On January 17, 1991, Operation Desert Storm began with a massive aerial bombardment of precision targets in Iraq, as well as carpet bombing of Iraqi troops entrenched along the occupied Kuwait and Iraqi borders.
When the ground war finally began on February 24 it lasted only 4 days. Iraqi ground troops surrendered by the thousands. In some cases, they surrendered to individual American Soldiers. In at least one case, Iraqi Soldiers even surrendered to a U.S. Army chaplain. The incessant carpet bombing had so destroyed their will to resist, that most surrendered without a fight. They gladly became prisoners rather than endure any more bombing.
But once they surrendered the Iraqis were treated with kindness. They were given adequate shelter, food, and care. To resume the use of force to punish them further would have constituted a war crime. The deadly force had already accomplished its purpose. It had softened up the enemy and made them willing to cast away their weapons and surrender.
You know, in order to save our souls from hell, God may have to resort to some harsh measures. Our stubbornness may require Him to allow some pain, some burdens, some disappointments, and some tragedy to come upon us—to break our will to resist Him. In the Bible, Paul even explains that this was the purpose of the Law of Moses. Its harshness and bitter judgments for disobedience, Paul said, made it a sort of drill instructor to us, to prepare our hearts for Christ (Galatians 3:23).
But once we surrendered to Christ and willingly received His gracious gifts of forgiveness, righteousness, and eternal life there was no longer any need for a drill instructor. His harsh and demanding leadership was no longer necessary. The believer does not need “softening up” with “carpet bombing” sermons.
Yet that is the experience of a vast number of Christians. If a sermon hasn’t “beaten them up” they think the sermon wasn’t biblical or wasn’t “deep” or was a “watering down” of the truth.
But the opposite is the case. Paul said the Law is not meant for righteous people, but for sinners—for those still at war with their Creator (1 Timothy 1:8–11). But believers are those who have defected from Satan’s ranks to God’s. We’re not mere allies to God. We’re in His army. And we’re His soldiers, His offspring, His children. For us, the Law does not represent “the deeper truth” meant only for those mature enough to stomach its harsh message. The Law’s place in our lives is past. It belongs to the Old Covenant which Christ has replaced with the New (Hebrews 8:7–13; 9:15–28).
Not Beat, but Feed
Therefore, God’s message to His children should never beat them up. It should nurture and feed them. It should build them up, not tear them down.
Look at what God said through Isaiah the prophet:
“Listen and hear my voice. Listen and hear my words. Does the farmer plow all the time to plant seed? Does he keep on turning and digging up the ground? When he gets the ground ready to plant, does he not sow dill seeds and cumin seeds and wheat in rows? Does he not put barley in its place, and rye in the right place? For his God tells him what to do and teaches him the right way. Dill is not crushed with a crushing object. And the wagon wheel is not rolled over cumin. But dill is beaten out with a stick, and cumin with a heavy stick.
Grain for bread is crushed. He does not keep on crushing it forever. …This also comes from the Lord of All, Who has given wonderful wise words and great wisdom” (Isaiah 28:23–28, New Life Version).
What applies to the ground which should not be constantly broken up and to the delicate seed which should not be destroyed by incessant pounding, also applies to the hearts of God’s people. They need the nurturing of God’s grace, not the pounding Moses’ Law.
Dear Father in heaven, I surrender to Your love and grace. Please nurture my wounded heart from the gracious words of Your Gospel. Please flood my thirsty soul with life-giving love. Amen.
In article photos in order of appearance: Fight and win in the U.S. Army licensed under CC BY 2.0
Senior leaders aboard USS Paul Hamilton judge dishes prepared for a cooking competition. by Official U.S. Navy Page licensed under U.S. Gov Works