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November 29, 2015

Sermon1 Chronicles 11:22 . . . “’Bad’ Boys of the Bible:  Benaiah”



“’Bad’ Boys of the Bible:  Benaiah”

I Chronicles 11:22

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Do you like to do things yourself?  It’s not hard if you try.  Since there are so many things we want to do, and can do well, it’s a good idea to find out how.

Today, you can learn how to do almost anything.  Go online to “Wikihow” and you can learn how to plant sunflower seeds, how to trim a palm tree and how to overcome post-vacation blues.  You can even learn how to make a survival kit for your cat.  (In case you wanted to know!)  And if “This Old House” doesn’t happen to be on at the moment, you can always tune in to “DIY,” the “Do-it-yourself” channel.  There you can learn how to build a deck, blow in insulation and install floor tile--almost anything you ever wanted to know.

But of all the things we would like to do and can learn how to do, there’s one thing you’ll probably never learn by reading some book, doing a search on a computer or watching TV.  In fact, the only place you’ll ever learn how to do it is found in the Bible.  (Which is why I’m glad you’re here today).  

You know what it is?  It’s how to kill a lion in a pit on a snowy day.  Yup, that’s what I said—how to kill a lion in a pit on a snowy day.

From the very beginning, even until the end of time, the Bible has been and always will be a source of inspiration, a teller of wonderful tales, and a moral guide.  In this book we meet the likes of history’s most amazing characters, people like Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Ahab and Jezebel, Samson and Delilah, David and Bathsheba, Peter and Paul, and, best of all, our Savior Jesus.

And today, I’d like to introduce you to one you’ve probably never heard of before.  No Sunday School teacher has ever assigned him as memory work and, when I was in school, no professor ever bothered to mention him at all.  Still, there he is, hiding in the book of I Chronicles chapter 11, verse 22.  His name is Benaiah.

Let’s step back for just a moment to see what’s going on.

It was about three thousand years ago, at the time of King David, and Israel was a wild and dangerous place.  Jackals, foxes, hyenas and packs of feral dogs roamed the countryside virtually unchallenged, looking for easy prey.  Bear from Syria and lions from Asia were common sights.  They menaced flocks and shepherds whenever anyone dared to cross their path.  And knife, sword, sling and spear were hardly a match for them.  Asian lions could weigh as much as five hundred pounds and stood four feet tall at the shoulder.  Their bodies were eight feet long, not counting the tail.

Also, at this time, Saul had died and David had just become king.  And since David had lived so long in the wilderness, sometimes afraid for his life, he gathered around him a band of soldiers, of fighting men.  The book of I Samuel describes them as those who were “in distress or in debt or discontended.”  And David, the anointed king, became their leader.  Four hundred men were with him.

But within that band of four hundred men, there was a select group of thirty that especially protected him, sort of like a president’s secret service.  There was, for example, Joshobeam the Hakmonite, Eleazar the Ahohite and Abiel the Arbathite (don’t worry, it won’t be on the test!)  And among that group of thirty very special men, there was one more named Benaiah.

What do we know about him?  Not really all that much.  But what we do know is truly amazing.  Listen to the words of I Chronicles 11.  “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds.  He struck down two heroes of Moab.  He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen.  And he struck down an Egyptian, a man of great stature, five cubits tall…He was renowned among the thirty…and David set him over his bodyguard.”

Benaiah must have been quite a man!  First of all, the Bible says he struck down two heroes of Moab.  Now when you see the word “heroes,” that’s not what it really says in the Hebrew.  The original language used the word “ariel.”  It’s a word that means, “lion”--“lion-like men”—fierce, strong, angry, don’t-mess-with-them kind of men.  And Benaiah not only confronted them.  He killed them.

Then there was the Egyptian.  The Bible says he was a man of great stature, five cubits tall.  Now Goliath was six cubits and a span.  So this Egyptian at five cubits was sort of like his little brother, coming in at 7 ½ feet tall.  His spear, the Bible says, was huge, like a weaver’s beam.  And Benaiah took that beam and killed him.

But his most amazing feat of all, what sets him apart from anyone else past, present or future is found in verse 22:  “He struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen.”

Notice that.  It wasn’t a leopard.  It wasn’t a hyena, a boar, a buffalo or even a ferocious pig.  It was a lion.

Can I tell you something about lions?  If a lion had half a chance, he would slap you and smash you silly as if you were a hard-boiled egg.  He’s the king of beasts, weighing in at five hundred pounds.  His teeth could crush you and crunch through even your strongest bones.  Then his tongue would lick the meat off your bones.  You can hear him roar five miles away.  Nobody messes with a lion.

Except Benaiah.  Did you hear those words?  It said, “He went and struck down a lion.”  It’s not like the lion chased him.  He chased the lion.

Where did he chase him?  Into a pit.  Can you imagine that?  If I were to encounter a lion, I’d rather have better odds.  Give me a tree.  Maybe a nice lake or some big rock.  But please, don’t make me go down into a pit.  If it were just the two of us—me and the lion—I know which one would come out alive.

But Benaiah did just that.  He chased the lion into the pit.

And when did he do it?  On a cold, slippery, snowy day.  

It was the worst possible foe, in the worst possible place, under the worst possible circumstances.

There is something wrong with this picture.  Normal people run away from lions.  And they run as far and as fast as they possibly can.  But not Benaiah.  You’ve heard of lion tamers?  He was a lion chaser.

Try, for a moment, to put yourself into his snow-filled shoes.  Out of the corner of his eye, through the falling snow and frozen breath, he could see it stalking, growling, snarling.  And in that moment, Benaiah and the lion locked eyes.  Pupils dilated.  Muscles tensed.  Adrenaline rushed.  Someone was going to die in the next thirty seconds.

Then in a flash, a growl, a roar, and a heart-piercing cry, it was done.  The lion had lost and Benaiah had won.

So what does all this mean to teach us?

You know the words of Peter in his first epistle.  He said: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

Far more powerful and more sinister than a lion, Satan himself stalks his prey.  That’s what he’s done since the beginning and will do until the end of time.

Do we stand a chance?  On our own, absolutely not.  There’s no way we could ever be good enough or strong enough to defeat that lion.

But that’s why we rest on the words of our Savior Jesus.  That’s what John wrote in his first epistle:  “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”  Or think of the words of Luther:  “Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us.  We tremble not, we fear no ill, they shall not overpower us.  This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will, he can harm us none, he’s judged; the deed is done; one little word can fell him.”

So how did Benaiah do it?  How could he kill that lion in a pit on a snowy day?

The answer’s found in his name.  The Bible called him, “Benaiah the son of Jehoiada.”

What does Jehoiada mean?  It means, “God knows.”  

How good that is to know!  God knows who you are.  God knows where you are.  He knows what you’re going through and He knows how you feel.  That’s what the writer to the Hebrews said:  “We have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but who has been tempted in every way, just as we are.”

And Benaiah, what does that mean?  It means, “God builds.”

Not only does God know what’s happening in your life right now and what will happen, He’ll use it to work toward His end.  That’s what Paul wrote to the Romans:  “The sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed in us.”   And he wrote:  “God works all things together for the good, for those who are called according to His plan.”  

God knows.  God builds.  And that’s how Benaiah killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day.

It was 1895 and Andrew Murray was suffering from a terribly painful back, the result of an injury he had suffered many years before.  And one morning, while he was staying with friends, his hostess told him of a woman who was going through a hard time and asked if there was any advice he could give her.  So he handed her a sheet of paper he had been writing on and said, “Just give her this advice I’m writing down for myself.  Maybe she’ll find it helpful.”

This is what he wrote:  “In time of trouble, say, ‘First, the Lord brought me here.  It is by His will I am in this place; in that I will rest.’  Next, ‘He’ll keep me here in His love, and give me grace in this trial to behave as His child.’  Then say, ‘He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.’  And last, say, ‘In His good time, He can bring me out again.  How, and when, only He knows.’  Therefore say, ‘I am here by God’s appointment, in His keeping, under His training, and for His time.’”

And that’s how to kill a lion in a pit on a snowy day.

We thank You, dear Father, for the story of Benaiah.  Help us to remember that when we too endure the worst possible foe, in the worst possible place, under the worst possible circumstances, You are with us, and we are safe.  This we ask in Jesus’ name.  Amen



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