How To Pray When You’ve Been Stabbed In The Back

Sadly, some of the people who do us the most harm are those whom we least expected to hurt us. They seemed to have our back, but then they are stabbing us in the back! 

It’s sad, but it shouldn’t be totally unexpected. Matthew Henry said it well: “Never let a good man expect to be safe and easy till he comes to heaven. … It is well that God is faithful, for men are not to be trusted. 

David learned that lesson. He rescued the town of Keilah from the Philistines, only to hear that King Saul has called out his army to destroy Keilah and kill David. This prompted David to leave Keilah and flee to the Desert of Ziph. It appears that David has given Saul the slip, but the Ziphites send a message to the king saying, “We know where David is hiding, and we’ll gladly hand him over to you.” 

Here’s the painful part for David: Both Keilah and Ziph were in Judah—David’s tribe! His own family—that should have had his back—stabbed him in the back instead! 

I wish I could say this was a once-in-awhile thing, but we all know that it’s not. In fact, this sort of betrayal probably happens more often than we would care to admit. 

It was during this time of betrayal by the Ziphites that David wrote the 54th Psalm. In the opening verses, David laments the ruthless, Godless men that have betrayed him. And then comes that word of pause: Selah. 

I believe this Selah may have come when “Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God” (1 Samuel 23:16). One of the definitions of Selah is to weigh things to see what is more valuable. Notice that Jonathan took David’s attention off his evil betrayers and turned it to his loving God. So in the very next phrase after the Selah we read David saying, “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me.” 

Notice four key components of David’s prayer—

  1. David’s motive for praying. In the opening verse, he says, “Your Name…Your might.” To me, that sounds a lot like the opening words to the model prayer Jesus taught us: “Hallowed be Your Name.” 
  2. David’s prayer. He said, “Hear my prayer, O God; listen to the words of my mouth.” It’s interesting to note that David says nothing to the Ziphites themselves, but he only speaks of them when he is alone with God in prayer.  
  3. Prayer’s result. David didn’t have to try to make things right on his own because God took care of it—evil recoiled on those who stabbed David in the back. 
  4. David’s praise. Notice the words “I will praise Your Name…[You] have delivered me.” Again, this praise and focus on God sounds like the end of the model prayer Jesus taught us: “Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever!” 

When enemies assail, when you have been stabbed in the back, don’t look to men for help and don’t take matters in your own hands. Instead take a Selah. Consider that God is worthy of your attention, and not the “ruthless men” who hurt you. Turn your pain over to God and say with David: Surely God is my help; the Lord is the One who sustains me. 

Evil will recoil on evildoers, you will be kept safe, and you will be vindicated by God’s might! 

If you missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find them all by clicking here. 

C’mon, Let’s Go!

In May 1917, the British war cabinet was divided. Some of the generals wanted to continue a combined assault on the German forces, but other generals saw the need to confront the Ottoman Empire in the Middle East. They selected General Edmund Allenby to lead the British Egyptian Expeditionary Force against the Turks.  

Allenby’s forces were able to quickly recapture Jerusalem, but the Turks had entrenched themselves at Micmash Megiddo, allowing them a place to launch counterattacks. As battle plans were being contemplated, Major Vivian Gilbert came to Allenby with an unorthodox solution. Major Gilbert was a student of history, and he remembered the name Micmash Megiddo from an ancient text. Reading in his tent by candlelight one night, he rediscovered the text. 

Gilbert brought his report to Allenby. To take advantage of this text, conventional battle plans would have to be scraped. Instead of attacking with overwhelming force, as was usually done, Allenby ordered one company out. This small force discovered just a few Turks whom they overpowered with hardly a sound. Then scaling the cliffs, the company took up their position just before daybreak. When dawn broke and the Turks saw Allenby’s men on the highest, most strategic point, they panicked, thinking they were nearly surrounded, and quickly retreated. 

In his journal, Major Gilbert wrote, “And so after thousands of years British troops successfully copied the tactics of Jonathan.” 

Who was this Jonathan that he referred to? He was the oldest son of Saul, king of Israel. 

Before his successful assault, Jonathan had another military campaign that ended poorly. The Philistines seized the high ground, the Israelite army was reduced to a fraction of its original size, and many of the Israelite soldiers who remained were defecting to the Philistines or deserting the army altogether. And if that weren’t bad enough, Israel had only two swords left: one for King Saul and one for Jonathan. 

Jonathan’s first military campaign had been with 1000 men. As he discovered, that was actually too many men! For his next assault on Micmash, Jonathan switched tactics: he alone would attack the enemy with only his armor bearer to assist him. 

Was Jonathan impetuous? reckless? a man with a death wish? No! He was a God-fearing initiator. He knew that God would fight for anyone who was fighting for God’s people. I think his inspiration came from this promise—Each one of you will put to flight a thousand of the enemy, for the Lord your God fights for you, just as He has promised (Joshua 23:10). 

Knowing that God would help him, three times Jonathan implores his armor bearer, “C’mon, let’s go!” 

Jim Rohn noted, “The difficulties you meet will resolve themselves as you advance. Proceed, and light will dawn and shine with increasing clearness on your path.” 

Just look at the light that dawned with Jonathan’s c’mon-let’s-go initiative: 

  • his armor bearer said he was with Jonathan “heart and soul” even though he didn’t even have a sword!
  • God sent an earthquake that caused the Philistines to panic 
  • King Saul finally mobilized the remaining army that remained with him 
  • God so confused the Philistine that they turned and fought against each other
  • the Israelite deserters returned from Philistia 
  • the fearful soldiers that had deserted returned to their posts 

Could God have defeated the Philistines on His own? Of course He could have. But He was waiting for just one godly leader to say, “Enough is enough! C’mon, let’s go!” 

Godly men are never satisfied with maintaining the status quo. Godly men know that standing still is really moving backward. Godly men know that their initiative can start a momentum that liberates others. 

Fellas, your family needs you to initiate. Your Christian brothers and sisters need you to initiate. Your countrymen need you to initiate. 

Take the initiative for God’s glory, for your family’s protection, for your nation’s revival, for generations yet to be born. Let’s charge the enemy of our souls together—

C’mon, let’s go!  

Certainty In Uncertain Times

… Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf … The God we serve is able to save us from the furnace…but even if God does not save us… (1 Samuel 14:6 and Daniel 3:17-18).

We often remember and even hold in high regard those leaders who rise up in times of crisis or uncertainty. But I think we might be shocked if we knew exactly how scared these seemingly unflappable leaders actually were! 

The Philistines really had the Israelites on the ropes. Israel’s army was slowing melting away, as soldiers one by one were deserting and heading home. The Philistines had captured all of the sword-makers, so that there were only two swords left—one for King Saul and one for his son Jonathan. 

And to make matters even more desperate, the Philistines occupied all the strategic high ground, so that even if the Israelites were going to attempt an attack, they would have to scale the cliffs in order to do so.

For Jonathan, this situation was unbearable. So he said to his armor-bearer (keep in mind that this armor-bearer didn’t really have any armor to bear!), “Let’s go attack the Philistines.” And then he adds this line that probably didn’t instill too much confidence in anyone, “Perhaps the Lord will give us victory.” 

Perhaps?!

Many years later, when the nation of Israel was in exile in Babylon, three Jewish young men found themselves in a literal hot spot. King Nebuchadnezzar had built an enormous statue of himself and commanded that everyone bow down and worship it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had been promoted into leadership positions in the capital city of Susa, so there was no hiding in the outreaches of the countryside for them. Their disobedience to the king’s command would make them stand out to everyone. The king had ordered that anyone who disobeyed his edict would be thrown into a fiery furnace. 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were God-fearing men and knew that they could not worship any other god except Yahweh. When the king confronted their disobedience, they also responded with words that didn’t sound very confident, “God can save us, but we’re not sure if He will save us. But even if He doesn’t, we’re not going to bend our knee.” 

If?!

“Perhaps” and “if” don’t sound like very confident words, do they? 

And yet these godly leaders were totally certain in their uncertain times. They weren’t certain of the outcome, but they were certain of God’s ability to bring the ultimate victory. Even in dark times of crisis, godly leaders are certain that God is greater than their uncertain circumstances. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who has a certain confidence in God even in an uncertain crisis.

Jonathan, and Shadrach, and Meshach, and Abednego would all tell us, “Whether God was going to give us victory in the moment of crisis or not, we will remain in God’s presence! We will not compromise. We will not give in to fear. We will not disobey God. We will continue to cling to Him—rescue or not—knowing that He will be glorified in whatever way He chooses to respond.” 

These young men teach an invaluable lesson for all of us even today: Trust God no matter how uncertain the times are. 

This is part 45 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Stop Letting Fear Limit Your Life

It’s inescapably true: We let fears limit us when we listen to them. 

John Piper wrote, “I call you today to stop defining and limiting your future in terms of your past and start defining it in terms of your God.”

When we have a spirit of fear instead of the confidence that comes from a right relationship with God through Jesus, the smallest of things sends us ducking for cover! “As for those of you who may be left, I will also bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. And the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword, and they will fall.” (Leviticus 26:36 NASB) 

God says, “Fear not—there is nothing to fear—for I am with you; do not look around you in terror and be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you; yes, I will hold you up and retain you with My victorious right hand of rightness and justice.” (Isaiah 41:10 AMPC)

“When God calls you to be free from fear (to overcome this natural emotion and have peace), He does not leave the command hanging in the air. He puts pillars under it. Five of them in Isaiah 41:10. That’s the nature of all biblical commands. They come with divine support.

  1. Fear not . . . God is with you.
  2. Fear not . . . God is your God
  3. Fear not . . . God will strengthen you.
  4. Fear not . . . God will help you.
  5. Fear not . . . God will uphold you.” —John Piper

When we grasp that God is with us, that God is helping us, that God is bigger than the things we wrongly fear, there is nothing we cannot do! 

As Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, and let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For there is nothing to prevent the Lord from saving by many or by few.” (1 Samuel 14:6 AMPC)

O Sovereign Lord! You made the heavens and earth by Your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for You! (Jeremiah 32:17 NLT)

“Because you’re not yet taking God seriously,” said Jesus. “The simple truth is that if you had a mere kernel of faith, a poppy seed, say, you would tell this mountain, ‘Move!’ and it would move. There is nothing you wouldn’t be able to tackle.” (Matthew 17:20 MSG)

Lamenting Over The Fallen

How The Mighty Have Fallen! Long before Jim Collins entitled his latest book with this phrase, David said this when King Saul and Prince Jonathan were killed in battle. In fact, he said it not once, but three times in just eight verses.

It is understandable that David would lament the death of his friend Jonathan. They were covenant brothers, they shared the same heartbeat for God and for Israel, and they stood by each other through thick and thin.

But Saul… why would David lament the death of Saul? This is the man who was jealous of David. So jealous that he did everything he could to trip David up. Including trying to kill him. Saul chased David from his home, his family, his wife, even his country.

Why would David lament Saul’s death? Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to rejoice over it?

But David still saw Saul as “the Lord’s anointed.” David recognized the good in Saul. He called him…

  • The glory of Israel,
  • A successful warrior,
  • Gracious,
  • Lovable,
  • Strong, and
  • Israel’s provider

When David heard Saul had been killed, he lamented, Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

When I see the mighty, God-anointed leader fall, do I lament?

I may shake my head … I may feel vindicated … I may be disgusted … but I don’t know that I have ever lamented or grieved when one of these mighty brothers has fallen. Or if I have, my lament has been short-circuited by other less appropriate emotions.

Despite their sin, they are still God’s anointed. Who am I to sit in judgment? Who am I to do anything but lament their fall?

Lord, forgive me! Father, help me to see Your anointed in the proper perspective: as Your anointed. Holy Spirit, remind me of the tragedy of even one mighty one who falls. May my response be one of lament, and mercy, and prayer.

Just keepin’ it real, folks. This is me, but I’m trying to get better.

UnZone

UnZone

We kicked off our Bigger Than Me series last night talking about one of my favorite Bible stories where Jonathan and his armor-bearer pick a fight with the Philistines.

What I love about this story is the contrast between Jonathan and his father Saul. King Saul was enjoying life as the king, hanging out with his friends, sitting under a pomegranate tree, far away from his enemies. Life was good for Saul, life was familiar and risk-free. Saul was living in his comfort zone.

But the comfort zone is a lousy place to stay. In the comfort zone you only tell stories, but never live an adventure. In the comfort zone you only hear about what God has done for others. But Jonathan wasn’t willing to stay in this comfort zone.

Jonathan stepped out into The UnZone. He went into unfamiliar territory, with an unusual battle strategy, and uncertain results. Jonathan said, “Perhaps God will help us.” But he didn’t stop there. Jonathan quickly added, “I don’t know how, but I know God can come through.”

After Jonathan stepped out of his comfort zone into The UnZone, God not only gave him a victory, but encouraged the entire Israelite army. This never would have happened if Jonathan had stayed in his comfort zone.

In The UnZone you don’t just tell stories, you live adventures.

In The UnZone you don’t just hear about God’s power, you experience it firsthand.

I challenged our youth group last night to step out of their comfort zones and into The UnZone. How cool it was to see all of the uncomfortable, unfamiliar, uncertain, unusual things they wrote down on their UnZone cards and tacked up on our bulletin board. I’m looking forward to seeing our bulletin board covered with these cards over the next few weeks.

What about you? What comfort zone is God calling you out of? What UnZone do you need to step into? The Apostle Paul said, “When I am weak then I am strong.” In other words, “When I step into my UnZone, I step into God’s Strength Zone.”

The UnZone is a great place to live, so step out today.

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