03 April 2012

God's "feints"

by Dan Phillips

My Josiah, who loves military history and strategy, tells me that there was a battle during Genghis Kahn's wars where he sent his men against a larger enemy force, then feigned a 5 day retreat. This feint retreat led the enemy straight into a storm of arrows, wiping them out.

Muhammad Ali's famous "rope-a-dope" strategy against his powerful opponent George Foreman in 1974 was a brilliant implementation of such a method. Ali, unable to prevail over Foreman by normal means, taunted  Foreman into hammering him with a barrage of blows as Ali leaned back on the rope. After  Foreman exhausted himself, Ali dropped him.

Israel used a similar strategy in their second battle with Ai (Josh. 8). The fleeing Israelites drew out the overconfident men of Ai, leading to their defeat. (If I had Phil or Frank's mad Photoshop skilz, this would be the place for a Pyrotized variation of this image.)

God Himself executes some strategic feint retreats, to disastrous effect. If one skips ahead to the book of Revelation, with all the outward and final outpouring of God's wrath and His hammering of the earth and the world, one observes another mighty feint retreat. God allows His two mighty prophets, after a ministry of withering blasts of miraculous power, to be overcome, conquered and slain (Rev. 11). Yet even then, God has the final word, resurrecting them and bringing them up — an ominous reminder to the world of the utter futility of its long war against God.

But of course the greatest  feint retreat in all of history, so to speak, will be marked this Friday, in the death of Christ on the Cross.  When Christ the mighty Maker died for man the creature's sin, we saw the "weakness" of God (2 Cor. 13:4). For all outward signs and appearances, it seemed that the very worst of mankind, and the very worst of the dark forces, had finally won. God was killed. They were celebrating.

And yet, in that apparent defeat, the decisive battle was fought and won (Jn. 12:31). It was a feint retreat. The victory it accomplished was literally devastating to the opposition. That tilted the world, for all time. They've never been the same, and their eventual doom, by that very  feint retreat, is sealed.

It should not surprise us then to see that the history of Christ's church is marked by many setbacks, some indeed coming before brilliant flashes of Gospel power.

Nor should it surprise us that God's battle strategy for our own lives may involve many apparent defeats, many setbacks, many feint retreats.

But we should never forget: the outcome is absolutely certain (Rom. 8:18-39).

All because of God's grand  feint retreat at Calvary.

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bl_davis said...

Great stuff!

Only God could "pull this off!"

Benjamin said...

The difference I see between military feints and God's apparent feints is one of necessity: the Mongols couldn't have defeated their enemy through direct means; nor could Ali have defeated Foreman through a direct assault. God, of course, could have overcome evil and death through direct means, but in His sovereign will, He chose not to. There's great gold to be mined in answering why He did this.

O Young said...

This makes me think of 1Co 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

DJP said...

There y'go, O. Exactly, very apposite.

O Young said...

Could God have overcome evil and death through direct means without destroying His creation including mankind? Is the weakness of God His love for us? In other words is His love for us the only chink in the armor that Satan can attempt to use to his advantage?

David said...

Dan, what do you think of the idea that the devil did not think he had won at Calvary, but in fact knew exactly what the cross meant for him?

John Piper has suggested that the devil's repeated attempts to prevent Christ from going to the cross (in the wilderness temptation and through Peter's rebuke of Christ) were because he knew full-well that the crucifixion would mark his defeat. And that when he saw that Christ's face was "set like a flint" to go to Jerusalem, he resolved in rage to make Christ's death as horrific as possible -- the serpent striking as hard as he could at the heel he saw was about to crush him.

CCinTn said...

Mote Foo,
I don't know if I want to give the enemy credit for being smart enough to see in scripture what was a mystery.
There's an awesome book out that talks about what happened in the Garden and whether Adam & Eve did die in the very day that they ate of the fruit. They ate and while our two forebears probably did not understand the concept of death, I'm sure the slippery one probably was watching to see them both fall to ground like a stone.

I think in the same way, he probably did not understand the Father's plan regarding redemption.

Remember, Luke 22:2-4 says that Satan entered Judas who then went to the Chief Priests to betray Jesus. I think it was still a full-court press for Satan to try to kill Jesus and that he did not have a clue what was to happen.

Becky Schell said...

Wonderful, Dan. I love how you lead up to the most important feint of all, the one the Devil and his friends considered to be their victory. Of course, the father of lies already knows he actually lost that one, but this is not the case for his blinded friends (a.k.a., children; John 8:44).

Thanks for helping to prepare hearts for the coming weekend.

will said...

As a former USMC officer and Christian, I cannot buy into the analogy.

A feint is "a movement made in order to deceive an adversary; an attack aimed at one place or point merely as a distraction from the real place or point of attack".

This is not what happened at Calvary. This was a direct attack on sin and all of its prodigy. Calvary is where the the battle took place.

DJP said...

Thank you for your service, Will.

You are welcome to disagree, of course. With due respect, however, I did specifically and repeatedly say "feint retreat," which is defined differently than the (also correct) one of several definitions of "feint" that you chose.

will said...


Great point. I am too literal at times. Have a blessed Resurrection Sunday!

DJP said...

Not at all, Will, I appreciate it. Truthfully: it's knowing that I have sharp, demanding, attentive readers just like you that prods me to bring up my game, such as it is. I anticipated being challenged (properly), and did some research and digging. I was originally going to say simply "feint." But I dug, and found that the primary definition of "feint" wasn't what I meant. So what word or phrase did say what I meant? That's why I hit on "feint retreat."

All that to say: it's all good, thanks for reading attentively, thanks for your comment, and sincere thanks for your service.

DJP said...

BTW, this post has been translated into German. Broader sowing = praise God!