1 Samuel 13-14 Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few

From 1 Samuel 13-14

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While Saul and his army are hiding in the caves. Jonathan his son and his armour-bearer step out in faith and initiate a battle which leads to the salvation of Israel. The LORD uses the small things in this world to accomplish his will. Even children. How can you step out in faith today?

This post is part of my bible in a year series.

Passage and Comments

Saul and his army are in hiding (cf. 1 Sam 14.11). They are sitting around doing nothing. Saul’s earlier insecurity, lack of faith and this inactivity suggest he is afraid to take on the Philistines. He does not trust the LORD.

14 One day Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who carried his armor, “Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. 2 Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah in the pomegranate cave at Migron. The people who were with him were about six hundred men, 3 including Ahijah the son of Ahitub, Ichabod’s brother, son of Phinehas, son of Eli, the priest of the LORD in Shiloh, wearing an ephod. And the people did not know that Jonathan had gone. 4 Within the passes, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the Philistine garrison, there was a rocky crag on the one side and a rocky crag on the other side. The name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. 5 The one crag rose on the north in front of Michmash, and the other on the south in front of Geba. (1 Sam 14.1-5)

Jonathan does not want to be part of his father’s cowardice. He decides to check on the Philistines and does not tell his father he was going.

The LORD likes to glorify himself by using small numbers and the insignificant to win his battles.

6 Jonathan said to the young man who carried 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 can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.” 7 And his armor-bearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Do as you wish. Behold, I am with you heart and soul.” (1 Sam 14.6-7)

Nothing can hinder the LORD from saving by many or by few.

Unlike Saul his father, Jonathan believes the LORD fights for his people. He puts himself in a position where he can be used by him. His armour-bearer, knowing Jonathan’s faith speaks his loyalty.

8 Then Jonathan said, “Behold, we will cross over to the men, and we will show ourselves to them. 9 If they say to us, ‘Wait until we come to you,’ then we will stand still in our place, and we will not go up to them. 10 But if they say, ‘Come up to us,’ then we will go up, for the LORD has given them into our hand. And this shall be the sign to us.”

11 So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. (1 Sam 14.8-11)

Jonathan expecting the LORD to work, requires a sign from him which way his plan will go. Either way they are putting themselves in danger.

The Philistines are above the Hebrews in a some sort of hilly or mountainous area. So either they climb down, or the Hebrews climb up.

If the enemy says wait and they come down. Jonathan and the armour-bearer will wait for them. Then what? Fight? Die? Run? The text doesn’t say.

But if they ask them to come up. Jonathan believes the LORD will give them over. We are meant to think the LORD is watching and willing to provide them with the victory.

Jonathan and his armour-bearer step out in faith and reveal themselves to their enemies.

09 Jonathan climbing battle

And the Philistines said, “Look, Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden themselves.” 12 And the men of the garrison hailed Jonathan and his armor-bearer and said, “Come up to us, and we will show you a thing.”

And Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, “Come up after me, for the LORD has given them into the hand of Israel.”

13 Then Jonathan climbed up on his hands and feet, and his armor-bearer after him. And they fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer killed them after him. 14 And that first strike, which Jonathan and his armor-bearer made, killed about twenty men within as it were half a furrow’s length in an acre of land. (1 Sam 14.11-14)

The Philistines recognise them as Hebrews and they ask Jonathan and his armour-bearer to come up to ‘show them a thing’. Probably a bright shiny sword.

Jonathan sees this as a sign from the LORD he will give them over boldly climbs up. When he gets up there they fight.

They kill about twenty men.

15 And there was a panic in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and even the raiders trembled, the earth quaked, and it became a very great panic. (1 Sam 14.15)

The LORD works in other ways as well. Throwing the Philistines into a panic.

Saul hears the sound and realises something is going on.

16 And the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, and behold, the multitude was dispersing here and there. 17 Then Saul said to the people who were with him, “Count and see who has gone from us.” And when they had counted, behold, Jonathan and his armor-bearer were not there. (1 Sam 14.16-17)

After a quick role call he realises his son Jonathan and his armour-bearer are not there.

18 So Saul said to Ahijah, “Bring the ark of God here.” For the ark of God went at that time with the people of Israel. (1 Sam 14.18)

He desires to go into battle, but unlike Jonathan he needs something tangible for assurance (cf. 1 Sam 4).

19 Now while Saul was talking to the priest, the tumult in the camp of the Philistines increased more and more. So Saul said to the priest, “Withdraw your hand.” 20 Then Saul and all the people who were with him rallied and went into the battle. And behold, every Philistine’s sword was against his fellow, and there was very great confusion.

21 Now the Hebrews who had been with the Philistines before that time and who had gone up with them into the camp, even they also turned to be with the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan.

22 Likewise, when all the men of Israel who had hidden themselves in the hill country of Ephraim heard that the Philistines were fleeing, they too followed hard after them in the battle. 23 So the LORD saved Israel that day. And the battle passed beyond Beth-aven. (1 Sam 14.19-23)

“When Saul and his men reached the Philistines, he found them fighting themselves (v. 20). This self-destruction can be attributed to a blunder the Philistines had made earlier: they had permitted some “Hebrews” (v. 21) with divided loyalties to join their ranks. When the tide of battle turned in Israel’s favor, the non-Philistines “went over to the Israelites who were with Saul and Jonathan” (v. 21). Now soldiers wearing Philistine markings and wielding Philistine weapons were fighting Philistines—with disastrous consequences for Israel’s enemies! It was a mistake the Philistines would never make again (cf. 29:3–9).” (Bergen, R.D., 1996. 1, 2 Samuel, Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

So the LORD saved Israel that day. Salvation by victory in battle. One group dies, the other lives.

Story of Israel

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.

 This is not the first time the LORD won a significant battle by the faith and courage of a minority (e.g. Jdg 7). The story also highlights the difference in faith between Saul (the king) and his son Jonathan. Sometimes the most unlikely people are the ones who have the strongest faith and the ones who God decides to use.

Story of Jesus

That means you as well. God can use you. In the gospel Jesus says,

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. ” (Mt 11.25-27)

How can you step out in faith today?

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