Strengthening Your Hand

“And Jonathon, Saul’s son, rose and went to David at Horesh,
and strengthened his hand in God.”
(1 Samuel 23:16)

My Bible reading plan has me reading from 1 and 2 Samuel these last few weeks, and, while I know I’ve read these books numerous times, it is amazing that I continue to find something new each time I read it.  This is one of the blessings of having the habit of regular Bible reading, picking up on something you might have missed before, or seeing it from a completely different perspective.

The passage above from 1 Sam 23 tells us that when David was hiding from Saul, Jonathon, Saul’s son, came to David and strengthened his hand.  That phrase, “he strengthened his hand,” has been stuck in my head for two weeks now.

On the surface, it’s clear what is meant here.  When you get the winning bid in  Pinocle and your partner passes you exactly what you need, that’s “strengthening your hand.”


When you gain a tactical advantage, or get an increase in strength, you gain the upper hand, or get a stronger hand.  That I understand.

But what isn’t so clear is exactly how Jonathon when about strengthening David’s hand.

All we know is what Jonathon said to David, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you.” That’s all we’re told.

Since I read that passage, I prayed over and wrestled with that phrase, “strengthen his hand.” I wanted to try to get my head around it, to let it sink in.  I asked God, “show me what that means!”

And then God did.

I had a friend show up in the midst of a very busy week.  With he start of a new year of programing at the church, and more and more involvement with Presbytery responsibilities, I was feeling swamped.  I’ve been burning the candle at both ends, up early to run and pray, up late to read and pray.  The joy of ministry was dwindling, and it was beginning to show.

So my friend shows up, one who is closer than a brother, and he begins to invest in me, to strengthen me, and to encourage me.  He listened.  He gave wise counsel.  He asked me the tough questions about my prayer life and purity that need to be asked to keep me accountable.  But most of all, he reminded me of the grace that I have been called to proclaim.  He reminded me that I’m not just a herald of that grace, but a recipient of it as well.

Isn’t this what Jonathon did for David?  He showed up when David was downs, and reminded him of God’s promises.  He directed him to God, not to his own strength, not to his own resources.  Jonathon didn’t come to the cave at Horesh and say, “It’s not so bad!” There were no “Daily Affirmations” with Stuart Smalley there in the wilderness…


No, Jonathon simply directed David’s eyes, and heart, back to the word of God.  God had made a promise to David, had anointed him and poured out his Spirit upon him. All Jonathon had to do was return David to his foundation in God, the source of real courage and strength.

This is how Jonathon ministered to David.  This is how my friend ministered to me.  As we were praying, I thanked God that he showed me personally what it meant that Jonathon strengthened David’s hand in the Lord.  It means having a brother who will encourage, bless, and challenge you.  It means having someone who will speak into your life a word of grace and hope.  It means being reminded of God’s promises in your own life so that you can find the strength to move forward.

I cannot stress what a blessing it is to have someone in your life like Jonathon was for David – a source of strength and encouragement in the Lord.  I encourage you to be that person for someone today – call them up, listen and encreuage them, be the one to strengthen their hand in the Lord.  And also seek out someone in your life who can do that for you.  Invite someone to hold you accountable, to ask you the tough questions, and to remind you of God’s goodness and grace toward you in Jesus.  May you have that God-given friend who will always be directing you to God.


Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow…

“Give us this day our daily bread…”
(Matthew 6:11 ESV)

Its Wednesday again, and here I am wondering What am I going to write about today?  Relentlessly Wednesday keeps coming, and I struggle to find something that will be a blessing to you.  I am so thankful for the encouragement that you give me, telling me how what I have written has encouraged you, how the midweek message is just what you needed to hear.  Sunday’s don’t bother me as much.  I’ve been preaching for almost 10 years now, I know how to study and prepare.  But this weekly writing is new to me.  I still get anxious for Wednesdays.

Each of us has that one thing (or many things) that we get anxious over.  What will I write about?  Will I get that job?  Will he/she ask me out for the Homecoming Dance?  Can our marriage survive this?  Will my family/children be provided for if something happens to me?  Will I recover from this illness?  Will I be welcomed and secure in my new home?  Can I find the strength to overcome this temptation and avoid sin?  Sometimes the thought of what is coming tomorrow can crush us today.  We can be so overcome and overwhelmed by anxiety about what may come that we lose hope and begin to despair.

One of the most repeated commandments of scripture is, “Do not be afraid.”  Jesus knew the tendency of our hearts was to lose sight of what God has done in the past, to fixate on the uncertainty of our future, and to be overcome with anxiety and despair.  This is why He taught us to pray to God for our daily bread – to teach us and remind us to trust in God daily for the grace we need to face the day.  Just as God provided manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16:35), just as God feeds the birds and clothes the lilies in all their splendor (Matthew 6:28), God will provide for you.

Simply telling you not to worry, though, is only half the solution.  Often times, we have to supplement a negative behavior with a positive one (I used to vacuum whenever I wanted to snack at night).  The same thing applies to your spiritual life.  Unless you supplant your anxiety with something else, you will soon return to your fears and doubts.  So what can you do?

Think about today…  Jesus pointed out the futility of our anxieties, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life…  Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious enough for itself” Matthew 6:27).  Stewing over the problems we face and our inability to deal with them only compounds the problems.  Too often we rely on our own resources and our limited vision, and wind up in a bigger mess than when we started.  But when we realize that our God is bigger than the problems we face, we can find great strength and encouragement.  Lamentations 3:22-26 says, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’  The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.  It is good that one should wait patiently for the salvation of the Lord.”  We need to learn to wait for the Lord, to trust in his grace that he has given for this day.

Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with thee;
Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not;
As thou hast been thou forever wilt be.

Prayer and Thanksgiving… Paul teaches in Philippians 4:6, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”  How many times do we run headlong into a problem without ever taking it to the Lord in prayer?  Don’t we usually find ourselves up to our necks in our own undoing before we finally cry out to God?  Take a moment right now and think of those things that you are most anxious about.  Now tell God about it, make your request before the throne of God, and be sure to thank God for listening and for the ways He’s worked in your life before and continues to work today.  Go ahead… I’ll wait.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thy own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Trust in His promises – One of the things that prayer and thanksgiving does is it helps us to remember God’s faithfulness in the past, and his promise for the future.  When the Israelites began to wonder whether God would deliver them, they would be reminded of the way His mighty right arm and delivered them from Egypt and provided for them in the wilderness.  When the early church faced persecution and oppression, they were encouraged by remembering the mighty work of deliverance through Jesus our savior.  Even today, when we wonder if maybe this obstacle is too big for God, let us remember all that God has done and have hope for what he is about to do.  God has promised good things (Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:28), and “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.  Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it” (Numbers 23:19)?

Great is thy faithfulness!
Great is thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed thy hand hath provided
Great is thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!