Pointed the Wrong Direction

Getting back in my van at a gas station I saw it, a relic from the past, testimony to a flawed strategy. Before the Second World War, Singapore was the cornerstone of the British defense of Asia. Its strategic location and mass fortifications caused it to be dubbed the “Gibraltar of the East.” A fortress that was expected to endure enemy attacks until reinforcements could arrive, it fell to the Japanese in a matter of two weeks. The old pillbox I was looking at was proof of strategic failure.

            Approaching Singapore from the south where its great harbor was would have been a difficult task for any invading army or navy. So the Japanese simply attacked from the north through the Malaysian peninsula. Feeling they were safe from attack on that side, the British had installed only light fortifications. These were soon swept aside and Singapore fell into the hands of the conqueror. The pillbox I had discovered was on the north shore of Singapore, its gun emplacements all pointed in the wrong direction. To be sure, it was important to erect defenses on that side of the island. But the enemy came through the unguarded way.

            The enemy was threatening the outer boundaries of the kingdom leaving the nation no choice but to defend itself. The veteran general-king once again prepared to go off to war. But this time his chief-of-staff convinced him that he was too valuable an asset to Israel to risk losing him on the battlefield. “Stay home,” Joab said, “The army is strong and God is with us. Stay here in Jerusalem and rule the kingdom we are fighting to preserve.” And so the army marched off to war, to fight the battle where it was expected to be and David was left in Jerusalem.

            Had David gone off to the conflict he would have proven why he was a legendary warrior. He knew how to fight those battles, how to defend himself against the ambitious men of the enemy who would love to claim David’s life as proof of their valor. He would have fended them off as before because, in a battlefield of skilled soldiers, David still stood tallest of all.

            But he had not armed himself from the attack that came along the undefended way. We are not told why he was on the roof of his palace. Perhaps he was bored, or restless, or maybe he felt displaced by an army fighting without him. But it was there that he caught sight of Bathsheba and rather than turn away, the enemy attacked. Not his responsibility as Israel’s spiritual leader nor his family in the palace below nor even the suffering of his warring soldiers mattered anymore. The enemy swept in, David’s defenses were pointed in the wrong direction and in a short time, a very short time, he fell. He had stood against Goliath, fled through the wilderness from Saul, battled the best of the Philistine army enduring their repeated assaults and none of had brought him down. It was the undefended moment on the palace roof. And the lingering look. And the surrender to the fires of lust. And the plot to deceive a soldier who had unswerving devotion to him. And finally, to complete the shame of his defeat, he arranged an innocent man’s murder, sending the order by his own hand. As surely as Singapore was overrun by the Japanese, David was conquered.

            The competitiveness of our day demands that we feature our strengths. Like the British who boasted of Singapore’s invincibility because of the defenses they had built, we trust in the best that we are. But Satan attacks more often the unguarded way, his assault coming from behind, his best efforts at our worse places.

            If the British had tried to understand a battle plan different than the one they had designed, they would have discovered their weakness and defeat might have been avoided. God help us not to make the same mistake of allowing our blind spots to be our undoing. Paul warned, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!” But Paul didn’t end there. There is a promise of victory even in our weakness. “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it” (1 Corinthians 10:12-13).