Grab your Bibles and let’s go deeper into 1 Samuel and the life of Jonathan.
Many of us will say, “I would die for Jesus” or “If someone put a gun to my head, I would not deny Jesus”. These are bold statements in big situations with huge ramifications yet at times they are easy. My associate pastor at our church spent time in Russia on a mission trip. While there, he worked with a pastor whose brother was bulldozed with his church when he would not give up the names of the congregants to the Communist regime. This was a great sacrifice! It was not a one moment of faith thing, but a pattern of trusting and obeying God in all things. Because that small local assembly was being led faithfully, the Communists wanted to shut it down. If the pastor was not teaching and modeling faith, then the Communists would not have wanted to shut it down. It is living our faith in the everyday situations that prepares us to take the bigger steps of faith in extreme situations.
Jonathan is an inspiring biblical character. As we have read of his life and his death over the past week hopefully you were impacted by his testimony. Jonathan made a lot of little choices that laid the pattern for bigger steps of faith. There are many lessons we can learn from Jonathan as we meditate upon the scriptures. First, Jonathan’s faith in God is so big it routes an army. Second, Jonathan’s submission to the plan of God is dethroning. Third, Jonathan’s support of a friend is a bullseye. Fourth, Jonathan’s legacy is powerful.
First. Jonathan’s faith in God is so big it routes an army. We start out this week with the garrison of the Philistines and the army of Israel under Saul hiding in caves (I Samuel 14:11). A garrison that is literally protected on three sides by sharp (literally toothy) rocks. Saul had 600 men with him. We see again where the lack of Saul’s faith in God leads him to ungodly behavior. This is a great contrast to his son Jonathan. Praise God for his work in Jonathan that he did not follow in Saul’s footsteps. Even if we are godly, there are things that we do not want our children to follow us in doing. Jonathan was godly. He did everything for God’s glory and trusted in His name. Saul did everything to protect his own power and authority.
Jonathan then proceeds to sneak away from camp with his armor barer (squire) with him while not telling anyone else. Jonathan knew his father would prevent him from doing this. In 1 Samuel 14:6, 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.” First, by calling them ‘uncircumcised’ Jonathan is saying these are not people that are part of the covenant. They are not God’s covenant people.
Second, seeing the final sentence from the verse ‘nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few’. This is Jonathan’s faith coming out. This is like David’s statement against Goliath, “I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel…”. The continued trust in YHWH is shown in verse 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.”
As we continue, we see that the Philistines mock Jonathan and his armor barer (I Samuel 14:11-12). They allow them to come up. Then Jonathan and his armor barer set to work. They kill 20 men one right after another in their first surge. Half a furrow is half a row that oxen could do in a field. The idea is that it is a very short distance. Jonathan and his esquire routed that garrison. We read that they started shaking like a leaf and flee. The Philistines fleeing is noticed by Israel and they do a head count and realize Jonathan is missing. They then proceed to chase the Philistines. This is an amazing story. The obedience of one man saves many.
Jonathan was obedient to God and conquered the Philistines garrison. This points us to Jesus who was also obedient. Romans tells us through one man’s disobedience sin entered the world and through one man’s [Jesus] obedience the many will be made righteous. Jonathan’s faith foreshadows Jesus’ perfect faith. We are to trust in Christ as the payment for our sin.
Second, Jonathan’s submission to the plan of God is dethroning. This is one of the great narratives (historic story) in scripture. Jonathan and David were best friends. Their hearts (souls – innermost being) were knit together in love. Understand that this is a brotherly love at its best. This is not a sinful homosexual or off color relationship. It is a description of two men who have something very deep in common and have bonded in a very God-honoring way.
Let’s look at the text,
1 Samuel 18:1-4 As soon as he had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 2 And Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house. 3 Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. 4 And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.
Jonathan was the son of Saul, the king of Israel. He was next in line to be the king of Israel. What makes this exchange so amazing is the fact that we essentially see Jonathan giving up his birth right to David. They covenanted together. Covenants are made based on trustworthy relationships and they are made before God. A covenant should not ever be broken for any reason. For example, the covenant of marriage is only completed by death.
Jonathan shows sacrificial love and great humble submission as he takes off his earthly vestments, his robe (signifies importance) and takes off his armor. This is saying you are more important than I am. I will lay down my life for your protection. His sword is a representation of his duty to administer justice and the bow is a representation of provision of food. Jonathan gave up the throne willingly! Jonathan gave David the means to defend, rule and provide. These were not some extra items. This was HIS armor, HIS sword and HIS bow. Now, realize that the text doesn’t tell us that Jonathan knew David was anointed by Samuel to be the next king. Jonathan bowed and submitted himself to the plan of God which literally was giving up his throne. How many of us would be humble enough to see this through and not fight and argue if God called us to this? What a testimony in that Jonathan did not prize these things or this lifetime position above God’s plan.
In response to this, Saul gets mad at Jonathan and tells him that he is giving up the kingdom. Jonathan didn’t let things, positions, or power get in the way of his relationship with his God. If you reread the passages and look for the ways Jonathan trusted and humbly submitted himself to God, you will be blessed. Even in the attack on the garrison, Jonathan had no guarantee he would live, but willingly pressed on to fulfill God’s plan to extend the kingdom according to the promises of Old Testament Israel.
If we were next in line to be king, would we willingly give up that plan for God’s plan- stepping aside to let someone else be king and have authority, wealth, and power? To spend our life in obscurity often times is more challenging than to go out in a blaze for God’s glory. Would we forsake our lives to extend the kingdom of God? Are we willing to serve Him in any capacity: scrubbing toilets, picking up trash, giving up the American dream, packing up and going to a foreign country, giving up hobbies to spend time discipling our kids? Are we willing to dethrone ourselves and our plans for the plan of God?
Third, Jonathan’s support of a friend is a bullseye. The text says that Jonathan and David’s souls were knit together. This should not be some weird thing. These two had similar faith, similar desires, they bonded on a much deeper level than just sports, war or physical items. Jonathan and David bonded at a level much deeper and that is their desire for the glory of God’s name. It is because of this bond and the desire for God’s glory that Jonathan warns David and sets up a strategy using archery. Though Jonathan missed the bullseye or the mark, he placed the arrow where it needed to be to protect his friend.
Hopefully you see the trust that David had in Jonathan. David obeyed the plan and was patient. Jonathan could have had David killed to secure the throne for himself, but he doesn’t. He takes the ungodly anger of his father and sets out to do what is right. If you look at the way Jonathan disobeys his father for the plan of God you will see that this was not in your face rebellion, but honoring and obedient in a sense. Saul was belligerent yet Jonathan does not respond in any negative ways.
Jonathan and David’s relationship is an example of what a godly friendship looks like. Each person trusts the other. Each knows the other has his best interest in mind. Humbly submitting to one another. Trusting each other for advice. Supporting each other to do the plan of God even to the point of denying oneself benefits and pleasures.
How many of us have someone we trust like this that we would be willing to submit to, listen to, forsake pleasures for their greatness, like-minded in our faith, pushing one another in a closer walk with God?
Finally, Jonathan’s legacy is powerful. In the text this week, we read that Jonathan was killed in battle along with his three brothers. This is important for us to understand. God took Jonathan’s life opening the way for David to fulfill his role. In 2 Samuel 9:1-9, we see the legacy of Jonathan. David brought the only living heir who was crippled to live in the house of the king and to provide for him. Jonathan’s legacy was powerful. He was a mighty warrior, he was son to the king, and he was a trustworthy friend. The most powerful part of Jonathan’s legacy is the fact that he was a man that followed after God. Jonathan submitted willingly to the plan of God trusting in God’s sovereign plan, not the results he desired and not in what he could gain nor for fame. In life and in death Jonathan was obedient to God.
What kind of legacy are you leaving? Are you a parent like Saul? Are you an obedient servant like Jonathan? Are you seeking the kingdom of God first? Are you trusting by faith in the promises of God? Are you following in the little things- the minor stuff? These are the building blocks of great faith. Are you willing to dethrone yourself?
What little patterns of faith are you establishing in your own life? Faith is shown by obedience. We see how Jonathan was obedient. How are you being obedient? God tells us if you love me, you will keep my commandants. Are you doing this by loving the Lord your God above everything, loving your neighbor as yourself, loving your wife, training up your children in the word, and reading and studying the word? These are the little things. Spend some time this week evaluating the little things in your life and asking if you are being faithful to God in them?
By His grace and for His glory,
Soldiers for Jesus MC
*Special thanks to Pastor Jason Taylor for his gospel partnership and help with this week’s devotional.