This morning for my quiet time with God, I read the entry for April 13 from The One Year Chronological Bible. Today, that included 1 Samuel 13:23-14:52 and 1 Chronicles 8:1-9a.
I was struck by words, spoken by Jonathan, the son of Israel's first king, Saul. Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, "Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few." (1 Samuel 14:7)
The context of these words is that Israel's army, under King Saul's command, was faced by a Philistine outpost on the other side of a rocky pass rimmed by cliffs. The Philistines had been harrying God's people. Jonathan proposed to his armor-bearer that the two of them would cross over and enter the Philistine post themselves.
They agreed that they would let the Philistines see them crossing over. If the Philistines told them to stop, that they would come to Jonathan and his companion, the two would stop. But if the Philistines told them to come up to their outpost, they would go, knowing that God--Yahweh, the LORD--was giving their people victory.
Clearly, Jonathan and his armor-bearer had entered what we might call a prayer agreement or covenant with God; they asked God for a sign on how they should proceed and committed themselves to proceed on the basis of what God revealed to them. In the end, the Philistines did tell Jonathan and the armor-bearer to come up to their camp. From that point, God threw the Philistines into a confused panic that resulted in victory for God's people.
But that victory began with Jonathan's simple faith. "Nothing," he'd said, "can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few."
Before I start my quiet times with God, I always ask Him to show me the passage, among those appointed for the day, I need to read, focus on, or act on that day. This is the passage that struck me forcefully today. I underlined it immediately.
Then I asked God, "Why is this passage important for me today?"
The answer, I believe, has two parts.
First, in this grim time of a massive pandemic, on a day when China is reporting a deadly new outbreak and the United States is experiencing a massively disproportionate share of the total global cases and deaths from the coronavirus (the US is about 5% of the world's population, but has about 20% of all COVID19 cases and deaths), God was assuring me: Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving people's lives.
Obviously, this means that governments need to continue stay-at-home orders, mandate social distancing, provide hospitals and individuals with the tools needed (i.e., testing, tracking, ventilators, and eventually, a vaccine). It means that we can save other people's lives by refraining, to the greatest extent possible, from social contact, wearing masks, washing our hands well and frequently, and refraining from group meetings.
If we will use the wisdom our Lord has given to us through dedicated people who have spent lifetimes studying and understanding infectious diseases and epidemiology, nothing can hinder the Lord from saving lives that would otherwise be threatened.
Second, even now in the midst of the restrictions under which we must necessarily live, there is nothing hindering the Lord from saving people from eternal separation from God, nothing preventing us from using all the tools presently available to us (i.e., cell phones, social media, email) to share the good news--the Gospel--that all who repent and believe in Jesus Christ have eternal life with God.
You can do this in your everyday interactions with people, even if you never leave your house.
God can use our witness for the loving, redeeming, saving God we know in the crucified and risen Jesus to save people for life with God for all eternity.
All we have to do--"with gentleness and reverence" as we're told by the apostle Peter--is share what Jesus has done and is doing for us.
He is a living God and "nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or the few."
He can save whoever reads this from sin, death, futility, and hell. He can give you life, purpose, peace, and hope. He can give you a life with God that never ends. In the book of Revelation, John reports that the risen and ascended Jesus says, "Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me." (Revelation 3:20)
When the Holy Spirit gives us the faith to let Jesus in, He will enter our lives and save us from ourselves: all our darkness, fear, futility, and death. Jesus told his grieving friend Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die." Then he asked her, "Do you believe this?" (John 11:25-26)
If we do believe this, if the Holy Spirit has led us to faith in Jesus Christ as we've received the Word about Jesus, we have the very life with God that Jesus told Martha about.
If we believe in this gospel, our call from God, whatever our jobs, is to share Jesus with others, so that they too can be saved from sin, death, and hell, saved for life with God.
God, this day, help me to trust that nothing can hinder You from saving, whether by many or by few. In Jesus' name. Amen
[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]