1 Sam 14:1-52 – The Heroic Deeds of Jonathan

Christian Mölk1 Samuel Leave a Comment

1Sam 14:1-3

  1. Saul had not prepared anything special for this day, but sat under his pomegranate tree and pondered the poor odds against the Philistines and how to resolve this tricky situation.
    1. Saul himself had 600 men, while the Philistines had “6,000 horsemen and footmen as numerous as the sand on the seashore” (1Sam 13:5). Not only that, but the Philistines were vastly superior in terms of military equipment. The Philistines had made sure that there was no blacksmith in Israel so that the Israelites could not make either swords or spears (1 Sam 13:19). In Israel’s army, only Saul and Jonathan had swords; the rest had slingshots, farming tools, and the like.
    1. But despite the enormously bad odds, Jonathan suggests to his weapon bearer that they go over to the enemy outpost. The contrast between King Saul and his son Jonathan could not be greater. Saul sits under his pomegranate tree and ponders how to resolve this situation, while Jonathan heads off to the enemy to see what God has in mind.
      1. Jonathan strongly resembles a young, free-spirited, ardent Christian who wants to go out and witness to Jesus, pray for the sick and cast out demons, but who feels trapped in the church and therefore goes out on his own initiative to the streets and taverns to obey the missionary commandment.
      2. Tired of his father’s inactivity, Jonathan knows that God wants to save Israel, but that God needs someone who is willing to trust God.
      3. If you’re annoyed that nothing is happening in your church or that no one is doing anything, it’s probably because God has called you to do just that. For example, if you feel your church is not evangelising enough, it may well be because God has put it on your heart to get involved in this very thing and inspire others to be better at evangelising.
        1. So before you complain, think again if the reason no one is doing anything is because you are the one not doing anything.
  2. Probably Jonathan avoided telling his father about his plans because Saul would have forbidden him this risky adventure.
    1. If a congregation has unhealthy leadership, it can sometimes be better to do the right thing before you get a no, because then you have not gone against the leadership and have not been guilty of defiance, but have only obeyed God’s word.
  3. Jonathan had a kind of assistant, a “weapon bearer”, who assisted him in various ways, including carrying his weapon.
    1. The task of the weapon bearer should not be underestimated, he had to be at least as brave as Jonathan because he followed all the adventures.
    1. In Ecclesiastes 4:12 it says: “Where the lonely one is overcome, two can resist. And a threefold thread is not easily broken.”
      1. Going off alone on adventure, mission, evangelism, or whatever, is not recommended. Having someone by your side to support, encourage, question, etc., is invaluable. It is no coincidence that Jesus always sent his disciples off two by two (Mark 6:7, Luke 10:1).

1Sam 14:4-5

  1. If Jonathan had never set out to meet the enemy, he would never have found this excellent strategic position either.
    1. Often God does not let us see our whole future, but leads us step by step. When God calls us to something, he shows us a door we can enter, but it’s only when we obey God’s call that God opens the next door for us to enter.
    2. If it turns out that you have misunderstood God’s call, it’s not the end of the world if you go back a step.
  2. During the First World War, British forces under the command of General Allenby would meet the Turks at Mikmash. One of the British army majors sat reading the Bible as he pondered the nearby battle. As he reread these verses, he realized that the British would be able to outmaneuver the Turks through this pass. The British found their way through and successfully captured the city.

1Sam 14:6-7

  1. For Jonathan, this adventure was more than just spying on his enemy, he wanted to see what God would do!
    1. Jonathan was not stupid, he knew that Israel was in a very difficult situation and that the enemy was overwhelming.
    2. Jonathan knew the word of God, and knew that many times before God had used a few simple people to do great and mighty things.
    3. Jonathan knew that God needed to use a bold person. Saul sat under his pomegranate tree and pondered how Saul would resolve the situation, while Jonathan went off to see how God would resolve the situation.
      1. Sometimes there is a danger that we free church people shut ourselves away in our churches and pray to God for revival, instead of being bold and going out and sharing our faith with our friends.
      2. God WANTS revival, God WANTS us to triumph over the Enemy, but sometimes all it takes is a pair of willing feet ready to go out and witness to Jesus (2 Chron 16:9, Isa 52:7).
  2. Jonathan knew that humanly speaking it is impossible to defeat the Philistines, but with God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26, Romans 8:31).
    1. There may have been others in Israel who knew this, but it was only Jonathan who dared to believe it was true. It is one thing to believe what the Bible says in theory, quite another to follow it.
  3. It is important to remember that Jonathan did not do this for himself in order to become a hero. He did this for God’s sake, he wanted to see what God would do through him.
  4. What would have happened if Jonathan’s weapon bearer had been negative about this dangerous adventure? Would Jonathan have wavered and perhaps reconsidered and finally realized that this would never work?
    1. Sometimes it is of great value that we encourage each other to do what God puts on our hearts. A word of encouragement can sometimes be the difference between daring to follow God’s call or not.
      1. This does not mean, of course, that we should always encourage each other to do exactly what we think God wants us to do. For example, you should never encourage someone to do something that goes against God’s word or something similar.
      2. But if someone is selflessly following God’s call according to God’s Word, then one should be careful to encourage and support, especially if, as in the case of the weapon bearer, one is ready to go along and help out himself!

1Sam 14:8-10

  1. One gets the impression from Jonathan that it was important for him to listen to what his weapon bearers thought of this dangerous adventure. Had the weapon bearer not been as keen as Jonathan, the mission would probably never have happened.
  2. Since Jonathan had not heard God’s clear voice, but instead believed that this was what God wanted, he is humble enough to realize that he does not actually know with 100% certainty that this is God’s will.
    1. So Jonathan is not doubting God’s word through this test, but he is doubting his own ability to understand God’s will.

1Sam 14:11-14

  1. The Israelites in general were so afraid of the Philistines that they hid themselves in “caves and dens” (1 Sam 13:6).
  2. God confirms to Jonathan and the weapon bearer that he is with them and then Jonathan understands that nothing can stop them!
    1. Even though God is with Jonathan and even though God has promised victory, there are still some obstacles to overcome, such as Jonathan having to climb up a difficult cliff before he can enter the battle that God has promised he will win.
      1. In the same way, when God gives us a promise of something, there can still be some awkward moments and struggles before we get to the end of what God has promised.
      2. Although God has promised victory, the road to it is not necessarily a bed of roses, but one must be prepared to use both hands and feet to reach the goal.
  3. Although the victory belonged to God, it was Jonathan who had to fight.
    1. In the same way, we must realize that we cannot simply pray for revival without also being prepared to go out de facto and bear witness to Jesus.

1Sam 14:15

  1. At the time of Jonathan’s victory over the outpost, God sends a “terror” upon the Philistine camp so that they become confused and turn on each other.
  2. Saul must have wondered how on earth he could defeat the mighty Philistines without any swords, and eventually gave up and realized that it was impossible.
    1. But for God nothing is impossible, and if the Israelites have no swords to kill the Philistines, then he must make the Philistines kill themselves with their own swords.

1Sam 14:16-19

  1. When the guards scouting the Philistine army see that they have begun to kill each other, they tell their king what is happening.
  2. Saul, more interested in taking credit for the win than defeating the Philistines, tries to find out who caused all this. When Saul realizes it’s his son Jonathan, he calls the priest and the ark.
    1. Saul should have realized that God is fighting for Israel right now and commanded his army to attack the Philistines, but Saul is unsure and wants to find out God’s will by asking the priest. But eventually the alarm is so loud in the Philistine camp that he has to interrupt the priest and go to battle.
      1. If it is obvious that it is God who is acting, then it is not always the right time to pray and seek God’s will, because we see God’s will right in front of us. Then it is time to act and do what is God’s will.

1Sam 14:20-23

  1. Even though Saul was king over Israel, it took him a long time to lead Israel. Now he has to accept that God and Jonathan are one step ahead.
  2. In the Philistine army there were Israelites who for various reasons had gone over to the enemy’s side, perhaps they had given up hope that God would save Israel, or they had been forced into the enemy’s army because their territory had been taken over by the Philistines. Either way, they now saw their chance to get back on the right side.
    1. In a similar way, Christians who have stopped going to church or the like may suddenly come back when they see God doing miracles in their midst.
      1. Of course, it is better never to have stopped going to church even if times have been dull, but it is still better than not returning to church at all.
  3. Even if it was Jonathan who had set the ball rolling, this was God’s victory! Without God’s calling, confirmation and action, Israel would never have defeated the Philistines.

1Sam 14:24

  1. Jonathan had just won a victory over the Philistines and now all that remained was for King Saul to finally defeat the fleeing enemy. But even though the soldiers are tired, Saul pronounces a curse on those who eat food before victory is won.
    1. This enforced fast may seem spiritual and good, but when we examine Saul’s words, we see that he is not really doing this because God has told him to, but because he wants to take revenge on HIS enemies.
    2. There are times when fasting is necessary and important, but this occasion was not one of them. God appreciates it when we spend time with him in prayer and fasting, but he appreciates it even more when we obey him and actually do what he says. God had given Israel victory over the Philistines and they now needed to complete the victory by fighting, not by fasting.
  2. Saul’s spirituality was misguided. Instead of focusing on God when he fasts, Saul focuses on taking revenge on HIS enemies.
    1. When we pray and fast, we should not focus on ourselves, but instead listen to God’s voice, read our Bible and ask God to show us the path he wants us to walk.
  3. Even though Saul was king, he had no automatic right to curse people who disobeyed him. Once again we see how Saul puts himself first and thinks more of himself than he should.

1Sam 14:25-27

  1. God had given Israel victory over the Philistines, but the soldiers were tired, so God gave Israel honey to restore their strength.
    1. This shows us again how wrong and misguided Saul’s oath was. God wanted to provide Israel with all the resources they needed to defeat their enemies, but Saul stopped them.
    2. From this we can learn that when God gives us a victory, he also gives us all the resources we need to win the ultimate victory. When we are in the midst of God’s will, he provides us with everything we need to accomplish the mission he has given us.
  2. Since Jonathan had not heard Saul’s oath, he of course ate of the honey God provided, and immediately his eyes cleared and he regained his strength!
    1. This is exactly what God had in mind when He provided Israel with the resources they needed to accomplish the mission He had given them!

1Sam 14:28-30

  1. When Jonathan hears that his father King Saul had bound the people to the oath, he notes that Saul has brought misfortune on the land and that Israel could have won a much greater victory if they had eaten of the honey that God had provided for them!
    1. Jonathan is absolutely right in his assessment, but one can definitely wonder if it was really right of Jonathan to openly criticize his father and king in front of all the soldiers? Perhaps it would have been better if he had first taken this up with Saul in private?

1Sam 14:31-35

  1. In Deuteronomy 12:23-25, God had given clear instructions to Israel that they were to let all the blood flow out and absolutely not eat the blood with the flesh.
    1. Because the soldiers were so hungry due to King Saul’s misguided fasting, the soldiers broke God’s commandment.
    2. It would have been better for the soldiers to break King Saul’s oath than to break God’s commandment.
    3. When our spirituality becomes misguided and selfish, there is a great danger that we will think we are doing the right thing when we are clearly breaking God’s commandments.
      1. If, in a misguided piety, we forbid all parishioners to go to the movies, for example, there is an obvious risk that members will go to the movies anyway and then lie about not having been to the movies. Then we have forbidden something that is not sin while leading our members into lying, which is worse than going to the movies.

1Sam 14:36-39

  1. At first glance, we might think that King Saul has humbled himself before the Lord and is doing the right thing by asking God for guidance, but once again we see how Saul’s spirituality is misguided. Saul receives no answer from God because Saul should have understood from Jonathan’s victory that God had already given the Philistines into Israel’s hand (1 Sam 14:12).
    1. Given Saul’s previous self-absorption, it is quite possible that he is well aware that God has already given the Philistines into Israel’s hands because of Jonathan’s victory, but that he does not want to act until he hears it from God himself because he does not want to give the glory to Jonathan but to himself.
      1. As a senior leader, it is important not to be afraid to let others who are good and led by God come forward.
    1. When God opens a door for us to spread the gospel, it is not necessarily the right time to pray and fast about whether or not we should enter through the door God has opened. Instead, we should simply walk through the door and do what God is calling us to do.
      1. Sometimes it is a time for prayer and fasting, sometimes it is a time for witnessing and preaching.
  2. Because of the lack of response from God, King Saul believes that someone among the people has sinned. Actually, Saul is quite right in this assessment, but he does not understand that it is he himself who has done wrong!
    1. When a spiritual leader fails in his or her mission, it can be easy to blame the lack of success on “a harsh spiritual climate” or “unspiritual members”. While this may be true, at the very least one should first examine one’s own heart and see if one has been unresponsive to God or has committed any sin. It is easier to blame than to repent.
  3. When Saul pronounces another curse, the people fall silent even though they know who has eaten the honey.
    1. Unlike his father, Jonathan was a good spiritual role model, and although the people accepted Saul as their king, there were limits to Saul’s spiritual abuse!

1Sam 14:40-44

  1. Through the lot, probably Urim and Thummim (Ex 28:30, 1 Sam 28:6), a procedure with stones to find out God’s will, God shows that it was Jonathan who ate of the honey.
    1. Probably Saul was shocked by this! Saul probably would not have imagined that his son had gone against his will, but Saul did not know that Jonathan had not heard Saul’s oath and curse.
    2. Instead of stopping for a second and sorting this out with Jonathan, the only one who dared to tell the truth about Saul’s unfortunate oath, Saul hardens himself even more in his stupidity!
    3. From this we can learn that if we see that the consequences of our decisions are getting worse and worse, we need to stop at some point and think about whether we have gone in the wrong direction?

1Sam 14:45-46

  1. The people of Israel obeyed their king even when they disagreed with him in everything, but now we see that they have finally had enough! After all, Jonathan was one of the few who had actually acted according to God’s will that day!
    1. Jonathan was a brave spiritual role model for the other soldiers, and when Saul wants to kill an innocent Jonathan, that’s it! The people speak out and Jonathan is saved from death.
    2. From this we can learn that following your spiritual director is not necessarily wrong, even if you don’t agree with everything, but that there is a limit. When the madness has gone too far, one must dare to speak out and prevent the leader from destroying other people.
    3. Even if a leader is called and anointed by God, as King Saul was, this does not mean that that leader is automatically free from the temptation to abuse his power.
    4. As a spiritual leader and pastor, it is important to dare to let people like Jonathan come forward. If God is calling someone in the church to lead a certain ministry or do something special, then the leadership should not be afraid to give that person space and room in the church. Pastors and spiritual leaders are servants of the church and should lift up the members and help them blossom in the calling God gives each one.
  2. When Saul no longer has his soldiers with him, he has to retreat, as do the Philistines. Had Saul not been so selfish, he could have finally defeated the Philistines at this point.

1Sam 14:47-52

  1. In the conclusion of this chapter we see how Saul further reinforces his egoism and puts himself at the centre. Saul wages war against HIS enemies, not necessarily against God’s enemies. Saul does mighty things, not God. Saul takes the best men in HIS service.
  2. Although Saul was successful in his victories, he never managed to finally defeat the Philistines and had to live with war all his life.
Share & Print

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *