Our God Is A Warrior

by Donavon L. Riley


“The LORD is a warrior; The LORD is His name.” (Exodus 15:3) We don’t often think of God in these terms anymore. It’s an assignation from another time. A time when tribalism was the most common kind of societal organization. Tribes competed with other tribes for the best land on which to hunt and the best rivers in which to fish. Arable land and clean water sources could mean the difference between the life or death of a tribe. Life was dangerous and fraught with risks. If a man did not know how to fight he wouldn’t survive long against predators both human and animal, and neither would his tribe, so a warrior ethos prevailed. And most importantly, their God fought to protect His people from their enemies. 

Even after Israel had outgrown it’s tribal boundaries and had become a nation like any other, God still defined Himself as a warrior. As the prophet wrote, “The LORD will go forth like a warrior, He will arouse His zeal like a man of war He will utter a shout, yes, He will raise a war cry. He will prevail against His enemies.” (Isaiah 42:13) Dozens of times in the Old Testament God explicitly refers to Himself as a warrior and the Lord of armies.

Nowadays, a very small sector of the American population can call itself warriors. Likewise, there are few people who continue to embrace a warrior ethic. In fact, for most of the population violence, fighting, and living by a certain warrior’s code is seen as barbaric and out of step with the rest of society. The tribal patriarchs, those warrior-chieftains of the ancient past, whose children eventually came to be called “the tribe of Israel” are as foreign to us today as their God, which is unfortunate since they’re numbered amongst the saints and their God is our God.

The same God who fought against Pharaoh and his army, is the same God who was nailed to a cross. Likewise, the same God who tore down the walls of Jericho and ordered the city plundered is the God who went out to fight for us against sin, death, and hell at Golgotha. The God who is love itself loves His people so much that He fights for us, even sacrificing His own life so that we may live today and eternally. 

Not A Spiritualized God

Even talking about God as a warrior is strange to us today. We’ve so “spiritualized” God, all but removing Him from creation except when something materially beneficial happens for us, that when we read about “The Lord of hosts,” we don’t comprehend that a “host” is an army. God is the God of armies. All earthly armies must submit to God’s authority and power, such as when the prophet Joel describes the great army that is coming to overrun Jerusalem with Israel’s God leading the charge. 

God is the God of the heavens and the earth. He is God in concrete reality. He is the God who stands with His people as a might warrior, ready to fight and defend them at all costs. This isn’t just a spiritual kind of ethos, this is an earthly one too. God fights for us in concrete reality and beyond that, in spiritual dimensions against “powers and principalities” we can’t begin to comprehend. 

This is our great comfort, that our God is a warrior who fights for us against all earthly and spiritual enemies. He is the God who chose Abraham, Joshua, and David to be the captains of His armies. He is also the same Lord who equips His people with the “full armor of God” as St. Paul calls it. 

Fighting So Others Can Live

Our God is a warrior. He fights and sacrifices Himself so others can live. His Name is Lord of Armies and Prince of Peace. He is God in the flesh, who fights on our side, Jesus the Savior, who “is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy,” (Zephaniah 3:17)

No matter how far removed we may be from the tribalism of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or how alien the language of the warrior ethos is to us today, God is still the same God. He is a mighty warrior who fights for us against all enemies, earthly and spiritual. He is a with us like a dreadful champion,” so that we may proclaim with all the saints in every age that “my persecutors will stumble and not prevail. They will be utterly ashamed, because they have failed, with an everlasting disgrace that will not be forgotten.” (Jeremiah 20:11)

It may sound strange to us, and may disturb some, but this is our God. A mighty warrior and savior, the Lion of Judah, who’s chosen us as His people, who will never leave or forsake us, who will not allow any enemy to defeat us because even if they strike us down, he will simply raise us from the dead.

By Donovan Riley

Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, and contributing writer for 1517. He is also a co-host of Banned Books and Warrior Priest podcasts. He is the author of the book, "Crucifying Religion” and “The Withertongue Emails.” He is also a contributing author to "The Sinner/Saint Devotional: 60 Days in the Psalms" and "Theology of the Cross".

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