In my previous post I went over how Paul quotes Ps 68 in Eph 4.8. What looks like a misquote or an ‘abuse of power,’ is actually Paul showing God’s character. He has After christ’s death on the cross, the war has been decisively won. Satan’s days are numbered. God is leading the captives to him, and giving gifts to those who put their faith in Christ. One of those gifts is the Holy Spirit, and we’ll see (hopefully) how the Divine Warrior of Isaiah 59 and 63 is seen today.
One of the ways that God wages war is through his people. This is another one of his gifts to us. Though, this ‘waging of war’ isn’t quite like what it sounds. First I’ll give two OT texts from Isaiah dealing with Yahweh as a Divine Warrior, and then I’ll reference Ephesians 6 and how this all wraps together.
15 Truth is lacking,
and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey.
The Lord saw it, and it displeased him
that there was no justice.
16 He saw that there was no man,
and wondered that there was no one to intercede;
then his own arm brought him salvation,
and his righteousness upheld him.
17 He put on righteousness as a breastplate,
and a helmet of salvation on his head;
he put on garments of vengeance for clothing,
and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.
18 According to their deeds, so will he repay,
wrath to his adversaries, repayment to his enemies;
to the coastlands he will render repayment.
19 So they shall fear the name of the Lord from the west,
and his glory from the rising of the sun;
for he will come like a rushing stream,
which the wind of the Lord drives.
1 Who is this who comes from Edom,
in crimsoned garments from Bozrah,
he who is splendid in his apparel,
marching in the greatness of his strength?
“It is I, speaking in righteousness,
mighty to save.”
2 Why is your apparel red,
and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?
3 “I have trodden the winepress alone,
and from the peoples no one was with me;
I trod them in my anger
and trampled them in my wrath;
their lifeblood spattered on my garments,
and stained all my apparel.
4 For the day of vengeance was in my heart,
and my year of redemption had come.
5 I looked, but there was no one to help;
I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold;
so my own arm brought me salvation,
and my wrath upheld me.
6 I trampled down the peoples in my anger;
I made them drunk in my wrath,
and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.
Isaiah 59 speaks of Yahweh displeased at the lack of truth in the land. As a result he puts on righteousness as a breastplate, and salvation like a helmet. He will repay the wicked according to their deeds (59.18). In Isaiah 65 he is the one who fights the battle. He “speaks in righteousness” and is “mighty to save” (65.1). The year of redemption had come (65.4). God would have his vengeance on his enemies, and redeem his people. He steps into battle. And he did so in Christ. He pours out his Spirit onto his people, and they put on the “whole armor of God” (Eph 6.11-18), that they may stand against the schemes of the devil.
How do they stand against the devils schemes? Ephesians 4 says that we build each other up by speaking the truth in love. We are to be kind and tender-hearted, forgiving one another as Christ forgave us (4.32), and not letting any corrupt talk (i.e., put-downs) come out of our mouth (4.29). In 2 Corinthians 2.5-11 Paul tells the church to forgive a particular man who opposed Paul prior to this. By forgiving as Christ has forgiven us, they would not be outwitted by Satan and his designs (i.e., schemes).
We wage war against Satan by forgiving our enemies, by being peace-makers (Matt 5.9), by loving one another (Jn 13.34-35), to warn and discipline others in love and as brothers and sisters (1 Cor 5.5; 2 Thess 3.13-15), and by building up Christ’s body by speaking truth in love (Eph 4.15). In his class on Isaiah, Watts says that Paul understands that a Spirit-filled church is God Himself on the earth bringing restoration to Jerusalem. “Jerusalem” will be made up of a new people who follow God. The enemy is no longer the enemy when they put their faith in Jesus. We wage war in a way opposite to what the world thinks we should do. But there will be a day of vengeance for those who despise the Holy One, and on that day the Holy One himself will wage war.
Originally this was going to be a pretty short post (on Eph 4.8 and Ps 68), but once I started I realized there was more than I bargained for. Paul doesn’t misquote Scripture or take some special liberties to change it, as if he were a ‘more special-er’ Apostle. He uses what he knows about God and tells the Ephesians that God is a giving and mighty Father (as it says in the rest of Psalm 68). He defeats his enemies, takes the spoil, and gives it to his righteous ones. God the Father gives his Son, and those who believe in the death and resurrection of his Son receive the Holy Spirit in order to fight against the enemy and build up God’s temple, the body of Christ. God wars against the enemy through his people, leading them in salvation to Christ, or leading them in judgment to death. It’s sobering. We follow the one, the only one, whose arm brings salvation.