Tuesday, June 23

"In a pit with a Lion on a snow day"...lessons garnered from another

“Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, a fighting-man of Kabzeel, had done great acts; he put to death two young lions going into their secret place; and he went down into a hole and put a lion to death in time of snow. And he made an attack on an Egyptian, a very tall man about five cubits high, armed with a spear like a cloth-worker's rod; he went down to him with a stick, and pulling his spear out of the hand of the Egyptian, put him to death with that same spear. These were the acts of Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, who had a great name among the thirty men of war. He was honoured over the thirty, but he was not equal to the first three: and David put him over his servants.” (1 Chronicles 11:22-25 BBE)

A co-worker with whom I have some theological debates from time to time hurried over to me Monday morning as we prepared to work and said, “Who was in charge of David’s bodyguards?” I couldn’t come up with a name, although I knew the exploits of the Mighty Men of David and their existence….men who came to him as ‘men in distress, in debt and embittered in spirit,’ (1 Samuel 22:1-2) numbering 30 among about 400 men of similar dispositions and did great deeds under David, their Captain and future King. We tried to find the reference that my friend had heard, but couldn’t so I asked him for the church’s website to see if I could pull the sermon or audio off the site to study this suddenly perplexing question and see where God was leading me in this. I sent the pastor a message requesting sermon paper or audio.

Pastor John Lane, shepherd of the Bedford Free Methodist Church in Bedford, Indiana, was quick and gracious in his response…..apologizing for the technical difficulties with the audio that caused no recording to be available but who was nice enough to send me a copy of his rough notes for the sermon, prepared for Father’s day and entitled “In A Pit With A Lion On A Snow Day.”

The name that escaped me was Benaiah, which means “Built up by Jehovah.” He was son of Jehoiada, the chief priest, who was set by David over his personal bodyguards of Cherethites and Pelethites (2Sa_8:18; 1Ki_1:32; 1Ch_18:17). The Cherethites, as a people, were the inhabitants of Southern Philistia (Philistines) and many believe they were the ‘executioners’ of David’s decrees. The Pelethites, as a people, were believed to be another group of Philistines and are only mentioned in conjunction with the Cherethites. The word is believed to mean “couriers or runners” and it is that function that many theologians attribute to them. Both groups were standing with the enemy of their countrymen, protecting the very source of that army’s strength and power……in human terms. And Benaiah was the captain of them…in charge of this powerful young man named David. This service would extend to David’s son, Solomon where he would appointed as ‘commander-in-chief’ of the Israelite Army. From a ‘broken’ refugee to the most powerful warrior in the entire nation’s army…..all under the leadership of a man ‘after God’s own heart, built up through the work of the Holy Spirit…..

As I read Pastor Lane’s notes, a powerful sermon for the fathers of the modern age, the image came to my mind of the movie 300, in the opening moments of the tale where the one-eyed solider speaks of the Spartan practice of growing warriors….mighty and powerful warriors….by throwing them out into the wilderness. A young leonius, future King of Sparta who would stand against Xerxes of the Esther tale, is armed with only a spear and is set upon by a mountain lion….he is hungry and cold…..and afraid, to a degree. He uses his terrain against the beast and triumphs, skinning the animal and returning to his people victorious. Much like Lane speaks in his sermon, the focus of which is the defeat of the lion in a pit on a snowy day…..fear is felt but not allowed to control the actions and desire of the young warrior (Benaiah as well as Leonius). The spirit within the young Spartan demands and empowers him to stand in the face of overwhelming odds….The lion is mightier in mass and strength, speed and agility….to overcome this certainty of death. He becomes the King who can command three hundred warriors to stand against a sea of thousands upon thousands of enemy combatants in the assurance of death’s embrace.

In our wilderness, thrust out (unfairly it may seem) by God and similarly apparently alone, we face our lions in the barren harshness of the worldly landscape armed with only a spear…..hungry, cold, tired and our limbs laced with fear…..with only the hope to keep us warm and the spirit’s prompting to move our feet as we stumble backwards against the oncoming assault of the massive beast of our sinfulness……seeking a way out, a salvation that seems will never come…..and, as the beast snarls in unholy rage at the mountain sides that prevent it from reaching us, its prey, striking with a true and desperation-driven thrust……and returning home victorious, our testimony speaking of God’s provision, strength and hope given to us in our need. Too few have only one or two wilderness experiences that drive us into a more dependent and intimate relationship with God….others, like me, require more……much more….coming out at the end something greater than we could ever be without the repetition, servant-warriors of the One, True King.

Benaiah faces his wilderness ‘shaping’ in, as Pastor Lane points out in the biblical text, the form of two Moabite warriors (their best, no some run-of-the-mill conscripted warriors), an Egyptian 7 and ½ feet tall armed with only a ‘stick’ while that giant carried a ‘spear like a weaver’s rod,’ (Lane offers a visual comparison…..Shaquille O’Neal is 7 feet 1 inch tall with a wingspan of 7 inches and a reach of 9 and ½ feet standing) and a lion (Lane gives us some stats; common foe of shepherds in that day, 8-10 feet long, 416 average pounds, capable of 50 miles an hour in short distances and a roar that can be heard 5 miles away) in a pit on a snowy day. From the man represented in 1 Samuel to the warrior declared mighty and his feats proclaimed in 1 Chronicles and then Commander-in-chief of the whole of Israel’s armies in 1 Kings.

As Pastor Lane points out, Benaiah teaches us that we are not called to safety, avoidance of fear or even a 'comfortable' retirement in this life, as men. Our attempts at establishing a boring life of safety, avoiding our 'wilderness experiences' wrought with fear and seeking a life of simple comfort in the elder days of our lives are foolish to attempt and absent of God's enticement to join Him in the work He would have us do. The goal of masculinity, of all of God's children, is to be faithfulness Lane points out….encountering our lions (those situations that we'd like to avoid but need to be confronted). In a life pleasing to God, we must face the best of the Moabites (modern day representation….lusts of the flesh…), our giants (the worldliness of Egypt) and the lions (Lane quotes 1 Peter 5:8 "your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion"). How do we, as broken men who haven't had an example per se of godly masculinity, be a Benaiah?

We each have our Davids in our lives. We each have our 'three mightier men' that even our best cannot match. Men who have heard the yearning of their David's and sought out the simple desires in the face of overwhelming odds, showing a faithfulness to David and ultimately to the God he serves. Men who fight their battles with lions, giants and the fallenness of the world with the throbbing passion of faith…..Israel's God, David's God, their God….the True God…..is alive and victorious yesterday, today and tomorrow. Men who move in the face of overwhelming fear, certain defeat and looming death to walk in the purpose of God and perform the work to which He calls us all.

Though my exploits aren't even close to the mighty deeds performed by my 'three' and my spiritual leadership cannot even come to measure against my 'David', I stand counted by these men as one among them…..…the few who girth themselves in the armor of the Lord and step into the world to bring the truth and light to all who are stained in the darkness of their sins and the blindness of the enemy's grasp. Men, who recognize that the battle isn't of a physical nature but a spiritual one, and who move despite the fear to face the enemy. A band of brothers, who fight alongside each other, living a life unsafe, robbed of comfort's laziness and struggle fully in the light of day in faithfulness to be examples for themselves, each other and those they know in the darkness of night. For the wives to which they must live, the sons to which they must teach, and the daughters to which they must represent godly manhood in the ordained, created and designed model that God sets forth in the Word.

Men who don't claim superiority, but humility, in these efforts to live a godly design. Men who, like the mighty men of David's time, speak not of their exploits nor boast in their victories but simply move as God has called them to, without claiming the glory that is God's alone but with the intentionality of providing Him with the testimony of that Glory. Men who live what they believe, represent what they have faith in and empower the generations to come with the truth.

I know who my David is, who the 'three mightier than the mighty men' are, and even the second tier of heroes that walk in the landscape of this world…..and there are my brothers in arms who stand with me in the spiritual battles that men were built to fight; to bless those around them.

I will not fear, I will not run and I will not turn from the struggle to be an example to my children of the man God made me to be. Will you?

This morning, when I went to the website of the church, I was impressed with the ‘motto’ if you will of this distant part of the family of God (in physical distance that is)…..”Empowered through Christ, we will Serve, Save, Strengthen and Send” Serving the community, introducing saving faith to others, strengthen believers and sending loving people into the world to ‘repeat’….it is seldom that you see such an impactful statement in the churches of this western culture today and it would be interesting to see how effective they are being in faithful execution to their god-purposed mission. There are so few churches that are empowering the body with the good fruit of the Gospel that the masses are surrendering to the bondage of the enemy just to be able to eat unclean food. The Bedford FM church’s website is www.bedfordfmc.org . I’d recommend a look and a visit if you are in the area.

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