The Lord expressed a principle more than 3,000 years ago, recorded in the Book of First Samuel. The occasion of that principle was the victory David and his small army of 600 men won in their conflict with the Amalekites.
In the story, David’s fighting forces were divided into two groups. Four hundred men were led, under David’s command, to the front lines to risk life and limb fighting in hand-to-hand combat; two hundred men remained behind to take responsibility of the baggage. The King James Bible described anyone in the latter group as someone “that tarrieth by the stuff.”
When the Lord gave the fighting forces a great victory, they returned to the two hundred, laden with the spoils of war. There was great rejoicing because, in addition to recovering all of the spoils that had been carried away by the Amalekites, all of the prisoners of war which had been taken captive were rescued. A division arose over who had claim to the spoils of war. There was no question that those whose family members had been taken as prisoners of war should be returned to their families, but some quarreled over the rights that those who did not go to the front lines had when it came to dividing the spoils. Did those who remained behind deserve to share in the spoils of victory?
It was at this time that the Holy Spirit spoke through His servant David and said, “For as his share is who goes down to the battle, so shall his share be who stays by the baggage; they shall share alike.” (1 Samuel 30:24) God desires to reward equally those who contend on the front lines and those who remain behind safeguarding the baggage. They are all involved in the same mission. They are one.
We highly honor the brave men and women who have stepped up to defend our great nation and the freedoms we presently enjoy. If praise and thanksgiving can be considered as some of the spoils of victory, we desire to shower such spoils on those who have willingly placed themselves in harm’s way to secure our liberties. I believe, however, that those families who have remained behind to “stay by the baggage” are as highly honored and as deserving as those who have encountered hostilities on the front lines. They, too, are heroes and heroines. Their willing sacrifice is not less deserving of our measureless obligation of gratitude and appreciation. Those who bear the separations and responsibilities at home are also engaged in daily conflict, though of a different kind.
I recently heard a message on Joshua’s victory over the five kings of the Amorites when the Lord caused the sun to stand still at Gibeon and doubled the length of the day so that the armed forces could fight in the daylight. The preacher humorously described Joshua returning home to share the wonderful victory with his wife and family. He pictured Joshua, full of thrill and excitement, eager to describe God’s wonderful miracle to his wife. As Joshua came near the house, he described Joshua’s wife, stumbling out the door and staggering down the path to meet Joshua. “Oh Joshua! I am so glad you are here. It has been a nightmare. The kids have been driving me crazy. I am exhausted. I thought this day would never end!” Tarrying by the stuff is no picnic. Those who remain behind are to be highly honored.
There is one more principle I must underscore. The spoils belong to the victor. We must not make the mistake Achan made in the conquest of Jericho. The Lord was the sole Victor in that battle. In the first battle for Canaan, the Lord insisted on receiving all the spoils. In future battles, He would share the spoils with His instruments, but in the first battle, they must learn that the spoils of war belong to the Victor. Achan, by stealing some of the spoils, was claiming that part of the victory belonged to him. Praise and honor and thanksgiving belong to the Lord alone! He is the Victor! The spoils belong to Him. God was the Warrior and Victor in the battle for Jericho. Joshua and his military were the instruments of the Lord.
As we thank all men and women of the armed forces and their families for their wonderful sacrifices, we humbly acknowledge that the spoils belong to the Lord. We honor Him by thanking you, His instruments, for your sacred service. We thank those who are called to face the foe in distant places; we thank those who remain behind with the stuff. The Lord desires to share the spoils of His victory with you.