FAITH

Know that God will fight for you

R.A. Mathews

Before Hurricane Barry made landfall, we knew it was coming. USA Today said top experts at Colorado State expect five hurricanes for 2019. That team forecast seven for 2018 and eight formed.

They’re good, studying such things as water temperature and El Nino.

How about earthquakes? We’ve just had two in California, measuring 6.4 on July 4 and 7.1 on July 5, with aftershocks last weekend. The most vulnerable U.S. states are Alaska and California.

Florida is among the least likely, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

How many earthquakes for 2019? The USGS says no one knows. That’s amazing — there’s no way to predict an earthquake.

But God can.

Some 750 years B.C., the prophet Amos announced an earthquake two years before it happened. That prophecy foreshadows another earthquake nearly 800 years later — one in darkness at the death of Christ. Amos calls it the “mourning for an only son.” (Amos 1:1, 8:8, 8:9-10; Matthew 27:51-52)

Natural disasters in Scripture also proclaim the power of God. Consider the Resurrection earthquake. Recall when Paul is imprisoned and the earthquake that led to the conversion of his jailer.

And “Jonathan's Earthquake,” a story located in the Bible near that of “David and Goliath,” should be as famous. You’ll see what I mean. (Matthew, 28:1-2; Acts 16:25-26; 1Samuel 13:1-14:23)

It’s roughly 1,000 years B.C. and the prophet Samuel is leading Israel. But he’s grown old, and the Hebrews want a king who’ll fight their enemies. The Philistines have at least one military garrison within Israel. Moreover the Philistines control the Hebrews, forbidding them from having a blacksmith lest Israel should have swords or spears. If the Hebrews need an ax or sickle sharpened, they have to go to the Philistines.

God allows the Israelites to have a king, telling old Samuel to anoint Saul. Within three years, the nation is in crisis.

Saul’s son Jonathan, now the crown prince, defeats the Philistine garrison and sends them packing. The Philistines are furious and return with 30,000 chariots, 6,000 horsemen and countless troops. Terrified, the Hebrews hide in caves, tombs and cisterns. Some even cross the Jordan, leaving Israel behind.

As battle approaches, Saul has only 600 men and not one of them has a sword or spear. That’s when Jonathan goes into action. Taking his young armor bearer, the crown prince secretly leaves the Hebrew camp and heads toward a rocky crag before the Philistine garrison.

Jonathan says, “Behold, we’ll cross over to the men and show ourselves to them. If they say, ‘Wait until we come to you,’ then we’ll stand … but if they say ‘Come up to us,’ then we’ll go up for the Lord has given them into our hand.”

The Philistines all but laugh when the two show themselves. “Look, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they’ve been hiding.” The Philistines yell out, “Come up to us and we’ll show you a thing.”

It’s their biggest mistake.

Jonathan is delighted and turns to his armor bearer. “Come up after me, because the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.”

Scripture says Jonathan makes the dangerous climb on his hands and feet. He then begins killing the Philistines amid a great earthquake. If you’ve never been in such a disaster, Google “USGS’s footage of the worst U.S. earthquake” — a 9.2 in Alaska in 1964. You’ll see collapsed houses, the earth broken open and residents filled with panic. The video begins with a scientist saying, “It was chaos.”

That same chaos now terrifies the Philistines and they begin to run. Saul can see the increasing tumult from his camp. The Israelites rally with him against the Philistines, and Scripture says, “The Lord saved Israel that day.” There’s no enemy too great for God.

Today we’re surrounded by Philistines, those determined to crush our faith. Here’s the question: Are you Jonathan or are you in hiding?

Have you prayed? Do you know what role God has for you? Are you stepping forward for Him, boldly climbing on hands and feet, knowing God fights for you?

“Seek the Lord,” the prophet Amos says before the terrible earthquake of his day. “And the Lord … will be with you.” (Amos 5:6,14)

Copyright © 2019 R.A. Mathews. The Rev. Mathews is an attorney, faith columnist and the author of “Reaching to God.” She lives part-time in Miramar Beach and can be reached at Letters@RAMathews.com