“I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:” – Deuteronomy 30:19
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” – Romans 12:2
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” – James 4:7-8
I’m just gonna put it out there – Joey has a submission problem – “submission” being a fancy KJV word for “obeying first and asking questions later”. Stay with me now, I’m working my way up to a personal confession here. It’s much easier to confess my 8-year old son’s sins than it is to confess my own. If you know my husband, Paul, and his man’s-man personality, you’d be easily convinced that the submission problem was directly descended from him (and I still cling to the comfort that some of it certainly was). But the ugly, unvarnished truth is this – despite appearances, I (yes, I) have a submission problem. There, I said it.
This submission problem has gotten me in trouble more than once. Too often, it has kept me on the fringe of the family of God, with one foot in the church and a slight, almost imperceptible, you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do toehold on the world.
But motherhood is maturing me, and the fact that I don’t want my family dancing anywhere near the fringe – or the fire beyond it – is forcing me to take a good, hard look at life on the fringe. In Deuteronomy 25, God continues His challenge to the Children of Israel to stay away from the fringe and choose the safety and blessing of obedience, instead. And while Moses reviews the laws with the people, a brief and seemingly-irrelevant reference to an old battle gives us some pointed reminders of the dangers of living too close to the fringe of God’s kingdom.
The command is simple – remember Amalek. And the context is this – when the Children of Israel were in the process of escaping Egypt, they were mercilessly attacked by a sneakier, secondary enemy – the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8-16). These Godless descendants of Esau struck from behind, and although God eventually gave Joshua and the Israelites victory over the Amalekites (while Aaron & Hur held up Moses’ arms), these few verses in Deuteronomy recall the lives lost on the fringe of the Israelite camp. For all of our benefit, let me make a few quick points:
- Proximity matters. Verse 25 tells us that the suddenness of the attack left the people on the fringe vulnerable. Safety was not found on the outer edges of the camp, and even though these folks were behind the leadership, they were not surrounded with strength. When we are on the fringe of God’s people, we may think our half-hearted commitment is enough, but it leaves the other half of our heart exposed to our merciless enemy. (Deuteronomy 30:20, Psalm 16:8, 73:28, 116:8-9, John 10:1-2, Romans 12:9).
- Amalek wasn’t the enemy they were worried about. When the attack went down, Israel wasn’t running from Amalek, they were running from Egypt. Amalek was a total wild card in the whole scenario. In every Christian life, there are obvious threats and subtle dangers. Pray that God opens your eyes to the underestimated and the unexpected. (Matthew 26:41, I Corinthians 10:12-13, I Peter 5:8)
- The “feeble” went down first. In this incident, the victims were physically weak – probably including the elderly and the sick. Don’t wallow in spiritual weakness. Be intentional about growing. Be Bible strong. Be a prayer warrior – even when life seems peaceful – and don’t wait for open warfare to prove you weak. (Psalm 119:11, 101:2-4, Ephesians 6:10-11, I Peter 2:2, II Peter 1:3-10, 3:17-18)
- Circle the wagons. Although Israel claimed a victory against the Amalekites in Exodus 17, I can’t imagine that they didn’t mourn the losses. Had they better protected the weak and the vulnerable, more might have been saved. I’m feeling the need to better protect my family and my church family – with more prayer and a more conscious example. Frankly, I refuse to lose any more on my watch. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, Matthew 18:6-7, Galatians 6:1, Hebrews 10:23-25)
The struggle is real, and the threat is real, so let me be real with you. Get closer to God, closer to His people, and put more effort into your submission than you put into your liberty. The fringe isn’t a safe place for anyone.
Stop asking how much you can get away with as a Christian. Instead, ask God to show you how much more He wants you to give to Him. Abundant life starts with obedience.