The prospects were bleak. The odds overwhelming. Most everyone else had retreated trembling to await their fate. They had no weapons for defense. Their leader had a sword but no idea what to do with it… They were stuck, helpless, like sheep without a shepherd while wolves ravage the flock.
The story is a very old one. Its setting is the stuff of an Epic, or a Holocaust, just depends whether a hero rises to the occasion.
Could it be a faint reflection too of the state of the Church in our own times? The world, the flesh and the Devil pose a daunting threat. The troops are ‘caving’ and vast numbers have misplaced their one Divine-issue offensive weapon—”the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
But there’s hope, there always is when you’re on the winning side, right? And there is a hero ready to step out and see what can be done. He’s only one man, but he has a sword and he has armor (and a friend to help him carry it!) No, this is not the tale of David and Goliath. But perhaps the lesson is the same. Big enemy, but bigger God.
It just takes someone willing to believe it, and to step up courageously in His name, sword in hand, to see what God will do.
That someone was Jonathan. While his fellow countrymen scurried to hide themselves in caves and holes and rocks and tombs and cisterns(!)
I Sam.13:6 Jonathan looked at his armor-bearer and said, “Come on, let’s go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised… It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.” I Samuel 14:6 He was ready and willing to step out ‘as is’ with just a young lad and a sword at his side, and see how God might choose to intervene.
It would be just chapters later that the young David, would challenge the mindset of the culture surrounding him with similar words: “For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” I Sam.17:26 No wonder he and Jonathan became bosom buddies! Each lived seeing beyond the visible enemy to the Invisible God–Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And each in his turn dared to step out and see what God would do.
And God was pleased to act. Jonathan’s sword took down twenty men in short order. Panic ensued. As did an earthquake! Now it was the enemy’s turn to tremble in their boots. Mass confusion ensued and soon the enemy was destroying itself and fleeing in droves. “So the LORD saved Israel that day.” I Sam.14:23 But it all started with a man saying, “Come on, let’s go over and have a look…and see what the Lord will do.”
Where does this kind of God-confidence come from? I’m pretty sure of one thing—it’s not caught from hanging out in a cave commiserating with woe-be-gone companions about how bad things are. They are, no doubt about that. The enemy is strong. But we are God’s people! And we’ve been given His Word. In it we are given all that we need for life and godliness in any age, (II Pet.1:3,4) because in it is the knowledge of God and of His commitments to His people via great and precious promises which are for all time.
Sin is rampant, in and out of the church, and no less destructive than the fiercest Philistine raiding party! But God’s power to transform us is greater. He invites us to escape ‘the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire’ II Pet.1:4, again, by taking Him at His Word.
How then do we keep our confidence in the LORD of Heaven’s armies, so that we are ready and willing to step out in faith and see what He will do on our respective battlefields?
I can’t help noticing that sword Jonathan held. It was one of only two swords available to the Israelite army. (His father, King Saul, held the other one) Their oppressors had seen to it that they had no weapons with which to defend themselves. This is not the case for the North American church. We have Bibles aplenty! My hunch is that the reason we lack Jonathan’s courage to emerge from our holes and see what God will do, is that we are more familiar with the culture that surrounds us than we are with God’s Word.
Could it be that our culture has shaped our mindsets about sin, our selves and our God, more than God’s Word has?
I love the Word. But it’s been a long while since I read the whole of it. And with the New Year I’ve been considering what changes to make in the way I read it. I’ve slipped into a rather ‘devotional’ approach to reading (more on that another time?) geared toward finding nuggets for me rather than just reading for what God wants to reveal about HIMSELF! So I’m taking on a new system of reading that I’m really excited about.
I’ve read the Bible through before but never this way. And already, in just a week’s time I’m encouraged by seeing the Big Picture of a Big and Holy God who is intent on Redeeming small and sinful man, no matter what. The theme is there over and over again, no matter what book or chapter you read, but it’s never so plain as when you read across various genres and books in one sitting. And that is my new plan.
I’ve outlined it in detail on my Bible Reading Plans page And I’d love it if you’d join me this year for the grand tour of God’s Words to man across the centuries. So may we be ready to step out and see what our great God will do despite overwhelming odds. He is able!
“The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.” Ps. 46:7
“And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,…” Eph.6:17,18
“To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” II Thess.1:11-12 ESV