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Lesson 3 • Third Week

The Office Of The Armorbearer


Background Reading:                           Devotional Reading:
1 Samuel 14:1-16; John 5:30                2 Timothy 1:16-18

CENTRAL VERSE
"I can of mine own self do nothing: as I                         "I can do nothing on My own initiative.
hear, I judge: and my judgment is just;                           As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is
because I seek not mine own will, but just,                    because I do not seek My own will,
the will of the Father which hath sent me"                      but the will of Him who sent Me."
                            John 5:30, KJV                                    John 5:30, NASB

KEY TERMS
Disallow — To refuse to allow.
Garrison — A permanent military installation.
Sanctify the leader — To reveal in word and deed the sacredness of the leader's office.

Introduction

As we consider different types of servants in Scripture, we come upon a formi­dable example in this lesson: the armorbearer. In ancient times, the armorbear-er was the one responsible for carrying his master's shield and weaponry into battle. He was charged with seeing to the safety of his commander; he stood beside him, assisting him and protecting him from attack. In biblical narrative, there is no more submitted or devoted servant than an armorbearer, and per­haps the finest illustration of one is the young man who attended King Saul's son, Jonathan.

Discussion

The scene is set in Michmash, a Benjamite town near Gibeah, the king's res­idence. Philistines occupied the land of Benjamin at this time, although the natives were proving to be restless. Open conflict had broken out after an impetuous attack by prince Jonathan against a Philistine garrison in nearby Geba (1 Samuel 13:3); Jonathan's band overran the outpost, and all of Israel took it as a sign to rise up against the occupiers. However, a large enemy army was still encamped at Michmash, effectively constraining the Israelite forces (1 Sam. 13:16).

Although combat was at a standstill, the Philistines extended their military presence into a ravine pass between Michmash and Gibeah (1 Sam. 13:23). Jonathan was eager to bring the battle directly to this enemy squad. However, his father and 600 elite warriors tarried elsewhere on the outskirts of Gibeah (1 Sam. 14:1,2), clandestinely observing the garrison at Michmash (as is ex­plained in 1 Sam. 14:16). It is also implied that Saul was purposely hesitating; Jonathan intended to attack, but he didn't want to inform the king of this plan, presumably to avoid being disallowed.

There is a powerful quote from Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the artificial heart, that "leaders are visionaries with a poorly developed sense of fear and no concept of the odds against them." This perfectly describes Jonathan. He told his only companion, his armorbearer, that they should attack the soldiers hold­ing up in the pass. He was inviting the young man on what appeared to be a suicide mission, for they would be thoroughly outnumbered. He couldn't even assure the servant that they were promised victory, only that "God is able" ("for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few,"1 Sam. 14:6).

Yet, despite these realities, the servant was more than willing to follow. "Do what you think is best,' the armorbearer replied. `I'm with you completely, what­ever you decide"' (1 Sam. 14:7, NLT). This is the quintessential attitude of an armorbearer in the Old Testament. He had complete faith in his leader, trusting in his leader's complete faith in God. Yet, he understood he was called to fol­low: Jonathan told him to "come up after me" (1 Sam. 14:12), and he took his place behind the man he served, not presuming to get out in front. Moreover, the anointing that fell first on Jonathan, and empowered his success against the combatants, fell also on the armorbearer, who "slew after him" (1 Sam. 14:13). The two men vanquished twenty warriors in the skirmish.

The news of the slaughter caused the garrison soldiers in Michmash to reel (1 Sam. 14:15). Saul's watchmen spotted the turmoil from their perch and told the king, who ultimately called an attack on the garrison that routed the enemy (1 Sam. 14:20). So, the courage of Jonathan and his armorbearer inspired the Israelites to a great victory. Working in tandem, they were an extension of the hand of God.

Conclusion

Considering an application of this passage for the Body of Christ, we can say the armorbearers are assistants that perform a ministry to leaders. In the New Testament, perhaps there is the example of Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:16-18).

That saint from Asia Minor, while visiting Rome, discovered that Paul was un­der arrest; with loving concern, he began to minister to him in prison. Others had abandoned the apostle (2 Tim. 1:15), probably for fear of the tremendous persecution of Christians under Nero. Onesiphorus let his concern for Paul's wellbeing overshadow his own safety. It may have even cost him his life: the language of the epistle implies Onesiphorus had since died.

In a modern context, an armorbearer will be selfless and courageous, like an Onesiphorus. He will also become acclimated to his leader in certain identifi­able ways. He will be an encourager and supporter of leadership. He will have a deep respect for his leader, appreciating his giftedness while also accepting his personality and forbearing his idiosyncrasies. He will walk in agreement and submission to his leader. He will be discrete and keep confidences. He will "sanctify the leader in the eyes of the people."

In the church, we often speak of the Adjutancy Corps being today's armor-bearers. But, on the local level, an assistant pastor, an associate minister or a deacon can well fill this role. We are simply describing an aide or assistant — someone who will partner in ministry with the pastor to facilitate his success. It is a Christ-like endeavor. Just as our Savior faithfully fulfilled the Father's will and not His own, we emulate His humility and trustworthiness in the armor-bearer's office.

Questions

How did Jonathan's armorbearer express his complete confidence in the prince?
Why is selflessness so important to be able to minister to a leader?

Essential Thought- "An armorbearer must make the advancement of his leader his constant goal."