Advocate or Instrument?

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2 Samuel 24:1 Now again the anger of the LORD burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”

An advocate is defined as one who pleads the cause of another. I recently met someone who is certainly God’s advocate for the poor. In fact, it’s been a long time since I’ve sensed such passion in a person about a cause so close to God’s heart. So it would seem strange to anyone that an advocate for a cause so close to my own heart could hurt me, but she did. In her zeal and frustration from a lack of biblical justice at work, she called a news station to report that our ministry wasn’t doing enough. With no knowledge of our history or even a thorough understanding of our mission, she somehow convinced a local news reporter that what we weren’t able to do was wrong-doing. At some point, her ministry in the Kingdom and to the poor will mature and she’ll look back and probably regret her decision.

David did.

He too was an advocate for God’s cause. God was angry with His people and so David, in his fervor to partner with God, acted on his own to discipline the people of Israel. His sin had quite the deleterious effect.

There’s a big difference between being an advocate and being an instrument.

An advocate is moved by the thunder of God’s heart but an instrument is moved by the instruction of His still small voice.

An advocate gives attention to the object of God’s love but an instrument wants more so to be the subject of His love.

An advocate wants to do the work of the Lord, but an instrument wants to be the work of the Lord.

An advocate will put his hand to the plow, but an instrument would rather be the plow in His hand.

The episode of David’s disobedience is recounted in 1 Chronicles 21:1.  There we learn that it was not God who incited David to sin.  Rather, David perceived God’s anger and as he took a position of advocacy for justice (rather than God’s instrument of justice), the enemy swooped in and tempted him.

David heard God’s heart but he was disobedient in acting on his own.

Being an advocate without foremost being an instrument may go a long way in a world hungry for charisma, but it won’t go anywhere with the Blacksmith who wants to use you in His hands.

A Leader’s Grip

tetanic

2 Samuel 23:9b The men of Israel retreated in the place they had gathered for battle, [10] but Eleazar stood his ground and attacked the Philistines until his hand was tired and stuck to his sword. The LORD brought about a great victory that day. Then the troops came back to him, but only to plunder the dead.

“The men of Israel retreated in the place they had gathered for battle,”

Today, there is a great battle that rages for the hearts of men. It is a battle of godliness, virtue, and morality matched against the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Unfortunately, as in Eleazar’s day, the people of God are, to a great extent, in retreat. Why? Fear of peculiarity, being uncommon in a politically correct culture, maybe even of persecution. And fear is a funny thing. It can be contagious.

I was a teenager out on a weekend night when we heard a collision. Down the hill from the road a train screeched. Its light filtered through smoke that consumed its front and as it cleared, we could see a car wrapped around the train’s engine. In less than a minute there were scores of people that had gathered in the grass at the roadside to see what had happened. What occurred next is a phenomenon.

Nothing.

It’s a common phenomenon when people feel fear. They often do nothing. In this case (as it is in most) it was contagious.

There must have been 30 people who stood in a line as if there was a trip-wire just one step ahead. Every individual’s independent thought was being affected by the one standing next to him. And no one moved.

A good leader resists the forces of common tendency in culture and instead bases action in truth followed with resolve to do what is right and good.

“but Eleazar stood his ground..”

Eleazar was a leader. When the rest of the forces had fled, he stayed. He trusted God for the victory. He was resolved to stand his ground and fight, to do what was right and good even at risk of his own peril.

Leaders also exercise tenacity.  Scripture tells us that he fought “until his hand clung to the sword.” Some interpreters missed the literality here, translating this along the lines of, “He never let go” as if he hung on even when he was exhausted. However, the text indicates Eleazar had gripped his sword for so long that his hand wouldn’t open! He must have reached a tetanic contraction in his grip that was sustained for quite some time. Equate it to lock-jaw but here, lock-grip. Ouch. It’s a good word for leaders, though;

Hang on until you can’t let go.

Grab on and grip truth, justice and righteousness until the grip is automatic, sustained, tetanic.

We are either culture-shapers or shaped by culture. In reality, both are probably happening to some extent at the same time. We should hope to be shapers, shaping culture to a more virtuous form. But without purposeful intent we are certain to be shaped to culture’s current trends.

Here’s the take-home message: Stand and fight for what is right and good regardless of cultural norms and then hold to it… until you can’t let go.