It was not by their sword that they won the land,
nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand,
your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.
In most contemporary accounts of historical events, man plays the central role of hero or villain. In Winston Churchill’s four-volume History of the English Speaking Peoples, for example, the real hero is the genius of the peoples of the British nation. It is essentially a progressive view of history and, therefore, modern because it tells a tale of greater and greater national triumphs. It is a wonderful story of kings and queens and leaders of all sorts carrying the growing empire forward to its ordained destiny of a saving civilization. Yet in a sense, Churchill’s account is a surprisingly unsatisfying account because the hand of God is nowhere to be found.
The Bible is also a work of history with its own kings and queens, battles won and lost, civilizations rising and falling, warriors and cowards, saints and villains. But while earthly events are important to the unfolding story, the supernatural hand of God is everywhere from the first page through the last.
If we subscribe to the biblical account of history, then the importance of particular civilizations diminishes substantially, while the salvation of the individual soul becomes paramount. From the fall in the Garden of Eden to the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the bestowing of the Holy Spirit, it is a story that continues to unfold to this very moment through people just like you and me. This history becomes the revelation of God’s compelling purpose, with each one of us as participants in His great narrative: “It was not by their sword that they won the land . . . it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.”