“Now after him was Shammah the son of Agee a Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered into a troop where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the people fled from the Philistines. But he took his stand in the midst of the plot, defended it and struck the Philistines; and the Lord brought about a great victory.” 2 Samuel 23:11-12, NASB.
I love and am greatly challenged but this 23d chapter. In it is the recording of the names and many of the deeds of those who were closest to the king…his most trusted and valiant warriors. To read the stories is to step into a narrative of superheros. The actions of these men demonstrate incredible courage and are rewarded with supernatural victory by God.
Where does courage like that come from? In our world today, we (men) have allowed poets and philosophers to redefine courage. It takes courage they say “to sit down and have a conversation.” “It takes courage to forgive.” “It takes courage to admit you’re wrong.” These things do require character…but courage? No sir. I don’t think so…at least not in the way David speaks of courage here. Courage here involves stepping into the battle while greatly outnumbered and giving everything you have to win while trusting God to do what is pleasing to Him. The story above is of a single warrior who stood in a field of beans. All of God’s people (those with the promises of God made to them too) withdrew in the face of a large troop of the enemy leaving only Shammah to stand firm. The requirement for courage INCREASED as each man abandoned the land. In the end…Shammah stood and defended the bean field.
What strategic significance is a bean field? Limited at best…but the choice to stand firm was not about the strategy…it was about the HONOR of the NAME OF GOD! To retreat…was to trumpet a lack of confidence in God’s ability to bring victory. To retreat was to proclaim confidence in one’s own intellect over that of the Lord’s directive. To retreat was not to be the “bigger man” but to simply be a coward in the face of danger.
Shammah had nothing to count on that day…except the power and presence of God. I imagine he quietly decided (having surveyed the fields around him and the size of the enemy forces) that it was better to die standing for something than to dishonor God by fleeing. Did he believe he could win? I am not certain…but I imagine he had seen God bring victory out of the most overwhelming circumstances imaginable before…and believed that God just might do it again. Frankly though, I am not as certain in his expectations of OUTCOME as I am his understanding of RESPONSIBILITY in the present. Maybe he would die…but that was simply a consequence left up to God. What he knew in the moment was no true believer in the power of God runs when facing the enemy. He stands his ground and trusts God for the outcome that He sees fit.
So, what is the source of courage? Two things- confidence in God’s ability and obedience to the orders at hand. The rest is up to God.