"Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, 'Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.'" --1 Samuel 14:6
The history of God's people, for the most part, is the history, at least according to conventional wisdom, of an underdog. We see it from the beginning. From Noah, to Abraham, to King David, to the return from Exile, to Jesus and his disciples, to the early church, and much of church history. The nation of Israel, throughout her history, was the underdog against much more powerful nations. Throughout much of church history, we see Christians being the underdog. What the west has experienced in terms of a cordial relationship with the state is largely an anomaly. Christians, in the west, experienced unprecedented freedom and favor over last 500 years. We often forget that our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world do not have that freedom. They are true underdogs. Recent events in the west, from Europe, to Canada, and now to the United States are signalling that the unprecedented favor and freedom is coming to an end. We see panic and fear filling social media timelines and circles. We hear preachers and commentators telling us its time to shelter up and shield ourselves.
The above cited verse is part of a larger context. Israel has found itself cornered and on the defensive. The reign of King Saul is already at the beginning of its end. Israel has no weapons and is dependent upon their dreaded enemy, the Philistines, to keep their weaponry up. They'll fix it, but for a steep price. They are surrounded. There were several responses. Some joined the Philistines. Some went and hid. However, we see the most poignant contrast between Saul and Jonathan. Saul and his army go on the defensive and hide. Jonathan, grabbing his armor bearer, goes on the offensive. For Saul, God was too small. For Jonathan, all enemies were small. After all, "It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few."
Jonathan and his armor bearer go and scope out the situation. They spot a garrison and present themselves. The test is this: if the guards say "come up here and we'll show you a thing" that means Jonathan is going to win. If the sign is to wait there, it's time to flee. The former happened. Jonathan and his armor bearer begin scaling the hillside. They slayed 20 men in one pass. The earth then shook and the Philistines panicked. At that point, the rest of Israel's army saw what was happening, and upon seeing that "we're winning," opted to join in the battle.
Increasingly, here in the west, we find ourselves becoming more and more of an underdog. This is not something foreign to our brothers around the world. The panic we're seeing is much like Saul and company cowering in the caves. We even see many joining forces with the culture around us. However, a few voices are calling us to march forward, like Jonathan. It is when when God's people have no strength, no visible "light at the end of the tunnel," and are facing apparent defeat that God will show how strong He is. When He acts in these situations, there is only one possibility as to how things turned our way: God acted.
As we see our culture become increasingly antagonistic toward the Gospel, let us remember the lesson of Jonathan and the armor bearer. Just because the odds are against us does not mean we need to retreat into a defensive posture. We must remember that "It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few."
Let us remember that Jesus, the one who calmed the storm, said, "Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of Hell will not stand against it." Let us pray with the apostles, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit, “ ‘Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and against his Anointed’— for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” The room was shaken and they went out with boldness. Jesus rose from the dead. We've already won. Let's march onward in the proclamation of the gospel. Let's march onward pursuing God. Let's march onward in love and fellowship with each other. It's when things are against the odds that we need to remember that it is "nothing for God to save, whether by many or by few." Let us not worry ourselves about survival. Let us concern ourselves with victory!!
I leave you with this song of marching onto victory from Egypt.
Pratney, Witnie. "Victory or Survival." Part 1 http://ia600702.us.archive.org/9/items/SERMONINDEX_SID0979/SID0979.mp3
Ibid., Part 2. http://ia600604.us.archive.org/20/items/SERMONINDEX_SID0980/SID0980.mp3
Ibid., Part 3. http://ia600306.us.archive.org/28/items/SERMONINDEX_SID0981/SID0981.mp3