Military Service to be Voluntary
Deuteronomy 20:1-9
When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses, and chariots, and a people more than you, be not afraid of them…

In war, forced service is worse than useless; it is a source of weakness - a cause of defeat. For successful warfare, all the skill and energy of every soldier is demanded; and unless the hearts of the warriors are in the conflict, no triumph can be anticipated.

I. TO BE LOYAL FRIENDS OF GOD, WE MUST SOMETIMES TREAT MEN AS FOES. If we are truly God's children, we must count God's friends to be our friends, God's foes to be our foes. We are not our own. We cannot expend life according to our personal will We are the property of another - the Supreme King. Therefore we must do his work and fight his battles. Our notion of what is right and just must be made subordinate to his. Our minds are often too much biased with selfish feeling to judge what is right, if left to ourselves; but we shall not err if we closely follow the precepts of our God. The interests of God's kingdom are to be held by us as paramount over the interests of man's kingdom.

II. GOD'S PRESENCE IN BATTLE OUTMATCHES ALL HUMAN FORCES. The source of conquest is not in the visible material of war. Victory is not on the side of the largest battalions. This is the creed of the infidel. If there were no God, it might be true. Mere numbers of combatants have as often hindered triumph as helped it. If God be ranged on the one side, it is a most unequal contest. The issue is a foregone event. Multiply human weapons or develop human skill as much as you please; let all the powers of arithmetic be exhausted in the computation; and still the finite is confronted by the Infinite. "Before him the inhabitants of the world are as grasshoppers." "If God be for us," vain is all opposition. Simple faith is the best equipment.

III. GOD'S PRIEST IS THE INSPIRER OF TRUE COURAGE. The sanctions and the inspirations of religion may be obtained for the business of war. The true priest will not heedlessly lend his sanction to any emprise of war, nor will he withhold his benediction from a righteous contest. By virtue of his office, he is the messenger from God to the royal court, as well as to the people. If ever the oracle of the sanctuary should be consulted, it is when war is imminent. It is not the business of the priest to initiate war; but if war becomes a duty, it is the business of the priest to encourage and 'respire the host of God's elect. The true priest is in close accord with God. God's heart beats within his heart; God's will finds prompt response in him. Hence the priest's voice is the human exponent of God's thought. God's strength is through hint conveyed to the mailed warriors, for he speaks with just authority.

IV. GOD WILL ACHIEVE VICTORY ONLY THROUGH THE RIGHT-HEARTED. Unless the soldier's mind and heart and soul be in the conflict, he had better tarry by his fireside. A few earnest, ardent warriors are preferred to mere array of numbers. If any soldier found more delight in his habitation or in his vineyard than in the success of battle, he might forthwith return. With the double-minded and the half-hearted God does not work. The channel must be emptied of self if Divine energy is to pass through it. We are not to conclude that God prefers the few to the many. But he will have the right kind of agents, or he will not work through them. The thirsty man does not prefer one drop of water to ten; but he does prefer one drop of wholesome water to a gallon of poisonous beverage. God works according to wise methods, and sends help through fitting channels. The best media through which he conveys military conquest is unselfish devotion to his cause. The consecrated soldier is the predestined conqueror.

V. LEADERS IN GREAT ENTERPRISES ARE TO BE SELECTED FROM THE COURAGEOUS FEW. Men will most faithfully follow those leaders whom they have themselves chosen. As the faint-hearted were unfit to go to the battle, so were they unfit to choose captains over the host. The courageous are also the most judicious. Accurately measuring the work that has to be done, they can the better judge who are the most competent to do it. The brave heart and the clear eye go together. These captains, so appointed, would be strong in the consciousness that they enjoyed the esteem and support of the troops. Such an arrangement gives the best guarantee for efficient leaders. On the same ground, the rulers of the Church should be chosen on the ground of spiritual fitness - solely on the ground of moral qualification. - D.

Parallel Verses
KJV: When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.

WEB: When you go forth to battle against your enemies, and see horses, and chariots, [and] a people more than you, you shall not be afraid of them; for Yahweh your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.

Fear Forbidden
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