Unquestionably, one of my favorite moments in the Bible is found in 1 Samuel 14.
Let me describe the situation.
King Saul was camped under a pomegranate tree with 600 men while a garrison of the Philistine army secured a nearby pass. It was a tense moment; but unexpectedly, Saul’s son, Jonathan, turned to his young armor bearer and said, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf.”
Now here’s why this is such a crazy moment. They were outnumbered, outmaneuvered, out-positioned and outgunned. Well…it was actually swords not guns, but you get the picture. Despite all of that, they end up going anyway.
Ask any military leader, tactician or strategist and they will all tell you this was a bad idea from start to finish for a number of reasons. First, a defending force always has the advantage. Second, a battle on varied terrain always gives the force on higher elevation a distinct advantage. Third, attacking a larger force is always a disadvantage. In fact, military strategists say attackers should generally outnumber defenders at least 3 to 1, but Jonathan & his servant were outnumbered at least 10 to 1. Ludicrous! Finally, if you read the previous chapter, you’ll see there were only two swords among the entire Israelite army. Saul had one and Jonathan had the other. Everyone else had tools like plow points, mattocks, axes and sickles.
Well, needless to say from a human perspective, what Jonathan sought to do was at best unrealistic and more likely absurd. It was an inevitable and pointless loss, and anyone with common sense would have expected Jonathan and his armor bearer to die on that hillside. But God isn’t limited to our expectations, and they didn’t die!
They attacked a larger, defending force uphill with one sword; and they defeated 20 Philistine warriors. Unbelievable!
I love a number of things about this story. I love the faith and courage of Jonathan. I love the loyalty and trust of the armor bearer, but what I love most is the absolute impossibility of it. It was an impractical endeavor that would certainly fail unless God showed up, and that is exactly what He did! As a result, it mobilized the Israelite army, produced a great victory and even led to a cool reconciliation among God’s people.
Far too often we, limit ourselves to the possible. We work toward things that we can accomplish…even things for God. That often then leads us to lower expectations, modify goals and shrink from opportunity…especially the God-sized ones. T.S. Eliot once said, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
We may think we honor God with cautious “stewardship,” but we often don’t. We actually end up waiting under the pomegranate tree, and we miss the miraculous.
There are 200,000 people in the Quad Cities who do not yet know Jesus. Reaching them is a God-sized task, which means we’re called to go where we are outnumbered, outmaneuvered, out-positioned and outgunned. It’s an unrealistic task; but one the Lord has positioned Heritage Church to do. “Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf.”
God has done great things in and through Heritage for many years. As cool as that is, we’re not yet done. There are more hills to take for more people to know Jesus; and in this season of transition, it is increasingly important to remain in a forward leaning posture like Jonathan with the same faith and courage to risk.
Scripture tells us the Lord saved Israel on that day in 1 Samuel 14, but it was not the end. In fact, it says, “So the Lord saved Israel that day. And the battle passed beyond Beth-aven.” [1 Samuel 14:23] Notice the Lord brought victory, and then the battle advanced. The mission continued.
This weekend marks the passing of the leadership baton of Heritage Church from John to me; and in this next season, Heritage will be positioned to do incredible things! It is my prayer that the Lord will find His people boldly advancing boldly toward reaching the region expecting Him to act on their behalf.
Keep pressing on.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9