The last four chapters of 2 Samuel are divided into six sections that are linked together. There is a narrative (2 Samuel 21:1-14), a list (2 Samuel 21:5-22) and a song (2 Samuel 22:1-51). Then followed in the opposite order by a song (2 Samuel 23:1-7), a list (2 Samuel 23:8-39) and back to a narrative (2 Samuel 24:1-25). I am sure there is something deeply interesting and mind-blowing about that, but sorry I’m just not that clever so I want to look at one incident in 2 Samuel 21 instead.
There was war again between the Philistines and Israel, and David went down together with his servants, and they fought against the Philistines. And David grew weary. 2 Samuel 21:15.
We think David is now in his sixties. He has consistently led his people in battle, but on this occasion he nearly got himself killed. In the past he had fought well, led well, been brave and courageous, but now he is getting older and with that comes the tiredness of battle.
And Ishbi-benob, one of the descendants of the giants, whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of bronze, and who was armed with a new sword, thought to kill David. But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid and attacked the Philistine and killed him. Then David’s men swore to him, “You shall no longer go out with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.” 2 Samuel 21:16-17
Abishai had to come to David’s rescue and to save him. David no longer had the stamina or strength to fight these long hand to hand battles anymore. It was a good job that alongside him he had a younger man Abishai. Then we read this incredible statement, ‘Then David’s men swore to him, “You shall no longer go out with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.”’
David was a man after God’s own heart. He had fought giants and Philistines. He had brought Israel together, overcome threats to his throne and much much more. His experience is invaluable and he means so much to the people that they cannot lose him, in fact they honour him by calling him ‘the lamp of Israel,’ Israel’s light.
Now to something deeply personal. I am not David. I will never match up to David but I am also very weary in battle. I have not lost my passion for Jesus, I have not lost my passion for the church but I am older and have become weary. This worries me. It worries me because I don’t have the physical strength I used to have, but it also worries me because sometimes in my worst of moments I cry out for young men of the stature of Abishai who will come to my aid and fight for me. I am not saying that I am going to stop serving the Lord but I am saying that like David, as you get older, you get weary in the physical side of leading and look for, and long for, young men to take up the physical mantle.
Where I am not sure is this, do the young men want to enter the battle, and do the young men think I can still be a lamp in my situation? It’s time young men to be an Abishai.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go Joshua 1:8
his promise is for you, it is not limited to Joshua, these same words are used elsewhere in the Bible.
fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
More than that Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:20 that in Jesus all the promises are yes, and If I am in Christ, then that is a very personal yes!
Also in 8:2 it tells us that “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things.” You say, including this promise? Yes including this promise! You should embrace this promise and in Christ apply it to yourself. It’s time to get yourself onto the frontline of battle.
What if we ask is this optional? The answer is no it is a command. “Have I not commanded you?” The commands are fourfold. Be strong be courageous, these are the positives and then two negatives, don’t be frightened, don’t be dismayed. This is not an option. We are commanded not to fear, not to be dismayed but to be strong and courageous!
So how do these four commands relate to each other?” Be strong, be courageous, don’t be frightened, don’t be dismayed. I think to answer that question I need to go to the end of the verse and get the last piece. The basis of it all, the grounds of it all is where he says, “For the Lord, your God is with you wherever you go.”
The reason that you can be strong and be courageous and not fear and not be dismayed is that the Lord is going to be with you wherever you go. Think about what that tells you about the command to be strong.
Joshua’s puny strength is not going to be enough, God will win these battles for him and the nation. The command to be strong in the light of ‘for I am with you’ means, trust in the strength of God to meet your needs as you go into battle.
The bottom line is that this is a call to faith. Faith in the promised strength of God, and for Christians, this is a strength that was purchased for us by the blood of Jesus, though we deserved nothing but destruction. We know that all the blessings that come into our lives come because of the purchase of Jesus Christ.
Let me just ask one more thing. What’s the end game, what’s the final purpose of God commanding us to enjoy his strength? Is it so that we can be fearless? Yes! What’s the goal? Is it so we can have a ministry? No, it’s about serving and humility. There is no place in being puffed up when it is God who is the one giving you the strength, which triggered in my mind 1 Peter where it says, “Whoever serves, (let him do it) as one who serves by the strength that God supplies in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.”
The end, the goal, the outcome of this command when we live in the strength that God supplies and are free from fear and full of courage in our day, it is that God gets the glory.
So Abishai or Abishais is this your day, your time to be strong and courageous and get into the battle?