If we are not engaging our whole selves while we sing, then the impact of a song’s words can often escape us. In “The Battle Belongs to the Lord,” we sing that God will fight for us in our battle, but how much we believe those words and truly trust Him to do so may not be known until we are in the midst of a difficult struggle and choose to rely on Him or on our own limited resources for help.
I. Psalm 18:1-5. After witnessing God’s power in the 10 plagues that allowed them to leave Egypt, the Israelites left freed from slavery “equipped for battle” (Exodus 13:18), idealistically ready to walk straight up to the Promised Land. As they got to the Red Sea, however, they saw Pharaoh’s army marching after them, and “they feared greatly” and “cried to the Lord” Exodus 14:10. How like them we can be as Christians until we face adversity. The first verse of the song says it like this:
In heavenly armor we’ll enter the land, The battle belongs to the Lord. No weapon that’s fashioned against us will stand, The battle belongs to the Lord.
Though we call the Lord our strength, rock, fortress, deliverer, shield, horn of my salvation, and stronghold, it is easier to say the words than to apply them. The psalmist does have to apply them as he was encompassed, assailed, entangled, and confronted by struggles to the point of death. Would he choose to have faith or to rely on himself?
II. Psalm 18:6-19. After God had rescued them with such a mighty hand already, how could the Israelites not trust in God’s power to save? But they complain and believe that they will die (Exodus 14:11-13), the very opposite of trust. God would fight their battle, Moses told them, but their responsibility was different than the Lord’s; they had to “fear not,” “stand firm,” and “see” God’s salvation. In other words faith is a lot of work, harder work than fighting an impossible battle for ourselves and the choice not often made. Why? Probably because God can’t be made to do anything. We must submit to His will, not He to ours. The second verse says:
When the power of darkness comes in like a flood, The battle belongs to the Lord. He’s raised up a standard, the pow’r of His blood, The battle belongs to the Lord.
We have the cross and often don’t believe in Jesus’ power to save us. So, does God act on our behalf out of obligation or love? In the Psalm, the Lord literally overturns heaven and earth because He was angry at the people or circumstances distressing His child. Then we read that it is because He delights in him. Could He have the same love for us?
III. Psalm 18:20-30. How the Israelites took Moses’ words to “fear not,” “stand firm,” “see” God’s salvation, and to “be silent” is not clear (Exodus 14:13-14), but how do we wait in faith for the Lord to act in our lives when we are in distress? Repeating that God is our refuge and that we should not fear, Psalm 46:10 tells us to “be still and know that I am God.” While our backs are against the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army bears down on us in life, choosing faith and letting God fight our battle is the harder but better decision. As the third stanza says:
When your enemy presses in hard, do not fear, The battle belongs to the Lord. Take courage, my friend, your redemption is near, The battle belongs to the Lord.
According to the psalm, it is those who choose to have faith and trust in Him, being still in obedience that the Lord rescues. The one who is “haughty” by trying to fix it himself by his own resources finds God “tortuous.” It’s about the relationship the child has with his or her heavenly Father.
If God is truly your refuge, then you can truly sing the chorus when we are rescued:
And we sing glory, honor, Power and strength to the Lord. We sing glory, honor, Power and strength to the Lord.