Living Words in Dry Places

by Michael Fischer

Turn with me to a passage that probably doesn't get preached on very often. I Chronicles, chapter 12.

Have any of you ever read a passage of Scripture, and re-read it, and read it again, and kept asking, "God, is there anything in this passage for me today? Anything?" You probably have, but you'd never admit it, because you're so-o-o spiritual. But if you're honest, you'd agree that the first few chapters of I Chronicles can look pretty dry on a first reading. The genealogies, the "begats," the lists of the mighty men, the numbering of the Levites - these were important to Israel, but is there anything there for us today?

Well, II Timothy 3:16 says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." And I'm just naive enough to believe that "all scripture" means "all scripture." So there has to be something profitable, even in those early chapters of I Chronicles, for us today. I'm here this morning to show you something profitable out of one of those chapters, and so you'll know how to find similar treasures on your own.

I know a good Baptist message is supposed to have three points, but there's so much in this Book, I just can't hold it down to a set number of points. This message has twelve points. I'm going to be throwing a lot at you today, so if you're taking notes, give yourself some room to write. We'll start in verse 23.

"And these are the numbers of the bands that were ready armed to the war, and came to David to Hebron, to turn the kingdom of Saul to him, according to the word of the Lord."
Let me set the scene here. King Saul has been killed in battle by the Philistines. Most of his sons, the princes who would have been his heirs, have also been killed in battle. His last living son has been assassinated, and all Israel has agreed that David should become the next king. But these are troubled times. No one knows if another relative of Saul's will come out of the woodwork and try to claim the throne by heredity. No one knows if some ambitious general will try to seize the throne by force. No one knows if the Philistines will crash the party and try to kill the second king of Israel, just like they killed the first one. So the Israelites have sent bands of armed soldiers to the coronation as an honor guard. Their orders are probably something like, "Make sure David gets crowned, and that nothing and nobody gets in the way." They are picked men, chosen by the chiefs of the tribes, and the Bible tells us a special message about each band. And each of those messages can apply to us today. So let's look at them.

(24)The children of Judah that bare shield and spear were six thousand and eight hundred, ready armed to the war.
The key words in this verse are "shield and spear." They carried both. Now, what's a shield for? It's a defensive weapon; you use it to protect yourself. What's a spear for? It's an offensive weapon; you use it to make the other guy hide behind his shield. These warriors of the tribe of Judah had both - offense and defense. That's important.

What happens if we leave the shield or the spear at home? What happens if we neglect offense or defense?

We all can think of many - far too many - men and women of God who had the spear but not the shield. They were on fire for Jesus, they had dynamic ministries, God was using them mightily... but they didn't watch their back, and sin crept into their lives. Maybe it was immorality, maybe it was alcohol, maybe greed, or pride, or selfish ambition... it starts with one little teeny tiny sin, and next thing you know, BANG! Down goes this one's ministry. BANG! Down goes that one's ministry. Down goes another, and another, and another. We see it all around us. Lives are ruined. Families are shredded. The church reels. Satan laughs.

Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour - I Peter 5:8.
And Satan is not a finicky eater. He'd like to devour your soul, but if you're saved, he can't. But he'll be just as happy to devour your testimony, to hurt you, to hurt those around you, and to hurt the church. Oh, saints, keep that shield up. Watch out for sin creeping in.

And what about the shield without the spear? People like that aren't so easy to find, because they're not doing anything that might draw attention. They're living in a Christian fishbowl, trying to hide from the world. They're determined not to commit any serious sin, and they may succeed in this, but they'll also succeed in doing absolutely nothing for the Lord. Consider the turtle: he gets nowhere until he sticks his neck out. Or consider Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents - we're not going to turn there. To sum it up: three servants were entrusted with something by their master. Two servants made good use of what their master had given them, and they were rewarded for doing so. The third servant did nothing with what he had been given. He did nothing wrong, but he did nothing right, either. And what was the master's reaction? "Take away what he has, and give it to one of my faithful servants." Do you want that kind of a reaction from your Lord? No, you don't. So get in gear for God, and watch out for the temptations that will sneak up on you as you go. Shield and spear!

(25)Of the children of Simeon, mighty men of valour for the war, seven thousand and one hundred.
Mighty men of valour for the war! Keep in mind as you're reading this: these men were not professional soldiers. They were butchers and bakers and candlestick makers who put on their armor and weapons in time of war, and hung them on pegs on the wall in times of peace. But the Bible calls them mighty men of valour. Why? Because that's how they saw themselves at this critical time. They weren't thinking about their businesses back home; they considered themselves soldiers until soldiering-time was done.

How about us? Most of us aren't full-time servants of the Lord. But as you go to work, to school, to the grocery store, how do you think of yourself? As a worker, a student, a homemaker? Or as a soldier of the Cross? That's what we are, you know, even if we don't look it, and even if there doesn't seem to be a battle raging most of the time. You never know when the Holy Spirit will drop you straight into a situation where you'll have to stand up for God. And if you aren't prepared at all times, it will affect your warfare. So consider yourself a mighty man or woman of valour, not a something-else who does Christian things sometimes. Remember: you're not part-time saved.

(26-28)Of the children of Levi four thousand and six hundred. And Jehoiada was the leader of the Aaronites, and with him were three thousand and seven hundred; And Zadok, a young man mighty of valour, and of his father's house twenty and two captains.
Zadok came with twenty and two captains of his father's house. In other words, they were family, going to the coronation together. Do you think those family members were fighting and bickering amongst themselves, like happens in families sometimes? Probably not, or they wouldn't have been sent on this important mission. And if they weren't fighting, they were probably better at teamwork than a bunch of strangers, because they were used to each other. That's how families are supposed to work, both then and now. Right? The question for us is, is each of you with your family or against them?

I'm not talking about open warfare here. What I'm talking about is this: Men, are you willing to watch the kids once in a while so your wife can go to a ladies' fellowship? Ladies, is there ever a problem with your husbands going to a men's prayer breakfast? Young people, do you make a scene when it's time to go to church, so your parents are totally stressed-out when they finally stagger through the door late? One reason God ordained the family is to support each other. No one like a family member can help build you up. And no one like a family member can tear you down if you aren't all on the same side. This verse tells us that we're supposed to be with our families, but we all know that, don't we? We just need to work on doing it. This is just a little reminder.

(29)And of the children of Benjamin, the kindred of Saul, three thousand: for hitherto the greatest part of them had kept the ward of the house of Saul.
This verse is the most important of all.

Hey, wait a minute. Wasn't I just preaching on being true to your family? These men are supporting David, from the tribe of Judah. They're turning away from the house of Saul, from their own family, their own flesh and blood, and they're being commended for it. Are these guys turncoats? Some of the other Benjamites may have thought so. But these men saw the writing on the wall. They knew David had been chosen - anointed - by God to be the new king, so they turned away from their family after the flesh and took their stand with God's chosen one.

How about you? Have you changed sides since you were born into your natural family, the family of Adam? The writing's on the wall, you know. What does it say? "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus." And, of course, the word "Christ" means "anointed." Jesus is God's chosen one, and He is and will be the King. And all those who don't consciously change sides and follow Him will be condemned to an eternity of torment without hope.

If you aren't saved; if you've never made the choice to trust Jesus to pay for the sins you've committed; then today is the day - you have no guarantee you'll be here tomorrow. You may catch some flak from your family after the flesh, like those Benjamites did. But wouldn't it be worth it, knowing that you have a home in Heaven that no one can ever take away? You have to make a decision. And the writing is on the wall.

(30)And of the children of Ephraim twenty thousand and eight hundred, mighty men of valour, famous throughout the house of their fathers.
Famous throughout the house of their fathers! Now, the house of their fathers was also called a clan, and it was the next-smallest division under a tribe, numbering in the hundreds of thousands. And in each clan, there might be hundreds or thousands of men named, say, Joshua. But these men were famous in the house of their fathers, so as soon as you said, "Joshua the swordsman," or "Joshua the archer," everybody knew exactly who you meant.

We don't have clans today in this society, but you could say the local church is our "clan." And this verse says that it's a good thing to be famous in your own clan. Famous for what? For whatever God calls you to do in your church. Whether you're a teacher, a singer, an organizer, an encourager, whatever - do it the best you can... so you can be famous? No, God must get the glory. But look through the last chapters of each of Paul's epistles. Look at the people he greets. Try to count the men and women who weren't well-known in their churches - who weren't famous in the house of their fathers. There aren't many.

Then think about the people in our church. How do people talk about them? "So-and-so, he has such an understanding of the Scriptures!" "So-and-so, what a prayer warrior she is!" "The So-and-so family, they sign up on every clipboard that comes around!" You can be fairly sure that those So-and-so's will get a "Well done, good and faithful servant" when they get home. How do people talk about you? If you aren't famous in your own clan, that might be a sign that there's something wrong. Maybe you're not doing what you're supposed to be doing. Maybe you aren't doing it with all your heart. Ask God; He'll tell you. And if you need to make changes, today would be a great day for it.

(31)And of the half tribe of Manasseh, eighteen thousand, which were expressed by name to come and make David king.
Expressed by name! That means "chosen." The leaders of the half-tribe of Manasseh didn't just line up the men and say, "Count off by fours; whoever says 'four' goes to make David king." No, they knew exactly who they wanted. They knew who would do the job and do it right, and they picked their men by name.

Did you know that Jesus has called you by name? Every one of you.

"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." - Ephesians 2:10.
God has called you, and He has prepared things for you to do! Man, woman, young, old, it doesn't matter. Since before the beginning of time, He has been preparing good works for you to walk in. They're intended for you and for no one else. God has given you the talents you need to do them, and He will give you the strength to see them through. If you do them.

Are you? Are you doing what you know He wants you to do? Are you, perhaps, doing nothing? Or are you maybe trying to copy someone else you admire, and doing that someone else's good works and leaving yours undone? God is not impressed by that. That's like doing someone else's job at work, or someone else's homework at school, and not finishing your own work. Your Master will not be impressed by that. If you don't know what you're supposed to be doing, pray some more. If you still don't have a clue, then just try something. He is faithful; He will guide you to where you're supposed to be and to what you're supposed to be doing.

(32)And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do; the heads of them were two hundred; and all their brethren were at their commandment.
What a testimony to those men! I don't see that many times in the Bible. They understood the times, and they knew what Israel ought to do. Do you understand the times - the confusing times you're living in now? Do you really believe that Jesus could come back at any moment? At this very moment? If you say you believe it, does it show in your life? Or is your life on cruise control, is it all "business as usual?"

There is no shortage of people nowadays who do not understand the times, and they do not know what they should be doing. As children of God, we can do better. We don't know when Jesus will come back. But we know when he could come back. And that ought to color everything we say and everything we do.

(33)Of Zebulun, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, with all instruments of war, fifty thousand, which could keep rank: they were not of double heart.
Not of double heart. That means undivided loyalty - God was number one in their hearts, with no competition. Is God having to share your heart with something else? Is your loyalty divided? Between God and your job? Between God and your family? Between God and your hobbies? Between God and your ministry? Your ministry!? Yes, you can get so wrapped up in working for God that you don't take the time to know Him. Jesus will probably welcome those people to Heaven with, "Well done, good and faithful, umm, what was your name again?" No, Jesus knows your name, but do you know Him? Not just know about him, but really know Him?

There are people in this room who may know a lot about Alan Greenspan, but I doubt any of you know him personally. And there are too many Christians who speed-read the Bible, and they know a lot about God, but don't really know Him. He isn't an impersonal force, you know. He is a person - three persons, actually - and He wants us to come to know Him.

There is more to walking with God than just working. Just like with your spouse or with your children, you need to take time, or make time, to spend with Him. And if that time keeps getting shortened or put off, that's a real good sign that you may have a double heart. I don't like preaching this - it's no fun stepping on my own toes. But I have to say it. For me as much as for you.

(34)And of Naphtali a thousand captains, and with them with shield and spear thirty and seven thousand.
Two little words. "With them." Not against them. The men were on the same side as their leaders, 100%. They were not murmuring against them. They weren't looking for others to take their side against their leaders. They weren't complaining to each other, "I can't understand what that officer says when he's teaching us, so I'm just not going to listen." They supported their leadership. They were with them.

Are you supporting the leaders that God put over your church? Your pastor, your associate pastors, your deacons, your teachers? Are you supporting them with prayer? Are you supporting them with encouragement? Are you supporting them with your own ministry? Are you supporting them with Biblical correction if you see them in need of it? Are you supporting them by just being here for them to minister to?

Or are you undermining them? That's the opposite of supporting. Undermining them with your words. Undermining them with your actions. Undermining them with your lack of actions. Undermining them with your attitude. Undermining them with your absence that says, "I don't care what you have to offer." Is that the message you want our pastors to get from you?

Hold your places here and flip over to Hebrews chapter 13, verse 17:

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
Anything you do to your leaders, and that includes things you should have done but didn't do - it WILL come home to roost. It says so right here. So if there is any wisdom in you, you will be "with" your leaders. One hundred per cent.
(35)And of the Danites expert in war twenty and eight thousand and six hundred.
Expert in war. How do you get to be an expert in war? By going to war. That's one way. But you can also learn a lot by hanging around with more experienced soldiers and learning from them. With us, that happens with fellowship and with faithful church attendance. How can you learn from the pastor's preaching if you aren't here to hear it? How can you learn from the wiser, more experienced saints if you don't spend any time with them? Did God give them wisdom so they could pat themselves on the back and say, "Boy, am I wise?" He gave them wisdom so they could pass it on to others.

Turn ahead to Proverbs chapter 4, we'll look at this quickly. Verses 1-4:

Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. 2For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. 3For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. 4He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments and live.
God meant for wisdom to be passed on, from the old to the young, from the wise to the unwise, from the experienced to the inexperienced. But if you aren't here to receive what the other saints have to give, what will you have, to pass on to others? Only the things you've learned the hard way. So if you always have better things to do than hang around with God's saints, I urge you, please! Think about what you're missing!

I'd even go so far as to say that I'd worry about the spiritual condition of someone who's always the first out the door when church ends. Now, I know some of you have family obligations; some of you have a roast in the oven; some of you have other commitments that you have to keep. But aside from those, what's the hurry to get away? Speaking for me, and I think I'm speaking for others who are often among the last to leave: is it because we have no place else to go? No. It's because there's no place else we'd rather be. And if that isn't true of you, ask yourself, "Why not?"

(36)And of Asher, such as went forth to battle, expert in war, forty thousand.
Such as went forth to battle. It doesn't say one word about the ones who stayed home. Not a word about the ones who stayed on the sidelines. Scripture doesn't have anything to say about them. They've been forgotten. Only the ones who went forth to battle were recorded. That tells you something, I hope.

Being a prayer warrior is a wonderful thing. But there's a time to get off your knees and go forth to battle. Being a Sunday-school teacher is a wonderful thing. But your responsibility to God doesn't end when your class ends. One task that God has called me to, is a computer support ministry. But there are many times when the best thing I can do is to shut off the computer and go minister to some human beings. (My wife may give an "amen" to that thought.) I don't see anyone in the Bible who amounted to anything purely by staying in the background. The church needs its support workers - believe me, I know! But if God has called you into a supporting ministry, don't kid yourself into thinking that's all that He requires of you. The modern state of Israel requires everyone to serve some time in the military. Big coincidence - God's kingdom works the same way.

(37)And on the other side of Jordan, of the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and of the half tribe of Manasseh, with all manner of instruments of war for the battle, an hundred and twenty thousand.
With all manner of instruments of war. If one soldier has only a sword, and his adversary has only a bow and arrows, the one with the sword will be helpless if they're fighting at twenty paces, and the one with the arrows will be almost helpless if they're fighting at arm's length. And a soldier can't predict what kind of battle he's going to fight. So you need more than one kind of weapon.

What is our weaponry? The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God - Ephesians 6:17. Is God's Word ready in you, or is it just handy? Handy - the first four letters of "handy" spell "hand" - the Bible is in your hand, you can look it up. Ready - the first four letters of "ready" spell "read" - you've read it, you know what it says, it's in your heart. Do you have ready, verses to help lead someone to Christ? Do you have ready, verses to help a Catholic, or a Muslim, or a Mormon, or an atheist, see where they're wrong? Do you have ready, verses to help yourself fight off temptation? Having a Bible nearby at all times is great, but it's no substitute for having the Word in your heart. If it's just handy, but it's not ready, you're like a soldier who has to run back to the barracks for a new weapon every time the situation changes. That soldier won't last long in battle. You won't lose your soul, but you could lose some precious opportunities that won't come back, if you aren't ready.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God. All scripture. Even the parts that look dry have life in them, as I hope you've seen. If you could get through this entire message without being challenged once, then you should be up here preaching the sermons. Otherwise, if you have been challenged and you know you need to make some changes, we have an invitation coming right up. Here's your chance. Don't let it slip away.

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