On July 21, 1861, Union forces led by Brigadier General Irvin McDowell and Confederate forces led by Brigadier General P.G.T. Beauregard met just north of the city of Manassas, Virginia to engage in the first major battle of the American Civil War, the Battle of Bull Run. The battle was a Confederate victory, and that victory was sparked not by weapons but by what would later be called the “rebel yell.” Following an attack by the Union Army, General Beauregard ordered a counterattack. It was during that attack that the Confederate Army raised a battle cry, screaming as they advanced toward the Union troops. With that battle cry, the Confederates managed to break the Union line. The Union troops retreated across Bull Run in a panic, leading to a victory for the Confederates. That cry, the “rebel yell,” was intended to intimidate their enemy and boost the morale of the Confederate troops. In the Battle of Bull Run, it did just that. Recalling the Confederate battle cry, one Union soldier said that it would send “a peculiar corkscrew sensation that went up your spine when you heard it.” Years after the war was over, a Confederate veteran noted that, “If a recruit had nothing at hand but the ‘rebel yell,’ he could at least help to intimidate an adversary.”
The Bible mentions several war cries. One of the most famous examples is found in Judges 7, in the story of Gideon. God called Gideon to free the Israelites from the Midianites. By God’s command, Gideon took with him just 300 men, divided them into three groups, and led them toward the Midianite camp, each man carrying a ram’s horn and a clay jar with a torch concealed in it. Let’s take a look at Judges 7:19-24 to see what happened next:
19 It was just after midnight, after the changing of the guard, when Gideon and the 100 men with him reached the edge of the Midianite camp. Suddenly, they blew the rams’ horns and broke their clay jars. 20 Then all three groups blew their horns and broke their jars. They held the blazing torches in their left hands and the horns in their right hands, and they all shouted, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 Each man stood at his position around the camp and watched as all the Midianites rushed around in a panic, shouting as they ran to escape. 22 When the 300 Israelites blew their rams’ horns, the Lord caused the warriors in the camp to fight against each other with their swords. Those who were not killed fled to places as far away as Beth-shittah near Zererah and to the border of Abel-meholah near Tabbath. 23 Then Gideon sent for the warriors of Naphtali, Asher, and Manasseh, who joined in chasing the army of Midian. 24 Gideon also sent messengers throughout the hill country of Ephraim, saying, “Come down to attack the Midianites. Cut them off at the shallow crossings of the Jordan River at Beth-barah.” So all the men of Ephraim did as they were told.
Did you catch what happened in verses 20 and 21? The Israelites, as they had been instructed by Gideon, raised a battle cry, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” And, just as the “rebel yell” of the Confederate Army at Bull Run caused the Union Army to flee in a panic, so the battle cry of the Israelites caused the Midianites to panic and flee. But look at what happened next. In verse 23, we read that the 300 Israelites sounded their ram’s horns and, in total confusion, the Midianites began to fight each other with their swords. God defeated the Midianites without the Israelites having to draw their own swords.
As believers, as the body of Christ, we are in a battle. But unlike the Battle of Bull Run and unlike Gideon’s battle against the Midianites, our battle is not an earthly battle. It is a spiritual battle. As Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:12, it’s not a battle against “flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” It’s a battle for souls. And when you look at the state of the world around us, you’d probably say that, right now, the enemy is winning. We are living in a time where things are turned upside down, when evil is called good and good is called evil (Isaiah 5:20). And as the body of Christ, we need to step up the battle. But, although we are human, we don’t fight our battles as humans do. As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10:4, our weapons are not worldly weapons. The weapons that we must use to tear down the “strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments” are God’s weapons. In Ephesians 6:10-17, Paul outlines the battle gear that we are to employ, the armor of God. While most of the components of that armor are defensive components, there is one that is an offensive component, the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Armed with that word, we can “destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God” and “capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
In this spiritual battle that we are in, there is only one ultimate victor, Jesus Christ, and He is described for us in Revelation 19:11-16:
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. Its rider was named Faithful and True, for he judges fairly and wages a righteous war. 12 His eyes were like flames of fire, and on his head were many crowns. A name was written on him that no one understood except himself. 13 He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. 14 The armies of heaven, dressed in the finest of pure white linen, followed him on white horses. 15 From his mouth came a sharp sword to strike down the nations. He will rule them with an iron rod. He will release the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty, like juice flowing from a winepress. 16 On his robe at his thigh was written this title: King of all kings and Lord of all lords.
In that battle between good and evil, good will prevail. Referring to the forces of evil, Revelation 19:21 tells us that, “Their entire army was killed by the sharp sword that came from the mouth of the one riding the white horse.” Jesus is the Word of God, and it is through that Word that the enemy will ultimately be defeated. Until the day that the final battle is fought, we, the body of Christ, need to step up the battle. God will give us the victory. We must lift our voices and proclaim the gospel to this fallen world and raise our battle cry. And what is that battle cry? Jesus!
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.