Unless you are one of those persistent, adventurous types that have actually ventured past the longsuffering list of Hebrew genealogy in the opening and eye-closing chapters of 1 Chronicles in the Old Testament, then you probably don’t know much about the Gadites. Recently, I slapped my glassy-eyed self awake several times to get far enough into the book of Chronicles to find them.
Recall that Jacob had twelve sons and Gad was one of them. God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, and thus his descendants are referred to as the children of Israel, or the twelve tribes of Israel. Gad’s descendants, the Gadites, were one of these twelve tribes.
The Gadites lived east of the Jordan River between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. They were joined east of the Jordan by two other tribes of Israel – the Reubenites to the south and half the tribe of Manasseh to the north. Bordering them on the west were the rest of their family – the remaining twelve tribes of Israel – and on the east were their enemies, including the Ammonites and the Hagrites. We meet up with these east siders in 1 Chronicles 5:18-22:
“The Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh had 44,760 men ready for military service – able-bodied men who could handle shield and sword, who could use a bow, and who were trained for battle. They waged war against the Hagrites [and others]. They were helped in fighting them, and God delivered the Hagrites and all their allies into their hands, because they cried out to him during the battle. He answered their prayers, because they trusted in him.”
A few chapters later we are introduced to eleven individual Gadites whom God deemed worthy of honorable mention. These brave men left the ranks of the reigning king of Israel, Saul, to support David, whom the prophet Samuel had anointed as Saul’s successor and whom Saul was intent on killing:
“Some Gadites defected to David at his stronghold in the wilderness. They were brave warriors, ready for battle and able to handle the shield and spear. Their faces were the faces of lions, and they were as swift as gazelles in the mountains. These Gadites were army commanders; the least was a match for a hundred and the greatest for a thousand.” 1 Chronicles 12:8,14.
You do not want to meet these men in battle; you want these Gadites fighting on your side. No doubt David was grateful to know they had his back. I was grateful God kept me conscious long enough in 1 Chronicles to discover these lessons from the Gadites:
1. Preparation is key to success. The Gadites diligently trained so that when the battle came, they were ready to fight. They worked their bodies until they were strong. They practiced using the tools of the warrior trade – shields, swords, bows and spears – until they were skilled. As a result, when conflict came, they could face it with the courage of a lion and could scale mountains as fast and steady as a gazelle.
If we want victory over the enemy of our soul who uses sin, temptation and trials to get us to fall, like the Gadites we must prepare for it. If we want to do something well, we have to first be willing to do it poorly until, after constant repetition and correction, we have become skilled at it. Training takes consistent effort and perseverance. To grow strong in the Lord and to be changed so that we look more like Christ we must daily study the Word of God, seek Him in prayer, serve in his kingdom and follow him in word and deed.
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11.
“Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:13.
2. God helps those who cry out to him. Man says, “God helps those who help themselves.” God laughs and says, “How’s that workin’ for you?”
The Gadite soldiers were strong and able; their least capable could fight one hundred men alone, and their greatest could handle a thousand. But more important than their strength and ability was their wisdom. The Gadites knew that they needed God to fight for them during the battle because no matter how strong they were, they would lose without God on their side.
When we come to the end of ourselves and realize that we cannot do life on our own apart from God; when we acknowledge that we need him to guide us, to comfort us, to give us wisdom and strength; when we finally cry out to him, then, as the Psalms repeatedly attest, God will come along side us and say, “Here, let me help you.”
“I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me.” Psalm 3:4.
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1.
“Faith does not operate in the realm of the possible. There is no glory for God in that which is humanly possible. Faith begins where man’s power ends.” – George Muller.
3. God answers prayer when we trust in him. God didn’t hear the prayers of the Gadites because they were strong, skilled, prepared, courageous or fast. He answered their prayers because they trusted him. The Gadites had a firm belief and confidence not in themselves, but in the reliability, truth, power, and promises of their God. They knew they were able, but not always able. They were wise enough to understand that God alone is able always.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6.
“Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Hebrews 11:6.
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.” Psalm 28:7.
Like the Gadites, let us train for victory, but trust and rely on the only One who delivers the victory.