When I sat to write this, I had a topic of encouragement. Be encouraged that God can use you to do miraculous things if you trust in Him. Honestly, that message is still there, but God has unlocked a bigger theme through the scripture I was looking at.
I have been going through 1 Samuel, and we see the nation of Israel no longer satisfied with being ruled by God. They were a theocracy, ruled by God, and instead wanted to have a man as a king and become a monarchy. We are shown throughout the Old Testament how Israel’s faith is up and down. One minute God does great and miraculous things through them, and the next they act like they don’t even know Him. This pattern is a reflection of our lives, that we can ride great spiritual highs and then be back in the world doing something stupid. God shows us this pattern so that we might recognize it and change it.
As we read through 1 Samuel, we get to chapter 13. Saul has been king now for two years, and he has this small little squad of three thousand people that they run around and attack some garrisons with. They are starting a rebellion, and the Philistines don’t play that. They come out with thirty thousand chariots, six thousand horsemen, and an uncountable number of people. You have this little ragtag team of three thousand everyday people now facing this massive army. It gets worse though. As we continue to read in chapter 13, we are told that only Jonathan and Saul have swords. Everyone else had farm tools (e.g., axes, sickles, and goads). The Philistines didn’t let the Israelites have weapons for the very reason that they didn’t want them to be able to fight. The Israelites didn’t even have blacksmiths because it was forbidden by the Philistines. So all of the Israelites had to come to the Philistines to get anything metal and have anything metal sharpened.
What a sad state for Israel to be in, the nation that was governed by God. They were the super power, and now they are nothing. Nothing could stop them when they were coming out of Egypt, except themselves. In Joshua we read about how the Gibeonites feared Israel because they had been commanded by God to destroy all the inhabitants of the land. The Gibeonites speaking with Israel in Joshua 9 vs 24:
“So they answered Joshua and said, ‘Because your servants were clearly told that the Lord your God commanded His servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you; therefore we were very much afraid for our lives because of you, and have done this thing.’”
They knew that nothing would stop Israel as they conquered the land, so they lied and deceived to ensure that they would live. As we read on in Joshua, we get to the battle between Israel and the five kings of the Amorites (the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon). The king of Israel is afraid too. In Joshua 10 vs 1-2:
“Now it came to pass when Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem heard how Joshua had taken Ai and had utterly destroyed it - as he had done to Jericho and its king, so he had done to Ai and its king - and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, that they feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like of of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were mighty.”
In all, Joshua leads the nation of Israel to conquer 31 kings in the promised land. This is a nation that had just come out of slavery and bondage. They wandered in the desert for forty years and still they have the military prowess to come and obliterate everyone they came into contact with.
What happened Israel? Why did you step so far backwards? This is what we do in our own lives though. We get to a great place following God, and then we get complacent. We stop pushing forward, and then we go backwards, allowing sin to creep into our lives. It's something that we can teach our kids too. Take Israel, for example. There is about 300 years from Joshua to Saul. For 300 years, this pattern is setup and carried out. It doesn’t happen overnight but will slowly form. Before you know it, you are in full bondage and not living in the freedom of the Lord. You have taught your kids, your kids teach their kids, and so on.
But we can break the chains of bondage. We can break the cycles that our families might be in. Going back to 1 Samuel 14 where we saw the massive Philistine army coming against the untrained and unarmed Israelites, we now see Jonathan taking action. Jonathan tells his armor bearer one day that they should go over to the Philistines' garrison. They go, trusting in the Lord, that if the Lord was with them He would give the Philistines over to them. He says in verse 6:
“Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing retrains the Lord from saving by many or by few.”
They go, trusting in the Lord, that He can do mighty things through many people or through just a few. They set up a few tests for the Lord to show Himself, and then they know that the Lord has given the Philistines into their hands. What we are told here is an amazing thing. There is a cycle that has put the Israelites in a desperate position. They have started to come around to knowing that they need to change, but they don’t have the tools to make this change. They stand, three thousand normal people against a great, fully-trained, and fully-armed army. The odds aren’t stacked at all in their favor, and they are basically defeated before the battle even begins.
But the odds don't matter to God. He makes the impossible things easy. When Jonathan puts his faith and trust in the Lord, God uses him to make big changes. God will do the same in your life. If you find yourself in a position of being defeated before the battle begins-- if you find yourself caught up in the cycles of the flesh, trapped by your history, God can free you. When you trust in Him and move out, following His lead, He will deliver you from those cycles. He will break the chains that hold you down.
For Israel, this is a turning point. The nation will rise from this lowly position and quickly become one of the greatest nations in the world. From this point gives rise to David and Solomon, the greatest kings that Israel would have. The same faith that we see in Jonathan is the faith that we see in David as he stands against Goliath. It’s time to break the cycles and break the chains, and rise to be the person that God would have you to be. If Jonathan had gone up against the Philistines on his own without the Lord, we wouldn’t read about him again, because he would be dead. But the Lord went before him and fought that battle with him, delivering the Philistines into his hands. The same is true for our lives. When we fight the battles against addictions or the flesh and sin on our own, we fail. We can’t do it. Given the opportunity to sin again, we will. That is just our nature. We can’t just stop it on our own. We need God to fight the battles for us. So put your trust in Him, and walk as He calls you to walk. Seek Him in all things. I love when people at church ask me for the Wi-Fi password. It is “Matthew 7:7” which reads:
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Do you see why I love it?! Ha! And it continues in verse 8:
“For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.”
If you truly are seeking after the Lord and look to Him to free you, He will. I pray that we would all be set free from our chains and we would begin new cycles that bring glory and honor to the Lord.