The plot was, in most respects, suicidal.
Jonathan, impatient with his father’s halting, snuck off to the Philistines’ camp, his trusted armor-bearer beside him. Near the border, Jonathan turned to his servant and defied common sense: “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” (1 Samuel 14:6). While Saul sat back counting his soldiers, Jonathan counted to two and drew his sword.
I imagine myself as Jonathan’s servant:
What do you mean “go over”? Fight an entire army with just the two of us? And what do you mean “it may be that the Lord will work for us”? Shouldn’t we check first?
What his armor-bearer actually said was this: “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul” (1 Samuel 14:7). Here is a brother born for the day of adversity (Proverbs 17:17), a soldier ready when the war horn sounds, the kind of man you want beside you when everything is on the line.
This nameless servant of Jonathan would fight whomever Jonathan fought. They would claim victory together, or die together — whichever their Lord willed. He not only carried his master’s armor; he stood ready to strap it on himself.
And he did. The Philistines called them up to fight (confirming, in their minds, that God went with them, 1 Samuel 14:10), so Jonathan charged up first, his armor-bearer behind. After they killed twenty men, the Lord sent the thousands within the Philistine camp into confusion. Israel’s army, observing the commotion, drew near to see the Philistines striking each other down (1 Samuel 14:20). They then routed the bewildered army. “So the Lord saved Israel that day” (1 Samuel 14:23).
Men of Our Own Soul
Where are Jonathan and his armor-bearer today?
“Where are the men who have resolved, God helping them, to take a hill for Christ?”
Where are the men who have resolved, God helping them, to take a hill for Christ? Men who see the devil’s flag waving over their neighborhood and dare some glorious mission? Men who hear the taunts of that Philistine Planned Parenthood and pray, fast, and strategize to save lives? Men who, when confronted with the evil forces at work in their area, say, “Come, let go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised — it may be that the Lord will work for us”?
Where are the men who take seriously Jesus’s claim that “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18)? Men who do not pretend that their Captain is halting like Saul, but hear his call to manfully venture outside the camp (Hebrews 13:13)? Men who know they never step anywhere under the sun that is outside of their King’s jurisdiction? Men who, when they speak with politicians, implore sinners, or expose scoffers, secure good works in the name of Jesus, do so unashamed because their Master rules all?
And where are the men on mission together? The Jonathans to lead the way, and the faithful and formidable armor-bearers to charge behind? Where stand the men outmanned and outmaneuvered, yet pointing and saying, “We know nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few”? Where are the hills flapping with the gospel’s banner? Where is that sacred flame that unites two or more soldiers on active duty, standing firm in the armor of God?
I first ask myself these questions. My city and neighborhood do not lack needs, just bands of brothers to meet them.
Man and His Household
Is even our ideal Christian man today isolated from other men? His world orbits around his personal devotions and how he leads his own family toward Christ. Healthy fatherhood and healthy husbanding within healthy homes can appear to suffice.
But this faith scarcely resembles our forefathers who “conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight” (Hebrews 11:33–34). “Let the Philistine flag fly in our city,” we seem to say. “Each man for his family and himself.”
And even when we do gather together, do we move beyond the talk of war? Surely, how good and pleasant is it when brothers dwell in unity, and meet to update about last week’s battles and pray for battles to come. But how often do we meet and talk of soldiering only to disband and fight alone? Why not take a hill together? Jonathan did not send his armor-bearer into the camp alone with plans to meet next week for an update.
And there may also be a lesson for us in the sin of King David — the man Jonathan would love as his own soul (1 Samuel 18:1). His mighty fall with Bathsheba occurred at home: “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle” (2 Samuel 11:1). David was slain by temptation at home (a fate we have shared) when he stayed back from mission with his men.
Lineage of Conquerors
How many of us today know the blessing George Whitefield once described?
It [is] an invaluable privilege to have a company of fellow soldiers continually about us, animating and exhorting each other to stand our ground, to keep our ranks, and manfully to follow the Captain of our Salvation, though it be through a sea of blood.
Men need something to live for, to fight for, to die for. Our faith lineage, we men in the West must not forget, includes not only those who conquered kingdoms and put armies to flight but also those who suffered without obvious “success”:
Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated — of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:35–38)
These heavenly men, bearing worth beyond this realm, suffered. We must count the cost. Regardless of victory or defeat, whether hills be claimed with our efforts or not, remember, we do not descend from “those who shrink back and are destroyed, but [from] those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Hebrews 10:39). Men of courage. Men of valor. Men of God.
Our Missing Mission
Some godly men today, perhaps many, need more mission. We need to look around us and pray. We need to fight on hills we cannot take alone. Is it safe to say that if we don’t need other men we might not be on mission? Paul often called his brothers “fellow laborers,” “fellow workers,” or “fellow soldiers” (Philippians 2:25; 1 Corinthians 16:16) — do we hold objectives together that prompt us to speak this way of one another?
Masculinity begins to atrophy when it terminates on itself and even on its family — as important as our households are. Men were made to cultivate, to build, to exercise dominion (Genesis 1:26, 28). The godly man’s gaze is on his family at home (who should be on mission as well), and also toward the horizon with a few men. He says with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15), and he seeks with Joshua to march forth with brothers to take new territory for their God. And woe to him who is alone when he falls in battle (Ecclesiastes 4:10, 12).
“Men, we are made to conquer. Made to risk. Made to sweat and face resistance.”
So, go street preach, intercede outside abortion clinics, evangelize blocks surrounding your church, build a fence for old Mrs. Jones in Christ’s name, meet every week to pray for the nations, and raise money to support missionaries overseas. Ask your elders — a supreme model of brotherhood — how you can serve together in the church and beyond.
Men, we are made to conquer. Made to risk. Made to sweat, and face resistance. Made to hunt souls, build and mend fences, evangelize blocks, mobilize missions — and a million other worthy pursuits — in the name of King Jesus. So come, let us go out — it may be that the Lord will work for us.