Let me start out like this: lions are no joke. When you look at the entire food chain of the Savannah, the lion comes out on top. You know this means that nothing scares the lion.
A fully grown lion has no rival. The leopard may be able to climb trees, and the cheetah may be able to run fast, but when it comes to raw power and fierceness, the lion was created superior. If a lion came running towards you, the last thing I would expect you to do is get into a fighting pose.
Lions strike fear in our hearts today just as much as they struck fear in the hearts of men in Bible times. See how the Bible describes the lion: “The lion did tear in pieces enough for his whelps, and strangled for his lionesses, and filled his holes with prey, and his dens with shred” (Nahum 2:12). Do you realize now, why Daniel coming out of that den was a miracle?
But sometimes God calls men to fight lions. Not just face them but fight them. We read of Samson. The young lion came and attacked him on his way. The Holy Spirit came upon him and he tore that lion apart with his bare hands!
In 1 Samuel 17:34, We have another example of a lion fighter. David chased that lion after it snatched one of his lambs, delivered the lamb, grabbed the lion's mane, and killed it. He put his own life at risk to save one lamb. And you wonder why he is called a man after God's own Heart.
But here is one man you may not have heard of—the one I want to focus on right now. It is surprising that most people have never heard of him, because that same statement shows up in the Bible twice (see 1 Chronicles 11:22 and 2 Samuel 23:20).
Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, fought a lion in a pit on a snowy day. Yeah, you can read that again. And apparently, if you were lion like, Benaiah would slay you too (however, this part about the men being lion like has people making some wild conclusions because of translation, allowing people to miss the point).
If you think that is where his story stops, 2 Samuel 23:21 tells of how he defeated an Egyptian warrior in remarkable fashion. So what makes Benaiah special? What makes him the mane (pun intended) man? And what can we learn from him now?
One lesson we can learn is that sometimes God does make us fight lions, as strange as it sounds. Sometimes we don't expect God to get us into fights. We expect Him to take us away from the battle completely. But if God puts you in a battle (I do not mean a war with firearms or any earthly weapons), He will do it for His glory and use you to do great works for His sake.
Another lesson we can learn is that sometimes we may face lion-like people. They are scary, ferocious, and at the top of their food chain. Scary as they may be, if we meet them on our mission for God, we shouldn’t be afraid or surprised. Also, the place where we may face these lions may not be our home turf or in our comfort zone—it may be in a pit on a snowy day. In a strange place, away from home in the dead of the night.
What else do we learn from Benaiah? That just because you fought a lion, it does not mean you will be the most famous warrior. People may even forget that your name is in the books. But you weren't fighting the lion for them, were you?
This is not the only place Benaiah is mentioned. The last lessons (and I would say the best lessons) show up in 1 Kings 1:32-37:
“And king David said, Call me Zadok the priest, and Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the son of Jehoiada. And they came before the king. The king also said to them, Take with you the servants of your lord, and cause Solomon my son to ride on my own mule, and bring him down to Gihon: And let Zadok the priest and Nathan the prophet anoint him there king over Israel: and blow you with the trumpet, and say, God save king Solomon. Then you shall come up after him, that he may come and sit on my throne; for he shall be king in my stead: and I have appointed him to be ruler over Israel and over Judah. And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, and said, Amen: the LORD God of my lord the king say so too. As the LORD has been with my lord the king, even so be he with Solomon, and make his throne greater than the throne of my lord king David.” (AKJV)
There is something about a man God used to fight a lion that makes people want to rely on them. David called him by name, to help put Solomon on the throne. Benaiah was also put in charge of the Pelethites and the Cherethites—two battalions of fighting men.
But verse 36 and 37 reveals the secret of Benaiah. What makes Benaiah the main man? Is it that he battled a lion? In the snow? That he fought two lionlike men? That he took a stick to a spear fight and won? That he literally had an army? That the king can call him by name?
Obviously, these were not the most important things to Benaiah. The only words recorded from Benaiah show that he is defined by his reliance on The LORD. Because if you know The LORD, you know The Source of all you need to fight a lion on a snowy day. You'll know when to fight a lion. You will know how to lead your people. You will know how to be reliable because you will know Who you rely on.
The lion is no joke, but the God we serve is THE LORD GOD.
Dumisani Moyo lives in Malawi, the warm heart of Africa.