The Faith of Jonathan

Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore 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 restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few’” (v. 6).

- 1 Samuel 14:1–15

As we come to 1 Samuel 14, according to Matthew Henry, “we find that infinite power which works without means, and that infinite goodness which works without merit, glorified in a happy turn to [Israel’s] affairs, that still Samuel’s words may be made good: ‘The Lord will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake’ (12:22).”

The Philistines have a stranglehold on Israel, but Saul sits brooding outside Gibeah in the shade of a pomegranate tree. Interestingly, his retinue now includes a priest, Ahijah, who is said to be of the line of Eli. Thus, a priest whose line has been rejected by God is now serving the king whose line has been rejected. It is also interesting that Ahijah is wearing an ephod, the priestly garment that included the “Urim and Thummim” by which God’s will could be discerned (Ex. 28:4–30). Saul, however, is making no attempt to use the ephod to ask God for direction. He seems paralyzed, unable to decide what to do.

Finally, Jonathan can stand the inaction no longer. In secret, he leaves the camp with his armorbearer with the intention of going over to the Philistines’ camp. It will not be an easy trek—the two camps are separated by a deep ravine. But Jonathan believes that he can cross it—and that God can use him and his servant to defeat the Philistines. In fact, his words reveal a deep and lively faith. He understands that the Philistines are “ ‘uncircumcised,’ ” that is, that they are outside of God’s covenant and therefore not under His protection (David later expresses the same thought about Goliath, 17:26). He knows that God is sovereign, for he confesses that “ ‘it may be’ ” (or it may not be) that God will use him. But he also believes that God is omnipotent, for “ ‘nothing restrains the Lord’ ” from saving Israel with a tiny band. And Jonathan’s servant apparently shares his master’s faith, for he is willing to go along.

But while Jonathan is bold enough to go against the Philistines, he does not wish to go against God. Thus, he asks for a sign by which he might know that his action has God’s approval. When God makes His will known, Jonathan does not hesitate. He and his armorbearer climb up and begin to strike down Philistines, killing about 20. This in itself is amazing, and terror soon begins to spread through the Philistine camp. God is fighting for Jonathan—and for His people.

Coram Deo

In his faith, courage, and willingness to wait on God, Jonathan compares favorably to Saul. In human terms, it is a tragedy that Saul’s sin prevents Jonathan from coming to Israel’s throne. But Jonathan accepts God’s judgment and later befriends David. May we be as willing to acquiesce to God’s will, even when it seems to “cost” us.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 32:30
Joshua 23:10
2 Chronicles 14:11
Proverbs 21:1

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