1 Samuel 14:1-23
Now it came to pass on a day, that Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man that bore his armor, Come…
It is evident that, Saul had no thought at this time of making an attack on the Philistines. How could he, wish soldiers so poorly armed and so little to encourage them? Samuel does not appear to have been with him. But, in his company was a priest, Ahiah, the son of Ahitub, grandson of Eli, perhaps the same as Ahimelech, afterwards introduced. Saul still adhered to the forms of religion; but he had too much resemblance to the Church of Sardis — "Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." The position of the army of Israel with reference to the Philistines seems to have been very similar to what it was afterwards when Goliath defied the army of the living God. The Israelites could only look on, in helpless inactivity. But just as the youthful spirit of David was afterwards roused in these circumstances to exertion, so on the present occasion was the youthful spirit of Jonathan. It was not the first time that he had attacked the garrison of the Philistines. (1 Samuel 13:3.)But what he did on the former occasion seems to have been under more equal conditions than the seemingly desperate enterprise to which be betook himself now. A project of unprecedented daring came into his mind. He took counsel with no one about it. A single confidant and companion was all that he thought of — his armour bearer, or aide-de-camp. And even him he did not so much consult as attach. "Come," said he, "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 by the Lord to save by many or by few." No words are needed to show the daring character of this project. The one point of view in which there was the faintest possibility of success was that the Lord God might favour the enterprise. The God of their fathers might work for them, and if He did so there was no restraint with Him to work by many or by few. Had He not worked by Ehud alone to deliver their fathers from the Moabites? Had he not worked by Shamgar alone, when with his ox goad he slew six hundred Philistines? Had he not worked by Samson alone in all his wonderful exploits? Might he not work that day by Jonathan and his armour bearer, and, after all, only produce a new chapter in that history which had already shown so many wonderful interpositions? Jonathan's mind was possessed by the idea. After all, if he failed, he could but lose his life. It is in this working of faith that must be regarded as the most characteristic feature of the attempt of Jonathan. He showed himself one of the noble heroes of faith, not unworthy to be enrolled in the glorious record of the eleventh chapter of the Hebrews. What encouragement is here for every Christian worker! Don't despond when you seem to fail in your first and most direct endeavour. But Jonathan's faith in God was called to manifest itself in a way very different from that in which the faith of most young persons has to be exercised now. Faith led Jonathan to seize sword and spear, and hurry out to an enterprise in which he could only succeed by risking his own life and destroying the lives of others. We are thus brought face to face with a strange but fascinating development of the religious spirit — military faith. The subject has received a new and wonderful illustration in our day in the character and career of that great Christian hero, General Gordon. No one imagines that without his faith Gordon would have been what he was or could have done what he did. It gave him a conviction that he was an instrument in God's hands, and that when he was moved to undertake anything as being God's will, he would be carried through all difficulties, enabled to surmount all opposition, and to carry the point in face of the most tremendous odds. And to a great extent the result verified the belief. One is almost disposed to envy Jonathan, with his whole powers of mind and body knit up to the pitch of firmest and most dauntless resolution, under the inspiration that moved him to this apparently desperate enterprise. All the world would have rushed to stop him, insanely throwing away his life, without the faintest chance of escape. But a voice spoke firmly in his bosom — I am not throwing away my life. And Jonathan did not want certain tokens of encouragement. It was something that his armour bearer neither flinched nor remonstrated. Whether in the way of friendly banter or otherwise, the garrison, on perceiving them, invited them to come up, and they would "show them a thing." Greatly encouraged by the sign, they clambered up on hands and feet till they gained the top of the rock. Then, when nothing of the kind was expected, they fell on the garrison and began to kill. So sudden and unexpected an onslaught threw the garrison into a panic. And thus the faith of Jonathan had a glorious reward. The inspiration of faith vindicated itself, and the noble self-devotion that had plunged into this otherwise desperate enterprise, because there was no restraint to the Lord to save by many or by few, led thus to a triumph more speedy and more complete than even Jonathan could have ventured to dream of.
1. This incident is full of lessons for modern times.
1. First, it shows what wide and important results may come from individual conviction. Did not the Reformation begin through the steadfastness of Luther, the miner's son of Eisleben, to the voice that spoke out so loudly to himself? Did not Carey lay the foundation of the modern mission in India, because he could not get rid of that verse of Scripture. "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature?" Did not Livingstone persevere in the most dangerous, the most desperate enterprise of our time, because he could not quench the voice that called him to open up Africa or perish? Learn, everyone, from this, never to be faithless to any conviction given to you, though, as far as you know, it is given to you alone.
2. This narrative shows what large results may flow from individual effort. Think how many children have been rescued by Dr. Barnardo, how many have been emigrated by Miss Macpherson, how many souls have been impressed by Mr. Moody, how many orphans have been eared for by Mr. Muller, how many stricken ones have been relieved in the institutions of John Bost.
3. Lastly, we may learn from this narrative that the true secret of all spiritual success lies in our seeking to be instruments in God's hands, and in our lending ourselves to Him, to do in us and by us whatever is good in His sight. It was not Jonathan's project that was to be carried out; it was the Lord's cause that was to be advanced. Jonathan had no personal ends in this matter. He was willing to give up his life, if the Lord should require it. It is a like consecration in all spiritual service that brings most blessing and success. "He that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal."
(W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now it came to pass upon a day, that Jonathan the son of Saul said unto the young man that bare his armour, Come, and let us go over to the Philistines' garrison, that is on the other side. But he told not his father.
WEB: Now it fell on a day, that Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who bore his armor, "Come, and let us go over to the Philistines' garrison, that is on the other side." But he didn't tell his father.