Dare To Be A Shammah
The article, “Dare to be a Shammah,” by Harold Barker was submitted by our esteemed, departed colleague F. W. Schwartz. In his letter he wrote, “Some of us probably need this ministry.”
“And the Philistines were gathered together into a troop, where was a piece of ground full of lentiles: and the people fled from the Philistines. But he stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it, and slew the Philistines: and the Lord wrought a great victory.”
—2 Sam. 23:11, 12
Daniel stood alone, prayed alone, and suffered alone. Great is the company of those who have been emboldened by his example and encouraged by his faithfulness. How often, like a fresh ozone-laden breeze from the ocean, the stirring words have come as a heaven-born tonic to a flagging and discouraging soul:
“Dare to be a Daniel,
Dare to stand alone,
Dare to have a purpose firm,
Dare to make it known.”
But God has given us more examples of devoted zeal and unflinching fortitude than that of Daniel. Have we not in the brief story of Shammah a fine incentive to courage and faithfulness? It cost Daniel much to pray and suffer; did it cost Shammah less to stand and fight?
The circumstances were these. The Philistines seemed to be having it very much their own way in the land of Israel. The position was similar to that which existed in Belgium under German occupation. The inhabitants of the country toiled, and the invaders reaped the fruit of their labors. They were on this occasion gathered in force to seize a crop of lentiles — food for cattle in normal times, but now, no doubt, grown by the downtrodden Israelites for their own sustenance.
This was the opportunity for Shammah to stand forth as a man who had had enough of defeat! Others fled; he fought. Others took for granted that the yoke of Palestine oppression could not be thrown off; he determined to make a stand. A patch of lentiles may not have been much to fight for, it was part of the heritage of the sons of Israel, and the Philistines had no right to it. Shammah, trusting in the help of Israel’s God, “stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it, and slew the Philistines; and the Lord wrought a great victory.”
Are there any among my readers whose life has been one long story of repeated defeat? You remember that earnest desires with which you started on your Christian course. How faithful and devoted you intended to be! How constant you were going to be in prayer; how watchful against temptation! What progress you were going to make! What victories you meant to win!
And the reality? Oh, how different from the bright anticipation! Failure seems to have dogged your footsteps almost from the start. Your fine intentions look now rather like a heap of ruins; your lofty plans have been dashed into fragments. The Philistines have found you an easy prey. Instead of singing the song of victory the dirge of defeat has been your frequent wail, until at last you have almost come to acquiesce in it, and to accept defeat as if nothing else were to be hoped for this side of heaven. What is left of your life is but “a patch of lentiles,” a sorry remnant of days which glowed with great expectations.
But, my brother, have you forgotten GOD? Does He acquiese in your discomfiture? Is there nothing better for you than this? Cannot He bring brighter and better days? With a strong cry for help to Him, leap to your feet! Dare to be a Shammah! Stand in the midst of the patch of lentiles, sword in hand. Defend their remnant of your days from the defiling foot of the Philistine. Let the Lord of hosts work a great victory for you!
After the great fire which destroyed the larger part of Chicago, a man whose store had been burned down went to a the place where the foundations still stood, marked now only by a heap of smoking ruins. Among these he cleared a space; on this he placed a table. He then fixed up a board on which he had painted these words: “Everything gone —except wife, children, and energy. Business resumed as usual to-morrow morning.”
Am I addressing any reader who feels as he contemplates his life, since he became a Christian, that he is standing amid a pile of ruins? His testimony, his home-life (regarded from the standpoint of what a Christian should be), a failure; his heart filled with bitter reflections? I have no doubt that many who read these lines may be thus described.
Brother! sister! All is not lost. Something may yet be saved from the wreckage, if only “a patch of lentiles.” Christ stands ready to come to your aid, and the remnant of your days may yet become the occasion for one of His great victories! One of Napoleon’s greatest victories was won on a field where the battle had been well-nigh lost. His troops had again and again been driven back, and it was late in the afternoon when Napoleon himself arrived upon the scene. Looking at the sun, already sinking towards the western horizon, he said: “There is just time to recover the day.” And giving his orders with characteristic energy, he turned defeat into victory.
Dear aged brother or sister! you feel perhaps that your sun is near to setting; life’s little day will soon be ended, leaving behind it a record of failure. Stay! there is time to recover the field! Be a Shammah! Stand in the midst of the lentile patch of life that remains. Cry mightily to the Lord for aid, and let Him win one of His great victories in you. He will do it. The God of Shammah still lives. He who at Cana kept the best wine to the last can fill the closing days of His tried and wayworn saints with the brightest of cheer. The joy of the Lord shall be your strength. Satan, discomfited, will flee from you. And having proved the power of your Saviour, enabling you to triumph over the Philistine even in the midst of a mere patch of lentile, you shall pass into the serene calm of His presence, to go no more out. From the lentile-patch to the Father’s house! Lord grant that it may be so with everyone of us that has tasted the bitterness of defeat!