Three Soldiers; Three Servants

Mighty Soldiers Pour It All Out

Three men.  It doesn’t say how tall (as Saul).  It doesn’t say they were handsome (like David).  But it does say they were mighty:

These are the names of the mighty men whom David had:Josheb- basshebeth a Tahchemonite, chief of the captains, he was called Adino the Eznite, because of eight hundred slain by him at one time; (2 Samuel 23:8 NASB)

Different translations do different things with his ‘nickname’, but most don’t include it.  Which I find ironic for two reasons.  First, it appears in the Greek text of this passage which represents an older text.  It appears in the Hebrew, but with footnotes that other manuscripts don’t have it.  Lastly, the best guess as to its meaning is “his spear his adornment” but the problem is that these words don’t appear anywhere else in Hebrew and we’re not sure if they occur in other Semitic languages.  They do help explain how he slew 800, and why it’s so amazing (a spear? seriously?).  I’m in favor of keeping them even though their meaning is far from certain.

So the leader of the Three is famous for using a spear and killing 800 in one battle.  There are a few things that make this important to me.  One, he didn’t stop.  A spear isn’t an easy weapon to wield and to do so in a battle and do so long enough to kill 800 men is pretty crazy.  This guy didn’t stop.  Second, he didn’t take the easy method.  A sword was the weapon of the day in battle.  A spear to begin was used to throw, then you followed it up with your sword.  He kept he spear, and used it instead of the sword.  Third, he did this pretty much alone.  I surmise this because, as unwieldy as a spear is, you can’t have people close to you as you swing or thrust this thing.  It’s something he would have had to do without a crowd of fellows around him.  So, based on the other two guys in this group, I see a lone soldier being used by God to do the impossible.  That’s cool.

Mighty Soldiers Know They’re Not Enough

and after him was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite, one of the three mighty men with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there to battle and the men of Israel had withdrawn. He arose and struck the Philistines until his hand was weary and clung to the sword, and the Lord brought about a great victory that day; and the people returned after him only to strip the slain. (2 Samuel 23:9-10 NASB)

These names sound funny to us in the Twenty-First Century (Dodo? Really?), but then they were badges of honor.  Eleazar was not an uncommon name, but this was an uncommon man.  The army of Israel defies the Philistines, but withdraws when the battle starts.  Not this guy.  He rises up, and fights alone.  He fights beyond his strength as his hand wearies and seizes to the sword he’s using.  His hand basically cramps and he can’t let go.  These swords are iron, not some light titanium alloy or something.  They were basically heavy sharp clubs rather than sophisticated weapons of a later metallurgical age.

But even his persistence, his expense of effort, and his bravery didn’t win the day.  It says that God brought about a victory in that day.  That’s the thing that strikes me.  This man gave everything he could give.  He was poured out into this battle, but it wasn’t enough.  No one has enough to win such battles.  It is my Master that brings about victory in these encounters.  But He uses people who lay it all out there, who hold nothing back from Him and His work.

Mighty Soldiers Don’t Do What They Want

Now after him was Shammah the son of Agee a Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered into a troop where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the people fled from the Philistines. But he took his stand in the midst of the plot, defended it and struck the Philistines; and the Lord brought about a great victory. (2 Samuel 23:11-12 NASB)

Haraite seems to mean ‘Mountain Man’, as in one from the mountains.  It works well in our culture as a descriptor of such a person.  In Shamma (there’s no H in his name in Hebrew), I see a man who again needs no army, just God.  He basically defends a field of lentils by himself. First off, I really don’t like lentils, they’re like tiny Lima beans, and have all the flavor of chalk.  So for this guy to defend this field is for me, to defend something tasteless but necessary to sustain life.  He doesn’t do what he wants, but what he has to do.  It’s possible that the ‘troop’ of Philistines was a raiding party, and the people who fled weren’t soldiers as such, but field workers.  But even if it were, he still stands alone against the adversary.  And, again, it is God who brings about the victory, not Shamma.

Mighty Soldiers Sanctify Through Service

God uses these men who give all, give it in difficult circumstances, and leave nothing behind.  They pour it all out, but God gets the credit.  It sounds kind of ‘cheap’ like why wouldn’t they get credit? The truth is that even all they had wasn’t enough to defeat the enemy.  I see this in my own life, only I don’t respond as they did.  I see the enemy, and I quickly see I’m not up to it.  So I quit.  What am I thinking?  I’m thinking that if I’m not enough, why pour it all out?  I fail to see that I’m not the point, my Master is; it’s not about what I am able to do, it’s about what He’s able to do.  What He wants from me is my all.

An example is in the next few verses.  When I first read this as a young adult, I was shocked David poured out the water.  These three bust through the Philistine lines, draw water in the gate, then break back through to bring the water to David.  It was later that I realized that David considered the water so precious, it would be wrong to drink it.  Something that precious, purchased by the blood of these three men, was only fit for God’s consumption, so he pours it out as a ‘drink offering’; a sacrifice, something holy, something only for God, not for His human creatures.  In their effort to serve David, they sanctified whatever they touched by their service to God.  These guys were men of God, warriors, but also servants of God.

I want to serve God, and I would love it if whatever I did became so precious that it was holy to my Master.  But if I truly want that, I have to truly hold nothing in reserve.  Either God gets it all, or I miss the pinnacle of what my Master has for me.  Either I lay it all out there, spend everything I have on His work, or the return on my investment will be sad, and incomplete.  I can be like a normal soldier, or I can be like the Three.  When my life has no ‘Plan B’, then I’m headed in the right direction.  When I’m completely spent, I’m truly His, and He truly shines.  And that is the point.

What’s your view through the knothole?

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