I sang that familiar verse, “That saved a wretch like me,” long before I had any idea what a wretch I was. Though there is a great deal which God’s Word lists as being an impassable obstacle to entering the Kingdom of Heaven, the top 2 mentioned in Rev.21:8 remain the “cowardly and unbelieving.”
Yesterday I shrunk back from the sight of a gecko which had wedged itself in the doorjam of our car. Now these little creatures are important, they seem to be everywhere, I know they are harmless, but they surprise me whenever I find one close enough to scurry fast near me in ways I do not want to experience.
Yet the kind of “cowardly”, or “fear-driven” Revelation 21:8 speaks of I am intimately acquainted with.
There remains a kind of brave strength needed to follow the Lord into places where human ability is unable to. I’ve found it to be the kind of strength-of-heart which I lack apart from where the Lord provides, methods my human nature would naturally not use.
God’s unconventional methods of waging war against His enemy weaves itself throughout Scripture. As I read about David’s question to God in 1 Samuel 23:1 as he is facing not only Saul, but now those Philistines who seem relentless in their fight against God’s people, I am left wondering if unbelief is more dangerous to our soul than we may realize?
“Shall I go and fight them?”
God did say, “Go,” and David’s men did fear, understandably as they must have considered the size of their army with the fact they already were busy defending themselves against Saul. But why would God ever want anyone to provoke more enemies? How does any child of God stand brave-in-heart without fainting-in-heart when the enemy is determined their cause is also God’s cause?
“Saul easily believed what he greedily desired.” (Poole, 1 Samuel 23-24)
If David had such trust in God his Protector for guidance and direction, confident that the Lord would direct him in ways he was at a loss to, can I also be as Divinely persuaded so that my response to whatever I may encounter honors and pleases my Father?
God did not “make it all better” for David, instead He let his son know: ‘Yes, these people really are going to do this, as is Saul.’ David and his men had to leave the city they saved. Instead of thanking David they turned on David. David was left, in obedience to God’s instructions, ‘not knowing where they should go, having no particular place in view; but went where they thought they could be safest.’ (Gill)
“David kept God’s way, waited God’s time, and was content to secure himself in woods and wildernesses. This world often gives bad treatment to its best men: let it make us long for that kingdom where goodness shall for ever be in glory, and holiness in honour…’Fear not’ that universal message, even though Saul comes at David with a vengeance.” (Matthew Henry)
“He spared the man who so ruthlessly and often had sought his life, trying to kill him; David the outlaw bent over the sleeping king who hated him with so deep a hate…” (Ellicott)
“They put a religious varnish on their advice as if it would be almost immoral not to kill Saul! How disgusted they must have been when the blade was not buried in Saul’s back. David is left to defend himself to his men by insisting on the sacredness which still surrounded Saul as ‘the Lord’s anointed.’ David will not take the law into his own hands. He sets the example of leaving God to carry out His purposes at His own time, and patiently waiting till that time comes.” (MacLaren)
Father, Your Word says that the end of any matter is better than its beginning, and that patience of spirit is better than hautiness of spirit. (Ecc.7:8) You also know how seemingly impossible it is for Your child to respond in ways which Your Son Jesus did when He faced “the frosty air of unbelief and rejection.” (MacLaren, Matthew 9:14-29) We are in desperate need of Your power and strength in order to put on compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, forgiving as the Lord as forgiven us, putting on love which miraculously binds everything together. (Col.3:12-14)
Nothing chills the soul than when love is rejected or defeated because there is no heart to receive it.
Jesus, You know it is possible to weep in temporary grief or sorrow, yet have a heart left unchanged by the impact and influence of Your Word and Holy Spirit. Any emotion which does not lead to the action of repentance will only harden the heart. It seems the only remedy and cure for hatred or the overcoming of evil is the power and forbearing influence of Your love, grace, and merciful forbearance revealed in the Gospel.
Jesus Yours is a strength of grace that some see only as a meek and mild gentleness, yet are unawares of the piercing Sword of the Spirit which can take the heart of stone and miraculously transform it to a heart maleable in Your hands, responsive to Your love, receptive to the truths of Your Word and prompting of Your Holy Spirit.
Jesus, may we be a people, Your people, who are known by the fruits of Your Spirit, fruit that lasts even when face to face against that which fiercely opposes You, Your Word and Holy Spirit. The unity of the Spirit You call us to preserve is not a truce or some kind of compromise to Your Word, but one in which we all share in the same grace, the same faith, are cleansed in the same blood, filled and focused on the same hopes aiming at the same eternal inheritance. (Eph.4) In this Your Name I pray Jesus, amen.