For generations, Philistines had dominated the Israelites; their troops had raided, plundered and extorted. Under King David, Israelite forces had turned the tide on this oppression, but not eradicated it. Now Philistine forces had amassed for another assault.
This operation began badly. Rather than standing firm in the day of battle, “the men of Israel were gone away.”
But a man was there named Eleazar.
“[W]hen they defied the Philistines that were there gathered together to battle, and the men of Israel were gone away: He arose, and smote the Philistines …” (2 Samuel 23:9-10). When other men ran, Eleazar charged. He didn’t berate his fellow soldiers; he simply took action. His example corrected them. This one-man army “arose, and smote the Philistines.”
Are you willing to stand alone and fight? God commands you to develop this valor (e.g. Philippians 2:12; Matthew 11:12; 1 Corinthians 9:24). You face danger. You face fear. But don’t give in. Don’t follow the mob. Don’t cave. Don’t criticize. Don’t hesitate. When others are weak, be bold. Rise, and smite the Philistines.
One man plus God is army enough to take the victory.
Eleazar fought with every mental and physical fiber he had. He wreaked as much damage, created as much havoc, spilled as much Philistine blood, as possible. He never stopped swinging. He would not allow himself to succumb to fatigue, to yield to the oncoming crush of enemies. He remained focused, single-minded—vigilantly, violently engaged.
You fight your daily battles against Satan, an ungodly society, and your own selfish nature. This melee demands determined, ceaseless exertion. Grip your sword and don’t stop swinging.
It is true that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Eventually, even this mighty warrior’s “hand was weary.” Nevertheless, he gripped his sword so tightly and determinedly that he could not release it: “his hand clave unto the sword” (2 Samuel 23:10).
This mighty man was also indomitable spiritually. He couldn’t drop his weapon even if he wanted to. This is the way you must be with God’s truth, “the sword of the Spirit.” Nothing and no one must ever pry it from you. Whatever the job, cling to your sword like it is welded to your hand, until the last enemy falls.
Eleazar’s will was indomitable, yet he did reach the limit of his physical strength. The man who never hits this point hasn’t worked to his capacity. This weariness is simply the mark of a mortal spending every ounce of the might God gives him. Nevertheless, God ensured his strength held out until the battle was won. Because Eleazar refused to retreat or forsake God’s cause, “the Lord wrought a great victory that day.” God prevailed because of the grit of one man.
Often, God chooses to fight only through harnessing the strength of men. If men will not fight, God will not win. How often God seeks to vanquish an entire army of Philistines—yet those through whom He would do battle are simply “gone away.”
We can never expect God to fight our battles for us if we flee.
We must arise and meet the enemy, entrusting our lives to the fact that God will provide the strength. If even one soldier avails himself of the supernatural strength God offers, God is eager to use that brave man to achieve “a great victory.”
Then, when the battle is won, we must credit the real victor.
God preserved this example to light a fire in future Eleazars like you. That is what it did within the men who saw Eleazar firsthand. After his display of boldness, they “returned after him.” Granted, it was “only to spoil.” But they were back on the battlefield, revitalized by the valor of their brother-in-arms.
When you stand up for God, others will follow. A family will get behind a man who leads. Others will grow in faith over a single outstanding example. One man’s courage can inspire even the unconverted who recognize it and witness the triumph.
Stay faithful in fight, dauntless toward danger. Execute your duty. Never relax your sword. Commit the full measure of your strength, guts and heart, and God will use you to win a great victory.