2015 Reading List: Song of War

Graham, Cliff. Song of War.

This is the third (of five) in the Lion of War series, and although it’s the shortest volume, it’s no less compelling or powerful than Lion of War and Covenant of War.

Song of War portrays the defeat of the Philistines and the taking of Jebus (or Jerusalem, as we know it). The city falls by invasion through the water tunnels, and the action is gripping as always. I wish I had a more expansive vocabulary to describe the books; I keep falling back to the same terms–none of which do any of these books justice.

As the title suggests, there’s a decided emphasis in this book on singing. I really appreciate how singing is shown in this book: it’s shown as a powerful expression of faith and worship–as a weapon, even.

I can’t remember where I read it, but I’m fairly certain that it was either Doug Wilson or Toby Sumpter from Moscow, Idaho, who described the singing of the Church as the battle songs of the Lord’s army. The Bride singing her Groom’s praises is the war cadence of the Army of the Lamb on the march, and it’s a terror-inducing sound to the forces of evil arrayed against her. I love that description, because it matches the intensity and ferocity of the Psalms and gives voice to deep-seated cries from the heart. We sing as a church–not simply because it’s what we do or because it’s an emotional release–we sing because the Warrior on the white horse is the Commander of the Armies of Yahweh, and we are dressed in white with Him. We have done no fighting, yet we march with Him, victorious. Righteous. Loved. Forgiven.

David teaches his men to sing, and I can only imagine what it must have sounded like to hear battle-hardened men sing with everything they had. I defy anyone to not have chills who got to hear it.

But we are not the only ones who sing, and this comes through in the story as well. The angelic hosts who fight unseen sing the Warrior’s song: “Yahweh is a warrior; Yahweh of Hosts is His name!”

This Sunday (and every Sunday possible), as you gather with God’s people, listen to the voices of your fellow warriors. Sing in order to fight for them. Sing to remind yourselves and everyone there of the hope that we have in the Warrior who fights for us; indeed, the One who has fought for us and won eternal victory for us. Sing to terrify the principalities and powers who war against us sight unseen. Sing to practice the marching cadence when we ride with the Lamb of God, whose two-edged sword proceeds from His mouth and strikes His enemies to save His people.

Yahweh is a Warrior; Yahweh of Hosts is His name!

2015 Reading List: Covenant of War

Graham, Cliff. Covenant of War.

Covenant of War is the second volume in Cliff Graham’s intense Lion of War series. David is on the throne in Hebron, but not yet king over the united tribes.

Everything said in the review of Lion of War applies here, so I’ll refer you there.

One of the standout features of this particular volume is the change in David. For most of the story, gone is the rugged soldier-saint; David has become lax in the absence of conflict. The atrophy of his muscles is paralleled by the atrophy of his heart and faithfulness to Yahweh, evidenced most clearly by his growing harem in Hebron.

Yet redemption still comes to the anointed king, and this volume shows even more clearly that the battles spoken of in the Psalms are not always or only physical battles against flesh and blood.

Cliff Graham does the Church a great service by reminding us of the gritty reality of faith. Instead of giving us polished hagiography, he gives us a far more realistic and compelling picture of faith.

This series has encouraged me to pray the prayer in times of temptation and struggle: “Cover me in the day of war.” When we see that the battle for our souls and joy is indeed a battle, we can pray for our Shield and Fortress to defend us.

May the LORD be praised,
who trains my hands for battle and
my fingers for warfare.

He is my faithful love and my fortress,
my stronghold and my deliverer.

He is my shield,
and I take refuge in Him.

Psalm 144:1-2a HCSB

Praises and Arrows

Psalms 140:7, 144:1-6
Zechariah 9:14

Cover me in the day of war
Train my hands to fight
Clothe me in your holy armor
Let Your Word be my light

You are my strong Deliverer
My shield, I fight secure
Your faithful love is my fortress
Your mercy will endure

Praises to our God!
Arrows to our enemies!
We raise our hands 
In Hallelujahs!
Praises to our God!
Arrows to our enemies!
They raise their hands
In surrender!

Lord, split the heavens and come down
Refine my heart by flame
Strike lightning at my wickedness
For the glory of Your name

O what is man that You should care
And think so much of Him?
Why set eternal love on us
Before the world began?

Praises to our God!
Arrows to our enemies!
We raise our hands 
In Hallelujahs!
Praises to our God!
Arrows to our enemies!
They raise their hands
In surrender!

3-17-2015

** “Praises to our God! Arrows to our enemies!” is taken from Cliff Graham’s excellent book Day of War

2015 Reading Log: Day of War

Graham, Cliff. Day of War.

I downloaded the Kindle version of this book when it was available for free a while back and never got around to reading it. I didn’t know anything about Cliff Graham, and I didn’t have very high expectations for the book, so it was easy to keep putting it off.

The final proof of my mistake was seen in me staying up until almost midnight to finish off the last hundred or so pages, because there was no way I was putting it down and waiting until the next day.

Graham did extensive historical, military, and archaeological research to portray the story of David and his Mighty Men in Day of War, which is the first volume of the Lion of War series. Day of War focuses on Benaiah son of Jehoiada and the events during Saul’s reign when David was sojourning with Philistine king Achish.

Graham’s storytelling is compelling and honest, and that honesty makes it more compelling. He’s not writing hagiography of Benaiah–there’s genuine struggle and genuine humanity depicted for us. But thankfully, there’s also genuine faithfulness shown as well. The stable covenant loyalty of David and Shammah are shown for their depth, not caricatured into something unrecognizable in the real world.

“Many black things hide in my own heart, brother,” David said. “Perhaps that is why I am so grateful for his mercy” (291).

And after learning of Benaiah’s horrifically tragic past:

David was still beside him. “I did not know of your suffering, my friend, but I know that Yahweh is for you and not against you,” he said.

“You are very sure of that? Even after everything?”

“Even after everything.”

Oh, and the action is mainlining concentrated adrenaline. Just saying.

Trying to capture the book is much like a bad photographer taking a picture of the Grand Canyon: both the medium and the means are grossly inadequate, yet the photographer’s excitement proves persuasive enough to compensate for the lack of skillfully capturing the image. This is how I feel about Day of War. The last, best ways I can recommend and review the book are these:

I want to buy the next two books immediately. And the companion booklets on the Mighty Men.

I want to go back and study 1 Samuel after reading this.