When God commands the Israelites concerning warfare he gives them several reasons they are permitted to stay home.
Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying, ‘Is there any man who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it. And is there any man who has planted a vineyard and has not enjoyed its fruit? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man enjoy its fruit. And is there any man who has betrothed a wife and has not taken her? Let him go back to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man take her.’ (Deu 20:5-7)
They are also not to fight if they are afraid, though that is so they do not dampen the courage of the other men.
The list of exclusions are
- New house
- New vineyard
- New wife
These are pleasures that God has given him and he is allowed to enjoy them over going to war else he might die in warfare and never have the opportunity of experiencing these gives from God’s hand. When the country is called to war, men who have newly gained a significant blessing are exempt.
Contrast this with Jesus’ parable of the Wedding Feast. Jesus said,
“A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’” (Luk 14:16-24)
This is not a command to go to war where a man may lose his life and never enjoy the good things that God has given him: land, oxen or a wife. Rather an invite to join another in his celebration of the good things God has given him.
A man may avoid risking his life in war so he can enjoy his blessings lest he lose his life before he does. A man invited to a banquet is not in danger of losing his life. His refusal to attend in order to enjoy his personal blessings prevents the banquet holder from celebrating. He is choosing a lesser blessing (land, oxen, wife) over the greater blessing: the feast in the kingdom of God. He is using an excuse that is valid in certain situations but not the circumstance he applying it to. It is interesting to note that the result of their refusal to receive the greater blessing (the banquet) means that they can never obtain it. Be wary lest your enjoyment of God’s blessings are thorns (Mat 13:7) which distract you from the kingdom (Deu 11:18).
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