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Jonathan & Victory – 1 Samuel 14:1-23

First Baptist Church https://fbcbartow.org

Psalm 90:12 – Teach us to number our days [to realize the brevity of life], that we may gain a heart of [or grow in] wisdom.

Someone who understood the principle of numbering their days was Jonathan, the son of King Saul.  What most remember about Jonathan is that he be-friended David and submitted to God’s calling of David to be the next king of Israel.  Jonathan never demanded that the throne be passed down to himself as the reigning prince.  As we’re about to see In 1 Samuel 14, Jonathan was an incredible soldier who had real, practical, and inspiring faith in the LORD.

Here’s the Context

1 Samuel 14 begins with Israel’s army, The Lord’s Army hiding in a desolate area with a lot of caves in Gibeah.  In Chapter 13, Israel defeated the Amorites, and Jonathan defeated a group of Philistines in a small skirmish; as he saw tensions grow, Saul foolishly declared war against the Philistines, who were suddenly “as numerous as the sand on the seashore” from their perspective, according to v5 – he “kicked the hornets’ nest”.  Saul’s soldiers knew they were over-matched, and they “were quaking with fear” (v7).  Saul’s arrogance in going to battle against a superior enemy without seeking wisdom from God led to more and more disobedience.  Saul sees things are falling apart.  And to make things worse, instead of waiting for Samuel to arrive before offering a sacrifice, like he was told to do, Saul arrogantly and foolishly offered a sacrifice [but what He was really doing was desperately asking God to bless his disobedience, rather than striving to be bless-able!].  And guess who shows up as soon as he’s finished?  The prophet Samuel.  Instead of giving divine blessing, Samuel rebuked Saul saying in v14, “But now your kingdom will not endure; the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart and appointed him ruler of His people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” (1 Samuel 13:14).

Then the army of the Lord retreated and hid in caves in Gibeah.  While they were hiding, the Philistines raided the neighboring villages, confiscating all weapons.  When we come to Chapter 14, the Bible says that only 2 swords remained:  Saul’s and Jonathan’s.  The rest of the army had to resort to using sharpened farm tools for weapons.  And under Philistine control, the local towns charged ridiculous prices for iron work and basic needs, so some of the Israelites resorted to crossing over and hiding among the Philistines just to survive. [They blended in]

In this defeated, depressed, desperate, and discouraging circumstance, Jonathan chose to depend on God.

1 Samuel 14:1-23One day Jonathan son of Saul said to his young armor-bearer [think personal assistant], “Come, let’s go over to the Philistine outpost on the other side.”  But he did not tell his father.

Why not?  Saul may not have approved of Jonathan’s bold decision.  We then find out where Saul was in v2:

Saul was staying on the outskirts of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree in Migron.  With him were about six hundred men, among whom was Ahijah, who was wearing an ephod [think priest utility- belt, except it’s a smock with pockets].  He was a son of Ichabod’s brother Ahitub son of Phinehas, the son of Eli, the Lord’s priest in Shiloh…

So Jonathan sets out on this adventure of faith, just him, the Lord, and his armor-bearer.

No one was aware that Jonathan had left.

1. Seek God

From chapter 7 we know Jonathan knew God promised He would deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines if they would repent and turn to God with their whole heart.  Jonathan also realized that the Lord was not blessing hiding in the caves of Gibeah where his father had set up camp.  He was convicted and compelled to go where God was working.  In Isaiah, God says He shares his glory with no one, but will show His glory thru anyone who trusts Him.  There is no glory in hiding instead of trusting God.  “You can’t go with God and stay where you are.”  Jonathan chose to go with God.

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. One cliff stood to the north toward Mikmash, the other to the south toward Geba.

Jonathan said to his young armor-bearer, “Come, let’s go over to the outpost of those uncircumcised men [another way of saying they were “Godless – these were a people who did not follow the ways of God].  Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf.  Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”

It’s as if he’s saying, “Who do these Godless mockers think they are, coming against people of God?  They are mocking God Himself!  Nope!  We are not a doormat to step all over, we represent God, and we are a banner lifted high such that if you fight against us, you fight against God Himself!  I love and trust God.  I can’t afford to be a doormat!  I shine the love, and the strength, and the glory of God to be faithful to who He is, what He says, and what He promises.  No one is walking all over and mocking that on purpose!”

“Do all that you have in mind,” his armor-bearer said. “Go ahead; I am with you heart and soul.”

2. Select Friends Wisely

Seeking God can be difficult at times, but you don’t have to do it alone.  Often the company we keep determines our success or failure:

Proverbs 12:26 – The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

1 Corinthians 15:33 – Do not be misled:  “Bad company corrupts good character.”

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.

Proverbs 27:6 NLT – Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.

Proverbs 18:24 – One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a [real] friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Jonathan’s armor-bearer was ready to follow Jonathan wherever he went.  He must have had a trust in the Lord and in Jonathan’s leadership.  It is important for us to have support like that in our own lives and to be that kind of support for others.  Jonathan had a real friend.  And he would be this same kind of friend to David.

Jonathan said, “Come on, then; we will cross over toward them and let them see us. 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.”

So Jonathan says they’ll look for a sign to see if the Lord would bless his attack.  He was seeking God’s wisdom on whether he should do this or not.

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.”

Them was fightin’ words!  Jonathan knew God promised He would deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines if they would repent and turn to God with their whole heart.  Jonathan wasn’t just open to the idea of God working, he had the confident faith that God would work!

…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 [footprint of a 22,000 sq ft home, half this room].

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.

There was no visible cause for fear because there were so many Philistines.  They were bold and had the advantage over 2 Israelites.  But despite their strength, they panicked.  It was supernatural, and it came immediately from God.  He who made the heart knows how to make it tremble!  Then, to add to the Philistines’ confusion, God made the earth quake!

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.”

To find out if it was because of some bold and independent action that any of the Israelites took to cause all this, Saul commanded the men to find out if any of them were missing…

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 [“chaos”] in the Philistine camp increased more and more.  So Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand. [Essentially saying, “Never mind; let’s just get going!”]

So, Saul is finally consulting with God, through the priest Ahija, on what He should do.  But when things began to get scarier, he stopped seeking the Lord for direction and went out on his own, so easily distracted from seeking God!

BLT – Saul had the responsibility to lead God’s people in battle, but he wouldn’t take the time to seek God’s leading.

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 [when it’s the Lord, you never have to exaggerate!]. 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 [Jonathan’s faithfulness inspired the weary and fearful to action!].

3. Strive For Victory That Only Comes From Faithfulness to God’s Leading

Jonathan did the unthinkable to accomplish the impossible, and it went from impossible, to difficult, to done!  Our greatest condemnation is not that we fall short of God’s calling; it’s that we have quit striving to reach it!  Jonathan’s climb paints a powerful picture of victory being available to those who are willing to move to a higher level of faith (or a greater exercise of faithfulness), those who are willing to leave a comfort zone, those who are willing to risk being different from the crowd, and those who embrace the call of God on their life.

Victory is ultimately accomplished by God.  Jonathan wouldn’t fight unless he perceived, “that the Lord has given them into our hands.” (v10), but he also understands that he has a role to play in the defeat of the Philistines.  Taking risks is not the same as training for the thrill (of victory in the Olympics!).  When Peter walked on water, wanting to be with Jesus and to be doing what He was doing, with Him, he stepped out of the boat only after Jesus told him to come out on the water.  Jonathan steps out and climbs up to fight with confidence that he has received a word from God.  Both Jonathan and Peter knew the call of God because they had spent time listening to His voice.  That’s what gave them faith, and Faith is Trust + Action.  They had come to trust Him and acted on it – faith – and faith is our victory over the Godlessness in our world.

1 John 5:4 NASB – For whoever has been born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world: Our faith.

Victory is rarely a spontaneous event.  It usually comes after significant preparation, determination, and submission.  To be painfully honest, most people refuse to pay the price for victory.  But, the sad reality is that the price of failure is far greater; it costs to follow Jesus, but it costs a lot more not to!

Defeat, discouragement, fear, depression, and missed opportunity, are incredible costs compared to the dedication to climb.  What is the cost of a 15-20 minute daily walk compared to a heart attack?  What’s the cost of winning a soul to Jesus compared to an occasional act of ridiculeWe risk feeling awkward, they risk eternity separated from God.  Success has a price, but so does failureWhich price do you want to pay?

Q: Who is credited with the victory over the Philistines?  V23…

23 So on that day the Lord saved Israel, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven.

Erwin McManus – A quick survey of the modern Church would lead you to believe that Christ’s invitation was “Come and Listen“ instead of “Go!  Like the soldiers of Saul’s army, our tendency is to retreat in the face of enemy threats and difficult trials.  Instead of dusty caves, we hide behind dusty traditions that choke the passion and life out of any expression of radical faith.  Paul warned in 2 Timothy 3:5 that in the later days people will hold to a form (a pattern, a tradition) of godliness but deny its power by their lifestyle.  When form replaces faith and pattern substitutes for power, Christianity becomes another world religion designed to keep us in line with everybody else in the cave.  It’s hard to imagine Jesus enduring the agony of the cross just to keep us in line.

4. Keep Moving Onward and Upward

In v18 Saul told Ahijah to bring the ark and ephod of God in a knee-jerk attempt to discern from God what He had not bothered to seek in the first place.  But even then, he gave up on depending on God.  God didn’t bring the confusion on the Philistine camp because Saul did religious things, but because Jonathan was faithful – full of faith – trusting that it is the Lord God who saves us all in every battle we fight if we are dependent on Him.  He had expectancy to see God’s faithfulness! [He anticipated God’s goodness showing up!]

God is always faithful to do what He says He will do when we are faithful to do what He tells us to do!

God gave them the victory by using Jonathan and his armor-bearer, but without them depending on God, they (and we) could do nothing.  With God anything is possible!

You won’t go and witness to others if you aren’t convinced God wants to use you to bring them into fellowship with Him, that, like John 14 tells us, His Spirit has already been going through the whole earth already convicting all people from sin, to righteousness, and about a coming judgment, so that all we have to do is step in and validate the Spirit’s conviction and witness.


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