Lord of Hosts

He made my feet like the feet of a deer, and set me secure on the heights.
He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
Ps. 18:33-34 

I think of God as a God of peace, and the Christian religion as being opposed to war. But that's not necessarily consistent with the images I find in the Bible. Israel's God is often referred to as the Lord of hosts (i.e. armies), and there are more stories of the Lord waging war in the Hebrew Bible than making peace. And even in the New Testament, militaristic imagery is prominent, such as Jesus' use of the sword metaphor and "the whole armor of God" passage in Ephesians 6.

And so I am neither surprised nor disturbed by the imagery found in Psalm 18. While the consummation of God's gracious promises will result in peace, and though I cling passionately to peaceful passages such as
  • They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isa. 2:4 & Mic. 4:3)
  • Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors! (Luke 2:14)
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. (Matt. 5:9) 
I also know all too well that I am currently a member of the Church Militant. Though I eschew physical weapons such as guns and knives, I need to accept the tools required to engage in spiritual warfare, and the training God offers me to wield them. The sword is a metaphor for discernment, the arrow for priorities and goals, the shield for faith. I might prefer images less bellicose than these, but there are times I need to be reminded of the struggle of which I am a part, and that, even when I find myself overwhelmed, I have not been abandoned by the One who put me where I am. Nor has God left me without the resources to deal with the struggles I must face today.

Dearest Lord, teach me to be generous; teach me to serve you as you deserve; to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labor and not to ask for any reward save that of knowing I am doing your will. 
—Ignatius of Loyola
I pray this in the Name of Jesus Christ, who taught me to pray: Our Father...