The Lord is a warrior; Yahweh is his name! Exodus 15:3
The Lord is a warrior. This is the song the Israelites sing as they see their enemies vanquished in pursuit to destroy God’s people. The Egyptians themselves are destroyed. In today’s culture here in the United States there is a growing sense of unease within some segments of the church in regards to referring to God in this kind of imagery.
Not too long ago I heard a church leader say, “We have heard enough of God as warrior, conqueror, and other battle related terms. What about God as peacemaker, God as love, God as Savior?”
While I would agree that some segments of Christianity have tended to take hold of, and then abuse the language of God as warrior, I would argue that this does not mean we have heard too much of it, just that perhaps we have not heard enough of it in its correct light. And yes, we certainly in the church have failed to show God as loving and have over emphasized (incorrectly) God as a conqueror. But that does not mean we should move away from the imagery given consistently throughout the Bible of God being a warrior for the oppressed, the hurting, the mistreated, and the helpless. To me it says that we should more intentionally reclaim this imagery and understand it as God reveals it.
History tells us that God’s followers have tended to misunderstand and misuse God as the warrior in tragic scenarios like the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, and abortion clinic bombings. These are people using violence in God’s name, but not God’s character. These are misrepresentations of the Lord as the warrior.
In reality, we see from Exodus—and other places in Scripture—that God has no problem with coming to the defense of his people. He has no trouble destroying those who get in the way of what he has called his people to do (even when it’s his own people who get in the way of themselves!). God is a warrior, meaning he will fight for what is right and true, even to the death.
Why is it that we can be offended when “fighting to the death” means some of God’s enemies who seek to destroy or enslave will be killed, but we are okay with it meaning that God’s own Son will be killed?
The Lord is a warrior, and he will fight to the death to defend those he has redeemed—his death or others.
With your unfailing love you lead the people you have redeemed. In your might, you guide them to your sacred home. Exodus 15:13
The Lord is a warrior, but not because he desires to oppress. He is a warrior that fights those who oppress, those who malign, those who seek to harm the helpless. He is the defender of the fatherless and the widow. He is the warrior for those who have become his people.
Some have misused the warrior image of God. But it is not an image we should abandon, but reclaim. The Lord is a warrior, and it should bring hope to all who are oppressed. It should bring encouragement to all who struggle, to all who call on the name of the Lord. He is their warrior.