Stages of Growth: “The Five Heroes” – 2 Samuel 23

Every generation needs heroes! We need to see role models that stand up to the test of adversity and come through with hope and strength. This morning we reach into the reign of David to meet some of the heroes of a generation and ask, “What makes a hero of these followers of God who served David?” You may be surprised at what you see!

I want to look at something today that will encourage us in a time of battle. In that time we are called to be a good soldier, and a good soldier doesn’t point the weapons at headquarters. It is always a mistake to start saying, Oh, God, why did you do this to me? Oh, God, why did you wreck my car and plug up the washing machine? Why did you make me sick? When the shield is heavy and your having trouble keeping the belt of truth on is no time to attack your commander and chief. God is not the problem. He is the answer. It is time to get a firm grip on the sword, tighten up the belt of truth, and to begin to speak the truth.

You don’t have to panic and you don’t have to fall. Let’s turn in our Bibles to 2 Samuel 23 and meet some heroes on the way to meeting the king they served, and then push on to see the God the King served.

I want to talk about five of David’s mighty men, but I also want to address OUR MEN, and the women that love and depend on them.

Key Principle: God is looking for some heroes, and we need to grow and shape some right here in this room.

A few years ago a study was conducted among Peace Corps volunteers. Researchers took a random sample of volunteers and split them into two roughly equal groups: those who completed their tour commitments and those who returned home early because of “problems of adjustment and conduct (including psychiatric terminations)”. This study was nearly unaffected by the volunteers’ socio-economic background, because the sample showed almost all of them were college graduates from middle-class families. The study asked about their upbringing and their father figure. The researchers did not differentiate between reasons for a father’s absence in the volunteer’s life, but allowed the client to state whether their dad was absent or present, whether “psychological” or physical absence, the age at separation from their father figure, and any other father figures who may have stepped in. An “absent” father was said to be one who was away from the child’s residence, for whatever reason, during at least the child’s tenth through fifteenth years. The results were startling. Of the people who completed their duties, 91 percent came from backgrounds with a father in the picture. Among those who came home early, 44 percent had absentee fathers. The study was repeated, and again there was a wide gap of difference: 14 percent and 44 percent. We’re finding similar results in study after study. The evidence must not be ignored: your children need you. (Ken R,. Canfield, PH.D. The 7 Secrets of Effective Fathers: Becoming the Father Your Children Need. Wheatland Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992. Citation: Peter Suedfield, “Paternal Absence and Overseas Success of Peace Corps Volunteers,” Journal of Consulting Psychology 31 (1967): 424-25.

  1. Yoshev-basshevet the Ta-chemonite who went by the nickname “Adino the Eznite” (2 Samuel 23:8; 13-17).
  1. Eleazer son of Dodo the Ahoahite (of Benjamin; 2 Samuel 23:9-10; 13-17)
  1. Shammah son of Agee a Harrarite (2 Samuel 23:11-12; 13-17).

Everyone else ran away. Everyone else fled from the Philistines, but Shammah was not affected by what everyone else did. It’s important that we don’t let what everyone else does affect what we do. He was determined. How determined are you today to hold on to what God has given, and to claim the blessings that are rightfully ours through the shed blood of Jesus? Maybe Satan is trying to overrun your pea patch where health is concerned. Take the sword to him. Let your hand or heart cleave to the Word of the Lord. Maybe he’s trying to overrun your pea patch where finances are concerned. Satan is a thief. We must be determined to defend our heritage of faith.
If we don’t defend our blessing, the thief will come to steal.

  1. Abishai son of Joab (and David’s sister, Zeruaiah, ie his nephew – 2 Samuel 23:18-20).
  1. Benaiah son of Jehoida, a favorite son of the village of Kabzeel (2 Samuel 23:20-23)

What does the record of these men teach us?

1. They were all out numbered BUT, MIGHTY MEN STAND THEIR GROUND!

  • 23:8 says Adino stood against 800 with only his spear. 800 men came to do battle, and did he stick his head between his legs and run? NOT on your life! He raised his spear and 800 men fell in one encounter!
  • 23:9 says Eleazar whose hand became weary in battle, but his hand clave to the sword, and the Lord gave a great victory. He did battle until he was so tired that his hand froze to his sword.
  • 23:11 says Shammah stood in the midst of a piece of ground full of lentils and defended it. Shammah’s attitude was: “This is my pea patch. It may not be much in anyone else’s eyes, but it is mine. I won’t surrender it to the enemy. Here is the line, and I am not backing up.”
  • 23:18 says Abishai faced 300 armed men and used a spear on them all. He wasn’t as good as the big three, but he had to LEAD them. What a job!
  • 23:20ff says that Benaiah didn’t care if he was fighting a stocky Egyptian or a lion in a snowy pit, he didn’t turn and run in a two on one. He stood his ground in spite of the odds. He was a guy with guts (a hutspan!).

What is our gut reaction when the battle looks unwinable in the flesh? Do we stand our ground and fight or do we run? These men teach us that God uses those who stand for Him even when it looks bad for the home team.

2. They faced strong opposition, BUT MIGHTY MEN DON’T THROW DOWN THEIR WEAPONS in the day of battle.

  • 23:8 says Adino stood on the carnage of 800. The grammar suggests they were sword slain.
  • 23:10 says Eleazar’s hand was stuck to his favorite sword. Just a word here about this man and his victory:

a.) A WEAPON HE HAD CONFIDENCE IN. Eleazar wielded his sword with confidence – it had proven reliable to him time and time again.

b.) A WEAPON HE WAS FAMILIAR WITH. Eleazar, by constant use, had mastered that sword. Before he ever came near the battlefield he had defeated a thousand imaginary enemies – he had practised with it for hours on end. He was familiar with its feel and its weight; he knew what it could cut through, and how much force he needed to swing it with. He knew how to use it both defensively and offensively – he was totally at home using this sword. He was so familiar with it, in fact, that it became just like an extension of his own arm.

  • 23:12 suggests Shammah used something like a club or blunt instrument to hold onto his lentil field.
  • 23:18 chose a spear against 300 warriors.
  • 23:21 says Benaiah used a club to get himself a spear that belonged to his foe.

There really is something uncommon about the courage to stand for one’s convictions when tested. Psalms 78:9 tells of the children of Ephraim how they turned back in the day of battle.

It says: 78:9 The sons of Ephraim were archers equipped with bows, {Yet} they turned back in the day of battle. 78:10 They did not keep the covenant of God And refused to walk in His law; 78:11 They forgot His deeds And His miracles that He had shown them.

At the risk of spiritualizing the story, I have to admit I cannot resist the temptation to the sword analogy:

  • Heb 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
  • Eph 6:17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

Too many of my generation have forsaken the sword, and the power is lifting in their lives. They are offering little leadership because they haven’t learned the manual of leadership, and they haven’t spent time with the king they serve. Mighty men know their weapons, and they don’t leave them lying in the car, sitting in the church, laying on the night stand. They are sharpening their use of them, and getting ready for a battle that is coming.

  • Peter admonishes us, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (I Peter 5:8).” The enemy has one goal and that is our destruction!
  • “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6: 12).”  Remember THE ENEMY MUST BE OVERCOME!
  • “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings (I Peter 5:9).”

We cannot give into the enemy, there is too much at stake. How? We give in my laziness, lacking the presence of mind to look at right things, and away from wrong ones…

3. Other around them fled, BUT MIGHTY MEN DON’T MOVE WITH THE CROWD.

They were not moved by what those around them did. Did you notice ANOTHER COMMON THREAD in several of the stories? Two of our mighty men were left in a lurch when the battle got the hottest:

  • 23:9 says that Eleazar lost his team and they didn’t return until it was time to strip the bodies and get the spoils of the battle.
  • 23:11 tells us the people with Shammah fled before the Philistines when they entered the bean field.

Paul had this happen much later, “At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might heart it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me form every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:16-18).”


  • 23:8 says that Adino wasn’t going to leave the field to the enemy for God had promised it to Abraham’s sons.
  • 23:10 says that Eleazar was numb and tired by was going to swing until the last enemy fell.
  • 23:12 says Shammah stood smack dab in the center of Israel’s pea patch and said, “Go ahead, make my day!” No Philistine is getting this land!
  • 23:18 says that Abishai wasn’t leaving until all 300 fell to his spear and David his king was safe.
  • 23:20 says that two princes, a lion and an oversized Egyptian fell in front of Benaiah, but he wasn’t giving up the ground God had given His people Israel.

We need a new sense of what God has given us to defend, so we can march out and take our stand! When Don called home from the road one evening, he spoke briefly to his nine-year-old daughter: “Honey, could you get your mommy on the phone?” He then heard Tasha blurt out, as she set the receiver down on the counter: “Hey Mom, the invisible man is on the phone!”
In that moment, even before his wife got on the phone, Don went through a transformation. He couldn’t laugh it off. He had to face the fact: “There’s something more important than achieving success at work. It’s being a dad.” SOURCE: Ken Canfield, PH. D. The Heart of a Father. Chicago: Northfield Publishing, 1996. Who are you? Will you be the invisible man? OR will you serve the Lord’s mission in your life?

In his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace, Phillip Yancey tells the story of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway grew up in a very devout evangelical family, and yet there he never experienced the grace of Christ. He lived a libertine life that most of us would call “dissolute”… but there was no father, no parent waiting for him and he sank into the mire of a graceless depression. A short story he wrote perhaps reveals the grace that he hoped for. It is the story of a Spanish father who decided to reconcile with his son who had run away to Madrid. The father, in a moment of remorse, takes out this ad in El Libro , a newspaper. “Paco, meet me at Hotel Montana, Noon, Tuesday… All is forgiven… Papa.” When the father arrived at the square in hopes of meeting his son, he found eight hundred Pacos waiting to be reunited with their father. Was Paco such a popular name? Or is a father’s forgiveness the salve for every soul? SOURCE: Rev. Brent Eelman, D. Min. Northwoods Presbyterian Church, 1998.

5. They had opportunity to rest BUT MIGHTY MEN SERVE WITHOUT BEING ASKED TO SERVE THEIR KING (23:13-17).

How selfish can a man be? Men can be pretty selfish (AMEN LADIES?) David wants a cup of what from Bethlehem. Without asking, specifically, So the three mighty men broke through the Philistines lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David (verse 16).” Did you catch that? For a cup of water these men risked their lives!! David didn’t even ask them to do it! They did it of their own volition!

Were they commanded by David to get the cup of water? NO
Were they compelled by duty to get the cup of water? NO
They went because they loved their King.

Some of you are writing off this passage and saying, but Pastor, look, these were extraordinary men. They probably trained for years to become men of battle. They probably graduated from West Point. NO! Remember 1 Samuel 22:1,2 says that there were three classes of these men who came to David in his rejection as King.

1. There were those who came in Distress. The were persecuted by Saul.

2. There were those who were in Debt and about to be sold into slavery.

3. There were those who were Discontented and unhappy with what life had to offer. Life had not been good to them.

There were a lot of men in David’s army. What made these men stand out. What was it that made them different than the rest. All of these Mighty men had one thing in common. They loved the king. They loved him more that their own lives. They were willing to risk and to sacrifice.

6. They fought for God’s program, BUT MIGHTY MEN SEE GOD BRING THE VICTORY.

Isn’t it time we took a stand where our family, our health, and blessing from God are concerned?
Isn’t it time we let our hand cleave to the Sword and say, Devil this is my pea patch. You’re going to have to leave in Jesus name.

1 Cor 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.

I want to be one of the few – don’t you. Are you satisfied with just being a Christian? Wouldn’t you rather be a soldier on the front line for your Savior. These mighty men were a picture of the Spirit –filled believer. The Times in which these men lived were:

Times of Great Conflict. – The enemy was out to destroy.
Times of Great Cowardice. – The enemies greatest weapon was fear.
Time of Great Victory. – Thru these men God defeated the enemy.

God is looking for some heroes, and we need to grow and shape some right here in this room.