“The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had valiant men who carried shield and sword, and drew the bow, expert in war, 44,760, able to go to war. They waged war against the Hagrites, Jetur, Naphish, and Nodab. And when they prevailed over them, the Hagrites and all who were with them were given into their hands, for they cried out to God in the battle, and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him.” 1 Chronicles 5:18-20
This passage is full of crazy names: crazy names of real people long, long dead. Their homes are gone. Their families and farms, livestock are gone. All that we have of their walk on earth are a few historical records that speak to a people’s experience with ancient tools of battle: shield, sword and bow.
They were men of valor, experts in the ability to wage war. Quite an epitaph, don’t you think?
But there’s more.
Their valor extended beyond their experience on the battlefield. They are remembered and noted here not only because of what they did, but because of how they did it. Their strength was in their weakness, and we have a memory preserved for how they handled it.
The record says that as they fought, they cried out to God in the battle, “and their plea was urgent.”
Really? I thought they were experts at war?
In this obscure roster of a long forgotten, anonymous people, God wants us to see that there is great wisdom in building capacity for life’s work, but ultimately not relying on it.
The older we get, the easier it is to think that we don’t need God. We like to think that we can draw more frequently and freely from an ever-deepening well of life’s experiences. We want to lean on the weeks, months and years of sunrises and sunsets as a blueprint to navigate any of tomorrow’s sudden turns and twists.
It is easy to feel comfortable with a sense of being an expert in living.
This passage above, however, gives a different story. We see men of valor, experts in the battlefield of war, veteran fighters whose power was shaped in continual conflict. We see them remembering the source of their power, and with urgent pleas, calling out to God.
“. . . and he granted their urgent plea because they trusted in him.” Not because they were experts; not because of their valor; not because of who they were or what they had done, but because of who they knew and in whom they trusted.
Their skills were sharp, and their experience was important, but they weren’t enough.
Their relationship with God and trust in Him won the battle.
God responds in power to us when we turn to him in simple trust.
With urgent pleas, even in my experience, I want to rely on Him.
“Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” Jeremiah 33:2-3