When God freed the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt, he did it by his power alone. He brought the plagues. He split the sea. He destroyed Pharaoh’s army. All they had to do was go when he told them to go.
When God freed us from our bondage to sin, he did it all. He broke the hold the rulers of this world have over us, triumphing over them by the cross. All we have to do is come when he says come.
After they passed through the waters, though, they had to strap on a sword. At the Red Sea they were told, “The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Ex 14:14). After that, they were told, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites” (Ex 17:9).
But they did not fight in their own power. When God was with them, they could take on the enemy with only 300 men (eg, Jdg 7). When God was not with them, no force was large enough for victory (eg, Josh 7).
We, too, can only fight sin by the power of God. Under our own power, defeat is certain. Under his power, victory is inevitable because “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:37).
Why should we fight this fight? First, God said so. But he said so as a result of what he had done for his people. God’s instructions to Israel were prefaced with “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Ex 20:2). To us the word is, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Rom 12:1). God only wants us to respond to what he has already done for us.
Second, what God wants is that we reach out and take what is good. To Israel, he said, “You will possess their land ... a land flowing with milk and honey” (Lev 20:24). The Promised Land was going to be worth the trouble to take. The Christian’s promised land is to be conformed to the image of Christ so that we can experience the life he made us for and reign with him (Rom 8).
In the conquest of the Promised Land, their mission was to destroy the evil remaining in the land and give it all over to God’s rule. In sanctification, our mission is to destroy the evil remaining in our lives and give it all over to God’s rule. It’s hard work, but it will be worthwhile. And like the conquest of Canaan, God will not do it without us, and we cannot do it without him.
Image: Aivazovsky's Passage of the Jews through the Red Sea 1891