IN THE DAYS OF HIS POWER SERIES.
TOPIC: WHEN ONE CHASES A THOUSAND AND TWO PUT TO FLIGHT TEN THOUSAND OF THE ENEMIES
“How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless the LORD had given them up?”
Can one person chase away 1000 men? Can two men cause 10,000 men to run away? It will happen only if the Lord gives them to their enemy. This will happen only if their Rock sells them like slaves.
How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight,…. This is said for the conviction of the Pagan Romans of their folly in behaving strangely, attributing to their gods what belonged to the true God; for since the Jews were more numerous than they, both in Judea, in the times of Titus Vespasian, when the country was subdued by him; and in other parts of the world, in the times of Adrian, when the Jews rose up in vast numbers, greatly superior to the Romans, and yet were conquered; which, allowing the phrase to be hyperbolical, was like one to a thousand, and two to ten thousand: now since this was what was promised to the Jews in case of obedience, that they should in this manner chase their enemies, Leviticus 26:8; it cannot be accounted for that they should in like manner be chased by their enemies, as threatened Isaiah 30:17,
How should one chase a thousand – If therefore they had not forgotten their Rock, God their author and defense, it could not possibly have come to pass that a thousand of them should flee before one of their enemies.
“Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall chase ten thousand, and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.”
Prayer is a powerful force, far more powerful than all the bombs in the world. Prayer is a potential force unused by the church today.
“Each one of you will put to flight a thousand of the enemy, for the Lord your God fights for you, just as he has promised. 11 So be very careful to love the Lord your God.”
If God declares that all is well, ten thousand devils may declare it to be ill, but we laugh them all to scorn. Blessed be God for a faith which enables us to believe God when the creatures contradict Him.
“O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places. You inspire awe and fear. Thy saints obey with fear and trembling, and thine enemies flee in dismay. From thy threefold courts, and especially from the holy of holies, thy majesty flashes forth and makes the sons of men prostrate themselves in awe.”
The God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. In this thou, who art Israel’s God by covenant, art terrible to thy foes by making thy people strong, so that one shall chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight. All the power of Israel’s warriors is derived from the Lord, the fountain of all might. He is strong, and makes strong: blessed are they who draw from his resources, they shall renew their strength. While the self sufficient faint, the All sufficient shall sustain the feeblest believer,
“Five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall by the sword before you.”
Israel was in danger of losing their trust and dependance upon God. As a result, they could be easily overpowered by their enemies. On the other hand, it is clear that God can empower people to have great authority and strength if He so chooses. In this passage, Israel is warned that, if God allows it, thousands can be influenced or “chased” by just two people.
This implies that one Hebrew could chase a thousand and that two could put ten thousand to flight as God empowers them.
If Israel had been wise and faithful to God, they could easily have conquered all of their foes. Instead, they learned bitter lessons on the backside of the desert for forty years
The point is not that there is power in numbers, but that God can use two people to accomplish great things for His purposes. Moses wants his readers to understand that God is the One who fights for them and that their strength lies neither in single individuals who might put a thousand to flight, nor in pairs who can do even greater things. The point here is that God is the power behind the accomplishments of “two.”
God begs us to be “wise and to consider the end result” of our short sightedness. We must consider the consequences of leaving God out of our day to day decisions. God asks us to consider the potential confusion and misery that will inevitably result if we do. As an individual, a couple and ultimately as a nation, we will always reap what we sow.
God wants us to realize that a nation or any two people will prosper if they lean on His wisdom and put their trust in His Word to overcome any obstacle that may come their way.
Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:18-20 RSV)
This also be true about prayer, Prayer is a powerful thing. “Prayer has already divided seas and rolled up flowing rivers, it has made flinty rocks gush into fountains, it has quenched flames of fire, it has muzzled lions, disarmed vipers and poisons, it has marshaled the stars against the wicked, it has stopped the course of the moon and arrested the sun in its race, it has burst open iron gates and recalled souls from eternity, it has conquered the strongest devils and commanded legions of angels down from heaven. Prayer has bridled and chained the raging passions of men and destroyed vast armies of proud, daring, blustering atheists. Prayer has brought one man from the bottom of the sea and carried another in a chariot of fire to heaven.” That is not mere hyperbole, that is historical fact. Prayer has done a great many things beside. It is an awesome, mighty force in the world of men.
Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 18:18 RSV)
What our Lord is unquestionably saying here is that it is possible for quite ordinary humans like you and me to exercise extraordinary power, that heaven would in some sense ratify what is done on earth, that we would be put in touch with a world beyond the commonplace world which is visible to our senses.
In very many ways, the Christian philosophy of history is simply that the events which appear in our daily newspapers, which we read about this morning, are simply reflections of what has taken place in the invisible world of spirit, heaven, if you like, which is within us and around us. And the amazing thing that Jesus is saying here is that the invisible things that take place in heaven, which will be reflected in earth, are determined not in heaven, but on earth, in the heart of a praying Christian.
“Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.” Whatever you bind in this outward life of ours, in this conscious life, in touch with the things of sense, shall be determined upon in that invisible world and shall find its reflection again in earth, in the things of this life.
Jesus is telling us here that God has granted powers of binding and loosing to every believer, and until we act upon them, nothing happens. There are powers of binding and loosing given to us, and in the realm of our personal lives they are almost absolute. God has said that we have power to bind every form of evil in our own lives. There is nothing that needs to have dominion over us. “Sin shall have no dominion over you,” Paul said, “for you are not under law but under grace,” (Romans 6:14). By grace we have power to bind every evil force, every contrary authority, within or without.
Prayer is an authority which operates in mystery. It is the link to that invisible world which is the control center of all human life. We stand on the frontier between two worlds when we pray. Therefore, as James says, “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man has great effect,” (James 5:16 KJV).
Now not only is it true that prayer is an authority that works in mystery, but it is also an authority which is expressed in unity. Look at Verse 19:
“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 18:19 RSV)
This is the charter for the prayer meeting. One Christian praying alone is of great effect, but what about where two or more gather together? It is here evident that there is an amazing arithmetic about prayer. In Deuteronomy, Moses told the people of Israel,
“One of you shall chase a thousand, but two of you shall chase ten thousand.” Deuteronomy 32:30)
That is a strange ratio, isn’t it? If it were straight arithmetic we would say one should chase a thousand, two should chase two thousand, but when two Christians get together there is a geometric increase in the effect they have. Two shall put ten thousand to flight.
For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20 RSV)
Don’t miss the force of that little introductory word,for: “For, where two or three are gathered together in my name.” Here is the explanation of the mystery in Verse 18, and the source of the unity in Verse 19. I confess that I do not fully understand how it is that a single man or woman or boy or girl, praying on the basis of the binding and loosing powers granted to him by God can move such mighty forces that prayer frequently engages. But it is only, of course, because it is not merely a man praying, but Christ is in him and he is praying. It is the fact that indwelling each Christian is One who has said, “All power in heaven and on earth is given unto me,” (Matthew 28:18). Therefore when a Christian prays, it is not just one man praying, it is Christ praying through him. “For God worketh in us,” Paul says “both to will and to do of his good pleasure,” (Philippians 2:13 KJV).
Now you can see how clearly this reveals that Christians are creatures of two worlds. In our humanity, like everyone else of the human race, we belong to earth. We live in a world of space and time, we touch the events around about us, we react to them as others do, we read the same newspapers, we hear the same television reports, we are subject to the same pressures as the world about us, we are creatures of earth. But in the new life in Jesus Christ, in the heavenlies in which we live in Christ, we are creatures of heaven, we are in touch with the invisible world, the world which controls the outer world. We are standing, as I said, on the frontier between those two worlds, and as someone has well put it, “Prayer, therefore, is God the Son praying to God the Father in the power of God the Spirit, and the prayer room is the believer’s heart.”
Now this indwelling personality is not only the explanation of the mystery of Verse 18 but it is the source of the unity of Verse 19. In writing to the Ephesians, Paul said that Jesus Christ is
far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, both in this age and in the age which is to come, and God has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things, for the church which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:21-23 RSV)
In other words, the expression of the power of Jesus Christ is never fully seen in an individual Christian, but only in the church as a whole. The simplest form of the church is here described, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name.” You and I, as individual Christians, cannot fully reflect Jesus Christ. It is only when two or three, or two or three hundred, or two or three thousand are gathered together in HIS name that in a full and complete sense the power which is committed to Jesus Christ, who HE is above every name which is named, both in this age and in the age to come, is fully manifested in this life.
This means we can never fully know Jesus Christ unless we know HIM in relation to someone else.
In Paul’s great prayer in Ephesians 3, he prays that we may know what is the breadth and length and depth and height, and come to know with all saints the love which is in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:17-19). “With all saints.” We will never know it by ourselves. We can take our Bible and study it by ourselves, we can analyze it and saturate our minds with it and memorize it, but till we begin to share it with other Christians we never grasp what Jesus Christ fully is.
Furthermore, we can never learn how mighty and glorious He is unless we begin to make demands upon his power and His glory and thus learn that we can never touch bottom. That is the thing that gives meaning to this meeting today.
“Where two or three are gathered together in my name,” Jesus says, “I am in the midst of them.” The power of the church does not lie in the numbers that it can gather together. What a mistaken idea it is, that if we can get enough people together to pray, we shall have enough power to correct the things that are wrong in the world and set them right again. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Nor is the power of the church the status which it occupies in a community. How we labor under that misconception! We think if we can get so many men who are in positions of authority or leadership or stature in a community, the leaders of civic life, the Mayor, the bankers and those in business, the titans, the tycoons, into our church then we will have enough status that we can wield great power in the minds and hearts of men. How foolish we are. The power of the church does not rest in its numbers, its status, its wealth, its money, its position. The power of the Church of Jesus Christ is stated right here. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the midst of them.”
Out of him alone flows this marvelous power to bind and to loose, and this tremendous unity by which the mind of the Spirit becomes known and God moves through Christian lives to alter the course and destiny of the world around us.
Let us glory in that! If we wish to glory in anything, as the early church did, let us glory in the fact that Jesus Christ lives and moves in our midst, that we belong to him, that his life is expressed through us. It is through him that prayer makes its greatest permanent impact. It is only through his presence that prayer has meaning and value.
Father, what a mistake we make when we try to make things complex. How wonderful it is to come back to the simplicity which is in Jesus Christ. How foolish we are to seek substitutes for that simplicity, that simple relationship of a mighty, overpowering, victorious Lord in the midst of his Church.
Lord, teach us to glory in this, teach us to reckon upon it, teach us to pray on this basis and this alone, and, having recognized that these things are true, regardless of what the circumstances around us may be, grant us the faith to step out upon them and act upon them. In Christ’s name, Amen.
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