Saturday, December 11, 2010

One Hero

     There came a time in Israel's history when they were so cowed by the enemy, the Philistines, that they didn't have one sword left among them.  The Philistines' rule was so complete that blacksmiths were unheard of among the Israelites lest they "make swords or spears."  It seems to me that it hadn't been that long since the time of the judges, and these verses are in I Samuel 13, right after Saul is anointed king.  The Israelites had squandered not only their freedom from the enemy, but the only means by which they could take it back.  There were no blacksmiths, except among the Philistines.  The Bible tells us the cost of sharpening a plowshare or a hoe was two-thirds of a shekel.  There was no village blacksmith, instead a payment to the enemy to be able to work your field. (An archeological aside: these little two-thirds of a shekel were real little "pym" weights cast in silver and excavated in 1907.  From The Bible in the British Museum.  God's word is true even in small details.)  Except God (and isn't He always the Exception) remembered them and gave them a hero, just one, with a sword.
"So it came about on the day of battle that neither sword nor spear was found in the hands of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan, but they were found with Saul and Jonathan his son." (v.22)
     Jonathan goes on, in chapter 14, to route the garrison of the Philistines, and swordless Israel knows a day of victory.  After all it's not a spear that wins the battle, it's the hand of the Almighty God.  Jonathan knew,
"perhaps the LORD will work for us, for the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few." (v.6)
     And the people knew.  When Saul wanted to put Jonathan to death for eating the forbidden morsel, they cry out,
"Must Jonathan die who has brought about this great deliverance in Israel?...for he has worked with God this day." (v. 45)
    As I went about my tasks today, I was thinking about a people going out to fight without a sword among them and wondering if that could be Christians like me as well?  Christians in a time of cultural decline?  Could we be so cowed by the forces of this world (thinking of Ephesians 6:12 "our battle is not against flesh and blood...") that we've allowed them to take not only our swords but our blacksmiths as well.  Are we left so impotent we can't even sharpen our tools (I Sam. 13:21)?  God wants to deliver us from the enemies that crowd the landscape of our hearts, He wants us to wield the sword and He will bring the victory.
     I wonder what the corollary to the sword is?  The Bible itself seems too simple an answer, though it is called a sword, and I do love my Bible.  But I think it's more.  Just think of all the Bibles in an average American home, yet we can't gain ground.  To equip my children to live well in these times I thought of Ephesians and the full armor of God, the Bible being only one component.  I thought also about giving my kids the disciplines, habits and abilities that will allow them to wield that "sword."  And we can't do it on our own, "except God."  It's not hopeless or too hard a calling, God still brings about deliverance in the hearts of men, and invites us to work "with God this day."
     In the end isn't there just one hero?  One who has routed the enemies of sin and death?  One Son, who did die, so that I have hope in the battle of life?  In the end there's only one real hero and it's Jesus the Christ.

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