THE SADDEST WAY TO FAIL!
“The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle.”
This is an interesting verse because the Psalmist sort of throws it into the chapter without any real explanation. In fact, there doesn’t seem to be any account of such an incident recorded in Kings or Chronicles. Nevertheless, we can consider it and learn some things from it.
First, just for background, Ephraim was the most important tribe in the kingdom Israel. In the book of Hosea, the kingdom of Israel is called by the name Ephraim, identifying it as the lead tribe. All of the Hebrews were called to wage war when it was necessary, but the men of Ephraim were expected to lead the charge. Under Moses, it was the soldiers of Ephraim who were placed next to the Ark of the Covenant as the people marched toward the Promised Land. This was, no doubt, a place of high honor and great responsibility. Everyone was called to protect family and friend, but the men of Ephraim were charged with defending the Ark of God.
The Psalmist’s text doesn’t imply that the men of Ephraim stopped providing leadership; they just failed to lead the people toward victory. Consider this: when leaders turn away from their duty and responsibility, those who follow them and depend upon them do likewise.
Can you imagine a football team – particularly a good football team with a winning record – that just decides to stay in the locker room and not play the game, even though they have everything they needed to play and win? That seems to be the picture drawn for us in Psalm 78. The men of Ephraim were armed with bows. They had what they needed in order to fight, they just chose not to. They didn’t fail because they were outnumbered and outgunned. They lost the battle because they turned back! There is no indication that they faced a superior enemy, they just chose to walk away. The enemies that defeated them were lack of courage and lack of commitment.
I wonder how many people miss out on spiritual victories in their lives because they just walk away from the provision of God . . . how many times has the church been defeated, not by its true spiritual enemy, but by lack of courage and lack of commitment? It is my contention that the church can ONLY fail in that way. Why? Because Christ is our King and He is Lord of all! The only way to fail is to not act.
The bottom line: Great victories require great faith in a great God.
--- Pastor Keith Andrews