God’s Mighty Army

A children’s Bible song sung for years in Sunday school and Vacation Bible School goes: “I may never march in the infantry / Ride in the cavalry / Shoot the artillery / I may never fly o’er the enemy / But I’m in the Lord’s army! Yes Sir!”

In this section, the Chronicler records the genealogy of the tribes of Issachar, Benjamin, Naphtali, Manasseh, Ephraim, and Asher. The author emphasizes the military strength for several of the tribes. There’s no specific timeframe given here, and some of the numbers seem to date from the time of David. In the genealogy of Ephraim he mentions another notable military leader, Joshua the son of Nun and Moses’ successor (v. 27). Notable women are also mentioned, including the daughters of Zelophehad, who were one of the first to request inheritance rights for women, and Sheerah, “who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon as well as Uzzen Sheerah” (vv. 15, 24).

The first recipients of this book could not have helped noticing the difference in their circumstances compared to these earlier days. They had no military might. The scope of the land they inhabited was significantly reduced. Those who had returned to Jerusalem must have felt like aliens in their own land. “By anyone’s standards, the fifth century was hardly a golden age for the people of God,” Old Testament scholar John Sailhamer explains. “Their future as a kingdom and a distinct people of God, in fact, seemed bleaker at that moment than perhaps ever before.”

The author’s purpose was not to discourage them by pointing to a glorious but unrecoverable past but to remind them of the power and glory of God. And though their circumstances were different, their mighty God remained the same. He had raised up mighty warriors before and He could do it again.

Apply the Word

This view of the past served as a reminder that they were still the same people of God and heirs of the same promises. Are you facing a difficult change in circumstances today? Remember the God of your past is also the God of your present and your future. Jesus promised: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

BY John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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