Two Tables

Thomas a Kempis points out that Noah labored 100 years to build the ark in which God would save him (perhaps taking Genesis 5:32 with 7:6). Solomon spent seven years building a temple to honor the Lord (1 Kings 6:37-38), and devoted seven or eight days just to its dedication (8:65). How then, a Kempis asks, can I in half an hour or less prepare myself for communion, prepare my heart “to receive with reverence the Maker of the world?”(1)

I can’t, of course. But at least I can pause to remind myself where I am, and what I am engaged in.

God has two tables. Actually, He has a great many more — including some in heaven that serve as models or patterns (Exodus 25:9, 40; Hebrews 8:5) — but on earth He has two that He especially talks about. When we prepare for communion, it helps to be clear which table we are approaching.

The Table of Holiness and Hunger

The first table stood in the tabernacle and, later, the temple — not in the Most Holy Place or Holy of Holies, where the ark of the covenant was placed, but outside the curtain, in the Holy Place, with the altar of incense and the lampstand. The table was made of acacia wood,(2) overlaid with gold (Exodus 25:23-30). (In Solomon’s temple, the table seems to have been made of solid gold, 1 Kings 7:48. According to 2 Chronicles 4:7-8, Solomon also multiplied the furnishings, setting up 10 tables and 10 lampstands.)

The entire purpose of this table was to hold 12 loaves of bread, one for each tribe in Israel. This was called the “consecrated bread” (KJV “showbread”) or, more precisely, the “bread of the Presence,” ordained by the Lord “to be before Me at all times” (Exodus 25:30, NIV). In the days of the tabernacle, even when the table was taken down and moved, the bread wasn’t taken away; rather, the Kohathites spread special coverings over the bread, dishes, bowls, and jars, and carried the table — very carefully! — with its offering still in place (Numbers 4:7-8). Each sabbath, the loaves were replaced with fresh bread, and the priests ate the old ones (Leviticus 24:8-9). Abimelech the high priest famously shared this bread with David, the anointed fugitive (1 Samuel 21:6; Matthew 12:3-4).

As bread made from grain (“fine flour,” Leviticus 14:5), the loaves have been interpreted as agricultural, Israel offering to the Lord “the fruits of her labors.”(3) (Contrariwise, it is also said to signify “the fact that God sustained his people.”)(4) I am not so sure. I am tempted to argue, instead, that, as unleavened bread, these loaves or crackers share with the bread of Passover the designation “bread of affliction” (Deuteronomy 16:3). On this view, the bread recalls all of the sufferings of Israel’s slavery in Egypt and of the redemption (compare Exodus 12:39). If you’ve ever felt that your pain is the only thing you have to offer to God, this constant memorial is for you.

In fact, though, such an interpretation seems unwarranted. We do not even know for certain whether the bread of the Presence was made with or without yeast. The first-century Jewish historian Josephus says that it was unleavened,(5) but it is striking that the Biblical texts themselves — which take great pains to specify that yeast must be removed during Passover (Exodus 12:19; 13:7; Deuteronomy 16:4) and kept out of burnt offerings to the Lord (Leviticus 2:11) — never bother to address this point.

What is emphasized is that this is bread of the Presence — literally, the face — of God. Adam and Eve, once they had fallen, hid from God’s Presence or face (Genesis 3:8), and Cain feared that he was permanently driven from it (4:14, 16). The great promise to Israel is “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest” (Exodus 33:14, NIV); the great blessing is that He will turn His face toward them, beaming with grace (Numbers 6:25-26). The great threat is that He will hide His face, and withdraw His favor and protection, because of covenant-breaking wickedness (Deuteronomy 31:17-18; 32:20). Though gracious and compassionate, mindful of His covenant, and unwilling to cast His people from His Presence (2 Kings 13:23), in the end He does precisely that (24:20; Jeremiah 52:3). So Isaiah complains, “You have hidden Your face from us and have delivered us into the [consuming] power of our iniquities” (64:7, Amplified), and the Lord acknowledges, “In a surge of anger I hid My face from you for a moment” (54:8, NIV).

At this table, there is always the danger of losing His Presence. This covenant is all about faithfulness, His and ours. His face is toward the bread that must continually be refreshed — just as the fire on the altar must never be allowed to go out (Leviticus 6:12-13). He sees our obedience. On this basis, during the divided monarchy, King Abijah of Judah defies King Jeroboam of Israel:

As for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken Him. The priests who serve the Lord are sons of Aaron, and the Levites assist them. Every morning and evening they present burnt offerings and fragrant incense to the Lord. They set out the bread on the ceremonially clean table and light the lamps on the gold lampstand every evening. We are observing the requirements of the Lord our God. But you have forsaken Him. (2 Chronicles 13:10-11, NIV)

Just about 200 years later, King Hezekiah acknowledges before the Levites that Judah has done no better than the northern kingdom:

Our fathers were unfaithful; they did evil in the eyes of the Lord our God and forsook Him. They turned their faces away from the Lord’s dwelling place and turned their backs on Him. They also shut the doors of the portico and put out the lamps. They did not burn incense or present any burnt offerings at the sanctuary to the God of Israel. Therefore, the anger of the Lord has fallen on Judah and Jerusalem; . . . (2 Chronicles 29:6-8, NIV)

The lamps are lit daily, the bread replaced weekly, the sacrifices offered according to a precise schedule. If the 12 precious stones on the high priest’s breastplate (Exodus 28:15-21) represent the permanence and perpetuity of the Lord’s covenant with the tribes of Israel, the 12 loaves are a vivid reminder of their frailty and mortality, and of the covenant’s vulnerability. Sabbath by sabbath, generation after generation, the relationship must be renewed. So the loaves are set out with incense (Leviticus 24:7), a symbol of fervent prayer and faithful devotion (“Let my prayer be set forth as incense before You,” Psalm 141:2, Amplified; “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints,” Revelation 5:8, NIV and RSV).(6)

A few times, the bread and the sacrifices are referred to as the Lord’s food (Leviticus 21:6, 8, 17, 21, 22; 22:25; 3:11, 16; Numbers 28:2). This is a bit shocking when one considers how painstakingly the Bible distinguishes the Lord from the needy, dependent gods of the nations. But it underscores the reciprocal nature of the covenant. Because the Lord is Israel’s God, He feeds them. In return, so to speak, we “feed” Him by hearing and obeying. Jesus makes this clear in John 4:34: “My food (nourishment) is to do the will (pleasure) of Him Who sent Me and to accomplish and completely finish His work” (Amplified). Unlike the crowds seeking blessings and full bellies (John 6:26-27), Jesus draws His deepest sustenance from devotion, from living to “feed” His Father.

This first table, then, is a place of serving and not eating, of labor and not rest, of standing rather than sitting or reclining. Though the face of God is toward us, all but a handful of Levites are kept at a distance; we are represented, not intimate. There is no real communion, only, at best, an invitation to walk in God’s Presence. And without our constant vigilance, this table fails; its symbols cease to point to anything beyond themselves; the relationship disappears; and being always in the Presence of the holy God becomes, not a sheltering wing of protection, but a dreadful eye of judgment.

The Table of Brokenness and Grace

Almost from the first, we read of a second table, of God feeding His people. The covenant with Adam and Eve includes the provision of plants and fruits as food, even for the animals (Genesis 1:29-30), and the covenant with Noah provides plants and animals as food for people (9:3).

“I have been young, and now am old; yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging bread,” testifies the psalmist (Psalm 37:25, RSV). These realities are linked: if the righteous were reduced to begging bread, it would indicate that the Lord had forsaken him, and violated a key provision of the covenant.(7)

This aspect of the covenant displays the power of God. There is an instructive exchange during the wilderness wanderings, when the people complain, and the Lord announces that He will give them meat for an entire month:

But Moses said, The people among whom I am are 600,000 footmen [besides all the women and children], and You have said, I will give them meat, that they may eat a whole month! Shall flocks and herds be killed to suffice them? Or shall all the fish of the sea be collected to satisfy them?

The Lord said to Moses, Has the Lord’s hand (His ability and power) become short (thwarted and inadequate)? You shall see now whether My word shall come to pass for you or not. (Numbers 11:21-23, Amplified)

Asaph the psalmist sums up the people’s (and Moses’) unbelief in this way: “They spoke against God, saying, ‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?’” (Psalm 78:19, RSV). This is the second table: not enclosed, restricted, limited to priests, furnished by human hands, and doled out in specified quantities, but supernatural, miraculous, bounteous, displayed for all to see and lavished upon everyone in or with the community. It is a mark of the surpassing greatness of Israel’s God that His provision is universal: “The eyes of all look to You, and You give them their food at the proper time” (Psalm 145:15, NIV). Yet people and creatures outside the covenant have no assurance that this kindness will continue:

Taste and see that the Lord is good;

blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.

Fear the Lord, you His saints,

for those who fear Him lack nothing.

The lions may [this tentative “may” is not in RSV and Amplified] grow weak and hungry,

but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing. (Psalm 34:8-10, NIV)(8)

The promise is especially for the covenant community. Out in the world, He spreads a table, at times even granting us “the grain of heaven,” “the bread of angels” (Psalm 78:24, 25, NIV), “spiritual food” (1 Corinthians 10:3). During other periods, He makes us eat “bread of affliction” (Deuteronomy 16:3), “bread of adversity” (Isaiah 30:20), “bread of tears” (Psalm 80:5; 42:3), “bread of mourners” (Hosea 9:4). We stumble at this, perhaps even complaining that His provision is not bread and not good (Numbers 21:5),(9) until we learn to raise our eyes, to wait and hunger for the food that truly nourishes. So Moses says:

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. . . . Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you. (Deuteronomy 8:2-3. 5, NIV)

Seasons of spiritual hunger concentrate our desire and promote singleness of heart, so that we become eager to hear God’s word (Amos 4:6; 8:11-12). We have tasted the goodness of the Lord and His words (Psalm 34:8; 119:103), and no longer wish to settle for the “bread of wickedness” (Proverbs 4:17) or “bread of idleness” (Proverbs 31:27).(10) As we continue in this confidence, even our enemies become “bread for us” (Numbers 14:9, KJV, Amplified, RSV). And leaders like Gideon, raised from obscurity, steeped in weakness, appear as “bread” to their foes, but are given divine power to defeat armies (Judges 7:13).

Over time, we see a shift in Scripture: The people hungering for God, and being fed by Him, are no longer the ones in charge of “feeding” the Lord in His Holy Place. There are two separate paths: God lives “in a high and holy place” (the temple on Mount Zion) AND in the one who is crushed and lowly (Isaiah 57:15, NIV). Indeed, the broken and crushed heart is His acceptable sacrifice (Psalm 51:17, RSV). Though David eats the holy showbread (1 Samuel 21:6), Elijah is fed in a wilderness area far from Jerusalem, and ultimately outside the land of promise, among the Gentiles (1 Kings 17:2-9; Luke 4:25-26). The Lord’s covenant is now with the one who is righteous but rejected, who undergoes privation, hunger, trials, separation from the community, and persecution.

Increasingly, the prophets announce that God is not pleased with the first table:

I hate, I despise your feasts, . . . Even though you offer Me your burnt offerings and cereal offerings, I will not accept them, . . . (Amos 5:21-22, RSV)

What to Me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the Lord; . . . I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats. . . . Bring no more vain offerings; . . . I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. (Isaiah 1:11, 13, RSV)

The first table easily becomes an empty ritual; the baked goods set continually before the Lord no longer signify lives lived in His Presence and in fellowship with Him. New Testament worship is not exempt from this danger: “. . . your meetings do more harm than good. . . . When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat” (1 Corinthians 11:17, 20, NIV). Now as then, “The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked” (Proverbs 15:8, NIV; compare 21:27). We bring our sins along with our offerings (Amos 4:4; Hosea 8:11); unclean ourselves (Hosea 9:4), we defile His table and profane His Name (Malachi 1:7, 11-12). Yet we congratulate ourselves for being observant! This is “the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong” (Ecclesiastes 5:1, NIV).

Legalistic observance misses the mark in three ways:

1. The sacrifices, instead of being the sign of an all-encompassing devotion, become the sole area of obedience. The Lord says pointedly through Jeremiah:

Go ahead, add your burnt offerings to your other sacrifices and eat the meat yourselves! For when I brought your forefathers out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, but I gave them this command: Obey Me, and I will be your God and you will be My people. Walk in all the ways I command you, that it may go well with you. But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubborn inclinations of their evil hearts. They went backward and not forward. (Jeremiah 7:21-24, NIV)

This rebuke echoes Samuel’s word to Saul, who redefines “obedience” so as to follow his own best judgment:

Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices

as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?

To obey is better than sacrifice,

and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

For rebellion is like the sin of divination,

and arrogance [“stubbornness” in RSV and Amplified] like the evil of idolatry. (1 Samuel 15:22-23, NIV)

Both passages anticipate Jesus’ charge that the Pharisees and teachers of the law use human traditions (including rules about offerings) to “nullify” God’s word (Mark 7:5-13).

Obedience is more than scrupulosity; it requires a “prepared” ear to hear what God is saying (Psalm 40:6; Hebrews 10:5-9). Jesus pronounces a blessing on those who hear and obey the word of God, and calls them His family (Luke 11:28; 8:21). He insists that most fail to obey because they cannot even hear with comprehension:

Why is My language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. . . . . He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God. (John 8:43, 47, NIV)

His appeal is to those who have “ears to hear” (Matthew 11:15; 13:9-16, 43) — those who have been given a gift of faith, those who are too devoted (perhaps too desperate) to rebel by redefining God’s words and by trusting their own judgment.

2. Whenever we focus on our sacrifices, on what we have done for God, we adopt a skewed perspective. It is not only that He continually does far more for us. Like a good marriage, the covenant is meant to be a relationship of intimacy, not one in which either partner tracks how much each has done. A “sacrifice” mentality emphasizes what can be measured — such as God’s 10 percent:

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices — mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law — justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. (Matthew 23:23, NIV)

“To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3, NIV).

In Hosea 6:6, the Lord packs all of this into a frustrated cry:

For I desire and delight in dutiful steadfast love and goodness, not sacrifice, and the knowledge of and acquaintance with God more than burnt offerings. (Amplified)

The single Hebrew word expanded here as “dutiful steadfast love and goodness” is hesed, a rich and important word variously translated as loving-kindness, steadfast or unfailing love, mercy, kindness, goodness, and favor. It expresses all that the Lord pours out in abundance at His second table. And as we see in Hosea, His plan is that we should learn to return His love. But we stop at sacrifice, and turn our hearts elsewhere. Our hesed is not steadfast at all: “. . . your [wavering] love and kindness are as the night mist or as the dew that goes early away” (Hosea 6:4, Amplified).(11)

The Lord craves nothing so much as intimate table fellowship:

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me. (Revelation 3:20, Amplified)

Mary of Bethany grasps this, choosing “the good portion,” sitting rapt at Jesus’ feet, but Martha almost misses it, precisely because she is distracted with serving and wants to call attention to her sacrifice (Luke 10:38-42). Her attitude gives the food a bitter taste, and the table nearly becomes a snare and a trap to her (Psalm 69:21-22; Romans 11:9).

3. Our hearts are bent (Hosea 11:7; 7:16) and apt to twist the grace of God. When we sacrifice, we easily come to think that we have seized the initiative, and that our little gifts bind God to us. We are quick to obscure the fundamental fact of our utter dependence on Him. We are helpless, and yet so blessed that we become stewards and have enough to give back. Asaph sees clearly that our every sacrifice is a response to grace that has gone before, and that the acceptable sacrifice acknowledges this with thanks:

Hear, O My people, and I will speak,

O Israel, I will testify against you.

I am God, your God.

I do not reprove you for your sacrifices;

your burnt offerings are continually before Me.

I will accept no bull from your house,

nor he-goat from your folds.

For every beast of the forest is Mine,

the cattle on a thousand hills.

I know all the birds of the air,

and all that moves in the field is Mine.

If I were hungry, I would not tell you;

for the world and all that is in it is Mine.

Do I eat the flesh of bulls,

or drink the blood of goats?

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,

and pay your vows to the Most High;

and call upon Me in the day of trouble;

I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me. . . .

He who brings thanksgiving as his sacrifice honors Me;

to him who orders his way aright I will show the salvation of God! (Psalm 50:7- 15, 23, RSV)

We sacrifice thank offerings, tell of His unfailing love, and continue to call on His Name (Psalm 107:21-22; 116:17; Hebrews 13:15).

This is why the second table, the one that God prepares, is not only out in the open; it is set up in the presence of the believer’s enemies (Psalm 23:5). The first table holds the bread of the Presence, placing me, in my frailty and my striving, under the eye of God; the second table, later in redemptive time, crowns me with blessings of salvation and casts me into the faces of my enemies.

Reading the Shepherd Psalm, we experience a natural reaction: we don’t want our enemies present when our table is spread. They will steal our peace and spoil our festivity. We should think again. They must be there; the Lord requires it and will ensure it, for this is our vindication. The Lord declares us righteous in the very presence of our accusers (Psalm 35:26-27), as Haman is compelled to proclaim that the king delights to honor Mordecai (Esther 6:6-13).

Then, indeed, our cup overflows (Psalm 23:5).

Jesus the Living Bread

The second table isn’t sheltered by the sanctity of a temple. God spreads it in the desert (Psalm 78:19; Hosea 2:14-15), amid desolation. It is set for those who are desperately hungry, even for scraps, like the beggar Lazarus in the parable (Luke16:20-21); and for those, like the Canaanite woman, who are willing to take the lowest place, even the hidden and degrading position of a dog begging under the table, because they are convinced that the food at the Lord’s table has power to save, and is given in cascading abundance (Matthew 15:26-27).

Jesus Himself is the bread set out on this table:

. . . it is My Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. . . . I am the bread of life. . . . I am the living bread that came down from heaven. . . . [T]he one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. (John 6:32-33, 48, 51, 57, NIV)

To receive this Bread, we turn our backs on the first table, leaving the temple behind, acknowledging that we are sinners and that our sacrifices cannot save us: “Let us, then, go to Him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace He bore” (Hebrews 13:13, NIV). My life isn’t spread out for God to approve; rather, I say again that I am only a famished beggar, aching for the one Bread that can feed my spirit and my soul.

In coming to this table, we bring nothing — only our God-given faith, which Luther well describes as a “passive righteousness”: “For in this we work nothing, we render nothing unto God, but only we receive and suffer another to work in us, that is to say, God.”(12) We are like the woman at the well: Jesus asks her for a drink only in order to draw her attention to the living water that He is offering (John 4:7-15).

When we come in the simplicity of faith, we become the flock that He tends and feeds (Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11-14; Zephaniah 2:7; 3:13). Under His care, we become one body, one loaf (1 Corinthians 10:17). We become bread for a dying world, seed sown into others’ lives (Ecclesiastes 11:1-2; 2 Corinthians 9:10-11). We are set forth in the Lord’s Presence as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). We are not only poured out like a drink offering (Philippians 2:17; 2 Timothy 4:6), but crushed and crumbled like a grain offering (Leviticus 2:6, 14; 6:21); in the words of Oswald Chambers, “God makes us broken bread and poured-out wine.”(13)

And so in heaven there will still be two tables. The results of our sacrifice will be on display, though this will take us by surprise: “Lord, when did we ever feed You?” (Matthew 25:37). We will wear these righteous acts of service as wedding clothes (Revelation 19:8; Matthew 22:11-12), but I suspect we will hardly be aware of them. Our eyes will be on the Lamb’s wedding feast (Revelation 19:9), a table spread by a gracious God whose love never fails:

Come, all you who are thirsty,

come to the waters;

and you who have no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without cost.

Why spend money on what is not bread,

and your labor on what does not satisfy?

Listen, listen to Me, and eat what is good,

and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. (Isaiah 55:1-2, NIV)

My people will be filled with My bounty. (Jeremiah 31:14, NIV)

 

(1) Thomas a Kempis (1380-1471), The Imitation of Christ, IV.1.3-5, ed. Paul M. Bechtel (1980), Moody Classics, gen. ed. Rosalie De Rosset (Chicago: Moody, 1980, 2007), 326-27. The figure of 100 years is probably too long for the ark, since the text says only that 100 years pass between the birth of Noah’s sons and the completion of the ark (Genesis 5:32; 7:6). But 1 Peter 3:20 does say that “God waited patiently . . . while the ark was being built” (NIV).

(2) “These thorny trees, found in desert wadis, are probably the only ones in Sinai likely to produce pieces of wood of sufficient size.” F.N. Hepper, “Trees,” in J.D. Douglas, ed., The New Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962, 1975), 1294.

(3) Ronald Youngblood and Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., note on Exodus 25:30, in Kenneth Barker, ed., The NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1985), 125.

(4) R. Laird Harris and Ronald Youngblood, note on Leviticus 24:8, NIV Study Bible, 178.

(5) Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, III.6.6. Cited at Hope of Israel Ministries, “Mystery of Mysteries — What Is the Showbread?,” http://www.hope-of-israel.org/showbred.htm.

(6) Revelation 8:3-4, where incense is added to the prayers of the saints, seems to point to something further — perhaps the prayers of Jesus. However, Robert Mounce observes, “The Greek for this phrase also allows a translation that takes the incense ‘to be’ the prayers (‘incense . . . consisting of the prayers’)” (note on Revelation 8:3, NIV Study Bible, 1935).

(7) Ironically, Psalm 37 is a psalm of David, and David is a leading example of a man chosen by God who on several occasions must beg for bread. Instead of preventing such humiliation, the Lord uses these incidents to exalt His servant — by providing exceptional bread (1 Samuel 21:6) or by confounding his enemies (1 Samuel 25).

(8) Similarly, Psalm 36 celebrates the Lord’s “unfailing love” that preserves “both man and beast” through the “abundance” of His house and His “river of delights” (verses 5-9), but shifts to rejoicing in His justice that eventually overthrows rather than preserves evildoers (verses 10-12); and Psalm 104 shows Him first feeding, sustaining, and satisfying all creatures (verses 27-28) and then withdrawing, terrifying them and causing them to die (verse 29).

(9) In sharp contrast, a passage in an apocryphal book imagines that God’s manna was always and only a delight, and never a trial: “. . . Thou didst give Thy people the food of angels, . . . providing every pleasure and suited to every taste. For Thy sustenance manifested Thy sweetness toward Thy children; and the bread, ministering to the desire of the one who took it, was changed to suit every one’s liking” (Wisdom of Solomon 16:20-21, RSV).

(10) Compare a Kempis, Imitation of Christ, IV.16.2, 377: “Turn Thou for me all earthly things into bitterness, . . . Be Thou only sweet unto me from henceforth for evermore; for Thou alone art my meat and drink, my love and my joy, my sweetness and all my good.” The spirit here is the exact opposite of that in the Wisdom of Solomon passage (note 9 above): God is not accommodating our corrupt tastes, but changing them.

(11) Confusingly, the NIV uses “love” in Hosea 6:4 and “mercy” in 6:6.

(12) Martin Luther, A Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians (1535), tr. rev. Philip S. Watson (London: James Clarke, 1953); excerpts in John Dillenberger, ed., Martin Luther: Selections from His Writings (Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor-Doubleday, 1961), 101.

(13) Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (1935; Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, n.d.), 33 and often.

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“Radical”: Two and a Half Caveats

David Platt’s Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream (1) is admirable in its intentions. And the book is bold in challenging American Christians’ complacency and love of comforts. Perhaps the fact that I found myself arguing, on almost every page, testifies to the effectiveness of Platt’s presentation. Still, I object to his articulation of Biblical priorities and a Biblical program at three main points.

Issue 1: What Does Radical Abandonment to Jesus Look Like?

This is the “half” caveat. I commend Radical for insisting that we cannot have Christ and self-fulfillment. Yet somehow, as I read it, the emphasis seemed to fall on all the wrong notes. To be blunt, there is a great deal in the book about what one must abandon in order to follow Christ, and much less about the Christ who calls.

I can demonstrate this best by contrasting Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s approach in the opening chapters of his classic work The Cost of Discipleship.(2) Bonhoeffer takes up, in turn, four Gospel texts, each of which issues a challenge, and each of which reveals Christ.(3)

  1. Jesus’ call to Levi in Mark 2:14 is simply, “Follow me” (COD 57); in Mark 1:17 and John 21:22, He issues the same call to Peter (45). This word “gives us no intelligible program for a way of life, no goal or ideal to strive after” (58). There is only Jesus: “When we are called to follow Christ, we are summoned to an exclusive attachment to his person” (59). His call is always this stark and this uncompromising.
  2. In Luke 9:57-62, after Jesus has resolutely set out for Jerusalem and the Cross, He converses briefly with three would-be disciples, none of whom ends up following Him. Because Jesus is God incarnate, He is able to speak a word that is a call, a word that makes faith possible. But faith must obey (60-63).
  3. Similarly, when the rich young man approaches Him with an academic question (Matthew 19:16-26; Mark 10:17-31), Jesus challenges him to make an irrevocable break with his present life, and to embrace “adherence to the person of Jesus Christ and fellowship with him.” He calls him to “spontaneous obedience” (70-76, 84-85).
  4. These passages prepare us for Mark 8:31-38, the invitation to take up our cross and follow Jesus. He “is Christ only in virtue of his suffering and rejection,” and we must join Him there: “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” The specifics are different for each of us; indeed, the call makes us individuals: “Every man is called separately, and must follow alone” (86-94).

Platt, who cites Bonhoeffer (Radical 14), quotes the same four passages (7-11). But he takes them in a different order, and passes quickly from one to another. Because he is concerned about American materialism, he spends the most time on the rich young man, even though eventually he must admit that Jesus’ words on this occasion are not a literal command for everyone (119-20). In an impatient and distracted age, it is tempting to be more concise than Bonhoeffer, but the difference is striking. In The Cost of Discipleship, we meet a suffering and majestic Christ, who makes His way to each of us to speak an empowering word, a call that is personal and different for every hearer. We hear Him call others, and consider; at last, inescapably, He calls to me. In Radical, we go quickly to the bottom line: we read about abandoning everything and “risking it all.”

Another way of stating this is to recall a point made well by Watchman Nee: that Christians must sit, rest, before they can walk. “For Christianity begins not with a big DO, but with a big DONE. Thus Ephesians opens with the statement that God has ‘blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ’ (1:3) and we are invited at the very outset to sit down and enjoy what God has done for us; not to set out to try and attain it for ourselves.”(4)

Bonhoeffer sees this: “Discipleship is bound to Christ as the Mediator, and where it is properly understood, it necessarily implies faith in the Son of God as the Mediator. Only the Mediator, the God-Man, can call men to follow him” (COD 59). Though it may seem paradoxical, though it may occur in a moment of time, the resting of faith precedes the step of following. And the resting of faith may entail a certain amount of letting go.

But Platt does not dwell on the Christ who calls. His discipleship has no sitting and resting, only walking and striving.

There is a tension in Bonhoeffer: although Christ’s call makes one an individual, “It is impossible to become a new man as a solitary individual” (COD 242). One must become a member of Christ’s Body, the Church. (And so Bonhoeffer would go on to write Life Together.) With his less individuated call, Platt might have more to say about corporate discipleship, right from the start. Yet, as we shall see, he presents, not so much a Body in which diverse members work together, but a likeminded fellowship in which individuals march in lockstep. Even his closing challenge, the Radical Experiment, asks one to decide how to give and where to serve before committing to a church (Radical 218-19).

Issue 2: Does God Exalt Our Inability?

Again, I am in sympathy with the main thrust of Radical’s third chapter: that believers must depend on the power of God instead of trusting in our own wisdom, strength, and resources. Jonathan Edwards placed a great emphasis on the Christian’s (and the creature’s) “absolute dependence” on God; this doctrine was a cornerstone of his theology, his preaching, and his devotional life.(5)

Unfortunately, Platt shapes his discussion as a response to a definition of the American dream by James Truslow Adams, which, paraphrased, assumes that “our greatest asset is our ability” (46). So the chapter’s thesis becomes: “In direct contradiction to the American dream, God actually delights in exalting our inability” (47).

In fact, God delights in exalting human weakness; as He says to Paul, His power is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). Some weaknesses are inabilities, but many are not — the youth of Samuel and Jeremiah and Timothy, Paul’s thorn in the flesh, the lowly status of the shepherds who were witnesses to the Incarnation and of the women who were witnesses to the Resurrection, and Christ’s offensive death (“crucified in weakness,” 2 Corinthians 13:4) are all examples of Biblical weakness. Weakness can coexist with great ability; the same Paul who rejoices that God chooses the foolish and weak and lowly (1 Corinthians 1:27-28) is himself a brilliant thinker, preacher, writer, teacher, and leader; and similar claims could be made for Moses, David, Solomon, and others.

This may seem like a quibble over words, but words matter. If every natural ability is a spiritual hindrance or an idol, no one should go to seminary, or even to school. There is no reason for “training” to become “equipped” (2 Timothy 3:16-17); we are better off helpless. Such ideas have surfaced from time to time in church history, never with good results.

In the Bible, we find that God is graciously pleased to give His people abilities, from “the ability to produce wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18) to the New Testament gifts of the Spirit, which are entrusted to us like abilities for us to steward or administer, though of course “with the strength God provides” (1 Peter 4:10-11). So far from leaving us helpless, He makes some among us “competent as ministers” (2 Corinthians 3:6, NIV) and “qualified to teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2, NIV).(6)

Platt quotes the words of Jesus in John 15:5: “Apart from Me you can do nothing” (46). By themselves, though, these words invite passivity, quietism, even testing God by demanding that He act for us. Therefore, Christians typically balance this text with another one, Philippians 4:13: “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (NIV; RSV has “in Him”; Amplified “I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency]”).

As pastors know, there is a creative tension between these two texts. When I am proud and overconfident, I need to hear John 15:5, and recognize afresh my absolute dependence on the Savior. But when I am crushed and in despair (or, like Paul in prison, tempted to discontentment and fretfulness), Philippians 4:13 reminds me to persevere — and perhaps even to take godly initiative.

We desperately need the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, more than all the talents and gifts imaginable. But because God is good, He doesn’t glory in our inability. He is the loving Father who teaches us to walk (Hosea 11:3). He makes us able, qualified, and competent, even as He exalts and fills our weaknesses.

Issue 3: Is Every Christian Commanded to Go to the Nations?

The bulk of Radical is concerned with the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (RSV).

It is an important focus, ever timely. But after a horrific story about a church that dismisses the unsaved (or at least any who are overseas), Platt makes this statement: “Jesus commands us to go. He has created each of us to take the gospel to the ends of the earth, and I propose that anything less than radical devotion to this purpose is unbiblical Christianity” (64).

If Matthew 28 were the whole of the New Testament, this conclusion would be inescapable. As it is, we have the Book of Acts and the epistles, which help us understand what “radical devotion” to Jesus’ words looked like soon after they were spoken, and what it might look like today. What do we find? Paul doesn’t urge his converts to go on to the next city, but to lead quiet lives and work with their hands (1 Thessalonians 4:11). Writing to his fellow missionaries Timothy and Titus, he focuses on elders in each congregation to provide stability.

According to Platt, “Jesus himself has not merely called us to go to all nations; he has . . . commanded us to go to all nations. We have taken this command, though, and reduced it to a calling — something that only a few people receive” (72-73).

Yet in Acts 13:2, while the church at Antioch is worshiping and fasting, the Holy Spirit says, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Already, perhaps 20 years after the Great Commission, it is a calling. Moreover, the calling comes to two individuals through the whole congregation. The Holy Spirit doesn’t rebuke everyone else for not following suit; their job is to hear, commission, send off, support, and pray. Not everyone goes, just as not everyone baptizes. The Great Commission is corporate, addressed to the entire Body of Christ; within each congregation, some are called to go, and some to send. Not for nothing does Scripture record David’s edict that the soldiers left behind, taking charge of supplies, would share equally in the reward with those who bore the heat of battle (1 Samuel 30:21-25).

Anyone who has lived on a mission field has observed the consequences of “All must go” teaching: uncalled, ill-equipped missionaries who crash and burn, harming themselves and the work.

Chapter 7 of Radical adds another element: the terrible urgency of missions work, because people are dying and going to hell. Platt writes, “We are the plan of God, and there is no plan B” (156).

I hesitate to take issue with this point, because this sense of urgency has helped to motivate some of the greatest Christian missionaries. Amy Carmichael was haunted by an image of people streaming over a precipice, while Christians sat by making daisy chains.(7) But we must ask whether it is Biblical to make this our overriding concern.

Even though Paul was called preach “where Christ was not known” (Romans 15:20), and lived “so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22), he sometimes allowed other priorities to intrude. Instead of going on to unsaved Spain, he set sail for Jerusalem in the interests of church unity (Romans 15: 24-28). He was not deterred by the thought that thousands in Spain would die and go into eternity before he could return. Similarly, we read of the Holy Spirit preventing him from entering certain regions (Acts 16:6-7). If all that mattered were the presence of unsaved souls, such decisions would be positively immoral.

The “perishing souls” argument raises awful questions. Whey didn’t Jesus come earlier? Why didn’t He visit the large population of China? Why were Native Americans cut off from the Gospel for more than 1,000 years?

Against all such speculations, the Bible declares that God sent His Son “when the time had fully come” (Galatians 4:4, NIV), and that Christ died “at just the right time” (Romans 5:6, NIV). Jesus begins the Great Commission with these words: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Matthew 28:18, NIV; compare John 17:2). He is the general, opening and shutting doors; there are times and seasons that only He understands.

So when Platt says that I don’t need to inquire concerning God’s will for my life, because the answer is the same for all (159-60), I respectfully disagree. It is more Biblical to pray that we may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will, so that we may live a life worthy of Him and know Him (Colossians 1:9-12).

I saw the consequences of overriding missionary zeal at one church, where every sermon emphasized Christians’ duty to bring their unsaved friends to church. One Sunday I brought an unsaved friend, and he listened without interest to a sermon on Christians’ duty to bring their unsaved friends to church. Meanwhile, church members struggled with addictions, failing marriages, and every temptation and trial, but no help was extended, because all that mattered were the perishing souls. In a way, that pastor cared a great deal for people — up until the moment when they joined his flock.

The Great Commission also colors Platt’s view of discipleship. Against James 3:1 (“Let not many of you become teachers,” RSV), Platt says that “Jesus’ command for us to make disciples envisions a teaching role for all of us” (100). Worse, he advises that, when I listen to a sermon, I should ask not What can I get out of this? but How can I listen to his Word so that I am equipped to teach this Word to others? (102).

This is poor counsel. The words of Jesus are spirit and life, but only as they are believed (John 6:63-64). If I do not sit under the Word and allow it to prune and change me, I am in danger of becoming one who preaches Christ insincerely or impurely, for effect (Philippians 1:17). Jesus doesn’t tell a parable of the sower and his little son, who is also learning to sow; rather, the sower interacts with soil — which, in the wisdom of God, has its own way of producing and dispersing seeds, without itself becoming a sower.

Conclusion

To present a “radical” Christian call to the modern world, it is not enough to attack wealth or comfort or even complacency. One must strike at the root of individualism, calling people into a community that is diverse and differentiated, yet intimate and deeply united. Platt ends by sketching this (204-07), but it cannot be tacked on at the end. Barnabas and Saul receive their calling to the Great Commission, or at least receive the confirmation that equips them to walk it out, as members of a worshiping community (Acts 13:2).

I repeat, Radical is written with good intentions. I hope that David Platt will write a better book one day. In the meantime, though, I urge believers to spend their time reading the radical calls of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Jonathan Edwards.

(1) Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2010.
(2) 1937; transl. R.H. Fuller, rev. Irmgard Booth, 1959; New York: Touchstone-Simon & Schuster, 1995.
(3) Bonhoeffer also discusses the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 (76-78), but this is largely to clarify and reinforce a point made about Jesus’ exchange with the rich young man.
(4) Sit, Walk, Stand (1957, 4th ed. 1962; Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1977), 2.
(5) See Edwards’ first published sermon, God Glorified in Man’s Dependence (1731; full text online at http://www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/sermons.dependence.2.html. A search for “absolute dependence” at Yale’s Jonathan Edwards Center website, http://edwards.yale.edu/, yields 36 occurrences. Within 50 years of Edwards’ sermon, American declared independence. In the 1830s, Ralph Waldo Emerson exalted “Self-Reliance,” and in 1931, just 200 years after the sermon, J.T. Adams made the statement about the American dream that Platt quotes.
(6) The Greek word in both verses, hikanos, speaks to ability: it can be translated adequate, qualified (Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, 2nd ed., 1888 [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, n.d.], 3:175), competent, worthy (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984, 1996], New Testament section, 3).
(7) Any Wilson Carmichael, Things As They Are: Mission Work in Southern India (1903; London: Morgan and Smith, 1905), 41-44; Amy Carmichael, Gold Cord: The Story of a Fellowship (1932; London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1952), 339, 348.

Stand

Every so often, I meet with an exhortation to “advance the Kingdom” or “take back the land.” There is a Biblical foundation for this idea in the conquests of Joshua and David. And the example of Caleb — at the age of 85, driving the Canaanites out of Hebron (Joshua 14:6-14; Judges 1:20) — shows that it’s not just a young person’s dream.

But for every reference to mounting an attack, there seem to be two or three that speak of standing — or, better, standing firm. (We also see cases in which it is right to run away,(1) but that is another matter.)

Standing Firm

This struck me recently as I read the famous passage about putting on the whole armor of God. As Paul explains it, we are not suiting up in order to attack the forces of spiritual darkness and take over cities for Christ. Rather,

Put on God’s whole armor [the armor of a heavy-armed soldier which God supplies], that you may be able successfully to stand up against [all] the strategies and the deceits of the devil. For we are not wrestling with flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the despotisms, against the powers, against [the master spirits who are] the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spirit forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) sphere. Therefore put on God’s complete armor, that you may be able to resist and stand your ground on the evil day [of danger], and, having done all [the crisis demands], to stand [firmly in your place]. Stand therefore [hold your ground], . . . (Ephesians 6:11-14, Amplified; emphasis added)

The habits, the Christian disciplines, involved in putting on God’s armor make us “strong in the Lord” (verse 10) so that, when (not if) the day of evil comes, the time when we are attacked and severely tried, we may stand our ground. The image is one of purely defensive warfare. At the same time, one of the reasons we are called “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:37) is surely that what we have gained in Christ can never be lost to a counterattack, requiring reconquest. We can rejoice that we stand in grace through Christ, by faith (Romans 5:2).(2)

We have “taken our stand” on the Gospel and its truths (1 Corinthians 15:1). So to the Galatians, who dream of adding Law to grace, Paul says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1, RSV; emphasis added).

Standing is linked with ideas and images of steadiness, steadfastness, stability, and being established. After assuring us at length that our Christian hope is sure — that Christ has been raised, and our bodies too shall be taken up into life — Paul concludes, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58, RSV; emphasis added; see also Colossians 1:23). Because we stand in hope, we can resist discouragement.

The Steadfast God

We are able to stand only because we have been created in the image of a God who stands fast and stands over. At the Red Sea, the pillar of cloud “stood behind” the Israelites, screening them from Egypt’s army through a long night (Exodus 14:19-20; compare Numbers 14:14). The Lord has established His faithfulness (Psalm 89:2), His throne (Psalm 93:2), and the earth (Psalm 119:90); and He alone can establish us. The Hebrew word aman can mean to stand fast, to be established, and to believe, and these are all related. Abraham believes God (Genesis 15:16), and later it can be said that the Lord found his heart faithful (Nehemiah 9:8). Through young Samuel comes the promise, “I will raise up for Myself a faithful (aman) priest, . . . I will firmly establish (aman) his house” (1 Samuel 2:35, NIV). Isaiah warns, “If you will not believe (aman), surely you shall not be established (aman)” (Isaiah 7:9, KJV; compare 2 Chronicles 20:20).

In a way, it sounds good when Eliphaz solemnly declares that the Lord places no trust (aman) in anyone, even the angels (Job 4:18; 15:15). What a high view of His holiness! But this is an instance of Eliphaz failing to speak what is right about Him (Job 42:8). For the truth is far more glorious: He makes us trustworthy. “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Romans 14:4). When we are weak, He stands by us, strengthening us so that we can stand (Acts 23:11; 2 Timothy 4:17).

It is in Christ — in faith and sufferings like His — that we stand firm (Philippians 4:1). Therefore, we stand together: we “stand firm in one spirit, with one mind . . .” (Philippians 1:27, RSV). We stand by faith (2 Corinthians 1:24; Romans 11:20), and this can be precarious: “Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12, RSV). By grace we can be steadfast and resist the devil (1 Peter 5:9); we can even “strengthen and establish” one another (Luke 22:32, Amplified).

Among these texts, one is a personal favorite. During a difficult period, fearful of missing God’s direction, I was dismayed by the apostle’s summary stating that he had written “encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it” (1 Peter 5:12, NIV; emphasis added). Which “this” did he mean? This what? Then it struck me: THIS. All this, the totality of the circumstances in which I’ve been placed. Stand fast, and trust. “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace . . . [will] establish and ground you securely, and strengthen (and settle) you” (1 Peter 5:10, Amplified).

Eleazar and Shammah

What does it look like to take a stand? Two of David’s Mighty Men provide helpful portraits:

Next to him was Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite. As one of the three mighty men, he was with David when they taunted the Philistines gathered at Pas Dammim for battle. Then the men of Israel retreated, but he stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The Lord brought about a great victory that day. The troops returned to Eleazar, but only to strip the dead.

Next to him was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite. When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel’s troops fled from them. But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field. He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory. (2 Samuel 23:9-12, NIV; emphasis added)

To begin with Shammah, allow me to make a scientific observation: Lentils! Really? My wife sometimes makes lentil soup, and I turn up my nose at it, or gently inquire whether anyone has yet discovered the antidote. Were I in Shammah’s place, I would hand over the field, purely as a matter of strategy, hoping that those nasty beans would make the Philistines as sick and disgusted as they have made me. I’ll be down the street, defending the barbecue joint.

The point is, Shammah’s decision isn’t rational. The lentil field isn’t a military vantage point. It’s not even his land. One might risk death to defend one’s own farm; failing that, one might take one’s stand in the gates of Jerusalem, the city chosen by the Lord as a place for His Name to dwell; better yet, one might cede the city gates, and draw one’s line at the Temple. But Shammah chooses an arbitrary plot of ground. Something rises up in him, a sense that enough is enough.

This isn’t simply anger. People who have been given a gift of faith, and have made a stand, sometimes say afterwards that they got mad at the devil. I have never found this to be productive; rather, as James 1:20 warns, “the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God” (RSV). Neither is it stubbornness, for Shammah is not trying to prove a point, and it’s not himself that he is asserting. The Spirit of God stirs up in him a settled determination. He will not quit, give up, or run away.

Turning to Eleazar, we see what such a decision can cost, even if one lives: “his hand . . . froze to the sword.” The Hebrew is dabaq, “cleaved,” the same word used of a husband and wife cleaving and becoming one (Genesis 2:24).(3) Elsewhere in the Old Testament, the verb is used of people holding tight to God (Deuteronomy 10:20; 11:22; 13:4; 30:20; Joshua 22:5; 23:8; 2 Kings 18:6) or to others — Shechem to Dinah (Genesis 34:31), Ruth to Naomi (Ruth 1:14), the men of Judah to David (2 Samuel 20:2), Solomon to foreign women (1 Kings 11:2), one good friend to another (Proverbs 18:24); it also describes an unnatural attachment of sin to our hands (Deuteronomy 13:17; Job 31:7) or of disease to our bodies (Deuteronomy 28:60; 2 Kings 5:27; Deuteronomy 28:21). Affliction causes one’s soul to cleave to the dust (Psalm 119:25).

Eleazar’s hand fuses or freezes. Perhaps oil or warm water will soften it, restoring suppleness; perhaps he makes a full recovery. Or he may be permanently disabled and disfigured. At the very least, making a stand has probably ruined him for certain other pursuits. You won’t find him playing the piano or working the loom.

The stands we take may ruin us for other things. When Jacob wrestled with the angel, his hip was put out of joint, but he held on, declaring, “I will not let you go unless you bless me” (Genesis 32:26, NIV). I think it was Jim Goll who said that Jacob failed to recognize that he had already been blessed, because up to that point in his life he had always run away when things got difficult. From this night forward, he limped (Genesis 32:31), but he also stood.

First and foremost, we are called to stand in prayer. The Lord looks for people to “build up the wall and stand before Me in the gap on behalf of the land” (Ezekiel 22:30, NIV; emphasis added). The watchers on the wall are to call on the Lord day and night, giving themselves and Him no rest, “till He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth” (Isaiah 62:6-7, NIV; emphasis added). Abraham, Moses, and Aaron stood in the breach to intercede (Genesis 18:22; Psalm 106:23; Numbers 16:48; compare Exodus 17:9), and Habakkuk took his stand on a tower, watching till the Lord should answer (Habakkuk 2:1).

What would it mean if we took this calling seriously? What if we were ruined for anything else, if our hands froze to the sword, if we became the prayer?

It begins with a settled determination, the declaration of God Himself that the Philistines have wrought enough destruction, and that the tide must be turned. We stand in the foolishness of a field of trampled lentils, steadfast and immovable, in faith and hope and a fierce joy.

(1) See, for example, Matthew 2:13-15; 10:23; 2 Corinthians 11:33; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22.
(2) In his classic discussion of Ephesians, Sit, Walk, Stand (1957, 4th ed. 1962; Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 1977), Watchman Nee says well, “We do not try to gain ground; we merely stand on the ground which the Lord Jesus has gained for us, and resolutely refuse to be moved from it” (67). But I think Nee earlier (42-45) goes too far in insisting that we never attack, never fight for victory. Even though it is the Lord who fights for us, sometimes we are called to “stand” by marching forward (2 Chronicles 20:13-21; Exodus 14:13-15). Nee is commenting on Ephesians, yet right in 6:19-20 Paul speaks of his work as an ambassador: marching out, invading enemy territory, not as a warrior but as one proclaiming the peace that has been made.
(3) Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984, 1996), Old Testament section, 37, notes that the modern Hebrew word for “glue” derives from dabaq.