"He did not attain to the three."
When I read this in the Bible the other day, it made me question how a famous, mighty, loyal warrior of David's army, would not be in an elite group of fighters called "the three." When I read it again about another mighty man of King David, the head of his bodyguard, it called my attention back to the same thought. Who are the three? Why are they set apart? I had to go back and read the names again since they were so obscure:
Eleazar (not the priest from Moses' day)
Do you remember them? I don't.
But what they did in their time was so remarkable that they were honored far above those who had slain lions, commanded the best, and fought off enemies in the name of God.
There are only a few lines in 2 Samuel 23 telling about each one, but when I read them, it encourages me in the midst of battles of my own to strive to be like them.
Josheb: "He wielded his spear against eight hundred whom he killed at one time."
For Josheb, what made him stand out was the sheer number of enemies he faced and overcame by his God-given strength. Have you ever been faced with multiple trials at one time? Or been tempted to give up? Have you felt anxiety, depression, hopelessness and fear all at once?
Eleazar: "He rose and struck down the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clung to the sword."
His achievement was fighting through extreme weariness and exhaustion. He was so committed to persevere that the cost to his hand didn't matter. Have you ever been so tired of trying to do the right thing and getting bad results that you didn't think it was worth it anymore? Ever felt like you couldn't physically move or that you emotionally had nothing left to give? Did you give anyway to someone you love despite what it cost you?
Shammah is my favorite. "The Philistines gathered
together at Lehi, where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and
the men fled from the Philistines. But he took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and struck down the Philistines, and the Lord worked a great victory.
When all other warriors ran away in fear, it was Shammah who took his stand. But it's not Shammah who worked the victory. It was the Lord. Have you ever lost a relationship in your life simply because the person pulled away when you were in trouble? Or have you been someone who has tried to flee from a hard situation in fear? I've been both.
I think those of us who suffer chronic illness, repeated setbacks, monumental situational and circumstantial challenges can relate to being bombarded by adversity, fighting beyond when we are weary, and having others flee from us when times turn tough. When I look at David's mighty men, I see great sacrifice and bravery, but when I look at "the three," I see an exceptional devotion to serving God that inspires me and encourages me to keep going.
In the New Testament, when talking about spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6, Paul encourages us to "stand" 4 times in only four verses. He also stresses the vast number of powerful enemies we face, as well as the need for perseverance.
Our armor as Christians consists of truth (belt), receiving total right-standing with God through Christ's removal of condemnation (breastplate), believing the gospel message (shoes), possessing faith that can deflect and disable false ideas (shield), our sure hope of being destined for heaven (helmet), and the word of God (sword).
This armor and these three mighty men give us a physical example of a spiritual reality. It's God who accomplishes the victory, but we as servants need to arm ourselves and fight against temptation. Temptation during illness is often subtle - to try to fill my own aching needs apart from God, to turn angry at repeated disappointments and reject his plan for my life, to test God by setting conditions on my obedience or a timetable on his deliverance, or expectations on his ways of love.
So, as followers of Jesus, let's fight against the many temptations that come against us in this world, regardless of how big they seem to be or how small we feel.
Let's persevere when we're weary and not give up when we feel depleted.
And above all, let's stand our ground when we know the truth, even when others flee from us because the situation is uncomfortable. When we have stood our ground, in the end we'll see it was the Lord who worked a great victory through us.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.