I have a beard. I like it. It is distinguished. I would not like it if someone did something to my beard against my will. That would be a terrible offense. It would leave me feeling disgraced and embarrassed.
King David had a group of men who had beards as well. David sent these men to visit the grieving king of the Ammonites who had just lost his father. David sent these men to console the king and to let him know that David was with him. This king did not believe David, so he tore the men’s clothing and shaved their beards. It was such a disgrace that to save them from embarrassment David told the messengers to remain in Jericho and not come into his presence again until their beards regrew.
The Ammonite king quickly realized that he had done something pretty bad. He was afraid of the Israelites and decided to hire the armies of Syria to help him. Together, the Ammonites and Syrians went out to battle God’s people.
Crazy story, but you can find it right in 1 Chronicles 19:1-9.
The way that the army of Israel fought is a great example to us on how to fight the battles we face in our own lives and the life of the Church.
Know That You Are Outmatched And Surrounded
When the Israelites went out to battle, the Ammonites and Syrians split up and surrounded them. These two formidable armies had the Israelites trapped. I am not an Israelite, but I am part of the family of God, the Church (note the emphasis on Big C Church, not a particular church). Because I have put my faith in Christ as my Savior and Lord I am a child of the promise (Galatians 3:7-9). I am chosen by God and I often feel as though I (and the rest of the Church) am always under attack.
Everywhere I look I see sin. It is on the news, in the street, and sometimes even in the Church. The crazy thing about it is sometimes I want to go where that sin is. Sometimes the Church does too. It actually looks tempting and enjoyable. It looks easier. However, I know that those temptations lead to one thing and one thing only – death (James 1:13-15). Sin wants to kill my joy, kill my peace, kill my witness. Sin wants to destroy me. It wants to destroy the Church.
The fact of the matter is, I can’t defend against it on my own. The Bible tells us that your adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). I don’t know about you, but I have no shot against a hungry lion. I am lunch. There is no way I can stand up to that on my own. But together, the Church has a chance.
David’s general, Joab, saw that he was outmatched and surrounded so he had to come up with a plan (1 Chronicles 19:10). It was the only way that he could win the battle.
Have Each Other’s Backs
Joab had a great plan. He knew that he was surrounded so:
He chose some of the best men of Israel and arrayed them against the Syrians. The rest of his men he put in the charge of Abishai, his brother, and they were arrayed against the Ammonites. And he said, “If the Syrians are too strong for me, then you shall help me, but if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will help you.”
Joab knew that this battle would be one where everyone contributed. This works on a personal as well as collective level. In my life battling the sin that wants to destroy me, I need people in my life to spur me on for love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). I need to be encouraged and built up in the faith (1 Thessalonians 5:11). To know someone is praying for me is incredibly huge (1 Timothy 2:1). I need to know that someone has my back and is there when I am under attack. Who are those people in your life?
At the same time, when the Church comes under attack collectively, we need to make sure that we have each other’s back. Too often when stress is put on a group of people, they begin to fight inwards. They start to look at each other as the enemy instead of who the true enemy is. It is important that the Church keep their eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). Only then will we be united against whatever comes our way.
Use Your Strength
Joab made sure that Abishai (who by the way was a pretty tough dude, read 1 Chronicles 11:20-21 if you don’t believe me) knew to be strong.
“Be strong, and let us use our strength for our people and for the cities of our God, and may the Lord do what seems good to him.”
This is just an awesome prayer for us to pray right now. Seriously, just pray this. That is what I want for my life. I want to be strong in the Lord. I want that strength to help the people around me. Finally, I want the Lord to do whatever he wants to in my life.
My strength doesn’t come from me. If it does, I am doomed. Remember how beautiful sin can look? That beauty is fleeting. Only one remains beautiful for eternity – Jesus. The Lord is my strength, and the strength of the Church (Psalm 28:7-8). My strength to battle temptation comes from the Holy Spirit dwelling inside me. It is the work of the Spirit that draws me to the things of God. God’s people are strengthened by the Spirit and the Spirit brings them together as the Father’s holy people (Ephesians 4:1-6). When we are collectively relying on the Spirit to move in and through us as a Church, the gates of Hell cannot stand against it (Matthew 16:18).
The Holy Spirit is our strength. Let us rely on His power to fight for us and through us as we live lives devoted to our Good King Jesus. When we do this – the Lord will have His way in our lives and the life of our churches.