In 1 Samuel 14 we find Israel in a desperate situation. The Philistines occupy the land with some 30,000 troops, plus they have armored chariots to go along. The Israelite army, commanded by King Saul, was down to 600 men and they only had two swords, Saul had one and his son Jonathan had the other.
Rather than taking a step of faith and doing what God had asked him to do, Saul hid, not wanting to engage the enemy. Who can blame him? We find ourselves doing the same thing every day. Rather than stepping out in faith we wait around for circumstances to be just right for us to act. In the process we miss out on the opportunity altogether. Saul was hiding waiting for just the right time when he could be assured victory.
Here is where I would like to draw the second parallel between the story and our situation. This is the parallel: There is no formula for success. I am convinced the Saul hid because he was waiting for the battle plan that would guarantee victory. He was unwilling to risk the lives of himself and his men until he knew victory was his.
1 Then one day Jonathan son of Saul said to his armor bearer, "Come on, let's go over to the Philistine garrison that is opposite us." But he did not let his father know. 2 Now Saul was sitting under a pomegranate tree in Migron, on the outskirts of Gibeah. The army that was with him numbered about six hundred men. 3 Now Ahijah was carrying an ephod. He was the son of Ahitub, who was the brother of Ichabod and a son of Phineas, son of Eli, the priest of the LORD in Shiloh. The army was unaware that Jonathan had left. 4 Now there was a steep cliff on each side of the pass through which Jonathan intended to go to reach the Philistine garrison. One cliff was named Bozez, the other Seneh. 5 The cliff to the north was closer to Micmash, the one to the south closer to Geba. (1 Samuel 14:1-5; NET)
Saul was afraid to take that step of faith. The future was unknown to him and he didn’t know if he would live or die; succeed or fail if he engaged the enemy. There was no secret formula that Saul could rely on for success.
The fear of the unknown is what holds us back, especially in difficult times. When we been burden with a difficult time we can talk ourselves out of living by faith, telling ourselves if it is really God’s will He will open the door. God will often close the doors to see if we have enough faith to follow Him through. The first step in living by faith is asking ourselves the question: Am I willing to trust God to lead me where I need to go?
This isn’t about praying in order to manipulate God into doing our will nor isn’t about doing the right spiritual disciplines, it is simply about trusting God with our lives. We can be disciplined people performing empty rituals, but it will not make one bit of difference to God. What God is after is not rituals and disciplines, but faith expressed through obedience.
God, through Samuel, will tell Saul that very thing:
"Does the LORD take pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as he does in obedience? Certainly, obedience is better than sacrifice; paying attention is better than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22; NET)
While Saul lacked faith his son Jonathan did not. One night while in hiding Jonathan couldn’t sleep. Why we don’t know. Perhaps he was frustrated by the actions of his father. Perhaps he was excited by the prospect of engaging the enemy. Or perhaps God kept him up to give Jonathan an opportunity to act.
When this war first started Jonathan had 1,000 men under his command, but because of the desertions he no longer has those men to command. The army, what was left of it, was under Saul’s command, but Jonathan still had one man under him, his armor bearer. A young man who was no older, and probably younger, than Jonathan. “Come, let’s pick a fight,” Jonathan tells the young man, and together they go over to the Philistine outpost. Jonathan had no plan or strategy. He had only a clear understanding of what God wanted for Israel. So he went, in faith, to engage the enemy.
Things may not look very promising in your life right now, but the answer isn’t about praying the right prayer or adding a new discipline to your life. The answer is about doing what God has asked you to do, even though the task looks impossible. Do you have enough faith to trust God with your life? That is what being a Christian is all about.
- Point to Ponder: What God is after is not rituals and disciplines, but faith.
- Passage to Remember: 1 Samuel 15:22
- Question to Consider: Do you have enough faith to trust God with your life?