Spiritual warfare isn’t a sink-or-swim business. But how many of us are wearing ourselves out treading water in these last days? This week, I faced an attack from the enemy that raged for an entire day. From the time I woke up until I was about to sleep, I fought relentlessly. Relief didn’t come until I finally sat at the Lord’s feet and admitted that I was incapable of handling things on my own. I cried, “Lord, these thoughts just keep washing over me like a flood.” Then it hit me. Even when things are completely out of my control, the Lord still has the situation well in hand. When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.
Isaiah 59 in Context
Isaiah 59 is about a time in Israel’s history in which their sins had separated them from the favor of God. In fact, the transgressions were so full that even the people realized that there was a problem. They confessed and repented for their behavior and looked to God for help. In the absence of an intercessor to plead their cause, God put on His own armor and stepped into the battle. As their Redeemer, He fought for His own glory against their enemies. Many commentators believe that this passage is also a picture of the end times when Jesus will come as a lion, taking vengeance on His enemies, and bringing His full glory to light for every eye to see.
“So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.”Isaiah 59:19
A Flood as an Analogy
Have you ever seen video footage of a flood? The waters are powerful, insistent, and in many cases destructive. Here is one video from Turkey.
When the swirling waves of a flood come through an area, few things are left standing where they were. Objects, vehicles, and in some cases, even houses can be carried away by the fierce waters. The torrents sling objects forward and crash them against other objects along the way. What can the people do but hold on and wait for rescue?
When the Enemy Shall Come in Like a Flood
Isaiah 59:19 describes the enemy’s attack as a flood that SHALL come. It’s not a “maybe” or a “possibly,” but it is a stated fact that, as God’s people, we WILL experience attacks that feel just as unstoppable. I’m talking about the war that rages in the hearts and minds of those who are born again and filled with the Holy Spirit of God. As it is, we experience a near-constant tension between what the world, the flesh, and the devil would have us think, say, and do, and our desire and determination to serve God as a new creation in Christ.
Sometimes attacks are just stray thoughts, like little drips. We can capture those to the obedience of Christ, setting our thoughts aright with the Word of God we have hidden in our hearts for just that purpose. But there will be other times. In those seasons, the inundation will be so extreme and so prolonged that there is no time to even catch one before the next crashes over the bow of our minds into the next and the next.
The enemy of our souls will bring floods of fears, waves of doubt, and surges of temptation. He will have us questioning our salvation, despising our lives as living sacrifices, and throwing shade on the very character of God Himself. He will bring clouds of condemnation, detestable thoughts, unspeakable desires, and malicious slander and then shame us for their very presence in our minds. All the while our flesh acts like a bad chorus, repeating and emphasizing the very infernal suggestions that revile our spirits.Charles Spurgeon once said, “What can a man do against a flood? How shall he escape it or stem it? The strongest swimmer, though he strain every muscle, must, if he be unaided, yield to its overwhelming force. If a man hath nothing… Click To Tweet
The Spirit of the Lord Shall Life Up a Standard
But just as surely as attacks shall come, the Lord SHALL lift up a standard. A standard is a battle flag, also called a banner or ensign. It serves as a rallying point and indicates the nationality of the troop. In Hebrew, the Strong’s Concordance number is H5127 and means “to drive at, to put to flight, to cause to disappear.” Exodus 17 names God as Jehovah Nissi, “the Lord is My Banner.” And Isaiah 11:10 says, “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and His rest shall be glorious.” For children of God, the Lord is our banner, ensign, and standard. We can look to Him, and He will fight for us.
The Lord Fights for Those Who Ask Him
“This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.”Psalm 34:6
In the Old Testament when God came to the aid of His people, it was always in response to their cries. He waited until they turned from their ways to His ways, admitted they were weak in themselves, and put their trust in Him to fight and win on their behalf. When you look through these examples, notice the humility and submission to God present in the language of their requests. (I bolded them so you can see them quickly.)
King Jehoshaphat of Judah couldn’t stand up to the Ammonites and Moabites in 2 Chronicles 20. He admitted his weakness in 2 Chronicles 20:12. “…For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” The Lord heard his cry, encouraged him, and promised to fight for him. 2 Chronicles 20:15 “He said: ‘Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you. ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s.’”
King Hezekiah of Judah couldn’t stand in the face of the great forces of King Sennacherib of Assyria in Isaiah 37. He cried out to the Lord in Isaiah 37:16-20. “Lord All-Powerful, God of Israel, you sit as King above the Cherub angels. You alone are the God who rules all the kingdoms on earth. You made heaven and earth…But you are the Lord our God, so please save us from the king of Assyria. Then all the other nations will know that you are the Lord, the only God.” The Lord heard His prayer and came to his rescue. Isaiah 37:35 says, “I will protect this city and save it. I will do this for myself and for my servant David.”
King Asa of Judah cried out to the Lord for help with the Ethiopians in 2 Chronicles 14:11. “And Asa cried unto the Lord his God, and said, ‘Lord, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many or with them that have no power. Help us, O Lord our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O Lord, thou art our God; let no man prevail against thee.'” The Lord heard him and fought on their behalf. 2 Chronicles 14:12 says, “So the Lord smote the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled.”
Judah’s King Abijah knew where his strength came from in 2 Chronicles 13. When King Jeroboam of Israel came to fight, King Abijah warned him that the Lord was with them. 2 Chronicles 13:12 says, “And, behold, God himself is with us for our captain and His priests with sounding trumpets to cry alarm against you. O children of Israel, fight ye not against the Lord God of your fathers; for ye shall not prosper.” Their trust was not in vain. 2 Chronicles 13:14-15 says, “And when Judah looked back, behold, the battle was before and behind: and they cried unto the Lord, and the priests sounded with the trumpets. Then the men of Judah gave a shout: and as the men of Judah shouted, it came to pass, that God smote Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah.”
Even when the children of Israel started the fight themselves, when they cried out to the Lord, He helped them. 1 Chronicles 5:18-20 says, “The sons of Reuben, and the Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh…made war with the Hagarites, with Jetur, and Nephish, and Nodab. And they were helped against them, and the Hagarites were delivered into their hand, and all that were with them: for they cried to God in the battle, and he was intreated of them; because they put their trust in him.”
Stop Swimming. Start Praying.
When the enemy comes in like a powerful flood, we will simply not be able to stand on our own. That’s when we must stop trying to fight in our own strength, lest we be swept away. Instead, we must hold on, look to His standard (the banner that identifies us as the Lord’s own) and cry out for His help. He is our Savior, our Redeemer, and the author and finisher of our faith. The Lord will fight for us, protect us, and give us rest to fight another day.
If you like analogies, try A Biblical Worldview Is a Christian’s North Star. It compares navigation by the stars to navigation by what the Bible says. Or, try 5 Lessons About Spiritual Warfare from Boxing. Please sign up to receive my blog in your email. Also, check out my YouTube Channel where I read the blogs out loud.