Two Swords

“So it came to pass in the day of battle that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan: but with Saul and Jonathan his son was there found,” I Samuel 13:22. 

You will recall that there was no smith in Israel. The Philistines had made it impossible for the Israelites to make swords and spears, which made them defenseless against the enemy. They were completely defenseless, except for two swords. Can you think of a more precarious situation?

The Philistines, who were the archenemy of Israel at that time, had built an army consisting of thirty thousand chariots, six thousand horsemen, and a large, well-armed infantry.

These came to fight against the army of Israel, which consisted of a mere thousand men. At the very sight of this Philistine army the Israelites fled, some to hide in the woods and in caves, some to the tribes that dwelt on the other side of Jordan, and some even defected to the enemy.

Confident of their superiority over Israel, the Philistines sent three marauding bands throughout Israel to plunder to their hearts content. The archenemy of God’s people seemed to triumph, while Israel trembled with fear and anguish.

Only three hundred men remained with Saul and Jonathan, and they were without weapons. They had neither sword nor spear except for the two swords in the hands of Saul and of Jonathan.

Two swords, yet one too many. That is, the sword in the hand of wicked, unbelieving Saul was useless. Yet the Lord gave Israel the victory over the mighty host of the Philistines with only one sword. As Jonathan said, “There is no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few.”

While Saul sat under a pomegranate tree with three hundred men around him, not daring to face the enemy, Jonathan and his armor bearer had gone off by themselves.

Confident that the Lord would give him the victory, Jonathan exposed himself with his armor bearer to the enemy. Seeing Jonathan, the Philistines thought that the whole army of Israel had somehow found means and courage to fight against them.

Little did the Philistines realize that Saul’s army was scattered, that Saul and a handful of men felt completely helpless, and that only Jonathan and his armor bearer were approaching.

Yet they confidently say, “Come up to us and we will shew you a thing.” So Jonathan, trusting solely in his God, scrambles with his armor bearer up the hill to meet the enemy. Twenty Philistines fall slaughtered before him. At that moment the Lord sends an earthquake. The ground trembles and shakes under them, and the Philistines flee in terror. The entire army of chariots, horse-men, and infantry are panic-stricken, fighting and killing one another as they go. Even the Israelites who had defected, now join in to kill off the Philistines. There is a great slaughter and the enemy is driven back into their own land.

The God of Jonathan still lives. The faith of Jonathan is the same faith that God gives to you and to me. It is still true today that one believer and the Lord still outnumber and are more powerful than all the hosts of Satan.

We have a powerful sword, the Word of God.

Christ manipulated that sword against Satan with His powerful: “It is written!”

Joseph used that sword against the wiles of Potiphar’s wife when he said, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”

You and I are called by God to do the same. The church on earth is a militant church. Its members are soldiers. You and I are called to fight against the most powerful enemies: the devil, the world and our sinful flesh.

Not as if that sword of the Word of God has some magical power. But the Word is the means whereby the Holy Spirit convicts of sin and guilt, either unto repentance or unto greater condemnation. God’s Word never returns void.

The devil is a cunning, treacherous, sneaky, mean fighter. He has centuries of experience. He has a huge host of demons at his beck and call. I would not be surprised if he has one certain demon to keep an eye on you, and another one for me. He likely watches every move we make, looks for our weakest spots, waits for the best moment of attack. He knows when, where and how to make his assault.

He has the whole world at his command and uses even this present evil world to lure us or to threaten us. Who knows what means he will use as he plots to destroy.

But he can also attack us through our sinful flesh. Sin wars in our members. Well must we be aware that, “I am evil, born, in sin.” Except for the grace of God, we not only might sin, but we surely will.

The devil may even use our most intimate friend to lure us into sin. He pulls no punches.

Remember this: No battle, no victory. No victory, no crown. To fight that battle you need the Sword of the Word of God. But you need more. You need the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-17).

Are you a Saul or a Jonathan? If you are a Jonathan, you must equip yourself for battle. You must do that now, even while you are young.

You must put on the helmet of salvation, a strong conviction of the truth of God’s Word. You must protect your heart with the shield of faith. You must bind that shield securely in its proper position with the girdle of truth.

To be prepared to meet the enemy you must have your feet firmly bound up in the shoes of the Gospel of peace.

Now take in your left hand the shield of faith to quench all the fiery darts of the devil.

And last, but not least, take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

Stand firm! The enemy is numerous and powerful but, in Christ Jesus we are more than conquerors!

Not human strength, nor mighty hosts.

Not charging steeds or warlike boasts

Can save from overthrow

But God will save from death and shame

All those who fear and trust His name,

And they no want shall know.


Rev. Hanko is a retired minister of the Protestant Reformed Churches. He is a member of Hudsonville Protestant Reformed Church in Hudsonville, Michigan.