Text: 1 Kings 20:35-43
A soldier is standing before a king. And the soldier is dusty and he is clearly war torn. The battle has just finished and he now is standing before his sovereign. He’s got a bandage across his head. His eye is very clearly puffy and bloody. He says:
v.39 “Your servant went out into the midst of the battle, and behold, a soldier turned and brought a man to me and said, ‘Guard this man; if by any means he is missing, your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.’
From the man’s own mouth it became evident to the King that he had failed to do the one thing that he had been asked to do. He was previously told by God, in this battle, you have a job. The job is take this prisoner (Ben Hadad). Take the prisoner, watch him, Guard him. In the King James version it says ‘keep this man’
In fact, Ahab was told, if he gets away, your life is going to be required for his life or you’ll have to pay a talent of silver.
Understand that the talent of silver for an ordinary soldier was astronomical and beyond their natural reach. The prophet told the story in order so it might act as a spiritual mirror to Ahab that he would realise, I’m the man. I’m the man who was supposed to watch the man. I’m the man who had a job that he was given.
There is of course historical context and significance between King Ahab and Ben-Hadad (king of Syria) but this isn’t the most important issue to us today. The bigger issue for us is this question. What does it have to do with you and what does it have to do with me?
The story as it was told, is meant to hit us hard for us to see that we too, have been given an assignment.
What are you going to do with what you’ve been given?
You may say well that’s great. I even get what you’re saying because we’re going to die and stand before God. And when we stand before God, He is the king. And so we’re going to have to answer to Him. But who are we supposed to watch?
The answer is you are meant to watch the most difficult person to babysit on the planet. I knew you were going to talk about my husband. No, I’m not talking about your husband, and I’m not talking about your wife and I’m not talking about your children and I’m not talking about someone you work alongside. I’m talking about you.
The person on this planet most suited to deceit is you. The person on this planet more capable of harming yourself is you. You and I are, in fact, able to be, like no one else, our own worst enemy.
The Bible from beginning to end, warns us about how important it is that we watch ourselves, that we keep ourselves. We are the soldier who is meant to guard the other soldier. Only the other soldier we’re meant to guard is us.
And that’s clearly evident from the fact that if we don’t do the job we’re meant to do of keeping ourselves, our lives will be forfeit. Why? Because our life will be snatched from us while we weren’t paying attention.
The most embarrassing part of the account is, he says, I was busy here and there. Then he was gone. The man wasn’t bad. He was just busy.
Is it possible that while you’re going here and there doing one thing and another thing, your life is passing you by?
Life is going through your fingers, like water is slipping away the version of yourself you are meant to be, the version of yourself you’re meant to become, the version of yourself that Jesus sees you are capable of becoming, who you’re meant to be, what you’re meant to be like as you grow up in Christ. You’re meant to guard yourself and watch yourself, supervise yourself and lead yourself, that you might not escape.
This is your wake-up call. You are called by God to guard yourself, to keep this man, to keep this woman, and to look after yourself, lest you get away.
Didn’t Jesus Himself say that it’s easy to chase after the things of this world and to lose your soul? You read this in Matthew 26:16 in the message translation when it says, “What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself?”
To lose your true self, to lose hold of yourself to let yourself get away. I think what Jesus is warning in Matthew 16 is the same thing that’s
1 Kings 20, that we’re not meant to be distracted and busy here and there and chasing after this and defined by that.
We are meant to guard ourselves so that we grow into the version of ourselves that we were meant to become.
We have to choose to do the hard things, to watch ourselves, to be checking in with ourselves and ask how am I doing? How am I doing? Am I getting better? Am I staying the same? Am I coasting? Am I fighting? Am I advancing? Am I becoming a kinder? Am I becoming a better person? Am I becoming more patient? Am I becoming less critical and more encouraging?
We have to be actively involved, vigilantly involved. The instruction was to, ‘guard this man.’ That’s active. You can’t guard him only a little bit or guard him most of the time. You’ve got to keep watch.
This is our wake-up call. You have one life, and it will soon be gone. And only what’s done for Christ will last.