Deuteronomy 20:1-20 (Part 1)

Regulations Concerning War

 

As you might have noticed if you follow my blog, I normally post my thoughts on the book of the Bible that I am currently walking through on a daily basis. In a year, I might miss a day here, maybe ten days in a year, and rarely multiple days in a row. But last week, you may have noticed that I did post anything on my walk through Deuteronomy between Tuesday and Friday mornings. Why? You might wonder.

 

This past week, I found myself in the perfect storm. The perfect storm is both a meteorological and a metaphorical term. In meteorological terms, the term first came into regular use by weather experts in 1997 as the result of Sebastian Junger’s book of the same name, The Perfect Storm, about the 1991 noreaster that hit the northeastern United States. According to Wikipedia,

 

Technically, this storm was an extratropical cyclone. In the course of his research, he spoke with Bob Case, who had been a deputy meteorologist in the Boston office of the National Weather Service at the time of the storm. Case described to Junger the confluence of three different weather-related phenomena that combined to create what Case referred to as the “perfect situation” to generate such a storm – warm air from a low-pressure system coming from one direction, a flow of cool and dry air generated by a high-pressure from another direction. tropical moisture provided by Hurricane Grace. From that, Junger keyed on Case’s use of the word perfect and coined the phrase perfect storm, choosing to use The Perfect Storm as the title of his book. Junger published his book in 1997 and its success brought the phrase into popular culture.

 

Over time, according to Grammarphobia.com, this phrase has come to mean anything that is the worst-case scenario or according to Wordsmith.com, it has come to mean any event where a situation is aggravated drastically by an exceptionally rare combination of circumstances.

 

Having said all that, I found myself in one last week. As many of you know, in my secular job, I am the comptroller for Fujikura America, Inc. and at my church I am the director of finance on a part time basis. As well, you might know that for us finance guys, month-end waits for no one. It happens whether you are sick or fatigued. It happens whether you are ready or not ready. The calendar clicks the days away and month-end happens no matter what. Month-ends (where we finance guys close the books for the month, make adjusting journal entries, analyze data, report the numbers, and provide commentary of what just happened the previous month just ended) are a busy and intense time for us finance guys. It is our monthly moment in the pressure cooker of having a lot to do in a very short time-sensitive period of time. We have to get the books shut down and closed within two business days after the month ends and then get all the array of reports and commentaries out to our parent company and our management team within the next two business days after that. It’s pretty intense every month, but it’s a normal and manageable storm and you are prepared for it logistically, mentally and emotionally.

 

Also, as you may know that in early January this year, I began my quest to obtain my doctor of ministry (D.Min.) degree. It is a three year process that involves two years (four semesters) of independent, offsite study of leadership courses, spiritual development courses, missions & evangelism courses, church revitalization courses and then there’s the year of researching and writing your dissertation. During the four semesters of course work, there will be one week each semester that we must be on-campus at the graduate school campus in Greer, SC (just up the road from where I live and work) for what they call a “weeklong intensive” where you present the papers you have been working on during the first half of the semester before the weeklong intensive. In between the presentations by us doctoral candidates, we participate in discussions and lectures with the guest lecturer. We are there from 8:00 in the morning until 5:00 in the evening. It’s…well…intensive!

 

Why do these two things matter? Well they happened at the same time for me last week. The most intense week of my work month and the weeklong intensive at school. I had to get the books closed at work and then also at the same time participate in the weeklong intensive at school. I had to do both. As I do not have the staff at work for me to just be a supervisory participant in month-end, I have key things that I do myself to get the books closed and I am personally responsible for getting all the reports and analyses out the door. If I am not participating in month-end, Fujikura America, Inc. (FAI) does not get its books closed. If FAI does not get its books closed on time, our immediate US parent company does not get its books closed. If our US parent company doesn’t get its books closed, our ultimate parent company in Japan, the publicly traded company, Fujikura, Ltd., does not get its books closed. It is a house of cards that depends on the lowest level companies all getting their job done so the publicly traded company at the top of food chain can report its results to the investing public. If I do not do my job, it can derail the whole world-wide Fujikura process. I must be there. I must participate. I know this and plan my life around having to be on the job the first week of the month after the previous month ends.

 

It is the same thing with the weeklong intensive, too. You gotta be there. If you are not there and participate in it all five days for the entire 8 to 5 time frame each day, the powers that be over the doctoral program at North Greenville University would then question as to whether you should be participating in the program. Since I feel compelled by God to pursue my doctorate and that anything He compels us to do we must do as He has a plan for it that we cannot see right now. If we do not follow the immediate call that He gives us, we may never see the ultimate plan God has for us. Thus, this doctoral program is extremely important to me just as is my job.

 

This is the perfect storm that came together last week. How did I solve this coming together of elements that seem to create the worst possible scenario? I had to get up every morning at from the last day of the month of February (Tuesday of last week) through the first three days after the month ended (Wednesday-Friday of last week) at 3:00am and get ready for work and get to work by 4:00am. I would work on month-end stuff from 4:00am until 7:45am. Then I would go to the weeklong intensive at school from 8am-5:00pm (staying in touch with work during breaks and during lunch). Then, it was back to work from 5:15pm until I got my work done for the day which was around 9:30pm. I did this for 4 of the 5 days last week. I was a tired puppy at the end of it on Friday. It was the perfect storm.

 

Why does this matter in light of our Scripture passage, Deuteronomy 20:1-20, that we will visit today and in my next blog. For today, you will see it when we close this blog out for today. But for now, just think of worst case scenarios as we read through the passage:

 

20 When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you. 2 When you are about to go into battle, the priest shall come forward and address the army. 3 He shall say: “Hear, Israel: Today you are going into battle against your enemies. Do not be fainthearted or afraid; do not panic or be terrified by them. 4 For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.”

 

5 The officers shall say to the army: “Has anyone built a new house and not yet begun to live in it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else may begin to live in it. 6 Has anyone planted a vineyard and not begun to enjoy it? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else enjoy it. 7 Has anyone become pledged to a woman and not married her? Let him go home, or he may die in battle and someone else marry her.” 8 Then the officers shall add, “Is anyone afraid or fainthearted? Let him go home so that his fellow soldiers will not become disheartened too.” 9 When the officers have finished speaking to the army, they shall appoint commanders over it.

 

10 When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. 11 If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you. 12 If they refuse to make peace and they engage you in battle, lay siege to that city. 13 When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. 14 As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. And you may use the plunder the Lord your God gives you from your enemies. 15 This is how you are to treat all the cities that are at a distance from you and do not belong to the nations nearby.

 

16 However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. 17 Completely destroy[a] them—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—as the Lord your God has commanded you. 18 Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the Lord your God.

 

19 When you lay siege to a city for a long time, fighting against it to capture it, do not destroy its trees by putting an ax to them, because you can eat their fruit. Do not cut them down. Are the trees people, that you should besiege them?[b] 20 However, you may cut down trees that you know are not fruit trees and use them to build siege works until the city at war with you falls.

 

In this passage, we can see ourselves in the Israelites. We sometimes face opposition or circumstances or a combination thereof that seem insurmountable and overwhelming. Whether at school, at work, or in our personal lives, we can feel overwhelmed and helpless to make it through the storms of our lives. God bolstered the Israelites confidence by reminding them that He was always with them. Accustomed to fighting in open plains, the Israelites now would encounter the new task of attacking fortified cities with high walls and ramparts from which the cities could defend themselves from elevated positions. The Israelites were going to have to learn new techniques and battle plans. It all must have seemed pretty overwhelming to them.

 

Just as with us, we often encounter storms that we see coming and we are afraid. We know the storm is coming. We can’t stop it. It’s just coming and it will envelope us and it all seems like more than we can handle. We are scared that we are not going to be able to make it through or handle the situation as we go through it. We want to run for the hills. But the storm is coming for us no matter if we want to run or not. It’s coming for us. It’s got our name on it. We cannot avoid it. It is like that big wave at the beach that catches you off guard. You can see it coming and you try to run for the shore but the water is rushing toward to wave and you feel like you are running in molasses and you cannot avoid but to be pounded by the wave. It throws you to the floor of the ocean and drags you along the bottom where shells are scraping against your skin. You think you are going to drown. You fear for your life. And then you wash up on shore and begin gasping for breath and you just lay their wiped out … but alive.

 

What I am here to tell you is that God is with us. He was with me during my perfect storm week this past week. He gave me this amazing adrenaline and focus to get it all done. He gave me the strength to deal with the 19 hour days. He gave me the strength to get through it. He gave the mind to develop a strategy to get through the storm. It was going to be tough to attack this fortified city of a week. I had to learn new techniques of time management and not wasting time on things that did not contribute to getting through the storm. He pulled me through it and set me on the shore…where a promptly feel asleep on the couch on a Friday night wiped out by 9:30pm, waking up at 4:00am, to get to bed and finish my slumber until 9:30am Saturday morning. I was wiped out. But God set me on the shore. He pulled me through the perfect storm and the giant wave. He gave me focus while in the water so that I would not let the scraping of the ocean bottom snag me and drown me.

 

What is your storm? Are you battling something that seems overwhelming? Are you a single mom trying to not just get through a week but years as a single mom? Are you in a valley of darkness at work? Is your marriage on the rocks? Is there a storm coming for you that you see coming but can do nothing about? Are you feeling scared and overwhelmed at the thought of having to survive the coming perfect storm? It is coming and it will swallow you up and it will destroy you unless you depend on the One who can calm you in the storm.

 

Just remember that you are His. Just as the first verse of this passage, When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you.

 

God is with you. He will get you through this. Depend on Him. He is our Sustainer in the Perfect Storms of Life. He will set you on the shore. Sometimes these perfect storms of life are to show us that we cannot do life in our own power and that we must depend on Him. Greater dependence on Him is what He wants from us. Reach out and take His hand. He will guide you through the storm!

 

Amen and Amen.

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