1Samuel 14:1-23

Sunday Morning Bible Study

January 27, 2002


When Saul was made king, the nation of Israel faced a threat from the Ammonites.  Saul was able to raise an army of 330,000, and brought about a great victory for Israel.

After the war, Saul sent everyone home, except for a small fighting force of 3,000 men.  He split these men between himself and his son Jonathan.  But Jonathan took his group of men and attacked one of the Philistine garrisons, it was like poking at a hornet’s nest, and suddenly the Israelites found themselves in hot water again.  The Philistines responded by gathering a huge, well equipped army and began to attack the Israelites.  As a result, most of the Israelites fled and Saul was only left with six hundred men to fight against a Philistine army of hundreds of thousands.  To make things worse, there were only two men in the army of Israel that had swords and spears, Saul and his son Jonathan.

1Samuel 14

:1  Jonathan … the young man that bare his armour,

JonathanYownathan – “Yahweh has given”

An armor bearer was kind of like a golfer’s caddy.  He helped carry the man’s weapons.  He wasn’t the guy that would get any credit, but he was in the battle.

:3 And Ahiah …the LORD'S priest  … ephod

Ahiah was the high priest at the time.  He was a great-grandson of Eli.  He was with Saul.

The ephod was a priestly tunic, used to consult God in a time of crisis. It has been suggested that this was probably done by means of the Urim and Thummim attached to the breastplate of the ephod.

:4 there was a sharp rock on the one side …

To get to the Philistines, Jonathan and his armor bearer will have to go down one cliff and climb the other.

:4 and the name of the one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh.

BozezBowtsets – “surpassing white: glistening”

SenehCeneh – “thorny”

:6  it may be that the LORD will work for us: for there is no restraint to the LORD to save by many or by few.


God can use just a few

That was the lesson that Gideon had learned.  I wonder if Jonathan had been thinking about Gideon?
Gideon started out with an army of 32,000 men to fight against an army of 150,000.  Yet God told him he had too many men. 

(Judg 7:2 KJV)  And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me.

Sometimes God wants us in a place where we are weak and few because He wants to be the one who gets the credit.

For us, as a small church, we can sometimes think that God could only use us if we become a “big church”.  Not so.  It doesn’t take many.


Let’s see what God will do

The key is found in the heart.
(2 Chr 16:9 KJV)  For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.

If your heart is in the right place, you will find God fighting for you.


D.L. Moody was walking down a street in New York City and thinking about a sentence he had heard; “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man who is wholly yielded unto him.” There came into his heart a great hunger, and he cried out, “O God, make me that man!” He was so filled with a sense of the overwhelming love of God that he had to go to a friend’s house nearby and ask for the use of a room. He went into that room and for an hour or more was caught up by this purifying passion.

God used Dwight L. Moody in a big way.

Ultimately it's the doer who counts.  It’s the person who takes a step.

President Theodore Roosevelt once said:  “It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done better.  The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither defeat nor victory.”

:7 Do all that is in thine heart: turn thee; behold, I am with thee according to thy heart.

I wonder what happened to the other 2,400 men who had been following Saul earlier?  How come there’s only six hundred left?

When the chips were down, people had left.  But not the armor bearer.


Support or run?

Not only was Jonathan brave, but his armor bearer was too.
I’d like to not only be like the six hundred that stayed with Saul, but I’d like to be like Jonathan’s armor-bearer, who was willing to be the only guy to support what God was doing.
Sometimes the way to become a “Jonathan” is to start by being an “armor-bearer”.
Joshua would one day be known as the man who led Israel into the Promised Land and led the armies to conquer all their foes. But he started out as the “servant of Moses”.
Not everyone is going to be ready to be a “Jonathan” and take a step at trusting God with something big.
But sometimes we can be used by God as that right-hand person who is there to support someone else.


I think a great example that many of us have had is that of Pastor Romaine.  For years he was Chuck’s “right-hand-man”.  He was always there to support Chuck, even if he disagreed with Chuck.  And if you ever disagreed with Chuck, he’d be in your face.

Be a Barnabas – a “son of encouragement”
Though God is able to save even by one, two can be even better.
(Eccl 4:9-10KJV)  Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. {10} For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.

Are there people near you that need your support?  How about your spouse?  Are you a person who encourages your spouse, or are you one of the people that are constantly holding them back?


The other armor-bearer

In a way, there is another “armor-bearer”.  The Holy Spirit.
He is called the “Comforter” – one called alongside to help.

(John 14:15-18 KJV)  If ye love me, keep my commandments. {16} And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; {17} Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. {18} I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

(John 14:26 KJV)  But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

We don’t know the name of the armor-bearer, just like how the Holy Spirit comes to glorify Jesus, not Himself.
It’s when we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, that we are able to do Jonathan-like deeds of bravery.
(John 14:12 KJV)  Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

It was Jesus going to the Father that would send the Holy Spirit.

:8 we will discover ourselves unto them.

discovergalah – to uncover; to disclose; show, reveal

:10 But if they say thus …

They lay out a “fleece”.  Jonathan wants to make sure that this is really a “God-thing” and not just his own crazy idea.

The idea is this:  If the Philistine guards ask them to come up to their side, then they’ll take it that this is exactly what they should do and they’ll go up and fight.  If the Philistines tell them to stay put, then they’ll run.


Be sure it’s really God speaking

Don’t just be a person who likes to live life dangerously for the sake of living dangerously.
Be sure God is speaking.
If God is leading you, then wherever you are is the safest place in the world.  But if God is not leading you, you’re in trouble!

:12  the LORD hath delivered them into the hand of Israel.

Jonathan knows now that God has been leading them.  And he gets moving.


Take a step

It only takes one person who will step forward instead of backward.

Napoleon often referred to Marshall Ney as the bravest man he had ever known. Yet Ney’s knees trembled so badly one morning before a battle that he had trouble mounting his horse. When he was finally in the saddle he shouted contemptuously, “Shake away, knees, you would shake worse than that if you knew where I am going to take you.”

--James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 129-130.

Jonathan is not one to step back and “play it safe”.
Did you know that people who play it too safe take the greatest risks? In the long haul, the intelligent risk takers develop the greatest security.  It’s a wise person who learns the importance of risk taking.
During World War II, psychologist E. Paul Torrance made a study of United States aces flying in the Pacific theater of operations.  He reported that the most salient characteristic of the ace was his risk- taking ability.  Throughout his life, he had kept testing the limits of his abilities.  And the life histories of these men showed that they were highly resistant to accidents, and in combat they suffered fewer casualties than pilots who were inclined to play it safe.  Dr. Torrance said, “Living itself is a risky business.  If we spent half as much time learning how to take risks as we spend avoiding them, we wouldn’t have nearly so much to fear in life.”
Boris the Russian arrived at the Pearly Gates and was welcomed by St. Peter. Showing him around, the saint said, “You can go anywhere you want with one exception. You cannot go on the pink clouds!”
“Why not?” asked Boris.
“Because,” answered St. Peter, “the pink clouds are reserved for people who have done something great.
“But I have done something great,” said Boris. “I made a speech at the Kremlin against the Russian officials. Then I urged the people to revolt.”
“Just when did this happen?” asked St. Peter.
Boris looked at his watch. “About two minutes ago.”

:13 And Jonathan climbed up upon his hands and upon his feet

They had to scale the cliffs, but when they get to the top, they start killing Philistines.

Perhaps they were climbing as quick as they could because they could hardly wait to see what God would do.

:14 And that first slaughter …an half acre

The Philistines are caught off guard and Jonathan and his armor bearer start killing them.  Jonathan and his armor bearer didn’t have to go far to kill a lot of Philistines.

:15 And there was trembling in the host…the earth quaked

Not only are the Philistines shocked to see so many of their comrades fall, but God pitches in and causes an earthquake, causing a panic among the Philistines.

:16  they went on beating down one another.

The Philistines became confused and began to turn on each other.  Saul’s spies were watching all this happening.

:17 Number now, and see who is gone from us

Saul doesn’t know who is gone.  He wants to know who is doing this fighting.

:18 the ark of God was at that time with the children of Israel

The NLT says that Saul asks for the “ephod”.  This is because the Septuagint has “ephod” here instead of ark.  But I think it was really the ark.

The ark was with Saul in Gibeah.  At some point, it had been moved from Kiriathjearim to Gibeah.  Later, when David brings the ark to Jerusalem, he brings it from Gibeah:

(2 Sam 6:3 KJV)  And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart.

:19  the noise that was in the host of the Philistines went on and increased: and Saul said unto the priest, Withdraw thine hand.

(1 Sam 14:19 NLT)  …So Saul said to Ahijah, "Never mind; let's get going!"

Apparently Saul was going to ask the Lord if he should send the army into battle, but when he saw how things were going across the way with the Philistines, he realized that if he didn’t get his troops on the move, they were going to miss their opportunity.


There’s a time to move

Saul is certainly going to make some mistakes on this day, but I’m not sure this is one of them.
There are times when God is working that we need to get busy as well.
When Moses and the people were pinned against the Red Sea, and Pharoah’s chariots were closing in, God said to Moses,

(Exo 14:15 NLT)  Then the LORD said to Moses, "Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving!

Don’t get me wrong – praying is good.  But sometimes we are praying when God wants us to be moving.

:20  there was a very great discomfiture.

(1 Sam 14:20 NIV)  They found the Philistines in total confusion …

:21 the Hebrews that were with the Philistines … they also turned to be with the Israelites

Apparently some of the Israelites had been living in the camp of the Philistines, pretending to be Philistines.  When the battle heats up, they join in the battle with Saul and Jonathan.

:22  even they also followed hard after them in the battle.

All the people that had been hiding in caves came out to fight.


Your step will encourage others

Jonathan was willing to trust God and see what He would do.
As a result, all the people that had been hiding out of fear were encouraged to join the battle.
Josephus records (Antiquities of the Jews, 6:6:116) that by this time, Saul’s army had grown from 600 men to 10,000.
When Paul was in prison in Rome, he wrote to the Philippians:
(Phil 1:12-14 KJV)  But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; {13} So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; {14} And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Paul’s life had been an inspiration to others.

:23 So the LORD saved Israel that day


God saved through one

There would be another person who would bring salvation to the nation of Israel single-handedly.
(John 11:49-52 KJV)  And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, {50} Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. {51} And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; {52} And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.
That’s exactly what Jesus would do.  He would die for the nation.  He would go to the cross, willingly, and die in our place.
(Heb 12:1-3 KJV)  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, {2} Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. {3} For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.