1 Samuel 14:7
Sermon preached on February 8, 2009 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2009. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.
Quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.
On October 16, 1555 Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer were burned at the stake in Oxford, England because of their Protestant faith. As the wood under them was lit, Latimer said to Ridley.
"Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle. By God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."
Why are those words so famous? Part of the reason is because Latimer's prophecy held true for so many years. It's only in the last couple of decades that people have begun to wonder if the gospel of Jesus Christ is on the verge of being put out in England. But the other reason I think they're famous is because they were such words of encouragement. "Be of good comfort and play the manÖ" How blessed Ridley was to have Latimer with him. What support Latimer gave Ridley. What hope he gave Ridley. The words were few—but what power was in them.
The great lesson we see from our text is that
you Christians are to be helping and supporting each other as you do the Lord's work.
Today, we're going to install Kerry as a deacon. For him to serve as a deacon can turn out to be a wonderful experience. If you as a congregation give him the support and encouragement that he deserves—his job will indeed be a joy. To encourage you in this regard, it's profitable for us to look at the support that Jonathan's armor-bearer gave to him—for it shows us what kind of support we should give to those who are serving the Lord.
The first thing we see here is that
Jonathan's armor-bearer gave him wholehearted support.
It was wholehearted support. The armor-bearer said to Jonathan,
"Do all that you have in mind.
I am with you heart and soul."
What wonderful words. How uplifting they must have been to Jonathan. His armor-bearer expresses no hesitation, no wavering, no lack of support. He's with him 100%. A literal translation would be:
"Do all that is in your heart. Lead on. Lo, I am with you, as your own heart.'
Jonathan's armor-bearer was a great support and encouragement to him. He gave Jonathan just what he needed. He enabled Jonathan to go ahead with confidence knowing that his back would be covered. He reinforced Jonathan's determination to try to do something for the Lord.
The lesson for us here is that when others are doing the work of the Lord you should support them wholeheartedly. Human beings are social creatures and we need support from each other. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 speaks about this on a physical level. It says,
"Two are better than one,
because they have a good return
for their work:
If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together,
they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands
is not quickly broken."
But there's much more to it than that. God made us so that we need support from each other, not just physically, but emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. The apostle Paul spoke about this in 1 Corinthians 12 when he wrote about the spiritual gifts that have been given to Christians by Christ. He wrote, (verse 21)
"The eye cannot say to the hand,
'I don't need you!'
And the head cannot say to the feet,
'I don't need you!'"
We need each other. God has gifted other Christians so that they can support you, help you, benefit you, especially when you face trials or great challenges.
In the incident before us we see that God chose to give this victory to Israel not by one person, but by two—Jonathan and his armor-bearer. The implication is that might not have acted on his own. He needed someone to be with him, to give him strength and courage.
Of course God doesn't need to save by two people. He can do it by one, as He did with Samson. Jonathan even acknowledged this in verse 6 when he said,
"Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving,
whether by many or by few."
But the fact is that God often chooses to act through not one, but two, or more. In the book of Acts we see that the Holy Spirit told the church to set aside Paul and Barnabas for the work He called them to. (Acts 13:2) God didn't want Paul to go out alone—God, in His wisdom, saw that Paul and Barnabas would be better than Paul alone. God uses groups of people—each using his own gift. As the apostle Peter put it in 1 Peter 4:10,
"Each one should use whatever gift
he has received to serve others,
faithfully administering God's grace
in its various forms."
We need each other. You need support and encouragement from other Christians.
The greatest proof of this is found in the Garden of Gethsemane. You'll remember that when Jesus went to the Garden, He took all His disciples with Him. When He got to a certain spot He told most of them to stay there and pray. He then took James, Peter and John with him and went a little farther. He expressed to them His great anguish. He said, (Mark 14:34)
"My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow
to the point of death."
Some people are puzzled that Jesus would have such grief. But Ambrose says, (Quoted from Calvin)
"I not only do not think that there is any need of excuse, but there is no instance in which I admire more his kindness and his majesty; for he would not have done so much for me, if he had not taken upon him my feelings. He grieved for me, who had no cause of grief for himself; and, laying aside the delights of the eternal Godhead, he experiences the affliction of my weakness."
Cyril writes that as God He had no fear of death, (also from Calvin)
"but, having been made flesh, (John 1:14,) he allows the flesh to feel what belongs to it, and, therefore, being truly a man, he trembles at death, when it is now at the door…"
Jesus needed support. He said to Peter, James and John,
"Stay here and keep watch."
He then went just a little farther away and prayed. You'll remember that He kept coming back to James, Peter and John. Why? How you ever thought about why He kept coming back to them? It wasn't to catch them sleeping. We do things like that, but Jesus didn't. No. He came back to them because He needed their support. He needed their prayers. He needed them. Think about it. It's incredible. Jesus was perfect. He had no sin. Yet, in taking our nature upon Himself, He became subject to one of our weaknesses—that of needing support in the face of a great trial and a great enemy. Jesus needed that. And when He didn't get it from the disciples, He received it from another source. In Luke 22:43 we read,
"An angel from heaven appeared to him
and strengthened him."
When the disciples let Jesus down, when they never supported Him like they should have, it was appropriate that an angel came and ministered to him.
The apostle Paul needed support. It was a great trial for him when other Christians failed him, deserted him, let him down. It didn't weaken his faith, because his faith wasn't in man, but in God. But still, it was a difficulty for him. For example, in 2 Timothy 4:16-17 he wrote,
"At my first defense,
no one came to my support,
but everyone deserted me.
May it not be held against them.
But the Lord stood at my side
and gave me strength,
so that through me the message
might be fully proclaimed and
all the Gentiles might hear it.
And I was delivered
from the lion's mouth."
In 2 Timothy 4:9-12 Paul said to Timothy,
"Do your best to come to me quickly,
because he loved this world,
has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica.
Crescens has gone to Galatia,
and Titus to Dalmatia.
Only Luke is with me.
Get Mark and bring him with you,
because he is helpful to me in my ministry."
Do you see Paul's need? He wants Timothy there ASAP. He also wants Mark too. Paul needed their help, their support.
If Jesus needed the support of others, if the apostle Paul then how much more do you and I need the support of others.
This means that
you need to make sure you support other Christians when they are doing their duty.
You need to be praying for Kerry, for Chuck, for Phil—for our church leaders, and for each other as you are seeking to serve the Lord. One of the great duties we have as Christians is to encourage each other to do our duty. In Hebrews 10:24 we read,
"And let us consider how we may
spur one another on
toward love and good deeds."
The Greek word there means a, (BDAG)
"rousing to activity, stirring up, provoking"
Do you do that? Do you think about how you can encourage and help other Christians? Is that characteristic of your life? It should be.
Just like Jonathan's armor-bearer—you are to be with them heart and soul. There's no place for jealously or envy in the church. There's no place for holding back and not being 100% supportive of those who are serving the Lord. Be with them both with heart and soul.
I think this type of support is what is behind commands such as Romans 15:5-6 which says,
"May the God who gives
endurance and encouragement
give you a spirit of unity among yourselves
as you follow Christ Jesus,
so that with one heart and mouth
you may glorify the God and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ."
1 Corinthians 1:10 tells Christians that they are to be,
"perfectly united in mind and thought."
And in Acts 4:32 we read that,
"All the believers
were one in heart and mind."
And Philippians 2:2 Paul encouraged the Christians to be,
"one in spirit and purpose."
If Christians are united, they will be supporting and encouraging each other. There will be no divisions, just
So Christians, be very careful that you don't discourage others in their work for the Lord. It's so easy to be critical, to despise others, to think that they can't do what they set out to do.
Remember David's oldest brother and what he said to David when David heard Goliath's challenge and wanted to do something about it? You'll recall the story. David was just a very young man and his father asked him to take some supplies to some of his brothers, who were in Saul's army. Jesse gave him some grain, bread and cheese to take. When David arrived at the camp he heard Goliath's challenge. Then he said to the said to the men around him, (1 Samuel 17:26)
"What will be done for the man
who kills this Philistine
and removes this disgrace from Israel?
Who is this uncircumcised Philistine
that he should defy the armies
of the living God?"
When Eliab, David's oldest brother, heard what David was saying, he burned with anger toward David. He rebuked David and said to him,
"Why have you come down here?
And with whom did you leave
those few sheep in the desert?
I know how conceited you are
and how wicked your heart is;
you came down only to watch the battle."
What discouraging words. David was trying to rally the men and get them not to be afraid of the Philistines. How good it was that David managed to ignore his oldest brother. How good it was that he didn't listen to him.
You'll remember the words that Job's wife spoke to him when he was facing great suffering? She said, (Job 2:9)
"Are you still holding on to your integrity?
Curse God and die!"
What horrible words. How discouraging. They were exactly what Satan wanted her to say. Just like Peter (when He rebuked Jesus for saying that he was going to be killed in Jerusalem), she allowed Satan to use her.
Don't be like that. Don't be like the 10 spies who came back from spying out the land of Canaan for Moses. Ten of the twelve came back with such discouraging words. They said, (Numbers 13:27-33)
"'We went into the land
to which you sent us,
and it does flow with milk and honey!
Here is its fruit.
But the people who live there are powerful,
and the cities are fortified and very large.
We even saw descendants of Anak there.
The Amalekites live in the Negev;
the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites
live in the hill country;
and the Canaanites live near the sea
and along the Jordan."
At that point Caleb silenced the people and said,
"We should go up
and take possession of the land,
for we can certainly do it."
Did the other ten give Caleb the support they should have? No. They said,
"We can't attack those people;
they are stronger than we are.'
And they spread among the Israelites
a bad report about
the land they had explored.
They said, 'The land we explored
devours those living in it.
All the people we saw there
are of great size.
We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak
come from the Nephilim).
We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes,
and we looked the same to them.'"
Christians, be careful of being on the wrong side of an issue. Be careful what you say. Be careful you encourage and support others in their duty. Be very careful not to discourage them with your words or with your inaction.
But of course, in order to do your duty in this,
you need to know Scripture and have the wisdom to know what the right action is.
Just as it's bad not to support those who are doing their duty, the opposite of that is to support those who are taking the wrong action. In Genesis 34 we're told how Shechem violated Jacob's daughter Dinah and took her. It was an outrage, a great evil. Shechem wanted to marry Dinah and urged his father to get her as a wife for him.
What was the appropriate response? We're not sure who got the idea, but Simeon and Levi, deceived the men of Shechem. They told them that if all their men got circumcised, they would give Dinah to Shechem as a wife. So the men of Shechem did as they asked. When they were still in pain, Simeon and Levi went among them and slaughtered every male in the whole city and took Dinah back.
Either Simeon or Levi got the idea and proposed it to the other. The other was with him heart and soul. But it was a horrible evil. It's wasn't the right action. They were wrong. When he found out about it, Jacob rebuked them. Later, when Jacob as giving his sons a blessing, he said,
"Simeon and Levi are brothers—
their swords are weapons of violence.
Let me not enter their council,
let me not join their assembly,
for they have killed men in their anger
and hamstrung oxen as they pleased.
Cursed be their anger, so fierce,
and their fury, so cruel!
I will scatter them in Jacob
and disperse them in Israel."
The reason they didn't get any land in Israel was because of their sin.
So it's not good to be united, to be supportive, or to encourage something that is wrong. You need to make sure that you know what is right. The only way to have that is to be much in the Scriptures and in prayer.
A further application from our text is that
you should have great humility.
Many Christians, if they stand against a certain temptation, if they do something great for they Lord, they get puffed up. They get proud and they look down on others.
Such should never be. If you stand, if you do great things like Jonathan—why is it? I suggest that in doing that great thing, there was very little, 'you' there. It was all of grace. Remember Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 15:10?
"But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me was not without effect.
No, I worked harder than all of them
—yet not I,
but the grace of God
that was with me."
If you do something good for the Lord, a lot of it has to do with the Spirit interceding for you. As we read in Romans 8:26,
"the Spirit helps us in our weakness.
We do not know what we ought to pray for,
but the Spirit himself intercedes for us
with groans that words cannot express."
A lot of it may have to do with others encouraging you and praying for you. Some Christians are so confident of their abilities. They're like Peter saying to Jesus, (Matthew 26:33)
"Even if all fall away on account of you,
I never will."
Unfortunately Peter needed a good dose of reality. In reply Jesus told him that he would deny Him three times. Jesus also said, (Luke 22:31-32)
Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.
But I have prayed for you,
Simon, that your faith may not fail."
Christians, be humble. Recognize how dependent you are on grace, and not just the grace given to you—but the grace that God has given to others and how they use that grace on your behalf.
Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians, what you should see from this text is that
you're not fulfilling one of the great purposes of your life.
Jonathan's armor-bearer encouraged and supported him in serving the Lord and working for him. When he got to heaven, I'm sure that God said to him,
"Well done, good and faithful servant."
But you're not encouraging and supporting Christians in their work. You're leaving a great part of your duty undone. That's a great sin. All the times that you could have encouraged Christians and given them support—you failed, you sinned. You're not fulfilling the great purpose of why you were created—to serve and glorify Jesus Christ.
But it's not too late. The thief on the cross was like you. He had wasted his life. But at the very end he came to his senses and he did something good. He rebuked the other criminal who was still mocking Jesus. He then asked Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom. Jesus responded, (Luke 23:43)
"I tell you the truth,
today you will be with me in paradise."
Go to Jesus today and He will accept you.