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So what is the meaning of “play the man?” Well, the phrase first lit a fire in me at Together for the Gospel 2008 where John Piper said this in his message, “Where are the pastors who say with Joab to his brother Abishai, when surrounded by Syrians and Ammonites, “Be of good courage, and let us play the man for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him” (2 Samuel 10:12)?” I knew of the more recent use of this phrase, but it is something of legend. On October 16, 1555, Hugh Latimer and Nicolas Ridley were tied to the stake to be burned for their Protestant teaching and preaching and their treasonous support of a Protestant queen. Latimer turned to his fellow pastor and, as legend has it, he said, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.” Who can know for sure whether Hugh Latimer actually said these words to his fellow martyr or not, but it is a striking phrase – play the man. What did Latimer mean when he exhorted Nicolas Ridley to “play the man?”

Latimer’s words to Ridley are similar to the phrase quoted by Piper in 2nd Samuel 10:12. Joab takes some of the best men of Israel and sets out against the Syrians. The rest of the men he puts under the leadership of his brother Abishai and sets them out against the Ammonites. He turns to his brother and says these words, “Be of good courage, and let us be courageous for our people, and for the cities of our God, and may the LORD do what seems good to him.” In the King James Version of the Bible, which was first published 56 years after the martyrdom of Hugh Latimer and Nicolas Ridley, the verse is translated like this: “Be of good courage, and let us play the men for our people, and for the cities of our God: and the LORD do that which seemeth him good.” So you can see that there are slight differences in how the translations deal with Joab’s words. The part I would single out is that what the ESV translates as “be courageous” the KJV translates as “play the men.” The implication to me is that the phrase that Hugh Latimer supposedly used to exhort Nicolas Ridley, “play the man”, is taken to mean the same thing as “be courageous.”

That is the goal of this blog – to call believers to be courageous, while trusting in the sovereignty of God. In fact I would venture to say that if you trust in the sovereignty of God you should be among the most courageous. My goal is to exhort the church and especially its leaders to take on their God given responsibility and at the same time have a faith that says, “may the LORD do what seems good to Him.” Our job is to do as the Apostle Paul exhorted the church in Corinth, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” Let us confess that God is God and then, in obedience, trust him. So church – be of good courage and play the man and may the LORD do what seems good to Him.

5 comments so far

  1. […] – an online acquaintance from the US of A! I have been most influenced by his entreaties to ‘Play the Man’ on his own site and have thus invited him to contribute here. So, read on to be convinced of the […]

  2. Jack Galloway on

    Fantastic stuff, glory to God! I found that line by Piper in a “song” by sermon jams … which I coincidentally found out about at the DWYL tour (I assume that you know what it is since you’re familiar with Lecrae). Anyways, it’s great to encounter someone with such a passion and zeal for Christ. Send an update whenever a new post comes out!

  3. Paul Evans on

    Great ehortation. Just googled to find the meaning of the phrase “play the man” as I found in Joshua 1:6;”Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.” Having gone through the Strong’s Hebrew dictionary found synonyms as “play the man” for the word “strong.” That was exactly what God told Joshua as he was about to begin his assignment.

    God bless you for this blog, its timely to me and thanks for the reference scripture too: (2 Sam 10:12) I pray the same for you and leave you with the Peace and Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!


  4. Jess on

    Thank you. this information was very helpful to me:)

  5. Tony on

    I’ve just been researcing the backgorund to Judges 8:18-21 and in particular ‘As is the man, so is his strength’ (v21). The phrase ‘play the man’ came to mind, and I came across your blog as I researched. Here is another example of a man acting in a manly way.Gideon is now a mighty warrior. Sometimes we too are called to grow up spiritually so we can play the man… to make tough decision, to confront evil, to deny the flesh, to wield the sword of God (in a metaphorical sense of course!).

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