When Times Get Tough
In the book of 1 Samuel, we read the story of Israel's transition from being a theocracy which acknowledged God as king, to being a monarchy with a human king sitting on a physical throne. Standing in the way of that transition, though, were the Philistines.
As one comes 1 Samuel 14, we find King Saul of Israel and his army waiting for battle. The Philistines outnumber the Israelites by an order of magnitude. And not only is the tiny army of Israel outnumbered, they are (to speak anachronistically) outgunned. The whole army of Israel has two swords: the one carried by King Saul, and the one carried by his son Jonathan. The rest of the men have axes, mattocks, plowshares, and sickles.
Which brings us to verse 6 of chapter 14,
Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, "Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the LORD will work for us, for nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few."
I love Jonathon's confidence. He seems to have what I would almost describe as a sanctified moxie. He most certainly has confidence that if God is on their side then they need not worry.
It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few. The odds are already long for this tiny and ill-equipped army. And instead of worrying over that, our boy Jon sneaks from camp with his servant and the two of them launch their own attack.
As you continue on in the chapter, you read the surprising outcome: rather than getting killed, these two men slay about twenty Philistines in their initial attack, which sends the Philistine camp into an uproar, causing mass confusion and self-inflicted harm for the Philistines, and ultimately a rout ensues. The Philistines go from the massive force assuming an easy victory, to fleeing before this tiny army.
One of the things I thought about when read this story last night was a quote from JI Packer. Commenting on the teaching of Keswick theology that Christians should, let go and let God, Packer wisely said,
The Christian motto should not be "Let go and let God" but Trust God and get going.
It can be very tempting to see something that would obviously please God for us to do. And easier to feel paralyzed by the thought of being obedient. What happens if Jonathan cowers that day, rather than boldly going forward? What happens if his view of God's sovereignty led him to sit on his heels and wait?
Surely there are times for patience and waiting on God. But frankly, I think a lot of Christian "waiting" is little more than cowardice wrapped in nice language. Sometimes God just wants you to be obedient. Trust Him, and get going.