“Be strong, and show yourself a man”: Encouragement for perilous times

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“Be strong, and show yourself a man”: Encouragement for perilous times

October 24, 2023 -

A green cutout of a man presses against leaning dominoes, preventing more from falling. By Andrey Popov/stock.adobe.com

A green cutout of a man presses against leaning dominoes, preventing more from falling. By Andrey Popov/stock.adobe.com

A green cutout of a man presses against leaning dominoes, preventing more from falling. By Andrey Popov/stock.adobe.com

You don’t need me to specify the crises and challenges we are facing in these days. As I noted in my Daily Article yesterday, we are facing a “polycrisis,” a plurality of calamities that are accelerating at an unprecedented rate. In such times, those we serve understandably hope to find us faithful to our Lord and our calling, strong in our service and undaunted in our faith.

But you and I know that we’re just as frail and fallen as everyone else we know. The fallacy inherent in the temptation to “fake it till you make it” is that we are “faking” it rather than “making” it.

This is why David’s last words to Solomon before he ascended the throne struck a chord in my soul recently. The king declared: “Be strong, and show yourself a man” (1 Kings 2:2). I want very much to do what David called his son to do. I’m confident you do as well.

How?

Let’s do a brief grammatical exegesis of the larger text in which we find David’s admonition. Here I believe we will find reminders that will encourage us in our calling amid the crises of our day.

“I am about to go the way of all the earth” (v. 2a).

  • “I am about to go” could be translated as “I will soon take a journey.”
  • “The way of all the earth” could be rendered “the road everyone on the earth travels,” clearly referring to his impending death.

“Keep the charge of the Lᴏʀᴅ your God” (v. 3a).

  • “Keep” means to “watch over, guard preserve.”
  • “Charge” refers to one’s function, post, trust, duty.
  • “Of the Lᴏʀᴅ” reminds us that this calling comes from the One who was, is, and ever shall be (cf. Exodus 3:14). He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10) and has a purpose for you that is perfectly aligned with his design, gifting, and work in your life.
  • “Your God” reminds us that this “God” (Elohim) is “ours.” We have a personal, intimate, unique relationship with the Creator of the universe.

“Walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his rules, and his testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses” (v. 3b)

  • “Walking in his ways” describes someone who travels on the road and lives in the manner intended for him by God.
  • “Keeping” is the same word used earlier, meaning to “watch over, guard, preserve.”
  • “Commandments, “statutes,” “rules,” and “testimonies” could be translated as “prescriptions,” “precepts and prohibitions,” “laws,” and “warnings.”
  • “As it is written in the Law of Moses” reminds us that such guidance has already been given to us in God’s word.

“That you may prosper in all you do and wherever you turn” (v. 3c).

  • “That you may prosper” could be rendered “in order that you may have understanding and success.”
  • “In all you do” refers to everything we “accomplish” or “manufacture.”
  • “And wherever you turn” refers to every direction we choose to travel.

“That the Lᴏʀᴅ may establish his word” (v. 4)

  • “That the Lᴏʀᴅ” reminds us again that this is Yahweh, the God of time and eternity, at work.
  • “May establish his word” could be translated as “may stand up and bring to fruition his declaration.”

What follows is God’s specific promise to Solomon and his descendants: “If your sons pay close attention to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, you shall not lack a man on the throne of Israel” (v. 4). Tragically, they did not and the united kingdom fell into civil war, division, and eventually captivity.

However, this word to Solomon is preserved in Scripture because it is relevant for all time and thus for you and me.

Principles for faith and service

Let’s gather together some life principles from what we’ve studied thus far.

One: Use today to prepare for eternity.

David’s sense of his impending death was correct: after he finished speaking with Solomon, “David slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of David” (1 Kings 2:10). Death is just as real and may be just as imminent for us.

With Hamas’s horrific invasion of Israel and all that has followed, many are wondering if these are the “end times.” But whatever your eschatological theory, we can agree on this: we are one day closer to eternity than ever before. I cannot promise you that Christ will come for us or call you to himself today, but I cannot promise you that he will not.

When I remember that I will soon stand before Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10), I am empowered and encouraged to resist those sins which will grieve him and cost me reward in eternity (1 Corinthians 3:15). I am encouraged to focus on what matters most in the short time left. I am led to forgive and seek forgiveness, to share the gospel and pray with passion.

If you knew this were your last week in this life, what would you change? Why not now?

Two: As we work, God works.

Keeping God’s word as David directs does not earn God’s favor. Grace by definition cannot be merited. But obedience does position us to receive what God wants to give. By contrast, disobedience forfeits his best since our Father cannot bless that which harms his children.

When we keep our “charge” in ministry, live personally by God’s word, then teach what we know and do, we “may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn.” This does not mean we will be as wealthy and wise as Solomon, but it does mean that we will experience God’s best for and through us, whatever that means for us.

Consequently, the “long obedience in the same direction” to which Eugene Peterson called us is the path to power and peace in perilous times.

Three: God is using us for purposes beyond our understanding.

The “word” God “established” for Solomon changed the course of history. He would author some of the world’s most significant wisdom and continue a lineage that would lead ultimately to the birth of the Messiah.

Of course, Solomon could not know this at the time. He could not know that three millennia later, you and I would be studying these words given to him by his dying father.

In the same way, you and I cannot measure the eternal significance of present faithfulness (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12). But God can and does.

William Booth captured this balance well: “Work as if everything depended upon work and pray as if everything depended upon prayer.”

Let’s do both in these hard days, to the glory of God.

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