What might it look like to really trust God to save?
1 Samuel 13:23-14:23
23 Now a detachment of Philistines had gone out to the pass at Mikmash. 14 1 One day Jonathan son of Saul said to his young armor-bearer, “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 Mikmash, 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 men. 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 on, then; we will cross over toward them 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.)[b] 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 on that day the Lord saved Israel, and the battle moved on beyond Beth Aven.
We all know the saying, ‘Like father, like son’. Everyone in my family loves pointing out all the ways I’m exactly like my dad. But sometimes, father and son are nothing like each other.
In chapter 13, we saw that all of Israel are cowering in fear from the Philistines, hiding in caves and behind rocks. They’re a sorry looking bunch. But worse than that, we saw that Saul, the king of Israel, disobeyed God with disastrous results—after a short reign, he’s already been told by the prophet Samuel that his kingship won’t last.
And it’s now, with the Israelites failing to trust God, and with Saul failing to trust God, that Saul’s son Jonathan decides to go attack a Philistine outpost with nothing but a sword and the guy who carries his armour. It’s basically Die Hard. Which sounds like a terrible idea… until you realise Jonathan’s not doing it because he thinks he’s strong enough to win, but because he knows God is.
He says, “Perhaps the Lord will act in our behalf. Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few.”
He’s not trying to whip God out like some secret weapon, the way Israel tried to do back in chapter 4. He’s not pretending he’s a one man army. But he knows God is more than capable of winning the battle, no matter how bad the odds appear to be. Jonathan doesn’t even take credit when it looks like things are going well. He simply says, “the Lord has given them into the hand of Israel.” And then even though Jonathan does pull some incredible action hero moves, we see again and again that this is all God’s work—God makes the ground shake, sends a panic through the Philistine army, has the Philistines attacking each other, and then has them running away. (Which is when the rest of the Israelites finally come out of hiding, and start chasing the fleeing Philistines. How very brave of them.)
Clearly, Jonathan is nothing like his father Saul. Unlike Saul, Jonathan recognises God’s strength; he knows God is the one who saves his people; he trusts God to act; and he doesn’t try to make himself look good, but gives all the credit to God. In complete contrast to his dad, Jonathan is a remarkable example of what it looks like to trust God.
After all that, though, this story doesn’t really focus on Jonathan, but on the remarkable God he trusts in. In verse 23, we see that, “on that day the LORD saved Israel”. Forget about Jonathan—God’s the one we should be impressed by. We see his strength and love for his people all through the Old Testament, and we see his ultimate act of saving in Jesus. We can trust him to save us.
Head: Sometimes trusting God means bold action (like Jonathan did), and sometimes it means patience and caution. What are some different situations where one or the other might be the best way to trust God?
Heart: Does the idea of trusting God give you comfort, or does it make you feel anxious, or unsure?
Hands: What would it look like in your life for you to truly trust God? To really trust in Jesus’ death to save you? To really trust God to keep growing and shaping you?
Prayer: Dear Lord, you are more powerful than we can possibly imagine. You’re the one who’s always able to save us. Please grow in us a deep trust in you—help us to trust you in each circumstance, and to trust you for our whole lives. And please always keep our eyes on the cross of Christ, where you enacted your great salvation for us. We pray all of this in the name of Jesus, Amen.
A song to listen to: Our Saviour and Our King
Mick Wust- Creek Road Presbyterian Church- South Bank