INTERESTING FACTS : "IF THERE IS ANYTHING IN MY THOUGHTS OR STYLE TO COMMEND, THE CREDIT IS DUE TO MY PARENTS FOR INSTILLING IN ME AN EARLY LOVE OF THE SCRIPTURES. "-- DANIEL WEBSTER
DAILY READING : 1 SAMUEL 13 - 14
TEXT : 1Sa 14:6 And Jonathan said to the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few. 1Sa 14:7 And his armourbearer said unto him, Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart. 1Sa 14:8 Then said Jonathan, Behold, we will pass over unto these men, and we will discover ourselves unto them. 1Sa 14:9 If they say thus unto us, Tarry until we come to you; then we will stand still in our place, and will not go up unto them. 1Sa 14:10 But if they say thus, Come up unto us; then we will go up: for the LORD hath delivered them into our hand: and this shall be a sign unto us. 1Sa 14:11 And both of them discovered themselves unto the garrison of the Philistines: and the Philistines said, Behold, the Hebrews come forth out of the holes where they had hid themselves. 1Sa 14:12 And the men of the garrison answered Jonathan and his armourbearer, and said, Come up to us, and we will shew you a thing. And Jonathan said unto his armourbearer, Come up after me: for the LORD hath delivered them into the hand of Israel. 1Sa 14:13 And Jonathan climbed up upon his hands and upon his feet, and his armourbearer after him: and they fell before Jonathan; and his armourbearer slew after him. 1Sa 14:14 And that first slaughter, which Jonathan and his armourbearer made, was about twenty men, within as it were an half acre of land, which a yoke of oxen might plow.
THEME : COURAGE
The reign of Saul, the first king of Israel is a disappointment from the start. That is, he is a source of displeasure to Samuel, and a regret of God. As we see in chapter 13 of 1st Samuel, when Samuel delays his arrival at Gilgal - the place of the Tabernacle, Saul takes it on himself to offer a sacrifice. Saul, a Benjamite was not to do this. God gave strict instruction concerning His offerings that they were the sole responsibility of the Levites. Saul, certainly aware of this fact, offers a burnt offering anyway. This is Saul's initial failure as a [godly] king but it would not be his last. Jameson, Fausett, and Brown comment.
"Saul, though patriotic enough in his own way, was more ambitious of gaining the glory of a triumph to himself than ascribing it to God. He did not understand his proper position as king of Israel; and although aware of the restrictions under which he held the sovereignty, he wished to rule as an autocrat, who possessed absolute power both in civil and sacred things. This occasion was his first trial. Samuel waited till the last day of the seven, in order to put the constitutional character of the king to the test; and, as Saul, in his impatient and passionate haste knowingly transgressed (1Sa_13:12) by invading the priest's office and thus showing his unfitness for his high office (as he showed nothing of the faith of Gideon and other Hebrew generals), he incurred a threat of the rejection which his subsequent waywardness confirmed."
The real motive of Saul was in the fact the people were starting to leave. Samuel is late in his arrival, and the people are tired of waiting. This is when Saul takes it on himself to intrude into the sacred office of the priests and violate God in an open and willful rebellion. He feared man and desperately wanted man's approval and validation of his office as king. We will see this more clearly, as we read on. However, put succinctly, Saul feared man more than God. In our postmodern Church, we have a counterpart of Saul's weakness and sin.
In the Church today there is a prevailing attitude concerning attendance and Church growth. In essence, once you pare down the rhetoric, pretense of good intentions, and intellectual arguments for the methods employed to "win souls" as well as the glaring inadequacies of the pulpit with vague doctrinal declarations [or complete absence of Biblically sound statements], we have the same situation as we read with Saul. "If God keeps delaying the people will leave." "God's way is not relevant to today's generation." On the other hand, we have - "If we do it God's way, the people are not happy. We must find a way to join our will and ways with God's will and ways so people will stay and more people come." However, God has not given anyone permission to amend His Word or compromise His principles.
To point out that all God says in His Word is sacred and inviolable should not need to be stated. Yet, there is a need to champion the obvious. God wrote a Book for a reason. In the Book of Acts, we see a patter for God's "method" of Church growth [which is not a method but a way of life produced by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit]. As the Apostles are faced with a need in the Church, they are asked what should be done in the distribution of bread to Jewish and Gentile widows. They in turn, refuse to "leave the Word of God and wait tables," and the task is delegated to seven deacons whom they appoint. The result? The word of God increases and numbers are added to the Church. This is because the Apostles were under orders from God what to do with the Church and their lives, and refused [unlike Saul] to mitigate the laws of God or compromise the command of Jesus[1
Therefore, Saul is on the path to a most unfortunate end, as we shall see. It grieves Samuel greatly that Saul behaves the way he does. Although Saul is tall in stature, he is diminutive in spirit. Somewhat like the old adage - "It is not the size of the dog in the fight, but the amount of fight in the dog." God does not look on outward appearances as man does. He knows the heart. One may picture the savor of the meat burning on the Altar of Burnt Offering was pleasing to all who could smell it. Yet, God says it did not please Him. As Jesus taught us - "And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God." [Luk 16:15 ] What a comparison of man's ways and God's, even when man's ways involved God and His Word. In fact, God is more irritated simply because it does take in His commands and laws.
TRUTH FOR TODAY : COURAGE IS AN ATTRIBUTE THAT SPRINGS FROM FAITH!
As we turn our attention to Saul's son Jonathan we see a refreshingly different spirit. Jonathan is a man of God and proves it in his exploits on the battlefield. In particular, as he and his armor bearer go against the Philistines, and though outnumbered, this does not deter Jonathon. He knows God. His faith is unmovable. Therefore, Jonathan speaks one of the greatest truths in the Bible when he says - "... Come, and let us go over unto the garrison of these uncircumcised: it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few." [1Sa 14:6] Matthew Henry points out the difference between Jonathan and his father.
"Saul seems to have been quite at a loss, and unable to help himself. Those can never think themselves safe who see themselves out of God's protection. Now he sent for a priest and the ark. He hopes to make up matters with the Almighty by a partial reformation, as many do whose hearts are unhumbled and unchanged. Many love to have ministers who prophesy smooth things to them. Jonathan felt a Divine impulse and impression, putting him upon this bold adventure. God will direct the steps of those that acknowledge him in all their ways, and seek to him for direction, with full purpose of heart to follow his guidance. Sometimes we find most comfort in that which is least our own doing, and into which we have been led by the unexpected but well-observed turns of Divine providence. There was trembling in the host. It is called a trembling of God, signifying, not only a great trembling they could not resist, nor reason themselves out of, but that it came at once from the hand of God. He that made the heart, knows how to make it tremble."
Jonathan as a man of God is courageous, as all who know the Lord should be. The Oxford English Dictionary defines courage as -
"the ability to do something that frightens one. Strength in the face of pain or grief. [phrases have the courage of one's convictions act on one's beliefs despite danger or disapproval. take courage make an effort to do something that frightens one. take one's courage in both hands nerve oneself to do something that frightens one.][2
From the Oxford definition and the example of Jonathan we learn a few things. First, he is only a man and had to overcome the natural fear of dying or of defeat as all of us do. He also [became] courageous in the face of improbable victory simply through believing God. There was no "magic formula" that made him daring and bold. He believed God, and refused to take counsel from his [natural] fears. He also knew, all power lies with God. "God hath spoken once; twice have I heard this; that power belongeth unto God." [Psa 62:11 ]
Jonathan knew what John Gill asserts - "He is not limited to numbers, and can easily work salvation by a few as by many. It is no difficult thing to him to save by few, nor can anything hinder him, let the difficulties be what they will, when he has determined to deliver his people." Therefore - "Jonathan's resolution arose from the strong conviction that Israel was the nation of God, and possessed in Jehovah an omnipotent God, who would not refuse His help to His people in their conflict with the foes of His kingdom, if they would only put their whole trust in Him." [Keil & Delitzsch]
Because of this, Jonathan and his armor bearer slew twenty men in a half acre of ground. Yet, their strength and victory is of the Lord. Likewise, we too must trust in the Lord through His written, inspired, infallible Word. He is no respecter of persons. He always delivers those that acquire the attribute of courage that springs from faith!
[OXFORD ENGLISH DICTIONARY]