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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 12:8-15 Good deeds from Gad

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, December 4, 2023

8 Some Gadites defected to David at the stronghold in the desert. They were heroic warriors, ready for battle and able to handle the shield and spear. Their faces were like lions, and they were as swift as gazelles on the mountains. 9 Ezer was the chief, Obadiah the second, Eliab the third, 10 Mishmannah the fourth, Jeremiah the fifth, 11 Attai the sixth, Eliel the seventh, 12 Johanan the eighth, Elzabad the ninth, 13 Jeremiah the tenth and Macbannai eleventh. 14 These Gadites were leaders in the army. The least was a match for a hundred, and the greatest for a thousand. 15 They are the ones who crossed the Jordan in the first month when it was overflowing all its banks. They routed everyone living in the valleys, to the east and to the west.

The Gadites traveled across the Jordan to get to David. The Gadites, you will recall, were the middle group of the Transjordan tribes who begged Moses to remain on the east side of the river (Numbers 32:1-5). At that time, Moses had been doubtful. “Do you expect your brothers to go into battle while you live here?” (Numbers 32:6). The men of Reuben and Gad promised to come to the aid of their brothers across the Jordan. There were examples of this in the days of Joshua and the Judges, and now a generation after the last of the Judges, the Gadites fulfilled their promise once again by coming to David’s side. The territory of Gad came farther south than the Jabbok and all the way down to the Arnon, flowing into the Dead Sea (which was also Reuben’s southern border, Deuteronomy 3:12). So Reuben and Gad shared some grazing land.

Our author uses remarkable language to describe the Gadites. With their ferocious faces and fleet feet, they naturally became leaders in the army. He describes the least of them being “a match for a hundred” and the greatest “for a thousand.” This is the kind of praise a commander would give after a successful campaign, not the kind of arrogant propaganda that men would make up for themselves. Their victory over “everyone living in the valleys” was famous, but the author doesn’t tell us where they traveled east across the Jordan to the Ammonites and Moabites in the valleys near their hometowns in Gad, or just where they traveled west across the flooding Jordan to enemies (Philistines, perhaps?). But no matter. The battle was a route, the people were driven away, and the army of the Lord was given success by the Lord himself.

When we praise one another for good deeds in the service of Christ, we do a good thing. For good works (in the end, this is what the Gadite victory was) must follow faith, for James teaches us like a coach when he wags his finger and says, “What good is it if someone says that he has faith but has no works?” (James 2:14), and even “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). He does not mean that works merit anything toward salvation, but works show that faith is there, like the rings on the fingers of husband and wife showing that a marriage is there. Good works follow genuine faith, if it is a living and not a dead faith.

So these slogans (faces of lions, worth a thousand men, etc.) were given to praise these men for their good work in the Lord’s service. And while we do not give trophies for church service, thanking one another for service (1) praises God for the things he accomplishes in the people around us, (2) illustrates the good that people do, (3) shows that we notice what others do, (4) gives me something to strive for when I notice the good things my brother and sister do, and (5) gives us the opportunity to restate the truth of Scripture, that good works do not avail anything toward redemption or heaven but show thanks and service to God.

About good works:

1, It is wrong to insist that good works are necessary for salvation. The two doctrines, salvation and good works, are not part of the same machinery. In the kitchen we would say that a cake is not dependent on the frosting for its existence. A cake is a cake with or without frosting, and salvation is salvation with or without good works. The Bible teaches that righteousness (being saved) is ours apart from works: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit” (Psalm 32:1-2). And Paul asserts: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

2, It is equally wrong to insist that good works are harmful or detrimental to salvation. Back to our kitchen: The frosting does not harm the value of the cake. For we are created in Christ Jesus, Paul adds, “to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10).

3, Since we are created to do good works, we may say that we are obligated to do them. “We have an obligation, but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it” (Romans 8:12), but to live according to the nature we have on account of being reborn in water and the spirit; the nature of having faith and living in it, walking in it, and even pursuing those things that God would have us do. “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14). “I pursue what is good” (Psalm 38:20), and “Whoever would love life… must run from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:10-11). As for our cake? Most everyone would agree that a cake needs frosting, and a cake without it feels undone.

4, Our Lord and his Apostles explain good works in this way: applying only to the liberated spirit [that is, aware of and trusting in salvation through the means of grace] who does good works not from a fear of punishment, like a slave, but out of a love of righteousness, like a child (Romans 8:15). A child delights to help put frosting on a cake, not to slavishly get into every corner or to do a perfect job of spreading it all around, but with the simple joy of doing what is good and being permitted to lend a hand, which is a fair description of how our good works appear to our Father in heaven.

Our good works, like those of the Gadites who gathered around David’s righteous banner, are testimonies of the Holy Spirit’s presence, and that since we came to faith, he has made his dwelling within us, as the Scripture says: “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you?” (1 Corinthians 6:19). Therefore keep his temple holy, and take pleasure in cleaning it up and sweeping out the cobwebs and the pine needles and the dust day by day.

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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