Lessons From An Old Soldier

by Derek Gentle


David is engaged in combat with one of the sons of Goliath, Ishbi-Benob. But David has aged and in the fight the old warrior grows weary. The wicked mutant, sensing the king's vulnerability and filled with confidence, presses his advantage. Furious is his assualt, and unrelenting. David is on the defensive, able only to block one blow after another. Weakening, he cannot hold out much longer. He is about to die. But then comes Abishai who quickly strikes and kills the giant. God's man is rescued. And we learn some lessons from an old soldier. We learn that:



You may not be able to serve the Lord in some of the ways that you used to. It may be a source of frustration and even grief to you that you can no longer visit for the church or that you had to give up that teaching position. But you just can't see to drive at night or to walk up the steps. Your health will not allow you to do what you so desperately want to do.

If that is your case, then verse 17 is for you: the last part says, "Then the men of David swore to him, saying, 'You shall go out with us no more to battle...'". David would no longer go out to fight with his armies. Here was a man who still had the fight in him but who could no longer be in the fight. Was it a sign that he had begun to lose his value? That he could no longer be a contributing member of his nation? Not at all! The very reason his men prevailed upon him not to return to battle was his value: "Lest you quench the lamp of Israel" (vs. 17). His very presence was such a force among God's people that it was too precious to lose. People who love Jesus contribute far more by what they are than by what they do. And frankly, it is very shallow of us to measure ourselves only by external measures of activity.

For example, everyone who enters a worship service carries with him so many cubic feet of spiritual atmosphere. When a person comes in filled with bitterness and unbelief, they drain the the spiritual climate. When a Spirit-filled believer is present, though he may not speak a word, he charges the service with love and expectancy- just by his very presence. Any pastor can tell you that it is easier or harder to preach depending on who is there on the given Sunday. You may be a greater blessing than you can know!



Notice verse 15: "When the Philistines were at war again with Israel"

and verse 18: "Now it happened afterward that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob"

and verse 19: "Again there was war at Gob with the Philistines"

Notice the words: "war again", "again a battle", "Again there was war"

Just like Israel and the Philistines, in our spiritual warfare, we can know that there will always be another "again". There is no point of maturity which marks the end of the conflict, but only the end of the beginning. Battle is part of the Christian life. Judges 3:1-2 tells us that the Lord left nations in Canaan after Israel had entered, "So that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war". In fact, as Adrian Rogers has put it, "There is no blessing without a battle".

Mark Bubeck, in his book, Overcoming the Adversary, tells the story of a Canadian woman who had read an earlier book of his on resisting the devil. She said, "I've done it all, but it just doesn't work for me. I've prayed...I've read and memorized the Word, I've aggressively and consistently resisted the devil and his demons, but I'm still harrassed constantly". She was so defeated that she was no longer attending church. As they talked, Bubeck asked her if she had ever thanked the Lord for the battle. He inquired if she had ever asked God to teach her through this prolonged conflict. He reports that when she saw that God might want to use the battle in her life to teach her stability and faithfulness, "it opened up an entire new vista for her".



When did the giant move in for the kill with David? The end of verse 15 and verse 16 tells us: "...David grew faint. Then Ishbi-Benob... thought he could kill David". When David grew faint, then.

To illustrate this on the simplest level, how many of you have had to apologize to your spouse saying, "Honey, I'm sorry I snapped at you. I'm just tired" ? Professional athletes sometimes keep books on opposing players and their weaknesses and strengths. You can be sure that the devil has a "book" on you. He know when you are growing faint, where you are vulnerable, and to what you are susceptible. So none of us has the luxury of an unguarded moment or an area without growth.



One of the things that caused him to believe that he could take David was that Ishbi-Benob "was bearing a new sword" (verse 16). New swords work; just ask the Iraqis. Smart bombs and high-tech weaponry helped drive them to surrender in droves. Ask Japan; they were prepared to fight a U.S. invasion to the last man, woman, and child- until the second atomic bomb was dropped. The ancient Chinese general, Sun Tzu, wrote, "When I have won a victory I do not repeat my tactics, but respond to circumstances in an infinite variety of ways." The devil is no less smart. And while the temptations are the same the labels and packaging are changed all the time.



"...David grew faint...But Abishai...came to his aid..." Vs. 15, 17

I read in Reader's Digest about a rather strong man who applied for a job with a moving company. To see if the the applicants knew how to move heavy objects properly each person interviewed was asked to move a safe. Each one strained to move it across the room. Finally, the muscular guy had his turn. He exclaimed, "Are you kidding? I can't move that safe by myself." He got the job.

We, too, would do well to learn that spiritual warfare is just too heavy a burden to carry alone. Even David needed the aid of Abishai. "Two are better than one, because they have good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up", says Ecclesiastes 4:9-10. Paul described Epaphroditus as, "My brother, fellow-worker, and fellow soldier" (Philippians 2:25). David didn't fight alone and Paul didn't fight alone. And neither should you!

Perhaps you are in a situation now that is not like that of David, but calls on you to be an Abishai. You know a David. You can name her or him. This person is growing faint in the battle. The enemy is moving in for the kill. The situation calls on you to come to this person's aid. Act quickly!



In this passage, we see three servants of David, in addition to Abishai, named as giant killers. Certainly, we live in a time when giants roam the earth. Killers who devour God's people. Spiritual giants, but giants nevertheless. Giants which must be slain! Sibbechai, Elhanon, and Jonathon were giant killers. And all three were under the influence of that first man of God to pioneer giant killing, David.

It was Sibbechai who "killed Saph, who was one of the sons of the giant" (vs. 18). Sibbechai is one of the mighty warriors of David mentioned in I Chronicles 11. This chapter lists those who "strengthened themselves with him" (see verses 10 and 26). It seems that those who were around David caught what he had.

Verse 19 tells us that "Elhanan the son of Jaare-Oregim the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath". Elhanan had his roots in David's hometown. He had heard the stories about David's triumph over Goliath. It was the talk and pride of the town. He came through life wanting a giant of his own. It seems that those who were around David caught what he had.

There was another giant, one with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, "and he also was born to the giant" (vs. 20). Like his father, he defied Israel. Big mistake! "So when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David's brother killed him" (vs. 21). Jonathan... the nephew of David, who bore the same name as David's closest friend, who grew up hearing about the victories of his uncle and aspiring to victories of his own, was ready. It seems that those who were around David caught what he had.

Verse 22 summarizes: "These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David and by the hands of his servants." But David didn't kill any of those four. How is it that verse 22 says that they "fell by the hand of David"? How so? Because David had raised up and influenced a generation of giant killers. Their victory was his victory; the giant killer had begotton giant killers. May God enable us to do the same!