David’s son Solomon, years after his father had died, writes these words in
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Whether he learned this by watching his father…or was simply expressing this out of his own experience…probably a combination of both. There is a reality that our human nature will not let us deny…we need other people.
There is something inside of us that needs friendships. We need camaraderie. We need connect. We need a depth to our relationships. When we feel loneliness…it is symptom that something is wrong…that we don’t have the right people in our lives.
Every King had to surround himself with a band of advisors and warriors to help bounce ideas off of, to protect him, to lead with him…and David was no different.
1 Chronicles 27:32-34
32 Jonathan, David’s uncle, was a counselor, a man of insight and a scribe. Jehiel son of Hakmoni took care of the king’s sons.
33 Ahithophel was the king’s counselor.
Hushai the Arkite was the king’s confidant. 34 Ahithophel was succeeded by Jehoiada son of Benaiah and by Abiathar.
Joab was the commander of the royal army.
These men helped David make decision on how to run the country, military plans to make, and even his own personal stuff.
But the group David spent the most time with are listed in 2 Samuel 23:8-39. It is a list of David’s Mighty Warriors…these are these are the men with whom David went to battle…the men who stood around him, defended him, and were his closest confidants. He spent about 15 years running from Saul, hiding in caves, evading Saul’s assassins…with these men.
The top three were…
Josheb-Basshebeth was the leader who had killed 800 men in one battle with only a spear.
Eleazar was a man who stood by David even when every other warrior fled. One day he fought so long his hand froze to his sword!
Shammah’s bravery was seen when he stood in the middle of a field and fought off a band of Philistines…alone; because everyone else had deserted him.
Then there was Joab, Benaniah, and 30 others who were David’s most trusted warriors. Fearless. Faithful. These men would literally defend David with their lives.
“What would you risk dying for—and for whom—is perhaps the most profound question a person can ask themselves. The vast majority of people in modern society are able to pass their whole lives without ever having to answer that question, which is both an enormous blessing and a significant loss.”
— Sebastian Junger (Tribe)
These men knew who they would die with and who they would die for. David knew he would die for them and they would die for him. And that created a bond between them that was beyond any other they had the rest of their lives.
The sad thing is, using Sebastian Junger’s quote, is that you and I rarely, if ever, have to ask the question. We rarely find a group of friends with whom we are willing to storm the hill and risk death with to be with each other.
Like most lists of names…reading this can seem unimportant. It can seem and even be boring. It is an exercise in linguistic gymnastics simply trying to pronounce the names of his warriors…but when we ask one simply question we get some insightful answers…that question is this…Why did God include this list of men in the Bible? Why is it here?
It is here because
We don’t succeed on our own.
Isaac Newton popularized the metaphor of the dwarves with this quote;
“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”
No matter how “self-made” someone is…they didn’t make it there without some break, some connection, some helping hand along the way. I am not demeaning the amount of time and handwork people have to put in along the way to make the gain, but no one, in any field, in any area of life got to where they are without someone else helping along the way.
David was not going to win battles on his own. David did not have all the knowledge needed to lead a government the way it needed to be run. He could not succeed on his own.
If you are going to succeed in getting a job…it will usually happen because you have some kind of connection that works there or knows someone who works there.
If you are going to succeed in business you need advisors along the way who will help with the areas of business you struggle with. You will also need capital…you will also have needed someone to invest in you somewhere along the way that gives you the confidence to actually attempt building a business.
If you are going to succeed in your spiritual lives…you definitely need other people. In fact, the Bible makes it pretty clear that you can’t do what God has called us to do…you can’t be who God calls us to be without other people along the way. You can’t grow spiritually on your own. You need other people.
I am completely blown away by how many people still claim to have made it all on their own…or who simply believe they can make it on their own…I am shocked at how many times I think I can make it on my own, and how often I am wrong.
This passage is also here because
We all have weaknesses.
And because we of this…we need people who watch out for us.
We have all heard…maybe even said, “God never gives us more than we can handle.” and I have preached several times about just how wrong this old cliche actually is. First, it isn’t even in the Bible.
It comes from 1 Corinthians 10:13
13 No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
The context here is temptation. It is not God saying you will be able to muscle up under anything you will ever face no matter how difficult. That isn’t what is being said here.
The fact is you will probably face a few significant times in your life when you simply can’t do it on your own…and need to have mighty warriors around you to help you make it through. I have found that God often gives us more than we can handle, not to push over the edge, but to enable us to lean on other people.
David very realistically needed these men in his life because the life of a King was always in danger; especially a warrior king who was on the battlefield. What we don’t realize is that we too are on a battlefield. We are waging a spiritual battle in a dark place. The enemy wants to destroy us, discredit us, get us to fight against each other…and in the midst of this battle what we need to do is learn to depend on other people.
There are some things we can’t do for ourselves
We need people to encourage us.
I don’t know about you, but I simply can’t encourage myself. I can’t do it. I can’t create some cheer squad in my head and root myself on to better things. BUT I have had friends who have come alongside, and with one simple word enabled me to feel unstoppable.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says
Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
We need people around us who lift us up. Life is hard enough some times…and I don’t know if you have looked at an online article comment section…but negativity reigns…by people who have absolutely no knowledge of a situation…but think they have complete knowledge.
Maybe closer to home is simply people who don’t know you, but think they do…and say negative, hateful, hurtful things about you. You need encouragement, but
We need people who will defend us.
When I was planting the church in Missouri, there was one incidence that is so ingrained in my mind that it still hurts to think about. I was both the worship leader and preacher…and I would get rather hot. In fact, I had a right down in the front. Knowing this, I was very careful what we did about the overall temperature control because I didn’t want to freeze people out simply because I was hot.
One day as I was transitioning from worship to preaching, I noticed that almost everyone in the room was fanning themselves. I asked if people were hot, they responded almost unanimously that yes they were…so I asked one of the guys to cool it off a bit, but watch so that it didn’t get to cold…and that is when one of the guys in the back started yelling at me about how he was sick and tired of watching his wife shiver to death because it was so cold in a service. I don’t even remember what else I he said because I was in so much shock.
I put my head down and gripped the microphone trying to figure out if I was going to cry, walk out, or hurl the microphone at his head. I took a few deep breathes and just kept going.
What hurt more than anything, though, was not just that this man did this…but that NO ONE called him out on it or defended me. I had asked them.They were the ones who were hot.
We need people to defend us in our tough times…when we can’t defend ourselves…when defending ourselves looks like we are making excuses…simply because you know what kind of person they are.
David needed people to literally defend him and protect him. But we do as well…and should be willing to take risks to defend people we know.
The most troubling part of this passage…
And I want to close by quickly looking at it…
2 Samuel 23:13-17
13 During harvest time, three of the thirty chief warriors came down to David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. 14 At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. 15 David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” 16 So the three mighty warriors broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the Lord. 17 “Far be it from me, Lord, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it.
Such were the exploits of the three mighty warriors.
At first this seems wasteful or insulting….
David desires water, and these men fight their way through the crowd to bring him a drink from the well…and then David pours out the water on the ground…acts of friendships…these kinds of sacrifices and friendships like this are so holy…we are not worthy to receive them and so we offer them to God in sacrifice. This is not meant as disrespectful…it is not mean to demean their bravery…it was meant to elevate it…what they had done was so holy…that only God could have it.
These men would have understood the honor of having their hard fought for water poured out as an offering worthy to God…
You and I need friendships like that…but they take work…they take trust…they take time getting to know others…they take love and vulnerability and giving others the benefit of the doubt…This is the kind of relationship that God continually calls those in the church to pursue with each other…united under the banner of Jesus crucified and risen…filled with the Holy Spirit…and transformed to love the way God loves…