Yesterday, I wrote about Jonathan's armor bearer from 1 Samuel 14 and how his faithful friend, and protector, followed him up the cliff to meet the Philistine army. One of the other things I love about this story is that Jonathan went up at all.
Because so many of us are content to wait for others to come.
Jonathan was in that awkward middle ground. He had set out toward the enemy camp, but had not yet approached. In a low place in between, he paused. He spoke to the enemy on the other side and showed himself, in faith that God would give an answer that would guide him in his next step. The story says there was a cliff, on top of which the Philistine army stood. Quite literally, they were looking down on him.
Many of us reach this place. We step out in faith, pursuing whatever it is we believe God has called us to, but when we reach a low place in the middle and the enemy is looking down on us, we start to wonder whether we should go any further or not. Especially when the enemy looks particularly big, particularly strong, particularly well-armed and able to defeat us with one fail swoop. Sure, we could keep going, but all it takes is one swift move on our ascent, and that enemy is going to knock us down and break whatever bones we land on.
That makes this a critical point in the story - in Jonathan's and ours. He's said to his friend that if the enemy tells them to wait, that the army will come down to meet him, then they will not go up to fight because this will be the sign that God is not handing the army over to them. But let's be honest - what enemy is going to back down?
That's literally what it would be. The Philistine army would have to turn around and guide themselves backward down that cliff, as any good rappel artist would, to get to Jonathan in the valley. That's foolishness at its best; backing down, you can't see what's coming and no wise force is going to put itself in that place. Which is also why our enemies don't back down. They're not about to come from that high place of power, where they can see us and look down on us, and turn their back to us to approach. Who knows where we'll be when they turn around?
It's foolishness, too, of course to go up. Needing all four limbs to climb and steady himself, Jonathan would have holstered his weapon. His armor bearer was bringing up the rear. Between the son of the King and the opposing army, there was nothing but eye contact. Maybe a stare down as the young man was going up.
We're content to stay in the low places, then we wonder why we're discontented with our lives. We set out, hoping to honor God, but when we reach the valley where our enemy is looking down on us, the foolishness of climbing up takes hold and we stop. We make camp. And we wait for our enemy to back down. Or go away. Or for our army to come and rescue us. We revert into a point of helplessness, not knowing what to do.
And here, it is our enemy that becomes our friend. As Jonathan said, "If they tell us to come up, we will go. For that will be God's sign that He is giving them to us." So our enemy taunts us and begs us to come. As the Philistines said, "So we can teach you a lesson." The enemy thinks when we get there, we'll be destroyed. The sword of the Lord says otherwise.
And here, Jonathan's words are our confidence, for the converse of this is truth. If you wait in the valley for your enemy to come, you will not win. God has not handed it over to you; He has not given you the victory. If you wait for that which stands against you to meet you on your ground, you will fail.
If you want the victory, by the word of the Lord, you have to show yourself to your weakness and hear its taunts, then against all conventional wisdom, you must boldly say, "I'm coming." Then start to climb.