«Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them» (Deuteronomy 20:3).
Deuteronomy 20 establishes the laws of war. The priest was responsible for speaking to the people before they entered into battle, to encourage them and remind them that God was fighting for them. Then the officials would give the guidelines to decide who would go into battle and who was freed from that duty. Jesus, our Priest and Official, knows what battles we are not qualified for, and what words to say to us so that we don’t become discouraged.
Motivation was very important: don’t be faint of heart, don’t be afraid, don’t tremble, don’t be terrified. Nothing weakens our hands as much as a trembling heart: physical fear would make them tremble and become confused, and that nervousness would lead them to discourage one another. Those who were freed from war duty included those who had a new house, those who had a new vineyard, those who were recently married, and those who were afraid (see Deuteronomy 20:5—8). You can see a loving God who was interested in the individual needs of each man. Let’s analyze each exception.
Those who had a new house, not yet dedicated. Not only were they still completing the physical structure of the dwelling, but they had not yet had time to dedicate an altar for their family to worship at. Before going out to fight in defense of your faith, Jesus invites you to go back and raise an altar for worshipping God within your family.
The owner of a new vineyard. The harvest would not be eaten during the first three years (see Leviticus 19:23). In the fourth year, the fruit was to be taken to Jerusalem as a thank offering (see verse 24). But from the fifth year on, the fruit was the owner’s (verse 25. (See SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1024. They were to make this offering before they went to war.
The newly married, so that the men would not die without having sons to perpetuate his name and his interests. This exception lasted for one year (Deuteronomy 24:5). God has great respect for marriage! A newlywed on the battlefield would have his mind divided, and the duties of war would be disagreeable to him. Service to God must be perfectly voluntary (Psalm 110:3).
The fearful, because it was a danger that they would spread their spirit of cowardice to others. «Victories are gained by discipline, courage, devotion to duty, and a spirit of self-sacrifice.»—SDA Bible Commentary, vol. l, p. 1024.
Ask God to remove any fear from you that is a barrier to fighting the battle of our faith.