Question:

I've been reading and examining the book of Kings lately. I am currently in II Kings, and it's been quite worth the read so far to say the least. I find there's a lot of lessons throughout the two books. It's interesting the amount of detail that can be picked out of the lessons even though the underlying point of all of them are basically: obey God -- period. 

This reading through Kings have lead me to a question concerning modern day wars. Because i have a small interest in military and strategic thinking, I also read or examine books like the Art of War by Sun Tzu. I find some pretty comprehensive thoughts and ideas concerning warfare understanding, that can even be applied to personal life.  Example, Sun Tzu says: 'all warfare is based on deception'. Though it may not be true, I think that is an interesting way to look at it considering even a Christian is at war, although spiritual.

I also remember reading something that say the outcome of battle ultimately is determined by the general of an army. That the army that loses is because of the general's mistakes. This is interesting because reading throughout Kings it seems to me that if there ever is a single most valuable asset to an army, it isn't a military general or strategist or the king in rule; rather, it would be a prophet of God toward whomever found favor in God's sight, since God mostly used the prophets to speak His word toward whatever end He pleased. For example, a small army could be going against the biggest army in the land at the time, but if God used a prophet to speak His word in favor of the smaller army, saying such and such King of the opposing bigger army was going to die in battle, instantly all bets are off for that side the Lord spoke against. The king would die just as God said, no matter how big the army, or how skillful the general, or military strategist. And it always happened like that. That's amazing to me.

Is modern day war still determined by God? Or is modern day warfare determined according to secular or carnal wisdom, the kind found in military strategist books these days? Since I know God's people don't have prophets at hand for our use to tell about things of war that we otherwise wouldn't know about, how would a man of God at war go about helping determine that he's on the winning side? It's impossible, right?

Please forgive me,  I don't mean to bother you with this question. Any biblical insight you have to offer on this would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.


Answer:

"I returned and saw under the sun that -- the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all" (Ecclesiastes 9:11).

Military strategy does not deal with absolutes, but with probabilities. Odd things happen, even to the best military plans. The problem is that when things don't go as you think they ought, how do you determine whether it was pure chance or God arranging a "coincidence" to occur to accomplish His ends? We might suspect at times, but in the end we just don't know.

We do know that God controls the nations. As Nebuchadnezzar noted: "I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who lives forever: For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom is from generation to generation. All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand or say to Him, "What have You done?"" (Daniel 4:34-35). Thus, if God wishes to change the outcome of a war, He will do so. None can stop Him, but it doesn't mean we can detect Him either.

It is easy, after the fact, to blame the losing general for making mistakes that cost him the war. But we don't know how often bad or incomplete information was feed to a general because of God's intervention -- though we do know that God has done such in the past. "Where are they? Where are your wise men? Let them tell you now, and let them know what the LORD of hosts has purposed against Egypt. The princes of Zoan have become fools; the princes of Noph are deceived; they have also deluded Egypt, those who are the mainstay of its tribes. The LORD has mingled a perverse spirit in her midst; and they have caused Egypt to err in all her work, as a drunken man staggers in his vomit" (Isaiah 19:12-14).

One determines the right side to be one in a war by examining the morality of the dispute, keeping in mind there can be times that neither side is standing for the right. So when both sides are in the wrong, the winning side cannot necessarily conclude that it was in the right. In fact, from the wars in Israel, there were numerous times when Israel lost because God used enemy nations, who were not morally right, to punish Israel (a point that is brought out in Habakkuk). So looking back at battles, we can't take the simplistic view that the winning side was the right side.

Excellent points -- points that I overlooked, of course, as usual. Thanks so much. This truly settled some things in my mind.