1 Sam 14 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence
The contrast between King Saul and his son Jonathan is one of the primary themes in this chapter along with Saul’s continual decline as a leader in Israel. While Saul is hiding in a cave from the threat of the nearby Philistines, Jonathan is looking for an opportunity to confront the Philistines on their own turf. Even though Saul got the credit for the victory over the Philistines in the previous chapter, it was actually his Jonathan who had won the battle. And, now, Jonathan is eager to take the battle to these uncircumcised men, as he describes them, demonstrating his belief that God will come to the aid of his “holy people” against these unclean enemies of God. Whereas Saul is paralyzed with fear because of the seemingly insurmountable odds—he had just counted his fighting men at only 600 strong—Jonathan firmly believes that the battle is the Lord’s and that He can save by many or by only a few. With this in mind, he and his armor bearer climb up to the camp of the Philistines and attack them directly looking to the Lord to protect them. The Lord not only protects them, but he grants them the victory causing the Philistines to be the ones shaking in their boots.
Meanwhile, Saul, the king that the Lord no longer favors, is accompanied in the cave by Ahijah, the priest that the Lord no longer favors, since he is of the lineage of Eli. And when they hear the sound of the tumult in the Philistine camp, Saul asks Ahijah to discern God’s will in the matter, but as the priest sought to determine this, more noise came from the camp and Saul actually told the priest to stop what he was doing when he realized that the Philistines were at a disadvantage. Unlike Jonathan who looked to the Lord for guidance regardless of numbers, Saul was only willing to consult the Lord when the odds were against him. If he felt that he had the upper hand, then the ark and the Urim and Thummim were not needed. Clearly, Saul trusted in men and in horses and chariots rather than in the name of the Lord our God. Nevertheless, the Lord saved his people that day through the combined efforts of all the Israelites.
When the battle was over, the author points out that Saul began to attach to his army any strong and valiant man, still relying upon the strength of man rather than the Lord. But even in the way Saul treats his armed men, he shows that he is not looking to the Lord for guidance but only for sanction. Instead of doing what the Lord requires of him, Saul tries to manipulate God into favoring him and his army through fasting, but as Samuel will state in the following chapter to Saul, “to obey is better than sacrifice.” If Saul would have just sought the Lord and fought in the Lord’s strength, the Philistines would already have been overthrown. Instead, he exasperates his militia by starving them through a threatened curse and then forcing them to eat in an unclean manner because of their ravenous hunger. When he sees their sin that he has casued, he builds an altar to make sin offerings unto God.
Later that night with their stomachs full, once again Saul desires to pounce upon his enemy when he perceives that he has the advantage. All the men agree to do his bidding, but this time the priest adjures him to draw near to God for guidance. Saul agrees, probably reluctantly, but, then he hears no word from the Lord. Apparently, there is some other sin hindering fellowship with God. As the reader knows, it is because of Jonathan’s action in eating the honey, even though he was unaware of his father’s curse. Surprisingly, Saul was willing to put his own son to death to uphold the integrity of his word, and it would have happened, if it were not for all Israel dissuading him from it. Up until that point, the people continually told Saul to do what seemed good to him, which was the recurring refrain in the book of Judges that everyone did what seemed good in their own eyes. But this time, the people stand up to Saul and refuse to allow him to kill his son, for they said, “he has worked with God this day.” Unlike Saul, who was working against God at almost every step, Jonathan was looking to the Lord for guidance and relying upon Him for the victory. And now the people are seeing that Saul was not the king which they had hoped for. God is not fighting for King Saul but for Jonathan, and the reason for that is ever so plain to Israel as it should be for us.