Seeking Guidance

1 Samuel 14:1-23
1One day Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. 2Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah in the pomegranate cave at Migron. The people who were with him were about six hundred men, 3including Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, son of Phinehas, son of Eli, the priest of the Lord in Shiloh, wearing an ephod. And the people did not know that Jonathan had gone. 4Within the passes, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the Philistine garrison, there was a rocky crag on the one side and a rocky crag on the other side. The name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. 5The one crag rose on the north in front of Michmash, and the other on the south in front of Geba. 6Jonathan said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.” 7And his armor-bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.” 8Then Jonathan said, “Behold, we will cross over to the men, and we will show ourselves to them. 9If they say to us, ‘Wait until we come to you,’ then we will stand still in our place, and we will not go up to them. 10But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up, for the Lord has given them into our hand. And this shall be the sign to us.” 11So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. And the Philistines said, “Look, Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden themselves.” 12And the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor-bearer and said, “Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.” And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Come up after me, for the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.” 13Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, and his armor-bearer after him. And they fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer killed them after him. 14And that first strike, which Jonathan and his armor-bearer made, killed about twenty men within as it were half a furrow’s length in an acre of land.

In our reading for today, we are introduced to Jonathan, one of the least recognized persons in the Bible. But he stands as a model of faithfulness and loyalty throughout his rather tragic story. Jonathan is the eldest son of King Saul. He was in line to become the next king of Israel. That was never to be because his father proved to be faithless and lost the kingdom to a better man. But Jonathan does not allow the sins of his father to become his own or even cause him to stumble.

In this introductory story, we find a man of bravery, intelligence, and above all, faith. While his father cowers with his small army of 600, Jonathan and his armor-bearer head out into enemy territory to protect God’s people. They don’t bother to tell anyone that they’re going (which will be important later) and they follow God’s lead. In just the opening details we are learning the measure of the man as he makes decisions that prove who he is and who Saul is not.

Jonathan takes the initiative against the Philistines. He did not inform his father nor any other person in the camp of his plan. The author of the book of Samuel has begun to draw a distinction between Jonathan, the heir apparent to the throne, and his father, King Saul. Jonathan boldly confronted the Philistines, whereas Saul was reluctant and even afraid to engage them in battle. Later Jonathan would become David’s close friend, even as Saul would become more and more estranged from him.
Steinmann, A. E. ©2016. 1 Samuel. (p. 252). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.

[Just as a point of reference, these events take place less than 2 miles north of Jerusalem.]

Following his armor bearer’s assent to his idea, Jonathan explains exactly what their plan will be. How Jonathan would know exactly by what sign Yahweh would favor their attack on the Philistines is not clear from the text. However, it may be that he simply assumed that if the Philistines invited them to engage in combat, God would grant him victory.

Steinmann, A. E. ©2016. 1 Samuel. (p. 252). Saint Louis, MO: CPH.

It is a simple plan and one that took courage to implement. But the results are positive, and we begin to learn just who Jonathan really is. I was always taught in Sunday School that asking God for a signal or sign as to His direction was a bad idea. I’m not so sure about that anymore. Clearly, Gideon asks for several signs (in the book of Judges) and God gives them to him. Now, Jonathan is doing the same, although with much greater courage and swiftness. Jonathan is also a man of action (which Gideon was not) and it serves him well. But back to the idea of asking for a signal from God. It seems like this plan worked well for Jonathan, and he didn’t ask for much. A simply yes or no was all he wanted. What he had was faith! He totally counted on God to show him what to do and then he did it, fully expecting God to keep them safe if they were obedient. It feels bold – because it is.

Jonathan faces what appear to insurmountable odds. But when God is a part of the plan, there is no such thing as insurmountable. Two men go up against 20 and win easily. Jesus also faced insurmountable odds. One man when up against the sins of the world and won – maybe not easily, for the price was high. But He followed the will of the Father and that was all that was needed. Maybe my insurmountable odds aren’t so great after all.