Monday, 25 March 2013
There is a story about Philip II of Macedon who as a young man was kidnapped and held as a hostage in Greece. There he remained for several years. During this time he received a military education. Then he returned to his homeland, which had conceded many defeats and had lost much land. Within five years he had become king.
As King Philip desperately needed his army to stand firm. He is remembered for two major innovations. First is the sarissa, a very long spear. Second is the re-development of a rectangular military formation used by ancient armies (known as a phalanx). A core of highly-trained infantrymen armed with Philip’s longer spears stood shoulder to shoulder in files normally eight men deep.
As long as they stood firm and did not break rank they were virtually invincible and struck fear into the hearts of their enemies. Using this tactic, Philip united the city-states of Greece and took the city of Philippi (which is named after him) in 356 BC.
Commenting on this Nicky Gumbel writes:
Sometimes, it seems that the Christian life is like facing a powerful enemy. It feels like an intense struggle in which another team is attempting to push us back and break down our ranks. If we don’t stand firm, we fall on our backs and slide in the mud in the wrong direction. We have seen how Jeremiah warned the people many times against backsliding (Jeremiah 2:19, 3:22, 5:6, 14:7, 15:6).
It is not a matter of us standing firm on our own. We are part of a community. Paul uses this image of the phalanx with which Philip II of Macedonia once conquered the city of Philippi (Philippians 1:27). Shoulder to shoulder, the church can stand firm (one of many occasions that Paul exhorts the church to ‘stand firm’ (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
I believe that the Holy Spirit is slowly breaking down the barriers that divide Christian from Christian and calling us to work closer together. The devil's stratagem is to divide and conquer, breaking through our divided ranks and pick us off one at a time. It is time to make a stand. It is time to fight back. Together we can do it.