After the priest, the officers speak to the people. The priest encourages in view of the battle. The officials discourage certain categories from taking part in the battle. They must ensure that only qualified soldiers take up the fight. A believer is qualified soldier if he can devote himself completely to the Lord, without having to deal with anything else (2Tim 2:44No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier.). This means that he goes into the battle in complete confidence on the Lord and only focused on Him.
The officers do not prohibit these categories from participating, but suggest that they first deal with the situation they have just found themselves in. These are people who have recently entered into a new situation with which certain expectations are connected, but have not yet enjoyed them. It is about those who
1. built a new house,
2. planted a vineyard and
3. are engaged to a woman.
Anyone who has built a new house, but has not yet lived in it, may first move into it. This can be applied to someone who has just been converted. He therefore has come to live in the house of God. Now such a person must learn how to behave in that house (1Tim 3:1515but in case I am delayed, [I write] so that you will know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth.). The saying that we are ‘saved to save’ may sound good, but doesn’t originate from the Word of God. A person must first learn to take his place in the local church. Only then can he go out.
Someone who has planted a vineyard, but has not yet enjoyed its fruit, does not have to go into the battle. He may wait for the first fruit to enjoy it. This waiting time can be as long as five years (Lev 19:23-2523‘When you enter the land and plant all kinds of trees for food, then you shall count their fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden to you; [it] shall not be eaten.24But in the fourth year all its fruit shall be holy, an offering of praise to the LORD.25In the fifth year you are to eat of its fruit, that its yield may increase for you; I am the LORD your God.). Wine is a picture of joy (Jdg 9:13a13But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my new wine, which cheers God and men, and go to wave over the trees?’). Here is the lesson that first we can and must enjoy the blessings ourselves in order to be able to distribute them. We can’t testify to something we haven’t enjoyed ourselves.
Also someone who is engaged to a woman does not have to join the battle (Deu 24:55“When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out with the army nor be charged with any duty; he shall be free at home one year and shall give happiness to his wife whom he has taken.). He can first marry and rejoice his wife, which includes sexual intercourse. The joy of sexual intercourse in marriage is also associated with the conception of offspring. It is the experience of the intimacy of love with the resulting fruit. This can be applied to the experience of the fellowship with the Lord Jesus and the fruit that this produces for Him. The exercise of fellowship with the Lord Jesus must come first. Then there can be set of to the battle.
Another category is mentioned in verse 88Then the officers shall speak further to the people and say, ‘Who is the man that is afraid and fainthearted? Let him depart and return to his house, so that he might not make his brothers’ hearts melt like his heart.’. Everyone has been afraid in the fight once. However, if someone is marked by a spirit of fear, the Lord cannot use him. Such a person may go back home. Paul acts as an officer when he sends John Mark back home (Acts 15:3838But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.). Mark spent some time with Paul, but the hardships have become too much for him (Acts 13:1313Now Paul and his companions put out to sea from Paphos and came to Perga in Pamphylia; but John left them and returned to Jerusalem.). Being a Christian cost him too much. Taking someone with you like him means a burden that is detrimental to the work of the gospel.
Also with Gideon we see the effect of this verse. He receives from the LORD the instruction to act according to the directions of this verse. As a result, no less than twenty-two thousand men have dropped out of his already small army (Jdg 7:33Now therefore come, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is afraid and trembling, let him return and depart from Mount Gilead.’” So 22,000 people returned, but 10,000 remained.).
After everyone has had the opportunity to make a personal decision not to take part in the battle, the battle can begin. The army is provided with army commanders. They go first and are examples for the soldiers who follow. They do not define the way of fighting. God does.