In Isaiah 52:12, the Prophet declares: “But you will not go in haste or go in flight; For the Lord will go before you, the God of Israel will be your rear guard.”
Isn’t it comforting to know that we don’t have to watch our back, that the Lord protects us from the attacks of the enemy from behind? All we have to do is keep our armor on, take up our shield of faith and the sword of His Word and use them efficiently. See a list of our spiritual armor in Ephesians 6:10-18.
As spiritual warriors, we have spiritual weapons to combat and defeat the enemy in prayer and gain the victory in life. We are also, figuratively speaking, essentially a weapon in the hand of our captain of the Host. Speaking of the servant of the Lord (which we are, in a cooperative fashion), Isaiah declares:
“He made my mouth like a sharpened sword,
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me into a polished arrow
and concealed me in his quiver.
He said to me, ‘You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.’
But I said, ‘I have labored in vain;
I have spent my strength for nothing at all.
Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand,
and my reward is with my God” (Isaiah 49:2-4).
Please, read Jeremiah that also speaks about Israel as a weapon of war (51:21-23).
This of course was found in the Old Testament. However, in the New Testament teaching, Paul tells us that our weapons against our enemies are spiritual and then proceeds to enumerate and categorize them in chapter 6 of Ephesians.
The enemy knows our weaknesses and uses this knowledge in his schemes to try and defeat us. But the Lord will help us in our weaknesses if we recognize them and ask for help.
Another way our enemy attacks is in our place of strength. We run the risk of being defeated in those areas because we are prone to self-sufficiency and independence. If we rely in our own strength, the enemy will encourage us to move in our own ways and will defeat us.
Generally, there are 2 ways we can react to adversity.
- First, we can think that it’s the devil’s work and ask God to rebuke him by the authority of Jesus’ name.
- Second, we can realize that the Lord is sovereign, and the devil can only do what the Lord allows him to do, and that the Lord is providing us with an opportunity to strengthen us and teach us an enduring lesson, thus helping us to mature.
In Isaiah 54:14-17, the Lord declares:
“In righteousness, you will be established; You will be far from oppression, for you will not fear; And from terror, for it will not Come near you. If anyone attacks you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. (or will fall because of you [in NASB]). See, it is I who created the blacksmith who fans the coals into flame and forges a weapon fit for its work. And it is I who have created the destroyer to work havoc; no weapon formed against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.” (The tongue that speaks the lies of the accuser of the brethren against us directly or indirectly.) This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and this is their vindication from me.”
One thing I learned when I took a course in forging metal during my technical studies is that you use different kinds of cooling agents to temper the metal that you are trying to shape. Perhaps we could use the analogy of the forge and tempering with oil to understand the way the Lord works in our life to make us an instrument ready to use.
In forging, the blacksmith heats the metal to a certain color that indicates that the metal is ready for a certain application. If he wants the metal to be very hard but brittle, he heats it to a glowing red, almost white, and cools it very rapidly in water. If he wants to be able to work with the metal, he brings it to a blue and plunges it in oil which allows a slower cooling to provide resilience to the metal.
The piece of metal doesn’t say to the blacksmith: Ouch, I don’t like the way you are pounding on me and heating me up and cooling me down.
At different times in our Christian life, we need the cool refreshing water of the Spirit to soothe our souls. However, there are times when the Lord is trying to purify us, make us more resilient, more usable, less brittle and breakable. 1 Corinthians 13:4 says: “Love is not easily angered.” Are we sometimes brittle, easily offended and engage in spiritual joust with our brothers using Bible verses, swinging our sword to prove that we are right?
So the Lord uses His Spirit as the oil to cool his weapon or instrument down. This requires patience on our part, as we have to let Him do His work in us until He says that the season of preparation is over and we are able to be used by Him for His purpose. Look at verse 16 again.
And this comes right after the beautiful chapter 53 on our Lord Jesus-Christ, the suffering servant. What a lesson!
When the blacksmith wants to fan the fire, he directs the bellows in one focused place, and that place radiates heat throughout all the cooling coals; that’s the spot where he plunges the metal.
So sometimes the Lord will concentrate on one spot in our life, and we have to stay there until we understand what He is trying to do, and decide to let Him mold and forge us into an instrument that he can use after his tempering us with the oil of the Spirit. That is His prerogative as the Lord of our lives.