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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 11:22-25 Good deeds and great ones

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, November 27, 2023

22 Benaiah son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel. He did great deeds. He struck down two Lions of God from Moab. He also went down and killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day. 23 He killed an Egyptian, a man of great stature, seven feet tall. The Egyptian had a spear in his hand like a weaver’s beam; but Benaiah went against him with a staff, snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand, and killed him with his own spear. 24 These were the things Benaiah son of Jehoiada did, and his was a name alongside the three mighty men. 25 He was honored among the Thirty, but he did not attain to the Three. And David put him in charge of his bodyguard.

The next of the Mighty Men was Benaiah. He was from a village in southern Judah called Kabzeel, a little to the north of Beersheba (Joshua 15:21). We’re told three of his great deeds. The first was a fight against two men called “Lions of God” (Hebrew ariel). This was probably their title in Moab; the NIV translates their title as “two of Moab’s best men.” But the author uses their title to lead into the second great deed of Benaiah: killing an actual lion. Troubles with lions? A dozen men might shout and snarl back at the creature, each man wielding a spear or javelin, hoping that the mighty cat would run away. But no such tactics for Benaiah. A lion in a pit? Benaiah just went in after the thing and killed it. With or without a weapon (we’re not told) it was an amazing feat, and the exploit was also remembered because it happened on one of those rare days in Israel when it was snowing. Little accumulation of snow ever happens in Israel. A famous storm in 1950 brought three feet of snow to Jerusalem. Another snowstorm in 2013 was accompanied by heavy rains that stranded cars and travelers for a few days. Such storms seem moderate or ordinary to readers in most of America, especially in the north, but Middle Eastern countries are unprepared for these things because they are so infrequent.

The third incident involved a tall Egyptian, as tall as a basketball player. His spear was exceptionally thick and strong, “like a weaver’s beam.” A weaver’s beam might be any length, four or five feet up to six or seven, but the length is not the surprise. It was the spear’s thickness that was being compared. A regular spear shaft might be an inch and a half thick (like a good spade or the handle of a good hammer), and a javelin a little smaller, more like a broom handle. But a weaver’s beam would be two or even two and a half inches thick, like the business end of a baseball bat. Benaiah’s club overwhelmed the Egyptian, and Benaiah finished him with his own spear.

We are also told about his position: similar to the Three but not one of them, and so forth. He was captain of David’s bodyguard, becoming like a father to them.

These exploits of David’s warriors are very much like the kind of information many people want to have about the Apostles. It’s frustrating for many Christians to wonder where Andrew, James, Thomas and the others did their preaching and teaching, but we’re just not told very much in Scripture.

Do the actions of the Mighty Men fall into the doctrine of good works? Nearly everything that they did, they did out of devotion and obedience to David, first when he was their captain, and later when he became king. But David’s position and faith do not dictate the inward motivation for the good works of his mighty men. Good works, after all, can concern our neighbor, or God, or ourselves. When Jesus gave instructions about good works, he used these spheres by describing the correct way (1) to give to the needy (good works toward others, Matthew 6:3-4), (2) to pray (good works toward God, Matthew 6:5-15), and (3) to fast (good works toward ourselves, Matthew 6:16-18).

Some deeds are morally good, others are spiritually good. But any seemingly good deed done by an unbeliever is not good in God’s eyes; it is nothing but sin because it is done by a sinful person, whatever his or her motivation. Even prayer spoken by an unbeliever is sinful because it is not done in faith, and God says many times that he does not hear or listen to the prayers of the wicked. “Your sins hide his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2); “God does not listen to sinners” (John 9:31). Although we have examples among the mighty men of believers with a firm and even a remarkable faith, such as Uriah the Hittite, we don’t have this confirmed about all of them. If even the Twelve Apostles contained a traitor in their number, it should not surprise us to find a scoundrel or two among the mighty men. But this is not a point we can take any further, for there is no account giving evidence against any of these men. Therefore, any of their actions, even the most bloody in the wars that they fought, if done from faith, was a good deed, done to the glory of God and for the good of the kingdom of God.

This brings our own good deeds into a sharper focus. The things we do, do not need to be great and glorious spiritual activities to be seen as good deeds. A mother raising her babies in the home does a good deed with every action she takes, from changing diapers and bedding, to feeding them, keeping them warm, keeping them safe, being sure that they have a good amount of play time, and teaching them all of the critical things that they need to learn at home, are all among the very best of good works. A father who labors and gives his strength, his time, his sweat, and his blood for his family to provide for them and and to set a Christian example for them are capped only by the singular task of the Christian father, which is to take his family to church and be there with them in the pew, and perhaps also in the choir or in Bible study, to see to it that they are baptized, and that they have Christian instruction—whatever is available to them—that is his great responsibility, and the pledge he makes at their baptism. Those parents also pray for their children, for their spiritual welfare. We want our children to be happy, to be safe, and even to be successful, but most of all we want them to know Jesus and always to put their trust in him. “From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise,” David said (Psalm 8:2). For if a parent fails to see his duty to his children under the Fourth Commandment, thinking that it’s only about a child’s duty to honor him, then he must at least see his duty to his children under the Fifth Commandment. For what neighbor are we commanded to love more, to care about more, to defend and protect more than our own children? “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him” (Psalm 102:13).

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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