Whether bearing arms is a hot topic in our politics or not, the subject isn’t just in our news headlines; it’s actually found in a number of places in the Bible. For this reason I wanted to write about it so that when we are discipling the nations we can take God’s stance and not just human opinion.
So where exactly does God stand on someone’s right to defend themselves and does He have anything to say about the type of defense we are to have? Let’s go to the scriptures starting in Nehemiah:
13 then I stationed men in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, the exposed places, and I stationed the people in families with their swords, spears and bows...16 From that day on, half of my servants carried on the work while half of them held the spears, the shields, the bows and the breastplates; and the captains were behind the whole house of Judah. 17 Those who were rebuilding the wall and those who carried burdens took their load with one hand doing the work and the other holding a weapon. 18 As for the builders, each wore his sword girded at his side as he built, while the trumpeter stood near me…21 So we carried on the work with half of them holding spears from dawn until the stars appeared...23 So neither I, my brothers, my servants, nor the men of the guard who followed me, none of us removed our clothes, each took his weapon even to the water. NASB
Here we have an example of regular citizens (note the “people in families” in v13) that are taking up arms against the threat of having their lives taken from them. As far as what they are specifically defending, In verse 14 the man of God tells the people to “fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your houses”. Now what were these regular citizens using to defend themselves with? It says swords, spears and bows. When you look at these implements you can see three different ranges of engagement represented. The sword was close range followed by the spear and then the bow being the longest ranged tool in their arsenal. If we bring these into the technology of today we can see short, medium, and long ranged weaponry as well. These people were using the handguns, shotguns and rifles of their age to defend themselves.
Unfortunately this wasn’t always the case though. Let’s look at another time in Israel’s history when the people weren’t able to defend themselves…
19 Now no blacksmith could be found in all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears.” 20 So all Israel went down to the Philistines, each to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, and his hoe. 21 The charge was two-thirds of a shekel for the plowshares, the mattocks, the forks, and the axes, and to fix the hoes. 22 So it came about on the day of battle that neither sword nor spear was found in the hands of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan, but they were found with Saul and his son Jonathan. NASB
So let’s think about this. God decided to put this little fact into the living Word. The Word that shall never pass away even though the heavens and the Earth will. Apparently this point was worth showing! If a nation is disarmed then it can be controlled.
You may be wondering if any of this is relevant in the New Testament so let’s move on to what Jesus said in Luke:
35 And He said to them, “When I sent you out without money belt and bag and sandals, you did not lack anything, did you?” They said, “No, nothing.” 36 And He said to them, “But now, whoever has a money belt is to take it along, likewise also a bag, and whoever has no sword is to sell his coat and buy one. NASB
I can see a lot of folks saying that the Lord was using the sword as a representation of the Word but contextually this wouldn’t make sense. In verse 35 he is referencing when he had originally sent out the 70 to evangelize with the orders to do so with no physical goods. He did this to teach them trust but now right before His death He knew that the times and seasons were changing. So much so that Jesus now showed that a weapon would be more valuable than clothing.
Now that we see that God shows that weaponry is a good thing to have on hand let’s turn toward our responsibilities with them. Starting in Ezekiel 33…
6 But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’ NASB
This shows that we have a responsibility to defend the defenseless and warn people of coming danger. I really like how Psalm 82 puts it…
2-4 “Enough! You’ve corrupted justice long enough,
you’ve let the wicked get away with murder.
You’re here to defend the defenseless,
to make sure that underdogs get a fair break;
Your job is to stand up for the powerless,
and prosecute all those who exploit them.” MSG
Think of it this way – In John 10 it says that the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy. Through this look into the enemy’s strategy we can know the natural progression that he takes against you. If someone breaks into your home to steal, know that they are under a demonic influence. If they are under such a thing then the temptation and the drive from Satan is to elevate it to killing you. Then, once they have killed they will be driven to utterly destroy you.
Thus I believe (to the extent that the law allows) that it is required of every guardian of every Christian household to be prepared to defend themselves in the same manner that Nehemiah and the Israelites had to. Once the invader has crossed the boundary of the inheritance, the season to give charity and be at peace has ended and now it is time to defend just as Eccl 3:8 states.
Some will say though that the angels of the Lord protect them and that defending themselves isn’t their responsibility. Yes, the angelic armies of the Lord of Hosts are encamped around and about those who fear God, but often in scripture it is shown that they aren’t involved with all of the fighting. With Joshua and the Israelites more fell by the hail of the Lord than the sword, but many still fell by the sword. God sent forth an angel before Joshua to cut off the mighty men of the enemy but not the rest. It is also said that the glory of the Lord shall be our rear guard. So who then is the front guard? Did the angels inherit your home? Are their names on the title and were they given dominion over the Earth?
Here’s how I look at it – The Lord strengthens my hands for battle and my fingers for war (Psalm 144:1) and I am to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:9) but for anything that I can’t handle I have the backup of Heaven for ultimately the battle is the Lord’s!