[Column] A Strong Soldier of God

The national census of the United States was conducted in 2010. According to the report in the Korea Daily of Hawaii on May 21 of 2011, Hawaii’s current population is approximately 1.36 million. In terms of population density, Honolulu boasted the largest number of 953,200. Next to Honolulu was Big Island with population of 185,000 and Maui was ranked the third in population density with estimated 155,000 people. In addition, the number of full-blooded Hawaiians is 80,337, which accounts for approximately 6% of the state population. Out of 1.6 million Koreans living in the U.S., only 48,699 people make up Hawaiian residents. On a side note, there are 24,496 mixed-blood Koreans in Hawaii. As seen in the above, the national census is a great tool for analyzing residential patterns and lifestyle changes. One of the most notable findings form the 2010 Census was the increase of senior citizen population and single households.

The Book of Numbers, the fourth book in the Old Testament, draws its title from the census taken of the Israelites. There were two censuses taken in the Numbers. The first census was conducted a year and a month after the Exodus from Egypt. The waiting period between the exodus and the census was necessary for the building of the Tabernacle. The second census was taken after 40 years of wandering in the desert. The life of the Israelites in the desert was a period of trials and testing. In the first chapter of Numbers is God’s command for census: “Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one. You and Aaron are to number by their divisions all the men in Israel twenty years old or more who are able to serve in the army”(Numbers 1:2-3). The total number of male population comes out to 603,550 (Numbers 1:46).

What was the purpose of these censuses? There is a clue in 1:3: “You and Aaron are to number by their divisions all the men in Israel twenty years old or more who are able to serve in the army.” It was to organize the army of God for battle. The Israelites had to protect their families, and possessions. Furthermore, they had to analyze the enemies and train their soldiers for battle. The Book of Numbers illustrates the transformation of the Israelites from the slaves in Egypt to God’s soldiers. Initially, the Israelites were passive and resigned. There merely followed Moses for liberation and freedom. However, they underwent tremendous transformation through the trials in the desert and became the soldiers of God. What is the meaning of the word Israel? It means “God contended” (Genesis 32:28). What is implicit in the word is battle, that is God’s battle. While on the run from Saul’s persecution, David attracted many people to his side: “Day after day men came to help David, until he had a great army, like the army of God” (1 Chronicles 12:22).

This story is relevant especially for church, the spiritual Israel. Church is a spiritual army of God. In this sinful world, church is engaging in fierce battles. For these battles, we need soldiers. A large number of volunteers are of little use if they are poorly trained. Spiritual warriors do not fight with swords and lances. Nor do they fight with knowledge, wisdom, and money. Instead, they fight with faith in the true Word of God and the power of the Spirit (cf. 1 Samuel 17:45). Some Christians are difficult to analyze and evaluate because of their weak sense of belonging and fragile identity. Not too long ago, Gaddafi, one of the longest dictators in history, died after being shot in the head and the chest. As a colonel, he rose to power following a coup d’état in 1969 and ruled as a ruthless dictator for 42 years. It has been reported he was found with a golden gun at his death. What good is a golden gun? Did it protect his life or earn him respect? No. Only righteous life and struggle would have earned him respect and honor upon his death.

We must live and fight like the soldiers of God against wickedness and sin in this world. Not only do we as the saved children of God must number our days (Psalm 90:12), but we must also be numbered among the soldiers of God (2 Tim 2:3). Let us all be acknowledged and numbered as the faithful soldiers of God for His ministry. As we equip ourselves with faith, God’s Mahanaim will accompany us. The literal translation of Mahanaim is two armies. The implied meaning is God’s great army (Genesis 32:1-2). Thus, Jacob named the place where he encountered God’s angels Mahanaim. He was on his way to Canaan after leaving his father in law/uncle Laban. As for these angels, they were God’s army. As Jacob was trembling in fear of Esau, God provided protection all around Jacob by sending two armies. Why two armies? One was in the foreground and the other was in the background. In the foreground, the warriors protected Jacob from Esau and in the background they safeguarded him from Laban’s chase. Let us not fear for God’s Mahanaim is with us. As we proceed with faith, the heavenly army of God will guide and protect us to lead us into victory. Each and every one of you is the soldier of faith. May all of you reap God’s blessings and victory in life in the wilderness as the army of God’s angels in alliance with God’s church battle evil spirits.

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