“In Christ,” Paul writes to the church at Colosse, “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Let’s scrape off the Sunday School language for a minute and ask what that means in the real world. A “treasure” is something well worth having. Biblically speaking, “wisdom” is skill — it can be skill at a trade, skill at interpersonal relationships, skill at anything. “Knowledge” is understanding of facts, but biblically it also includes understanding and intimacy with the facts — grasping how they relate to one another. So “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” means all the skills worth having and all the things worth knowing — and all of them are hidden in Christ. Every last one.
So what are we to do when we find a pagan claiming that these particular treasures of wisdom and knowledge right here belong to his idols?
Refuse to believe him, of course. But does that mean that the pagan really doesn’t have treasures of wisdom and knowledge, even though he thinks he does? That will be the case sometimes, but often enough he’s got the real thing, courtesy of common grace, and the devil is lying to him about where it came from. After all, the Canaanites were not living in make-believe houses and harvesting pretend grapes to make imagined wine. They had the real thing — all gifts from the loving hand of a gracious God, which the devil was only too happy to claim for his own, with the Canaanites’ complicity.
Faced with that situation, the task of God’s people is obvious enough — take those good things back, and return them to their lawful role in service to the Creator. The devil is not Abraham, and he may not claim territory everywhere he leaves his cloven hoofprints. It all belongs to Yahweh, every last bit, and we will be taking it back in Yahweh’s name. This is as true in the New Covenant as it was under the Old: “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ….”
The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness, and we look forward to a day when everybody knows it, and the knowledge of the glory of God covers the earth like water covers the sea. This is God’s will, and while we wait to see it come to full fruition, we pray for little pieces of it to invade here and now — “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
That’s the long view, the answer in principle. However, just because the whole thing belongs to God does not mean we are fit to take it all back right this minute. Abraham’s family wasn’t ready to inhabit the land during Abraham’s lifetime — hence the centuries-long delay. Even at Kadesh Barnea, Israel wasn’t ready. Still filled with fear, they believed the ten spies instead of Joshua and Caleb. God told them that He would respect their wishes and give the land to their children instead, and then, predictably, they decided they would try to take it after all. God warned them that He would not go with them, not now, but they tried anyway, and a bunch of them died in the attempt.
When they finally went in with Joshua, even then God told them that He would drive out the peoples of the land gradually before them, lest the land be overgrown and overrun with wild beasts. The conquest has its cataclysmic moments like the destruction of Jericho, but it is a process, and the process was always meant to be directed by divine guidance. It’s God’s territory, and we have to retake it on His timetable, in His way.
The question is not simply, “Is this God’s?” The question is, “Is God giving this to me?” “Is it mine to take?”
- We all encounter enemy strongholds — in our own lives, in our communities, in the world we live in. Where are some of the enemy strongholds that you encounter?
- God gives us His armor because He means for us to be active in warfare. Is there a stronghold that God wants you to assault?
- If God gives you a target, don’t assume He wants you to go charging up that hill immediately. Ask how God wants you to go about it.