The Closed Door
Gateway to Spiritual Fullness
The Battle is the Lord’s
Gleanings From Deut. 20
(This article was translated into Spanish and printed in the "Aguas Vivas" magazinein, Nov. 2007 issue)
“When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more
numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God who brought you up from
the land of Egypt is with you…for the Lord your God is the One who goes with you to fight for
you against your enemies, to save you.
“The officers shall also speak to the people, saying, ‘Who is the man who has built a new house
and has not dedicated it? Let him depart and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and
another man dedicate it.
‘And who is the man that has planted a vineyard and has not begun to use its fruit? Let him
depart and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man begin to use its fruit.
‘And who is the man that is engaged to a woman and has not married her? Let him depart and
return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man marry her.
“Then the officers shall speak further to the people, and they shall say, ‘Who is the man that is
afraid and faint-hearted? Let him depart and return to his house, so that he might not make his
brothers’ hearts melt like his heart” (Deut. 20:1, 4-8).
Deut. 20 mentions our battle against our enemy.
Verse 1 clearly tells us that our enemy is always more powerful with “horses, chariots
and people more numerous” than us. But fear not, for “the Lord is the One who goes
with us, to fight for us against our enemies, to save us” (v 4).
Then it gives four scenarios where casualties could possibly take place: 1) the one who
just built a new house, 2) the one who just planted a vineyard, 3) the one who just got
engaged to his sweetheart, and 4) the one who was afraid. The possible result of the
first three scenarios is the same: “lest he die in the battle;” and the solution for all four
cases is also the same: “let him depart and return to his house” (vv 5-7).
This should present a most interesting paradox to us: on the one hand, the Lord
promises to “go with us, to fight for us and to save us.” On the other hand, the prospect
of us becoming casualties in the heat of battle is very real.
Usually, when the Bible presents a paradox, there is something quite interesting and
profound waiting to be unveiled.
The Lord’s promise to go before, fight and save us represents His grace. The battle is
not ours; it is the Lord’s. We face a cunning and formidable ancient foe that has “horses,
chariots and people more numerous” than us. This cunning and ruthless ancient foe has
taunted and ravaged mankind for centuries. But on the ultimate battleground on mount
Calvary, our Lord Jesus did go before us to fight for and save us. The enemy was
defeated once and for all, and we were all saved by grace.
The Lord is now doing a deeper and finer work by the same grace to produce the
character of His Son inwardly, so that by His grace we also can now face the defeated
foe and claim our daily victories.
It is not by our own effort, strength or ability, but by the indwelling Spirit in us through His
subjective work of putting to death the deeds of the flesh (Rom. 8:13b) that we get to
claim these daily victories.
In other words, if we do not allow the Lord any elbowroom to do His deeper and finer
work in us, and if we are un-yielding to His dealings, i.e. “kicking against the goads,”
there will be no element of Christ being added into us, and we will face the prospect of
certain casualties in spiritual battles!
I have often recounted an encounter I had shortly after I was born-again in Peru in 1968.
My parents took us to visit some friends in Casa Grande, and there we met Bert Elliot
(brother of Jim Elliot) and his wife, Colleen, missionaries to the harsh and primitive
Peruvian jungles. There in the living room of our family friends in Casa Grande, I saw
their faces. I had never seen anything like that nor could I explain it, but I felt like I saw
light beaming forth from that couple’s faces. To this very day 39 years later that image is
still vivid. What was it that I saw, I often asked myself?
Years later, after I have suffered much of my own casualties in my spiritual battles with
the enemy, I began to slowly understand. Surely it was the Christ that has been deeply
wrought and constituted into their being through much trials, sufferings and the breaking
of alabaster jars that came forth to impact and touch people’s lives.
Unbeknownst to me, a wide-eyed new-born Christian then, what I saw in their faces was
This takes us to the four cases of people who were sent home from the battlefield: 1)
The one who built a new house, 2) The one who planted a vineyard, 3) The one who was
engaged to his sweetheart, and 4) The one who was faint-hearted.
A common characteristic seems to run through all four of these would-be soldiers who
were sent home – they lacked maturity and stability in the Lord and were unfit for battles.
By these four types of men, the Holy Spirit laid out four important areas that might make
or break our usefulness in the Lord’s hands – house, vineyard, wife and fears.
Before we can do battle with the formidable Foe, we need to experience Christ as our
dwelling place. We have to know the layout, the plan, the rooms, the furnishing and the
landscape of Christ, if I may.
First of all, there is the need of a vision of Him and His eternal purpose (plan and
layout). We need to dwell comfortably in Christ being “rooted and grounded” in Him and
allow Him to “make home in our hearts” (rooms). We need to possess a good measure
of the riches and character of Christ so that we can adequately display the riches of
Christ (furnishing). Finally, we need to be enlarged, through His dealings, in Christ and
produce an abundance of herbs and spices of His resurrection fragrance in our
All these precious elements consummate in our experiencing Him as the “house.”
Then we need to experience Christ as our “vineyard.” There has to be an evidence of
the grace that so fills our lives that it enables us to toil and labor with Christ in order that
fruit may be produced. Paul told the Corinthians, “I am the least of all the apostles…but I
labor more than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (I Cor. 15:9-10). It was
the grace of God that enabled Paul to labor mightily.
The proper experience of grace will always enable us with burden and ability to co-labor
with the Lord; and the resulting ministry is our “vineyard.” Many precious saints zealously
desire to serve the Lord and be useful in His hands, but their common mistake is to
focus on what they can or want to do for the Lord instead of letting grace do a deeper
cultivating of the soils of their heart.
Most of us have hearts full of stones that need to be removed. Daily our heart is
distracted by the traffic of the world that tends to compact the soils of our heart making it
hard and dense. We need the Lord to remove the stones and break down and turn over
the soils so that vines can take root in our hearts. Often times our heart is parched by
our harsh environment, daily grinds and routines of our jobs and works that we do not
have any moisture left to produce life. We are in great need of grace to moisten and
irrigate the parched ground in our heart.
Once the Holy Spirit has cultivated and grace has irrigated the soil for a tender reception
of Christ and His word, the vines in us will take root, blossom and bear fruit. When we
have experienced Christ as our “vineyard,” there is no need to look for ministries or ask
how we may serve Him. Our vineyard will be our ministry.
In the final chapter of Song of Songs, the fair maiden declared, “Solomon had a vineyard
at Baalhamon; he let out the vineyard to keepers. Everyone was to bring a thousand
pieces of silver for the fruit. My vineyard is mine which is before me. You, O Solomon,
must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit two hundred” (S.S. 8:11-12). Here
we see a fair maiden that has been fully dealt with and produced a vineyard full of Christ
which becomes her ministry. It not only pleases God to whom is offered the “one
thousand pieces of silver,” but it also has a surplus of the riches of Christ to share with
others – the “two hundred pieces.”
Many dear saints are too preoccupied with wondering what their “ministry” will be, but
they miss the most important thing – letting Christ cultivate and irrigate them into a
vineyard. It is dangerous to plunge into a ministry without a “vineyard.”
Mary who broke the alabaster jar did not seek a ministry. The fragrance that emanated
from her broken jar was her ministry. And what a powerful ministry it was! After two
thousand years, that fragrance is still lingering in the house today. Go ahead, take a
Dorcas didn’t look for a ministry. She made coats and dresses for the widows. Oh, but
such a great ministry she had. When she died, the elders in the assembly had to send
for an Apostle to raise her back up! That’s how much they missed her “ministry”! Look
around. See any hidden, little-known and unglamorous folks like her in today’s
Notice the fair maiden in Song of Songs said, “My vineyard is mine which is before me.”
What set her apart from all others was that she had her own vineyard; the rest of them
were merely “keepers” of vineyard. Also, her vineyard was “before” her. In other words,
whatever environment the Lord places us in, it has the potential of becoming our
Dorcas’ vineyard was whatever that was “before” her – sewing clothes for a group of
needy widows, not preaching on a pulpit somewhere – with all due respect to
preachers. Instead of seeking what our ministry might be, we would do well to ask
ourselves whether we own a “vineyard.” Then look around to see what’s “before” us.
I don’t think it has anything to do with my old age, though time is definitely a critical
element, these days I am very content with where the Lord has placed us. By His grace,
He is cultivating and irrigating a vineyard in us. With stones being turned and parched
ground being moistened – and eyes fixed on the Gardener – any resulting ministry is
nothing of mine to boast. It’s all Him. It’s all Him. It’s all Him.
Then how about the one who is engaged to his sweetheart? Intimacy comes to mind.
Don’t we all need to develop intimacy with the Lord? The single most detrimental and
life-withering malady that plagues most Christians is a lack of intimacy with the Lord.
Many Christians parade their gifts, work and zeal, but have little inner-chamber
If I may say so, some Christians haven’t got the faintest idea about inner-chamber
experiences! Take any godly characters exemplified in the Bible, you won’t find a single
one who does not have intimate experiences with the Lord. Take any godly characters
in Christian history, there is not one who has not had sweet and intimate experiences of
the Lord. It is not our head knowledge, gifts, or zeal that make us soldiers; it is our first-
hand knowledge and intimate experience that enable us to face the enemy on the battle
Then we come to the one who is afraid. Fear stems from a weak inner constitution. In
short, this last disqualified soldier is the combination of all three previous ones, i.e. lack
of experiencing Christ as the house, lack of experiencing Christ as the vineyard, and
lack of experiencing Christ in the inner chamber as the Intimate One.
Lastly, the solution to all four cases of disqualified soldiers is the same: “depart and go
to his house.” When we have not experienced Christ as our “house,” our “vineyard,” or
our “sweetheart,” we will be bound by fear and not able to battle the enemy. The only
solution is to go to our “house.”
Needless to say, we need to individually enter into the spiritual reality of Christ in all
these three areas by letting Him deal deeply with us and take the grace that He affords
in each case. Dealing with the Lord is a very personal and individual matter. But, there
has to be a corporate environment to balance and adjust our individual experiences.
Notice the Lord didn’t say, “depart and go to your ‘new house,’ your ‘vineyard,’ your
Go to your “house.” Period.
The house is a type of the church; it is the corporate environment that balances our
individual experiences. Nobody, not even spiritual giants, can know the Lord, see the
Lord, hear the Lord all by himself. Without a corporate body – the house – to balance
and adjust us, we will be doomed to spiritual deception and uselessness, no matter how
gifted or spiritual we are.
It is in the “house” that we learn to submit to one another. It is in the “house” that we
acquire His humility. It is in the “house” our battle-readiness is tested. It is in the “house”
we are equipped for war against the foe.
Many saints have thrust themselves to the battlefield without being properly prepared.
Some have departed from battlefield but only settled for a halfway house.
In all honesty, none of us are qualified for the battlefield. And the Lord has graciously
sent us to a “house,” not a halfway house, to nurture us. May the Lord grant us a desire
for His House.
It is in this “House” that we finally learn to possess in fuller measure with all the saints the
reality of the “house,” the “vineyard” and the “bride.” Lord help us.