So we are in a series where we are focusing this question…When life happens what do you see? We have established a couple things through the first few talks. We have looked at David’s three mighty men, and how they lived their lives. We looked at how when everyone ran away, and saw defeat…they saw opportunities to succeed. The Bible says, it’s just how these guys lived, it’s who they were. Last week Ken spoke to us about the life of Caleb, and Joshua and how all 12 spies went into the Promised Land, all 12 spies saw the same things, but only two came back with the belief that God had given that land to them. It was amazing to really focus in on that story and how because they failed to believe in what God could do for and through them, that an entire generation of Israelites ended up dying in the desert. Today I’m going to continue this series by looking at another really cool story in scripture. It’s the story of how Jonathan (King Saul’s son) and his armor bearer acted in what we could look back on as the most pivotal moment in the war between the Philistines and the children of Israel. I hope that through this story we can continue to grow in a few very key areas. First, I hope that we can see that God uses people like you and I to act, to work, to fight and to move on His behalf. This can be a challenging concept, to think that our Almighty God wants us to do something here on Earth, for Him. Second I hope to show you that God often provides for us, but it’s not always the way we think he should! Lastly I want you to see the importance of having a team, of supporting your leaders…and engaging in community. Sometimes you just have to do something, to see something happen! You know what, it’s just so important for us to engage, not sit around and wait for “doors to open to us.” I think some Christians sit back and wait on God, they do nothing and nothing happens…and they can’t figure out why every door seems to be shut, all the while God has given them abilities, strengths, and talents to not only open doors but to slam through them if necessary!
So let’s get into this incredible story of Jonathan attacking the Philistines! It’s very important for this story to give you the back story…because it’s sets an incredible tone for our hero! So where we are at is that the Israelites wanted a King, and they got one. His name is King Saul, who is the first King of Israel. He is leading the Israelite forces against the Philistines. He picks a fight with the Philistines, and wins a few small battles. He’s doing well, he’s gaining momentum. As you can imagine this doesn’t sit well with the Philistines and they assemble their army. They come to battle with 3,000 chariots. 6,000 charioteers, and soldiers, lots of soldiers, so many that they were uncountable…it actually says in scripture that “they were as numerous as the sand on the seashore.” At this point Saul had around 3,000 men in his army and things didn’t look good. His men were terrified and began to leave. King Saul felt like he needed to do something, so he took it upon himself to offer burnt offerings to God to see what he should do. The problem with that was that it was actually the Prophet Samuel’s job to do that. When Samuel arrives he isn’t happy, and tells King Saul that he will lose his kingdom. He told King Saul that he would be replaced as King…and the prophet Samuel leaves King Saul. As you can imagine, when the prophet of God says this and bales on Saul the army begins to fall apart. When they see the prophet Samuel leave, most of the army leaves. King Saul and Prince Jonathan are left with 600 men, very frightened but loyal soldiers. On one side they know the kingdom will be torn from them, and everyone is leaving them. And on the other side is a very angry, very large army waiting to kill them at Micmash. Can you imagine the morale levels here? I can’t even imagine how standing in their shoes in this moment! Things are not going well here…and to make matters worse the Philistines sent out raiding parties and to get rid of all the Israelite weapons! Check this out…
1 Samuel 13:19-22 Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, “Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!” 20 So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plowshares, mattocks, axes and sickles sharpened. 21 The price was two thirds of a shekel for sharpening plowshares and mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening forks and axes and for repointing goads.22 So on the day of the battle not a soldier with Saul and Jonathan had a sword or spear in his hand; only Saul and his son Jonathan had them. NIV
So we could probably say that they are in a really bad spot here. They are going up against the Philistines who have chariots, horses, and an uncountable amount of men…and the Israelites are down to 600 very scared men, and only King Saul and Jonathan have weapons! So if you do the math, I am counting 3000 horse drawn chariots, (that is like having tanks today) and an uncountable number of soldiers (all with weapons) going up against 600 men, with two…count them two swords! They have been disarmed. They have been intimidated. They are outnumbered and all seems lost. This is where we pick up the story today.
1 Samuel 14:1-23 One day Jonathan son of Saul said to the young man bearing his armor, “Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.” But he did not tell his father.2 Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron. With him were about six hundred men, 3 among whom was Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod. He was a son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the LORD’s priest in Shiloh. No one was aware that Jonathan had left.4 On each side of the pass that Jonathan intended to cross to reach the Philistine outpost was a cliff; one was called Bozez, and the other Seneh. 5 One cliff stood to the north toward Micmash, the other to the south toward Geba.
6 Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised fellows. Perhaps the LORD will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving, whether by many or by few.”7 “Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”8 Jonathan said, “Come, then; we will cross over toward the men and let them see us. 9 If they say to us, ‘Wait there until we come to you,’ we will stay where we are and not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ we will climb up, because that will be our sign that the LORD has given them into our hands.”11 So both of them showed themselves to the Philistine outpost. “Look!” said the Philistines. “The Hebrews are crawling out of the holes they were hiding in.” 12 The men of the outpost shouted to Jonathan and his armor-bearer, “Come up to us and we’ll teach you a lesson.”So Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Climb up after me; the LORD has given them into the hand of Israel.”13 Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him. 14 In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre.
15 Then panic struck the whole army-those in the camp and field, and those in the outposts and raiding parties-and the ground shook. It was a panic sent by God.16 Saul’s lookouts at Gibeah in Benjamin saw the army melting away in all directions. 17 Then Saul said to the men who were with him, “Muster the forces and see who has left us.” When they did, it was Jonathan and his armor-bearer who were not there.18 Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God.” (At that time it was with the Israelites.) 19 While Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the Philistine camp increased more and more. So Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.”
20 Then Saul and all his men assembled and went to the battle. They found the Philistines in total confusion, striking each other with their swords. 21 Those Hebrews who had previously been with the Philistines and had gone up with them to their camp went over to the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan. 22 When all the Israelites who had hidden in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were on the run, they joined the battle in hot pursuit.
23 So the LORD rescued Israel that day, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven. NIV
What an incredible story! There is so much going on here but there are a couple things that we just have to pull out and look at. First we see our three main characters in the story, Jonathan, his dad King Saul and his armor bearer who is awesome but doesn’t even get named in scripture. Let’s start with where we find King Saul.
1 Samuel 14:2 Meanwhile, Saul was taking it easy under the pomegranate tree at the threshing floor on the edge of town at Geba (Gibeah). There were about six hundred men with him. (The Message)
So this hasn’t been the best start to running a kingdom for our buddy King Saul has it? He steps up pretty big early, and wins some small battles, but just as quickly as he becomes King he is now staring at an unwinnable battle vs the Philistines. Not to mention that he ticked off the prophet Samuel, who informed him that he will be replaced as king. Oh, and this small detail, most of his army has left him. So here he is, the leader of a nation and we find him taking it easy underneath a tree. What is going on here? He is beaten. He is scared, and he is far from the battle that is upon him. In many ways I think he is sitting around hoping for God to save him. He isn’t leading. He isn’t acting. He is taking it easy under a tree wishing that his circumstances were different. In many ways I think Saul is asking God for help, for weapons to fall from the sky, and for victory over this horrible enemy army. But there is a big problem with what’s going on here…he isn’t doing anything!
Can you relate to this mentality? I think we do this a lot. We want to be successful in life. We want to be great at what we do. We want to be healthy. We want to have the fruit of the spirit in our lives but we aren’t doing anything to change our circumstances. We want to have peace in our hearts, and we wonder why it’s not there, yet we aren’t spending time with God. We want to get that promotion and move up the corporate ladder but we aren’t putting our best in at work. We want to live without debt, yet we continue swiping credit card after credit card. We want good changes to come to our lives, but we aren’t doing anything different. We can often get frustrated sitting around waiting for God to move can’t we? The problem is we want him to drop something in our lap, but the reality is that we may just need to go out and work for it! Do you find yourself frustrated with God right now? Wondering why he isn’t opening doors for you? Well maybe he has given you the ability, the strength, and the tools to go out and get what it is that you are after!
There are many people sitting around right now saying they are sitting and waiting on God to provide. Waiting for the doors to open or close. Waiting for God to move on their behalf. Well I don’t know about you but that sounds really, really good. It sounds really holy…I mean who would question someone saying something like that? It sounds so good! The problem is, this can be a very religious way to stay right where you are. It can come across as a religious way of saying you aren’t ever going to do anything! The reality is that you may never get anything done with that mentality. “Well Sam, the people of Israel walked in the desert for all that time and God dropped food for them out of the sky.” I hear you, maybe the difference is that they were moving forward while in the desert, rather than sitting around feeling sorry for themselves! Maybe you are misinterpreting what it means to have faith. Sometimes faith will mean sitting and waiting on direction. But often times what you will get from God is direction on what YOU need to do, rather than what He is going to do for you. I want to ask you, are you sitting under a tree taking it easy waiting for God to provide? Maybe it’s time to stop praying for doors to swing open and to go out and get something done!
You think King Saul is wishing his army had weapons? Do you think he is wishing for God to move? Well both do happen, but not until Jonathan acts! How did the Israelites finally get weapons? What would all these dead Philistines have been carrying that are now laying all over the ground? Swords, spears, weapons! So God did provide, but not until someone did something! God doesn’t always provide by dropping something in your life. There is beauty in hard work, and reaching out in faith, it’s in that risk that God moves big time!
Let me ask you something. Are you sitting around waiting for the Lord to provide? Are you angry that the ball doesn’t bounce your way like it does for others? Maybe it’s time to move! God will work through humans like you and I but he can’t work through us if we aren’t willing to do something in the process! Stop worrying about how the ball is bouncing for others! Go get the ball! Take the ball and make a basket for yourself! What is stopping you? This mentality leads us to our hero of this story, our hero is willing to do something. Jonathan is something else isn’t he? Here’s his plan.
1 Samuel 14:6-10 Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “Come on now, let’s go across to these uncircumcised pagans. Maybe GOD will work for us. There’s no rule that says God can only deliver by using a big army. No one can stop GOD from saving when he sets his mind to it.”7 His armor bearer said, “Go ahead. Do what you think best. I’m with you all the way.”8 Jonathan said, “Here’s what we’ll do. We’ll cross over the pass and let the men see we’re there. 9 If they say, ‘Halt! Don’t move until we check you out,’ we’ll stay put and not go up. 10 But if they say, ‘Come on up,’ we’ll go right up — and we’ll know GOD has given them to us. That will be our sign.” (THE MESSAGE)
Ok, so let me get this straight…the plan is to go out into the open, and show yourself to the enemy. An enemy that has seen your army run away. An enemy who knows you are weaponless and the sign from God will be that if they start talking trash on us, we know that God has given them over to us? WHAT!?!?!?
What was it about Jonathan that had him act this way? This war is over. The Philistines have the numbers, the weapons, and the high ground. So why is Jonathan willing to do this? What is it that Jonathan sees that no one else does? Well maybe a better question is this. What is going to happen if Jonathan does nothing? I will tell you what will happen…absolutely nothing. Jonathan seems to understand something that King Saul just doesn’t get. Saul is waiting around for God to do something, while Jonathan knows that God is with him, moves through him and will honor his hard work, and his faith. Jonathan understands something that his father doesn’t seem to get. That God uses us to act on this Earth but it’s like we misunderstand who He is and how He works.
God is all powerful. But in our hour of need or crisis he often looks for one person to change their circumstances, so that God can act redemptively. Often throughout the Old Testament we see moments where God is looking for one man, just one man who is pure in heart, or just one man who will build a wall. One man who will do something! Check this out, this is God speaking through the prophet Isaiah…
Isaiah 50:2 When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was my arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert; their fish rot for lack of water and die of thirst.3 I clothe the sky with darkness and make sackcloth its covering.” NIV
So God is saying here that there is nothing wrong with my power. No one has me trapped into their box. I am fully able to save your city but and it’s a BIG BUT here! God’s power is limited by us people! Because of your own sin, and lack of faith…God says through the prophet Isaiah here you will be sold into slavery in this instance. God is looking for one man to move…and Jonathan gets it. He isn’t sitting around boxing God into his lack of faith! He understands that he himself has responsibilities in this as well! He is willing to take up his sword and act! Because of this, God can move!
Let me ask you something. Is this a new thought for you? Are you willing to move on God’s behalf? Did you think that maybe you had some work to do in the process or did you think that God would just take care of it for you? Jonathan was willing to take the risk, and step out and faith and because he and his buddy the armor bearer did so…God provides the army with weapons, and hands the Philistines over to the army of Israel who just moments sooner was completely defeated!
So we’ve talked about King Saul. We have talked about Jonathan but there is one more man in this story that we just can’t ignore. This guy is probably my favorite. Remember, Jonathan didn’t go alone to fight that initial fight with the Philistines!
1 Samuel 14:6 Jonathan said to his armor bearer, “Come on now, let’s go across to these uncircumcised pagans. Maybe GOD will work for us. There’s no rule that says God can only deliver by using a big army. No one can stop GOD from saving when he sets his mind to it.” 7 His armor bearer said, “Go ahead. Do what you think best. I’m with you all the way.” (from THE MESSAGE)
This guy is awesome! Not only is he awesome but Jonathan doesn’t win that first fight without him! He is essential to the Israelite victory! Remember Jonathan is running around knocking down the Philistines but who is finishing them off?
1 Samuel 14:13 Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him. NIV
Remember he isn’t even carrying a sword! The only weapons were with Jonathan and Saul. Yet he is willing to go. He has his leaders back. He doesn’t question him. He doesn’t even think to himself…umm yeah easy for you to say Jonathan you have a sword at least! He doesn’t need his named mentioned, he is willing to sacrifice his life to support, to watch the back of his leader, and because of him the nation is saved! Listen to me, Jonathan does not win this fight without his armor bearer’s help. We need more and more people like this guy who are willing to sacrifice their own status, and their own names to engage, to support, and to make their kingdom stronger. This is a rare person who is willing to work just as hard and not receive the credit. Isn’t that a beautiful thing? Let me ask you something…would you be willing to do what he did? He wasn’t worried about his status, or his stature one bit. What he did was make everyone around him better. This armor bearer is a model for what it means to be part of a team. For what it means to be part of God’s kingdom. Are you willing to put everything on the line, and maybe never get the credit for it? That’s an interesting question isn’t it? Unfortunately not everyone is willing to do this, but those that are make their kingdom’s a better place. Working inside a church setting to help people reach Jesus, this is exactly what we are asked to do. We point people to Jesus we step out of the way, and let Jesus do what only He can do in their lives! In fact, Jesus challenges us to live this type of life by living this way himself. He humbled himself to serve others. Our armor bearer has a similar mentality doesn’t he? He isn’t worried about status, he isn’t worried about being the man and he ends up saving the nation.
Philippians 2:5 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. 6 He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. 7 Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! 8 Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death — and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.9 Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, 10 so that all created beings in heaven and on earth — even those long ago dead and buried — will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, (from THE MESSAGE)
The last thing I want to bring up about this story is the fact that Jonathan understood that he needed help to win this fight. He asked his armor bearer to go with him. He understood that he couldn’t win this on his own. Jonathan needs people in his life just like you and I do!
Now this leads to a very sticky subject inside our churches today, that subject is community. Let me, let you a little secret about people. People will absolutely let you down. People will hurt you. People even…actually especially good church folk, will absolutely hurt you along the way. In many ways it would be a lot easier to never engage into relationships with people at all wouldn’t it? Well, it would be easier, but the reality is that we were never created to take on life on our own. We are stronger together than we could ever be apart.
Ecclesiastes 4:12 By yourself you’re unprotected. With a friend you can face the worst. Can you round up a third? A three-stranded rope isn’t easily snapped. (THE MESSAGE)
We are better together than we could ever be a part…but here is the problem, life with people is a mess. Life with people isn’t easy. Life with people can be difficult at times, but it is absolutely essential. Jonathan understands that he is better with a team around him. Let me ask you this, are you willing to put a team around you, or are you better off on your own? In many ways it feels easier to do things alone. There is no challenge of dealing with people. There is no one around to hurt you. But there is also no one around to help you win the battles you will face in life. Jonathan understood that he needed help, we need to understand this too.
This is such a challenge in our churches today. People just struggle to get along don’t they? Do you know why that is? It’s because they are people, imperfect people who mess up, people like you and me who make mistakes. People who deal with expectations, hurts, and insecurities. Life with people is challenging. You will be hurt at times. You will gain victories at times. Through community we mature as people…especially inside a church community! A lot of the issues with people inside the church is that we just can’t get along. We come in expecting the church people to do this or that for us…the problem is that we are all people. We are all imperfect. We all make mistakes, and we all let each other down from time to time. They key is that we continue to persevere and work together as a team…because we are better together than we could ever be apart!
This story of Jonathan and his Armor Bearer is absolutely amazing. But it is also extremely challenging for you and I to live this way. So tell me, are you like King Saul sitting under a tree wishing that your circumstances would change? Are you like Jonathan willing to take the necessary steps to do something…which allows God to move? Are you like the Armor Bearer willing to support and take on just as much risk if not more to see his team through, regardless of the recognition you will or won’t get?
Really in the end it comes down to what you see? So many times we engage communities of people and we see all the issues with the people inside them. Well of course there are issues inside the church, it’s filled with imperfect people like you and me.
So many times we have adversity hit our lives and we just wish our circumstances were different. Well the next step is up to you. Are you sitting around upset with God because nothing seems to go your way? Are you sitting around watching people around you have the ball bounce their way all the time wondering why you never get the ball to bounce your way? Are you willing to take the ball and score yourself? Do you understand that because of your own actions or lack of actions you could be limiting what God can do your own life? In the end, this is a challenging moment, when your down to 2 swords and 600 hundred men…what is it that you see? Jonathan saw an opportunity to act…and God moved on his behalf. So what are you willing to do? Your answer to that question determines everything for you. In the end you’ve got to do something. If you are not willing to do anything, don’t be mad at God. You know what will happen if you choose to do nothing? Absolutely nothing.