The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows,
turned back on the day of battle.
We know little about this group called “the men of Ephraim.” It is quite likely that they were noted for their training and ability like the green berets of today. They also were singled out from others because of their weapons. They were “armed with bows.” They were doubtless a select group, well trained, with the best equipment available for battle. Yet they turned back. Why was this so? Did they lack confidence in the ability of their weapons? Did they doubt their own skill and training? Or did they question whether or not they should go to battle? In one or in perhaps all three of these, they were insecure. What produced this insecurity?
We read in the next verse the following statement. “They did not keep God’s covenant and refused to live by his laws.” (Psalm 78:10) In their disobedience to His laws they chose to live independent of Him and accordingly became insecure. We see why they developed this independence in the next verse, which states “They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them.” (Psalm 78:11) They no longer remembered what the Lord had done. They did not recall or reflect on His wonders. They had become inattentive to Him and to His word. The beginning of this declension took place in their minds and in their thoughts. It doubtless did not occur all at once. Gradually, perhaps over a period of years, less time and thought was given to the Lord. They no longer remembered the power, the love and the goodness of the Lord they had previously served and began to live without His direction and counsel. They then sought their own counsel and began to live without Him, a life independent from Him, a life lived in disobedience to His laws, a life which at its core, lacked the security of knowing Him, and demonstrated that insecurity in turning back on the day of battle.
How does this apply to us? We are not men of Ephraim, nor are we armed with bows, yet God calls us to do battle, in our case, for the souls of mankind against His foes. Are we secure in God’s ability to prepare the works for us to do, and us for His work, (Ephesians 2:10); or are we turning back on the day of battle? Do we lack confidence in the weapons given to us by the Lord? Have we considered ourselves ill equipped for the tasks at hand? Do we, perhaps, question whether or not the Lord really desires us to be involved in His battle?
If we have turned back, it may be that the root cause is a lack of dependence upon the Lord. If we live independent of His leading, we see only the problems and become insecure. In dependence we see His promises and are able to rest securely in Him. We may not have failed to keep God’s covenant, or failed to live by His laws, but in some measure a lack of trust may have crept into our lives, creating a degree of independence from His guiding Hand.
And what, may we ask, creates this independence? In the case of the men of Ephraim, it was because they “forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them.” They were inattentive to the Lord and to His word. We are given several illustrations in scripture regarding our continued need to be attentive. Hebrews 2:1 states that “We must pay more careful attention therefore to what we have heard so that we do not drift away.” Paul tells us in II Timothy 2:22 that we are to “pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” He describes his own life as follows, “I press on toward the goal.” (Philippians 3:14)
A television program recently showed a race in which the lead runner raised his hand in triumph ten yards short of the finish line and coasted toward the tape, thinking he was the winner. As he crossed the finish line he was beaten in the race by a man who kept accelerating through the finish line. As we near the finish line of our earthly lives, there may be a tendency to stop pressing and become inattentive to the Lord and to His word. What the Lord desires, however, is that we accelerate through the finish line! It is in paying more careful attention, pursuing, pressing, and accelerating that we maintain a clearer vision of our Lord and His power to work in our lives. This attentiveness produces dependence upon Him, enabling us to rest securely in Him and not turn back on the day of battle.
In Christ, Richard Spann