By Chris Mitchell
Chis is a Campus Pastor at a multi-site church in St. Louis, Missouri called The Crossing. He’s served in ministry for 33 years. He and his wife, Lori, have been married for 31 years, have two grown sons, and a Chihuahua named Suki. Chris loves his family and helping people find and follow Jesus.
We like our heroes uncomplicated. They should always be right, always be true, always win in the end. However, there is a complicated character in the Bible named Joab. Complicated because sometimes he is faithful. Sometimes he is loyal. And sometimes, he takes matters into his own hands and follows his own agenda.
He lived at the time of King David. He was actually David’s nephew. David appointed him as the general of his armies, but this wasn’t nepotism, Joab was a fierce warrior and a more than competent commander. He led Israel to victory after victory.
Let me give you a little context here. David was king over a united Israel and the people of God under him had quite the reputation. Now, other nations would constantly attack them, and it wasn’t just about the spoils or taking their land, these were spiritual battles. You see, in this pagan world where many gods were worshipped, other nations wanted to silence Israel about their one true God. They wanted it to be known that Yahweh (the Hebrew name for God) was no different than other pagan gods and they wanted God’s people to shut up about Him already.
There was a moment in battle when Joab got it right and taught us a valuable lesson. You will find this story in 1 Chronicles 19 and again in 1 Samuel 10. (We should always pay attention when the Bible repeats something.)
It was in an epic battle scene. This was one of those Tolkien battle moments fit for a Peter Jackson movie. Not the Battle of 5 armies, but the battle of 3. It begins with the stage being set. The Israelite army is faced off with their enemy only to find out that their enemy has conspired with another nation to attack them from behind. So, here they are, now facing armies on 2 sides. Impossible odds… conspiracy… honor… certain death. Got it?
Now, let me give you the spoiler alert right now. At the end of this battle, the Israelites defeat them all so soundly that the nation that joined in tell their co-conspirators that if you have a fight with the Israelites and their God, that’s on you. Next time… leave us out of it.
Now, I told it that way because the powerful thing about this story is not how it began or how it ended, but about how they did it. So, let me cut right to the middle.
Joab decides to take half of his men and turn to the army behind them and places the other half under the command of his brother Abishai to face the army in front. And this is what he says to Abishai (from 1 Chronicles 19) “If the Arameans are too strong for me, then come over and help me (another translation: rescue me) …And if the Ammonites are too strong for you, then I will come and rescue you. Be courageous! Let us fight bravely for our people and for the cities of our God. May the Lord’s will be done.”
Yes, God will be with us and His purposes will be accomplished.
But how are we going to fight this battle? We will fight it together. When my fight becomes overwhelming for me, come and rescue me… and when yours becomes overwhelming for you, I will be there for you. We will fight this battle with our relationship… with our love for each other… with our trust in each other. Do you hear the humility that it takes to ask for help when we need it? Do you hear the compassion and selflessness that it would require to fight beside someone else in their battle?
What a lesson for God’s people. Unity wins over division. Together, we can do so much more than we ever thought we could. Together, we are smarter and stronger than any one of us could ever be. We can survive the unthinkable and accomplish the unimaginable, but only if we can count on each other.
So often our battle is about the sin in our lives and the weight of consequences that we face as a result. Even then, we can lift each other up. We can use love, forgiveness, and truth from God’s Word to dispel shame and point each other to a healthier path. It might be about conflict. We can enter in and help each other heal relational scars. Our battle might be about fear, anxiety, depression, or anger. We can face it together.
Be courageous? Yes! I can be more courageous knowing that you are here if I need you and you can be more courageous knowing that I am here if you need me.
How do we do that? It starts by listening to each other. By paying attention to the needs of our own hearts and to the needs expressed by those around us. Listen. Listen close and they will tell you that they are in need. It might be subtle. Only a whisper.
Maybe the fight that you are facing today is overwhelming, or maybe you just need more people in your corner who have your back. Ask for help. Maybe there is someone you know who is in the fight of their life right now. They need you to step in, to step up and take on the fight with them and stand beside them in it. Be the help they need.
May Joab give us a little inspiration today to do just that.
The Crossing (St Louis)
Mid Rivers location Campus Pastor