebellion of the people. 

Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do not regard the stubbornness of this people, or their wickedness or their sin (Deut 9:27) 

It is a consistent theme that what is recalled is not one’s power, privilege, or even position. What is remembered is one’s enslavement to sin—and God’s mighty arm in rescue. It is incomplete to dwell merely upon one’s dependent condition. One must give God primacy. 

This theme does not change even when the verbs do. When commanded to know or consider something that would motivate obedience, God (not the person) ascends center stage. 

And consider [lit: “know”] today (since I am not speaking to your children who have not known or seen it), consider the discipline of the LORD your God, his greatness, his mighty hand and his outstretched arm (Deut 11:2). 

9Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations, 10and repays to their face those who hate him, by destroying them. He will not be slack with one who hates him. He will repay him to his face (Deut 7:9-10).41Again, this warning is given to those who are about to enter hand-to-hand, mortal combat. Surely God intends the hearer to grasp the truth that one’s greatest problem is not the enemy before them, but unbelief. Thus, if unbelief were revealed through combat, one must see the traumatic experience as a chemotherapy used to reveal the cancer of sin.

This command it not isolated or constrained to Deuteronomy or the Old Testament. The Apostle Paul follows suit in his Epistle to the Ephesians: 

11Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands- 12remember [verb supplied from vs. 11] that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world (Eph 2:11-12)

Verse eleven contains the only command in the first three chapters of Ephesians. The only truth one is commanded to remember is that before God made alive, raised, and seated one (vss. 2:4- 6), one was both dead and disadvantaged.42The Jews were merely dead. The picture for Gentiles was much worse. Gentiles were not dead bodies in a cooler, as it were, they were dead bodies deteriorating in the hot sun while being eaten by maggots.  We Gentiles are commanded to remember that we were the disadvantaged dead (as opposed to the advantaged dead Jews). One is not commanded to dwell upon any identity. 

The great work of God is set against the hopeless condition of humanity. The genius of God is on full display. If one would ever fully entrust themselves to God, even amid great trouble, they must be deeply convinced of His power, love, and wisdom.43This is exactly what Peter calls his readers to do when threatened by Nero (1 Pet 4:19). This is also exactly the case in Mark 4:35-41. On the heels of near death to drowning, Jesus questions His disciples as to the presence of fear in their souls (vs. 40). The fear revealed by the storm was a product of unbelief (“no faith”; vs. 40). The solution is to fear God more and obey Him like the wind and sea.  That trust grows in the understanding of one’s desperate condition prior to His initiative. A high view of enslavement to sin results in a high view of the Savior, whereas a low view of the problem yields a low view of the solution. A big problem demands a big solution.44Cf. David’s prayer in Ps 25:11, “For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great.” David appeals to greatness of God’s name, not the smallness of his sin, as the source of his hope. Great guilt requires a great God. A God that condescends to save great sinners will glorify His own mercy.


The Bible does not leave us without counsel. All things pertaining to life and godliness are found in the knowledge of Jesus (2 Pet 1:3). All things—all life and all godliness—are found in a Person, namely Jesus Christ. Help and hope is found in the Wonderful Counselor (cf. Isa 9:6). That help and hope is vastly different than that of the world. The Mayo clinic would have one rely on themselves and think better of themselves. The Bible would have one rely upon and think better of God. Moreover, in order to not depend upon self and to think better of God, the Bible would have one remember their helpless and hopeless condition prior to the mighty and merciful work of God.

Mayo Clinic The Bible
Solutions Help you regain control of your life  Surrender control to the Sovereign King. Trust Him. Believe that He is good, great, and wise.
Think better about yourself Think better about God 

Remember your voluntary enslavement to sin 

Remember God’s mighty arm of salvation 

Remember that you were not desirable 

Remember that you were rebellious

Table 2: Solutions 

Beloved, the solution matters. The glory of God matters. War is terrible. Near death experiences are indeed traumatic. Standing toe-to-toe with a Champion is, to say the least, challenging—but our God is bigger. When David faced Goliath, his eyes were focused—but not on the Philistine.45Whether Goliath was 9’ 9’’ (MT, 18 inches/cubic), 6’ 9” (LXX, 18 inches/cubit), 8’ 9” (MT, 16.5 inches/cubit), or 6’ 1” (LXX, 16.5 inches/cubit), David was only between 5’ and 5’ 3” and just a youth (vs. 17:33). Goliath’s coat of mail weighed approximately 126 pounds and the head of his spear another 15 pounds. Goliath should have been intimidating—indeed he was so to Saul and the entire army of Israel (vss. 17:11, 24; cf. vs. 32).

David’s eyes and soul were narrowed upon God alone. Twice David questioned why anyone would be allowed to defy the living God (1 Sam 17:26, 36) and when he faced Goliath, mono y mono, exclaimed, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Sam 17:45). One must not see this true account as some fairy tale, but real life and real faith in action. 

May we biblical counselors be found raising our counselee’s gaze to their God—the Lord of Hosts, The Sovereign Lord of the universe. May that fixed sight enliven and encourage the heart to belief—to trust—to entrust one’s soul to their faithful Creator while doing good (1 Pet 4:19).

Appendix A:

Table of responses46Table adapted from Daniel Block’s insightful commentary (Deuteronomy, 71-2) 

Situation Root 

Corruption Precondition Problem 

Terrifying Event Presenting Problem Nation’s Response

Performance Problem

Fruit of Rebellion 


God’s Solution
Deuteronomy chapter One  Unbelief (vs. 32);
though listed later
than the mutiny,
surely this was the
root of the
rebellion as the
text indicates—
linking the
unbelief to
previous events
(God lead by
fire/cloud during
the wilderness
1. Inhabitants
larger than
2. Cities were
3. Descendants of
Anakites lived
in land
“The real challenge
was neither physical
nor military, but
spiritual. Would
they trust God?”
(Block, 72).
1. Unwilling to
2. Rebelled
against God
3. Murmuring/
1. Accused
God of
wrong (i.e.,
led them
into death)
2. Fixating on
the enemy—
this was
done so
much so
that their
3. Despair:
“Where can
we go?” (vs.
“Moses’ response
focused entirely on
Yahweh” (Block,
72)47Though Moses does not use the word “remember” explicitly, surely he is calling the nation to just that. They must remember—dwell upon—the character of God when faced with troubling times. Who God is and what God has done are to be their focus. To be sure, God’s actions produce results. One of those results is that we are His—adopted into His family. That fact, however, is the effect and not the cause. The cause is greater than the effect. Nods to the effects are meant to drive the soul to the cause. Paul does this explicitly in 1 Corinthians 1:30, “Because of Him, you are in Christ Jesus.” 
1. God was with
them (indeed,
He went
before them)
2. God would
fight for them
3. God cared for
them in the
God is good, great,
and wise.
Deuteronomy chapter Seven  “If you say in your
heart” (vs. 17) is
surely a warning
against unbelief.
One is exhorted
to NOT
contemplate in
their soul what is
Seven nations more
numerous and
mightier than
yourselves (v.1)
Potential future
rebellion is
If commands are
not followed,
then these
nations would
lead Israel to turn
away from God
(v. 4)
1. To counter the
God warns
Israel of His
against all
2. You are
unto) by the
Lord (vs. 6)
3. God chose you
4. You were not
chosen out of
indeed, you
were enslaved
in Egypt (sin)5. Know that
God is faithful
AND that God
is vengeful
6. From verse 17
through the
end of the
chapter (vs. 26)
there are SIX
references to
God that must
be known (and
none about
Deuteronomy chapter Nine  “Do not say in
your heart” (vs. 4).
Again the battle is
in the soul. THE
problem is in the
soul, not
1. Nations greater
and mightier
than yourselves
2. Cities great and
fortified up to
3. A people great
and tall
4. The sons of
whom none
can stand
Notice God uses the
justification for
disobedience in
chapter one against
them in chapter
nine. God is
preempting the
possible excuse of
the present
they might claim
what the previous
generation did.
Potential future
Past rebellion at
Horeb recalled
1. Acted
corruptly (vs.
2. Turned aside
quickly (vs.
3. Made a
metal image
(vs. 12)
Could claim self-
righteousness (v.5, 6)
1. God goes
before you
2. God is a
consuming fire
3. God will
Moses intercedes

Please do not miss the insight in the fifth column. The fruit of faithlessness, the result of unbelief, manifested in fixating upon the enemy. When the soul does not trust God, it will turn inward to itself. Self-reliance brings the disdain of God.48This is explicitly taught by God to Cain in Genesis 4:7, “7 If you do well, will you not be accepted?” The idiom behind the idea of acceptance is literally, “a lifting of the face.” If one honors God as God (cf. Rom 1:21), one will be accepted—in right relationship—with God. That peace (that shalom in the soul), cannot but result in a happy heart—and put a smile on the face. The soul, guilty of unbelief, is unable to find rest, or shalom. To alleviate the pain of disobedience, the nation blames God and blames circumstance for their disobedience. Blaming circumstance requires fixation and exaggeration. The nation says, in effect, “The people are too big for us to obey God. What is more, the way ahead is beyond discerning. Finally, and foremost, God cannot be trusted. Because God is neither good, great, nor wise—and because the obstacles are too big to overcome—we are innocent in our rebellion.” This is the reasoning (irrational, sinful) of the rebellious heart.

Also note that when God is not trusted and instead reliance is shifted to self, despair is inevitable. The creature was never designed to be omnipotent or omniscient. We are limited. We are finite. We are impaired both cognitively and morally as a result of the fall (cf. Rom 1:18ff.). The noetic effects of sin, coupled with the “not yet” reality of sanctification, results in imperfect reasoning (cf. Eph 4:17-19). We are between a rock and hard place and cannot get ourselves out. The only end of self-reliance is despair. Only God is all-wise, all-good, and all-powerful. By definition, creatures were meant to depend upon their Creator. 

One must not fail to see the method of God in bringing the nation back to Himself—back to shalom with Him. God reminds them of who He is—not who they are.

Appendix B: Voices from Past The Soldier’s Commands 

Richard Baxter wrote about nearly all things Christian in his lifetime. The fruit of that work has been organized in a massive tome entitled, A Christian Directory (Banner of Truth). One of the subjects he addresses is how a Christian soldier is to conduct himself in combat. Two truths stand out: (1) he deals as much with how a soldier is to act justly in war, as with whether the war was just in the first place, and (2) he is more concerned about holiness than wholeness. His counsel sounds strange indeed to modern, enlightened, sensibilities. Baxter’s Twelve Directives to soldiers are presented below: Richard Baxter’s (1615-1691) Directives (A Christian Directory, 774-77): I. Be careful to make your peace with God, and live in a continual readiness to die. 

“We ought to think most about God and our souls when we are in danger of death” – Luther 

“Many a debauched soldier I have known, whose conscience hath made them cowards, and shift or run when they should venture upon death, because they knew they were unready to die, and were more afraid of hell than of the enemy. He that is fit to be a martyr, is the fittest man to be a soldier: he that is regenerate, and hath laid up his treasure and his hopes in heaven, and so hath overcome the fears of death, may be bold as a lion, and ready for any such thing, and fearless in the greatest perils. For what should he fear, who hath escaped hell and God’s displeasure, and hath conquered the king of terrors? But fear is the duty and most rational temper of a guilty soul; and the more fearless such are, the more foolish and more miserable [unhappy; contemptible; wretched]” (775; Direction I). 

  1. Be sure you have a warrantable cause and call.49David Hoekema, “A Practical Christian Pacifism,” in Readings in Christian Ethics, eds. David K Clark and Robert V. Rakestraw (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 517: “The just war proponent believes that war is sometimes required by justice, in which case it is not the lesser of two evils but is itself a good. The issue is whether intentional killing in war is ever a good thing, not whether one ought to grit one’s teeth and bravely commit one wrong rather than another.” 

A difficulty: two “intolerable consequents [results]” 

If kings solely determine then the Christian under a Turk must kill Christians If subjects solely determine then selfishness prevents common good 

Must distinguish essence before example 

Must be lawful in itself; then bring example If essence is wrong, then no excusing sin in it; “God is first to be obeyed and feared” 

If just and ordinary means cannot discern essence of the cause of war, then One must consider call…if one doubts don’t Doubts can arise from (one or both): 

End or telos of action (goal; purpose) Authority of commander 

“There are some cases in which the ruler is the only competent judge, and the doubts of the subject are so unreasonable, that they will not excuse the sin of his disobedience” (775; Direction II).

“Suppose the cause of the war be really lawful in itself, and yet the subject is in doubt of it, yea, or thinketh otherwise; then is he in the case, as other erroneous consciences are, that is, entangled in a necessity of sinning, till he be undeceived, in case his rulers command his service” (775; Direction II). 

“So it is apparent, that sometimes the sovereign’s cause may be good, and yet an erroneous conscience may make the soldier’s cause bad, if they are volunteers, who run unnecessarily upon that which they take for robbery and murder; and yet that the higher powers may force even such mistakers to defend country, and their governors, in a case of true necessity. And it is manifest that sometimes the cause of the ruler may be bad, and yet the cause of the soldier good; and that sometimes the cause may be bad and sinful to both of them, and sometimes good and lawful unto both” (775; Direction II). 

III. When you are doubtful whether your cause and call be good, it is (ordinarily) safest to sit 

still, and not to venture in so dangerous a case, without great deliberation and sufficient evidence to satisfy your consciences. 

Would rather be “abused as a neuter, than run himself into the danger of such a case” (776) 

  1. When necessity forceth you to go forth in a just war, do it with humiliation and 

unwillingness as beseemeth one that is a patient [sufferer], a spectator, and an actor, in one of the sorest of God’s temporal judgments. 

“Go not to kill men, as if you went to a cock-fight, or a bear-baiting. Make not a sport of a common calamity; be not insensible of the displeasure of God, expressed in so great a judgment. What a sad condition is it to yourselves, to be employed in destroying others! If they be good, how sad a thought is it, that you must kill them! If they are wicked, how sad is it that by killing them you cut off all their hopes of mercy, and send them suddenly to hell!” (776; Direction IV). 

“The Lord’s day is usually taken up in matters that concern their lives, and therefore can pretend necessity; so that it must be a very resolute, confirmed, vigilant person, that is not alienated from God” (776; Direction IV). 

  1. Be sure first that your cause be better than your lives, and then resolve to venture your lives 

for them. 

“A soldier’s life is unfit for one that dare not die. A coward is one of the most pernicious murderers . . . . It is fear that loseth the day, and fearlessness that winneth it” (776; cf. Rev 21:8). 

  1. Resolve upon an absolute obedience to your commanders, in all things consistent with your 

obedience to God. VII. Especially detest all murmurings, mutinies, sidings, and rebellions. 

“In the end it will appear, that it was their own advancement which they secretly aimed at” (777). 

VIII. Use not your power or liberty to the robbing, or oppressing, or injury of any. 

“Though military thieves and oppressors may escape the gallows more than others, they shall come as soon to hell as any” (777; cf. Luke 3:14).

  1. Take heed lest custom, and the frequency of God’s judgments, do harden your hearts into a 

reprobate stupidity. X. Take heed of falling into drunkenness and sensuality, though temptations and liberty be 

never so great. XI. If necessity deprive you of the benefits of God’s public or stated worship, see that you labour 

to repair that loss, by double diligence in those spiritual duties, which yet you have opportunity for. XII. Take heed that command or successes do not puff you up and make you overvalue 

yourselves, and incline you to rebel against your governors. Martin Luther’s proclamation and prayer (War and Christian Ethics, ed. Arthur F. Holmes, 161, 163-64) are robust as well. Soldiers would do well to hear today: 

“Dear Comrades, we are gathered here to serve, obey, and do our duty to our prince, for according to God’s will and ordinance we are bound to support our prince with our body and our possessions, even though in God’s sight we are as poor sinners as our enemies are. Nevertheless, since we know that our prince is in the right in this case, or at least do not know otherwise, we are therefore sure and certain that in serving and obeying him we are serving God. Let everyone, then, be brave and courageous and let no one think otherwise than that his fist is God’s fist, his spear God’s spear, and cry with heart and voice, ‘For God and the emperor!’ If God gives us victory, the honor and praise shall be his, not ours, for he wins it through us poor sinners. But we take the booty and the wages as presents and gifts of God’s goodness and grace to us, though we are unworthy, and sincerely thank him for them. Now God grant the victory! Forward with joy!” 

“Heavenly Father, here I am, according to your divine will, in the external work and service of my lord, which I owe first to you and then to my lord for your sake. I thank your grace and mercy that you have put me into a work which I am sure is not sin, but right and pleasing obedience to your will. But because I know and have learned from your gracious word that none of our good works can help us and that no one is saved as a soldier but only as a Christian, therefore, I will not in any way rely on my obedience and work, but place myself freely at the service of your will. I believe with all my heart that only the innocent blood of your dear Son, my Lord Jesus Christ, redeems and saves me, which he shed for me in obedience to your holy will. This is the basis on which I stand before you. In this faith I will live and die, fight, and do everything else. Dear Lord God the Father, preserve and strengthen this faith in me by your Spirit. Amen.”