1 Samuel 14: Follow God
May 6, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Jonathan, Saul’s son, decides to take matters into his own hands (v. 1). He is a man of initiative and of faith, and decides that the right policy at this time, where it appears that Saul and the other leaders are being passive, was to beg for forgiveness rather than ask for permission. Saul is “staying in the outskirts” with some of the other leaders, talking, thinking (v. 2-3); Jonathan takes a risk.
Jonathan and his armor bearer have a “sign” that they think up for discerning whether God will be with them in their bold endeavor (v. 8-10)—they know they need God’s support (if not that of the leaders who are not doing anything about the enemy). Discerning God’s support (v. 12), they boldly attack. And the suddenness of their onslaught, like a pebble beginning a landslide, starts what eventually leads to a very great panic among the enemy (v. 15). Small beginnings can lead to great ends. Trust in God, and keep your gunpowder dry—as Oliver Cromwell said.
Saul hears about it, and they count to see who is missing from them (v. 16-17). It is plain by the panic in the enemy that God is at work, but now Saul waits yet longer, this time through some religious excuse (v. 18). When the chaos among the enemy gets so bad he cannot possibly wait any longer to get involved, Saul commands the priest to let him go (“Withdraw your hand,” v. 19)—suggesting it was the priest’s fault for the king’s delay! The men of Israel also get involved, even those (like their king) who had been hiding (v. 22).
Saul’s lack of wisdom is confounded by the fact that even when he finally gets involved in what is obviously going to be a very great victory, he makes it worse for God’s people by telling them not to eat (v. 24). Fighting is hungry work, and to not be able to eat just weakens the army. The time for fasting is before the battle, not during the battle! Is Saul trying politically to regain authority by this means? Probably. Jonathan does not hear Saul’s strange command, eats some honey (v. 27), and so gets into trouble—as do the rest of the people who are so starving that they even start to violate the religious ritual rules about how to prepare meat (v. 31-33).
Saul intervenes and builds an altar – the first he has built (too little too late?) (v. 35). He then inquires of God whether to go and fight the Philistines and pursue them (v. 37). No answer comes to him (v. 37), and the reason is that Jonathan had disobeyed Saul’s command (v. 38-42). There is sin here—even though Jonathan was right to eat, it was wrong to disobey the king. Saul overreacts (v. 43-44): it may be wrong to eat honey when your commanding officer has told you not to (even though you did not know he had so commanded), but it is most certainly not a capital offense! The people intervene, protecting Jonathan (v. 45). Saul does not go after the Philistines, and they go back to their own place (v. 46). The opportunity for a decisive victory is lost.
Thereafter Saul is constantly fighting against the Philistines (v. 47). He does well, has victories (v. 47-48), but there is a continual “hard fighting” (v. 52). He is always on the lookout for mighty men to help him (v. 52). How much better it would have been to have gone where God was leading in the first place.
Guidance is something of a mystery for the New Testament Christian. It is not always easy to know how God is leading. But if we determine to ask God to speak to us through the Bible, watch how he opens doors and leads towards opportunities for gospel advance, he will guide, for he is alive and loves his people and is our Lord. Seek God, read his word, pray, and follow as a disciple of the Lord Jesus.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
To receive God Centered Life devotionals directly in your inbox, as well as other resources, enter your email address in the form at the bottom of this page and click "subscribe."