“War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse,” writes the well-known English Philosopher J.S. Mill. A different opinion is expressed by William Tecumseh Sherman, American author and military General: “I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.”
It is the deep impression of the common man across the nations and races that Christianity is a non-violent religion. Since a Christian believer pictures God as Supreme Love, a nation/group attacking another on Christian religious grounds is unthinkable for ordinary Christians. For the same reason several passages in the OT where God supporting Israelites in war and insisting the Israelites to wage war and commanding them to annihilate the enemies appear scandalous to many of them.
The first war that Israel fought with an enemy nation is recorded in Exodus 17, 8 – 16. In this first war with Amalekites, one might sympathize with the Israelites. Because, it is the Amalekites who attacked the Israelites. We do not see any provocation from the part of Israelites. Then why did the Amalekites attack the Israelites? Some think that since Amalekites were descendants of Esau, they were inimical to Israel, the descendants of Jacob. Some others think that the passing of the people of Israel through Sinai desert was considered a threat by the Amalekites, who had possessed the pastures of the area. They might have thought that the Israelites were trying to conquer their land. In any case, the Amalekites made a mean and brutal advance against the Israelites. From Dt 25:17-19 we understand that the Amalekites attacked the Israelites at the back, slaughtering the weakest of its members like women, children, the aged, and wearied.
What should a nation do when it is under such an attack? Moses chose fighters and a commander to respond to the threat. That means, the God of Christians is not a God who throws His people to the atrocities of the enemy. Rather He is a God who wants His people to fight for their safety when it is inevitable to protect their life. God could have miraculously saved His people from their enemies without necessitating the military involvement of His people. In fact, God had saved the Israelites in such a miraculous manner when the army Pharaoh pursued them. But, this time God did not do so. Rather, He wanted His people to do their best in securing themselves. In the present world, the Christian have to wage a war against a host of enemies, including a war against Corona. It is naïve from our part and even act of testing God if we overlook what we can/should in defending us against this threatening virus.
Nevertheless, people should not think that it is solely their efforts that ensures their safety, although it has a crucial role. We see that while Joshua raised his sword against the Amalekites Moses raised his hands in prayer for the Israelites. The sight of Moses praying for them, and the glimpse of the wonderworking rod in his hands must have boosted the morale of the Israelite soldiers. As long as Moses could lift his hands, Israelites had the upper hand in the battle. This manifests the truth that though it is for us to fight, it is God who gives the victory.
The war account records that Moses got wearied in prayer and he could not lift his hands although he knew that it was his prayer that made the difference in the war. Curiously, Joshua, who was engaged in more dangerous and exhausting job did not get tired! Moses needed the help of Aaron and Hur to raise his hands to heaven. Yes, prayer is sometimes a hard work, a battle. Although it is through prayer that we succeed in many battles, prayer itself is a battle. When one enters one’s chamber for prayer, a host of enemies line up to wage a war against him. It is no wonder that spiritual ministers get wearied in and consequently worried about prayer. They need those who support their spiritual life, just like the great leader Moses.