I love stories from the Old Testament; they are so rich with the character of God and lessons for life. We often read them and think that the men and women of that time were quite different from us – somehow superhuman. But they weren’t; they were normal people whose only claim to fame was that they believed in their God and acted on it. What’s more, we are even better equipped than them since we have the Holy Spirit leading us today.I love the story of Jonathan and his armour-bearer in 1 Samuel 14. The previous chapter sets the scene: Jonathan and Saul are the only armed men in an army of just six (quivering) hundred. The Philistine garrison, with “soldiers as numerous as the sand on the seashore”, is waiting on the pass of Mishmash, ready to annihilate them. Oh yes, and most of Israel is hiding in caves at this point, so morale is probably not at an all-time high.
Jonathan approaches his armour-bearer to join him in a little secret mission and they sneak off while Saul is strategising under a pomegranate tree with his men. I love what Jonathan says to his armour-bearer: “Come, and let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For there is nothing to prevent the Lord from saving by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6). His reference to the uncircumcised shows that he is calling on the Covenant as a circumcised man. The Israelites are favoured because of their Covenant with Almighty God.
In another interesting move, he decides that they must allow the enemy to see them and then, if the philistines tell them to approach, that will be the sign that God has handed the enemy over to them. Bearing in mind that the Philistines have a huge advantage, being positioned high above them and of course way outnumbering them, the plan seems almost ridiculous.
So ridiculous that when the Philistines see them, it says in verse 12 that “the garrison men said to Jonathan and his armour-bearer, ‘Come up to us and we will show you a thing.’” Whereupon Jonno does a little air punch – “Yes!” – and tells his armour-bearer, “Come up after me, for the Lord has given them into Israel’s hand.” Then they climb up on hands and feet and the enemy falls before Jonathan, and his armour-bearer kills them after him.
All chaos breaks out in the camp. The Phillies even turn on one another, there’s an earthquake, Saul hears the commotion and does a head count and realises who is missing… go on and read it for yourself. As the Philistines flee, even the Israelites hiding in the caves and thickets come out and join in the fight. “So the Lord delivered Israel that day,” the story concludes.
Take the land for His glory
Some things that we can take away as marketplace Christians:
- Carpe diem – (Latin for “seize the day”). The time for Christians to hang back and see what the enemy has in store for us is over. We need to first know our God then seize the day – seize opportunities with the confidence that our God goes before us, no matter what the landscape or how ridiculous the odds. It is all about God getting the glory.
- We have to stop being so defensive and hiding behind “I’ll pray about it” or “I am waiting on God”. In verse 6 Jonno says, “it may be that the Lord will work for us.” He isn’t 100% sure that this way is what God wants, but it doesn’t stop him from doing something. Get out from under the pomegranate tree, get moving and be led on the move. Many of us miss out on opportunities for fear of doing the wrong thing; we have become so averse to failure that we don’t take any risks. Some of the greatest men in history failed many times before they got it right. We have to stop playing it safe, we have to believe and do!
- Team up with someone who believes with you as you both believe in God. If you are afraid to do it on your own, get an armour-bearer to cover your back. I am a firm believer in getting good counsel around you and counting the cost, but don’t stop there. You have to take the risk and DO IT!
- If you see someone with a ridiculous dream, get behind them and support them. Don’t wait for them to ask you to be their armour-bearer. For too long we have struggled on our own, fighting our own little battles; but if we join forces, how much more powerful God’s army will be. In verse 12 Jonathan says that God has given the enemy into Israel’s hand, not his own. Godly success is for the benefit of all, not so that you can be the hero.
As we take up our positions in the marketplace, let’s dare to believe in the ridiculous mission God has given us; let’s dare to believe in the God who gave his Son to clear the way for us through his life, death and resurrection. Let’s seize the day, let’s link shields with others in business, and let’s take this land for His Glory and His Honour.