God’s grace isn’t just a passive shield guarding us from his wrath; it is power to live a God-ward life.
2 Samuel 23:8-38 is a list of the 37 “mighty men” who David appointed to be close to him because of their skill in battle and power. These were the kind of guys that we watch martial arts and action movies about. Guys that left the mere mortals in awe. Guys like Josheb-basshebeth who “wielded his spear against eight hundred whom he killed at one time,” Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, who “went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen,” and later won a battle by grabbing his enemy’s spear from his hand and stabbing him with it. To cap off the feats of the mighty men, there are three who overheard David say, “Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!” when Bethlehem was the garrison of the Philistine military and who snuck into the camp, drew water from the well, and returned with it to their king.
These men were close to David. They were his bodyguard, the men he sent on crucial missions, the overseers of his troops and strategies, and in some cases his closest friends. They achieved their positions through proving themselves in war and through hours of experience. Because of what they had done they were close to the king and received the glory of their positions.
Like David, Jesus gathered around himself a small group of men. Like David, within his group there were three who Jesus kept particularly close. Like David, Jesus sent his men out on crucial missions. Like David, Jesus entrusted his authority to his men. But, in a breathtaking departure from common sense, Jesus choose men with no skill or experience. Men who were unproven. Who were unimpressive. Who, by all calculations, were a waste.
Oh the glorious strangeness of our Savior who calls tax collectors, farmers, and fishers to be the mighty men of his kingdom! Paul makes it explicit in 1 Corinthians,
not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29, ESV)
David’s mighty men proved themselves before receiving their position. Jesus calls his disciples and proves himself through them after they’ve been chosen. That’s the power of God’s grace – it makes mighty the weakest and brings what didn’t exist into being.
David had 37 highly trained, skilled men at his disposal and all we have left behind is a list of hard-to-pronounce names. Jesus took 12 average men (at best) and launched a movement that still transforms lives and reverberates around the globe. The difference? The indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
We need to stop demanding of ourselves and others the experience and expertise of David’s mighty men. Skill, education, and experience aren’t defining characteristics in Christ’s kingdom. Humility, faith, hope, and love are the mighty weapons of Gospel warfare.
You may be weak. You may be unproven and unable. You may not have a sweet name like Eliahba the Shaalbonite. You may not feel worthy. Exactly. The Spirit in us is what appoints and empowers us to be missionaries and mighty men. If you have that, you have all you need. Jesus has all the authority in heaven and on earth, and you have access to all of him. Go and bring the living water from the wells of Bethlehem to the world!